I went through a relatively early menopause. By age 49, I had not only climbed the menopause mountain but was over the top and to the other side. The only problem was that menopause left me sporting a bulging belly, the likes of which I had not seen since I was six months pregnant!
I went on a diet (didn’t work). I jumped rope (didn’t work). I walked (didn’t work). I did a million sit ups (didn’t work). I went in for my annual and the first thing out of her mouth was, “Well, I see you have that menopause belly thing going on. It’s a real @)#(*$#$& to get off!” Needless to say, that sage advice didn’t help me out either in my search for a way to get rid of my newfound companion.
Since my doctor didn’t offer any advice, I’ve spent the last year wearing “fat” clothes in an attempt to hide this new shape. Frankly, I’ve had enough! I’ve decided to fight back and started researching. My search started with the Mayo Clinic. (See, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/belly-fat/wo00128) After all, if the Mayo Clinic doesn’t have a clue, who will?
I learned that women have two types of belly fat – subcutaneous fat (the wonderful unsightly bulge we see around our middle) and visceral fat (fat which is buried deeply underneath our subcutaneous fat and settles around our organs). Viseral fat is the type of fat which causes the real health problems in women – diabetes, high blood pressure, breast and colorectal cancer, to name a few. It’s the visceral fat that we need to attack in order to regain that flat tummy of bygone years.
The good news is that according to the Mayo Clinic, visceral fat will respond well to diet and regular exercise. So, I was dieting. I was exercising. What was I doing wrong?
With respect to diet, the Mayo Clinic recommends the following: reduce portions and caloric intake, avoid saturated fats and replace them with polyunsaturated fats, eat more fruits and vegetables and less white bread and pasta. This should go a long way to reducing your belly fat.
In addition, daily moderate exercise was recommended along with weight training, the amount and type depending on your current activity level. This is where the information became interesting. It seems that traditional tummy crunches won’t cut the mustard when it comes to getting rid of this very stubborn belly fat! (Hallelujah! I’m not crazy! I knew it wasn’t just my imagination that the crunches weren’t working!) To get rid of this belly fat, you need to do exercises that specifically target the deep and lower abdomen.
The following two exercises were recommended:
• “Deeper abdominal muscles. Target deeper abdominal muscles by doing "abdominal hollowing" or "drawing in the bellybutton." First, get down on all fours. Let your tummy hang down as you take a deep breath. Let your breath out, and at the end of your exhalation, gently draw your bellybutton inward and upward toward your spine. You should feel a slight tightening around your waist — think of it as trying to squeeze through a partially closed door. Hold for 10 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds. Work up to 10 repetitions. During each effort, your spine position shouldn't change and you should breathe freely. Eventually, you'll be able to do this exercise standing up. It's so subtle, no one should be able to tell you're doing it.
• Lower abdominal muscles. Tone your lower abdomen by doing pelvic tilts and pelvic lifts. To do a pelvic tilt, lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent. Flatten your back against the floor by tightening your abdominal muscles and bending your pelvis up slightly. Hold for five to 10 seconds. Repeat five times and work up to 10 to 20 repetitions.
For pelvic lifts, lie on your back with your knees bent up toward your chest and your arms relaxed by your sides. Tighten your lower abdomen and lift your buttocks up off the floor, with your knees aimed toward the ceiling. Hold for five to 10 seconds. Repeat five times and work up to 10 to 20 repetitions.” (See Mayo Clinic, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/belly-fat/wo00128)
So, do these exercises work? I’ve tried them and they are certainly much easier than the tummy crunches I was doing before. The proof, however, will be in the pudding - or rather the lack thereof on my midsection!
Please consult with your doctor before starting any diet or exercise program.
©2009 Mary Kyle. For more articles by Mary Kyle, please visit www.texpen.com.