Monday, April 5, 2010

Belt Tightening

It sounds simple, but just getting a handle on your waist measurement can make a huge positive impact on your health. Go on, see how you measure up.

When was the last time you had a frank look at belt tightening? No, we’re not talking about reining in the household budget, but how you measure up when it comes to a key assessment of healthy weight: your waist measurement. You’re not alone if you’ve been slowly letting out your belt holes over time without really being conscious of your increasing girth. Let’s get to the guts of the problem and explore why healthy waist measurements are so important, plus look at practical steps you can take to cinch an inch.
Apples and pears 
Before the fashion gurus expanded the body-shape vocabulary to include descriptions like ‘goblet’ and ‘cello’, there used to be only apples and pears.

Carrying excess weight around your middle, or being apple shaped, is linked with greater risk of lifestyle diseases like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. Whereas storing fat on your hips and thighs, or having a pear shape, does not pose the same risk.

Scientists are still exploring the mechanisms involved, but it appears that intra-abdominal fat packed around your internal organs has a negative metabolic effect on your hormones, such as insulin. It’s important to sort the myths from the facts when it comes to the causes of expanding waists and rule out any underlying medical conditions. Here’s how.
Hormones at work
There are more apple-shaped men than women and this is largely due to hormonal differences. The male hormone testosterone predisposes men to being apple shaped, whereas oestrogen causes more fat to be stored around the hips, thighs, butt and
pelvis in women. This also explains why postmenopausal women, who have a drop in oestrogen levels, experience a redistribution of their body fat stores and a thickening of the waist. Scientists are looking at the role played by other hormones, such as the stress hormone cortisol, which may stimulate central fat storage.

Tip: While menopause can cause a slight change in your body shape, engaging in regular exercise that includes a resistance element – use light weights or bands – can help you maintain muscle, boost metabolism and prevent weight gain.
Get into your genes 
Another factor that determines how well we button up our jeans is our genetic inheritance. Take a look at the body shape of your family members and chances are you’ll see common patterns of fat storage.

Tip: Even if you have a family tendency towards love handles or a muffin top, a healthy lifestyle can easily overrule genetic tendencies.
Beat the bloat 
Results of a recent survey from The Gut Foundation show that as many as two- thirds of women experience abdominal bloating, with around one in six suffering regularly. Bloating, or intermittent distension of the abdomen, is usually due to the accumulation of gas and fluid within the stomach, small intestine or colon and is not related to storing fat or being overweight.

Tip: Talk to your GP about bloating problems as you may have an underlying medical issue, such as bowel obstruction, irritable bowel syndrome or Coeliac disease. A dietician can help you identify bloat-inducing foods in your diet.
Watch the beer belly 
It’s a common myth that the way to a man’s gut is beer. While beer does contain significant kilojoules, these are handled by the body in the same way as other foods and beverages, and not sent directly to the stomach area by express courier. If you consume more kilojoules than your body burns in physical activity each day, you will store fat and gain weight. However, the beer belly is not entirely a myth. One of the symptoms of chronic alcoholism is the accumulation of fluid in this region. It can be properly diagnosed with ultrasound and other medical tests.

Tip: The new federal government alcohol guidelines recommend both women and men consume no more than two standard drinks on any one day.
Move more 
Contrary to those enticing ‘Before’ and ‘After’ ads, there is little evidence to show that you can specifically target tummy fat through exercise. Sit-ups, crunches and ab machines will definitely improve abdominal muscle tone. But the only scientifically proven way to lose body fat for the long term (and show off that muscle tone) is to tip the energy balance equation in favour of weight loss. That is, you need to eat fewer kilojoules or increase the number of kilojoules you burn with cardiovascular-type physical activity, or – better still – combine the two.

Tip: Exercise is important for weight management and good health, with a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity recommended for adults on most days.
Get support 
With so much nutrition information available today, it’s not always easy to sort through it all to find the best personal approach to healthy weight and waist management. Most people find it difficult to go it alone, which is not surprising seeing as a supportive environment is a major key to success. Talk to your family about your goals, rope in an exercise buddy or join a scientifically backed, commercial weight-loss program like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig.
Tip: To receive expert advice on nutrition that’s tailored to your medical history and lifestyle, see an accredited practising dietitian. You can search for a dietitian by either locality or speciality at
Visit Better Homes & Gardens for more information  


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