It is one thing to keep your weight within its healthy range, but it is quite another to lose weight if you are overweight. The extra weight does not just start to gather anywhere on your body, but it is more important to pay attention to where it starts to gather. The locations are not all the same as far as good health is concerned.
Carrying extra weight around your stomach is the most dangerous for your health. It increases your chances of developing heart disease and diabetes, and makes your memory and problem-solving skills decline faster.
If you’ve done the math and decided you want to shrink your stomach, you can either do it a little or a lot. Our panel of experts has spoken about why your waist size may have increased over the years, and what you can do to change it.
They say that your lifestyle choices are the root cause of the weight gain, and suggest making small changes to your diet and exercise routine in order to see results.
1. You’ve been through menopause
Although menopause has been previously linked to weight gain, Australian research has found that this is not the case. However, menopause does change the distribution of body weight, making it more likely to accumulate around the stomach.
The cause of this decline in estrogen isn’t known, but it’s related to menopause.
Carly Ryan, an exercise physiologist from Exercise & Sports Science Australia, believes that regular exercise is crucial.
Carly stresses that being physically active is vital for good heart and bone health after menopause.
You can start exercise at any age and every bit of movement counts, even if it’s only 10 or 15 minutes at a time. By doing this, you can achieve 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week.
Exercising regularly is important for women after menopause, including both cardio and flexibility exercises to help with overall fitness, as well as resistance exercises to help maintain bone strength and muscle mass.
Moderate intensity exercise is any activity that gets your heart rate up and makes you sweat, like brisk walking, uphill walking, swimming, cycling and dancing. Use the talk test to determine your level of exertion.
- Low intensity You can talk and sing while you exercise, without feeling puffed or getting out of breath.
- Moderate intensity You can talk comfortably while you exercise, but cannot sing.
- High intensity You can’t speak much at all while exercising, without gasping for breath.
2. You’re eating too much sugar
An American study has found that those who consume high amounts of added sugar are more likely to gain weight, especially around their abdominal area.
The World Health Organization does not recommend consuming more than six teaspoons of ‘free sugars’ added to food and drinks per day, but most Australians consume more than this amount.
One way to reduce your intake of added sugar is to avoid sugar-sweetened drinks and fruit juice. Although honey is a more natural sugar, it is still sugar and should be eaten in moderation.
When it comes to the added or free sugars in people’s diets, sugary drinks are the main culprits. A can of regular soft drink contains nine teaspoons of sugar and a glass of fruit juice contains six teaspoons.
So, check the nutrition label: if sugar is one of the first few ingredients listed, it probably shouldn’t be your go-to breakfast choice. Granola is often seen as a healthy food, but it can contain a lot of sugar. If sugar is one of the main ingredients, it might not be the best breakfast option.
In order to consume less sugar, it is advised that you choose products that have less than 10g of sugar per 100g, or 20g per 100g if the product contains fruit as one of its main ingredients.
3. You’re a fad dieter
Lab-based studies have found that crash diets which severely restrict kilojoules can lead to weight loss in the short term, but the weight is quickly gained back once the diet ends. Not only that, but the weight is more likely to accumulate around the stomach than before the diet started.
Intermittent fasting, or going without food for set periods of time, has been found to have numerous health benefits. Some scientists believe that it may also help protect stomach fat from weight loss.
Fuller believes that dieting is not an effective way to lose weight and that it can actually lead to weight gain.
Our set point is the weight we were before the diet because we have an evolutionary propensity to get back to that weight.
Weight loss caused by dieting often leads to a slower metabolism and lower levels of hormones that suppress appetite, according to research.
Taken together, these factors help the body to recover the weight that has been lost. However, as the weight returns, it is typically more fat than muscle. If you lose weight quickly, your body composition will be worse off, which will slow down your metabolism and you will probably end up gaining more weight than you originally lost. The weight you gain becomes your new set point.
Dr. Fuller’s research supports a more sustainable and doable approach to weight loss that doesn’t severely restrict kilojoules or food groups.
We have found that losing two kilograms slowly over the course of a month, followed by a month-long break from weight loss, resets or lowers the body’s set point. In conclusion, this allows you to lose 12kg and keep it off in one year, which is the amount of weight that people usually lose in just a few weeks on a diet. However, people often put all of the weight back on, and sometimes even more.
4. You’re often stressed
A majority of people say stress is impacting their health negatively, and there is evidence to suggest a correlation between stress and abdominal fat.
The hormone cortisol is mainly released during times of stress and affects where fat is stored on the body.
Dr. Emmanuella Murray is a clinical psychologist who has been working for 10 years and is an expert on many mental health topics. Even though you can’t get rid of all stress in your life, and sources of stress vary among people, you can take steps to lessen its effects, according to clinical psychologist Emmanuella Murray.
Simple changes to how you view a situation can help to either relax or stress you out. This, along with other proven ‘recharging’ strategies, such as exercising regularly, eating well, and getting good sleep, can help improve your overall wellbeing.
Diaphragmatic breathing can help you to relax your body and clear your mind, which can allow you to see solutions to problems instead of dwelling on negative thoughts.
Diaphragmatic breathing lowers both stress and cortisol levels. Diaphragmatic breathing is a method of breathing where your stomach rather than your chest moves.
How to do diaphragmatic breathing
- Sit in a comfortable position or lie flat on the floor or bed. Relax your shoulders.
- Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
- Take two seconds to breathe in through your nose. You should feel the air moving through your nose into your abdomen, so your stomach expands. As you do this, make sure your stomach is moving outwards as you breathe in, while your chest remains fairly still.
- Purse your lips (like you’re going to drink through a straw), then gently press on your belly while you exhale slowly for two seconds. Repeat several times for best results.
5. Track your calories
The most basic way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you consume.
For example, if you want to lose one pound of fat, you would need to cut out 3,500 calories from your diet or burn them off through exercise. A weight loss app or even just a simple notebook can help you track how many calories you need to cut back on or burn in order to reach your goals.
If you burn 500 extra calories each day for seven days, you’ll burn 3,500 calories in total. That’s enough to lose one pound.
The National Institutes of Health’s Body Weight Planner is a useful tool to help you determine how many calories you need to consume to reach your desired weight.
You can use Health Surgeon’s Weight Loss Calculator to help with your weight loss goals. This weight loss calculator will show you how long it will take to reach your target weight (gaining or losing), based on different levels of calorie intake. Determine how to lose weight fast, in few days, or a longer period of time.
You can also take a more casual approach and just eat half a sandwich at lunch and save the other half for dinner and cut your calories in half.
6. Eat more fiber
If you eat foods that are high in refined carbs and sugar, you will not feel full and will be more likely to eat more.
Replace processed foods with fibrous foods such as whole grain breads, oats, vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, and chia seeds.
Fiber helps to slow down your digestion, making you feel fuller.
People who have trouble sticking to a strict diet can still lose weight by increasing their fiber intake.
According to the most recent U.S. Dietary Guidelines, women should aim to consume at least 25 grams of fiber per day, based on a 2,000-calorie diet.
7. Walk every day
If you do not have an established routine of exercises, walking is a pretty good entry point for people.
A small study published in The Journal of Exercise Nutrition & Biochemistry found that obese women who did a walking program for 50 to 70 minutes three days per week for 12 weeks significantly slashed their visceral fat compared to a sedentary control group.
If you start with even just a one-minute walk, you will see health benefits. Slowly increasing your walking time is the best way to see progress. Some people try to lose weight by making too many changes all at once and then get overwhelmed and end up quitting.
You can start by committing to taking a quick 10-minute walk after dinner every day, and gradually increase the time as you get more comfortable with doing some form of exercise every day.
8. Embrace healthy fats
If you want to lose fat, you need to eat fat…the good kind, that is.
Fats that are healthy, like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, can help you feel fuller after eating.
According to Yasi Ansari, a national medial spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, unsaturated fats from sources like olive oil, nuts, avocados, fatty fish, and eggs can help increase satiety while providing a variety of health benefits if consumed in moderation.
You can add more healthy fats to your diet by including chopped avocado in your salads, eating wild salmon a couple times each week, and adding a bit of peanut butter to your post-workout snack or smoothie.
Ansari says that it is important to remember to enjoy nuts in moderation as they are still high in calories.
9. Prioritize quality sleep
Your weight loss success is greatly affected by how much you sleep, whether it’s too little or too much. Sleeping too little or too much is not good for your health. Adults should aim for 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night.
This means that if you sleep for 5.5 hours or less per night, you are likely to eat an extra 385 calories the day after. Additionally, when sleep deprived we tend to eat fatty foods that are high in empty calories, such as chips.