Women begin to accumulate fat around the abdomen as they age, and pass through menopause. With fat metabolic changes, the body slows down. Excess weight in this area is neither attractive nor healthy. Fat accumulation around the middle causes more health problems than fat in other parts of the body. It can lead to cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular and other chronic diseases.
A little known fact is that there are two different types of abdominal fat, one of which is more difficult to get rid of and more of a health risk.
1. Subcutaneous fat: This is the fat that you can grab hold of and that makes your clothing feel tight and uncomfortable. It is found between the skin and the walls of the abdomen. It affects a woman’s appearance and adds to her risk of obesity, but it is not as unhealthy as the visceral fat. With determination, it can disappear with lifestyle change and exercise.
2. Visceral fat: This type of fat can’t be seen from the outside. It is located in pockets in the abdomen between organs in the abdominal cavity. The cause of these fat deposits are still being studied. Some possible explanations are heredity and hormonal changes that alter the body’s way of breaking down fat and storing it away. This encourages even more fat. Researchers do know that the fat cells are busy producing hormones in excess amounts that can cause health problems.
The good news is that both kinds of abdominal fat can be controlled by eating a healthy diet, strength training exercises, specific abdominal exercises, and possibly hormone therapy.
Below are tips to help control both types of abdominal fat.
1. Stay on a healthy diet consistently: Use polyunsaturated fat, read labels on processed food carefully or eliminate most processed foods altogether. Eat less refined grains, less sugar and more fruits and vegetables. Unless you are very active, reduce the amount you eat.
2. Strength Training: Using weights can help to strengthen muscles and take off some abdominal weight. Doing weight exercise no more than two or three times a week is recommended.
3. Exercises to tone the abdomen:
The deep abdominal muscles: Get down on the floor on all fours. Take a deep breath and let your abdomen sag, breath out and then pull your belly button in and up to your spine. Your waist will feel tight. Hold the position for 10 seconds – rest for 10 seconds. Gradually increase up to 10 repetitions. In time you will be able to do this exercise standing up – do them any time, any place.
The lower abdominal muscles: To do the pelvic tilt exercise, get down on the floor lying on your back. Bend your knees. While keeping your back flat against the floor, tighten your abdomen and bend your pelvis upward just a little. Maintain this position for 5 – 10 seconds. Do 5 times and gradually advance up to 10 to 20 repetitions.
The lower abdominal muscles: To do pelvic lifts, bend the knees as you lie on your back. Arms are along your sides, and relaxed. Lift your buttocks, as you tighten the lower abdomen. Maintain this position for 5 to 10 seconds. Do five times and work up to 10-20 repetitions.
4. Hormone therapy: Some studies have shown that postmenopausal women who take hormone replacement therapy don’t seem to put on as much abdominal fat as those who don’t take the hormones. However, other research shows this not to be true. Anyone thinking of trying hormones for losing belly fat should discuss the subject thoroughly with their doctor.
Excess belly fat in women is not healthy and can contribute to chronic diseases. For the most part, it’s a condition of aging and menopause. The metabolism of fat is altered. Both subcutaneous and visceral fat can be reduced by diligent attention to healthy eating and doing specific exercises.