Fat that accumulates around the vital organs and around the mid- section is known as visceral fat. It’s the most harmful type of fat because it produces inflammation, which affects the rest of the body and leads to a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease. To reduce weight in this area, it’s important to go on a diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, low-fat dairy, and whole grains, and to reduce portion sizes and therefore caloric intake.
To lose one to two pounds per week, you’ll need to reduce your caloric intake by 500 to 1,000 calories per day. To hasten the movement of visceral body fat, it’s also important to exercise — aerobically and with weights — five or more times per week for 30 to 60 minutes at a time. Make sure your diet is high in fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, low-fat dairy, and whole grains and that your fat intake is mostly unsaturated, the kind found in olive and canola oils.
Make sure you incorporate cardiovascular exercise with resistance training. This will help you build lean muscle and lose as much fat as possible. You might even consider enlisting the help of a trainer.
The good news: Most people tend to lose fat in the belly area first, then from other areas. Abdominal exercises will help tone your muscles but won’t help you preferentially lose fat from the belly area.
A complete workout plan should include strength training. Find out how strength training can really benefit you physically and emotionally.
Strength Training: The Benefits
Yes, strength training will add definition to your muscles and give men and women alike more fit and toned bodies. But working out with weights does so much more:
1. Strength training protects bone health and muscle mass.
After puberty, whether you are a man or a woman, you begin to lose about 1 percent of your bone and muscle strength every year. “One of the best ways to stop, prevent, and even reverse bone and muscle loss is to add strength training to your workouts,” advises Troy Tuttle, MS, an exercise physiologist at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston.”
2. Strength training makes you stronger and fitter.
Strength training is also called resistance training because it involves strengthening and toning your muscles by contracting them against a resisting force. There are two types of resistance training:
- Isometric resistance involves contracting your muscles against a non-moving object, such as against the floor in a push-up.
- Isotonic strength training involves contracting your muscles through a range of motion as in weight lifting.
Both make you stronger and can get you into better shape. Remember that with strength training your muscles need time to recover, so it should only be done on alternate days. Always take some time to warm up and cool down after strength training.
3. Strength training helps you develop better body mechanics.
Strength training has benefits that go well beyond the appearance of nicely toned muscles. Your balance and coordination will improve, as will your posture. More importantly, if you have poor flexibility and balance, strength training can reduce your risk of falling by as much as 40 percent, a crucial benefit, especially as you get older.
4. Strength training plays a role in disease prevention.
Studies have documented the many wellness benefits of strength training. If you have arthritis, strength training can be as effective as medication in decreasing arthritis pain. Strength training can help post-menopausal women increase their bone density and reduce the risk of bone fractures. And for the 14 million Americans with type 2 diabetes, strength training along with other healthy lifestyle changes can help improve glucose control.
5. Strength training boosts energy levels and improves your mood.
Strength training will elevate your level of endorphins (natural opiates produced by the brain), which will make you feel great. As if that isn’t enough to convince you, strength training has also been shown to be a great antidepressant, to help you sleep better, and to improve your overall quality of life.
6. Strength training translates to more calories burned.
You burn calories during strength training, and your body continues to burn calories after strength training, a process called “physiologic homework.” More calories are used to make and maintain muscle than fat, and in fact strength training can boost your metabolism by 15 percent — that can really jumpstart a weight loss plan.
Strength Training: Getting Started
“Please don’t limit yourself to thinking that lifting weights, expensive machines, or gym membership is the only way to do strength training,” says Tuttle. “Pushups, jump squats, lunges, and mountain climbing are all examples of exercises that provide strength training.”
If you have any health issues, ask your doctor what type of strength training is best to meet your needs and abilities. You can also work with a fitness expert to design a strength-training program that will be safe and effective for you.
Who doesn’t want to look better, feel better, and live a longer, healthier life? So what are you waiting for? Get started now with a complete workout program that includes strength training.
No. 1. Don’t skip breakfast. You’re busy in the morning. It’s tempting to save on those calories by skipping the first meal of the day. But if you don’t “break the fast” after going without food all night, your body goes into starvation mode, slowing your metabolism. That means the next meal you eat will burn off more slowly.
No. 2. Start the day with protein. Eggs or egg whites are a good choice. Protein makes you feel full longer.
No. 3. Avoid high-fructose corn syrup. Not all sugars are alike. New research shows that fructose produces fewer of the hormones that tell the brain you’re full.
No. 4. Eat beans. Beans contain “resistant starch,” meaning the body has to work harder to get those calories. That means your metabolism revs up.
No. 5. Spice up your life. Studies show black pepper has a compound that prevents fat cells from forming, and jalapeño peppers may help burn fat around the belly.
Adding fiber to your weight-loss plan is not as daunting as you might think. It’s a healthy way to manage your diet.
Fiber: The Health Benefits
If you’re like the average American, you probably only get 11 grams of fiber a day, despite the national recommendation for between 20 and 30 grams daily.
Eating more fiber can make you more “regular,” but it has other health benefits as well:
- A fiber-rich diet protects a woman’s heart. An analysis of health information from 72,000 women who participated in the 18-year long Nurses’ Health Study showed that women who ate a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, and fruits (all sources of fiber) had a reduced risk of heart disease compared to women who ate less healthfully.
- A fiber-rich diet contributes to a healthy pregnancy. Eating foods rich in fiber is recommended during pregnancy, and a recent study of the diets of 1,500 pregnant women showed that those who ate 21.2 grams of fiber a day were 72 percent less likely to develop preeclampsia (pregnancy-related high blood pressure) than women who ate 11.9 grams or less daily. Adding just 5 grams of fiber, or two slices of whole wheat bread, to their daily diet cut the risk of preeclampsia by 14 percent.
- A fiber-rich diet may prevent cancer. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains may prevent certain types of cancer, particularly colon, esophageal, kidney, and pancreatic cancer.
Fiber: Getting Started
The easiest way to increase fiber in your diet is to replace a low-fiber food with one that is higher in fiber. For example, use a high-fiber whole wheat bread instead of white bread for a sandwich, or snack on an apple instead of beef jerky. Apply this approach to all meals throughout the day.
“If you’re going to eat cereal, choose a high-fiber cereal. Forget the Rice Krispies and corn flakes,” says Donna L. Weihofen, RD, MS, a nutritionist at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison. You want a whole-grain breakfast cereal with at least 5 grams of fiber, suggests Weihofen, who prefers making her own hot oatmeal bake. “It is so delicious that it converted me from doughnut eating to oatmeal eating.”
Other some good sources of fiber to try:
- Fruits and vegetables with the skin on (well-cleaned, of course)
- Potatoes with skin
- Beans such as lentils or black beans
- Whole grains such as oats, barley, or bulgur wheat (just remember to stick to the correct serving size to keep your calorie count down)
People who are watching their carbohydrates should know they can subtract the dietary fiber grams in a food from its total carbohydrate count, though this won’t change the calorie count of the food.
Fiber: Upping Your Intake
Increasing fruits and vegetables is a great way to improve the overall nutrition in your diet without adding calories (many high-fiber foods are actually lower in calories than other foods), but this shouldn’t be your only strategy for increasing fiber, says Weihofen. “You have to eat an awful lot of them to get your fiber allowance. You do have to have whole grains or fiber supplements,” she explains, adding that she believes a fiber supplement is a good idea. “I like Metamucil or Benefiber — a natural fiber, something you can take for the rest of your life.”
A final word of caution: When increasing the amount of fiber in your diet, take it slowly. Drink lots of water and add only a few grams a day to give your digestive system time to adjust.
By Diana Rodriquez
If you’ve avoided healthy eating habits for most of your life, it’s time to make a change. Even seniors — especially seniors, in fact — need to focus on nutrition and healthy eating to prevent health problems. Developing healthy eating habits means more than just choosing the right foods, though that’s an important start. Calorie counting and portion control should be part of your strategy, too.
Why the Senior Diet Should Be Different
Your diet and nutrition needs change as you get older, and healthy eating becomes more important than ever. Aging alters many of your body’s processes and functions, affecting how your body uses food, and how much you need.
For starters, your metabolism slows down. Your body doesn’t process or use food as quickly, and you just don’t need as much. The digestive system also changes for seniors — with your intestines becoming a little more rigid and food moving through more slowly. Changing emotional needs may also affect some seniors’ diets: If you feel lonely, sad, or depressed, you may be more likely to eat too little or to dig into a bowl of ice cream or a bag of chips for comfort.
Senior Nutrition Tip: Practice Portion Control
Portion control trips up people of all ages. It’s tough to avoid huge portions when they’re everywhere — in restaurants, grocery stores, and even on your plate at home. When was the last time you ate a piece of meat that was only the size of a deck of playing cards? Most people eat several times that, but that’s all a serving size, or a healthy portion, really is.
So whether it’s pasta, rice, meat, or veggies, how do you know what a serving size actually is? Use these approximations to help you figure it out:
- 1/2 cup of ice cream is about the size of a tennis ball.
- 1 serving of cheese is about the equivalent of six playing dice.
- 1 serving of fruit or veggies is about the size of a baseball.
- 1/4 cup of dried nuts or fruits is about the size of a golf ball.
- 1 baked potato should only be about the size of a computer mouse.
- 1 serving of waffles or pancakes is about the diameter of a DVD.
Most serving sizes are labeled in ounces, so invest in a food scale to measure your portions. Once you get used to how little portion sizes really are, you’ll be better able to figure out what’s appropriate.
Senior Nutrition Tip: Count Those Calories
Once you adjust your portion sizes, the amount of calories you consume will automatically be lower. But you still have to pay attention to foods that are high in calories and avoid or limit them.
Also, be sure to adjust your calorie intake if your activity level changes. Women over age 50 need between 1,600 and 2,200 calories daily. Men over 50 need between 2,000 and 2,800 calories daily. If you have a more sedentary life, your calorie needs fall at the low end of the range, while an active person should aim for the top of the range.
Next, it’s time to pay attention to how many calories are in each of those portions that you’re now working so hard to control. Add them up, and keep a running total of how many calories you have eaten in a given day. If you really want an ice cream snack, then swap out some calories from another meal to stay within your calorie allowance for the day.
Senior Nutrition Tip: Avoid Diet Sabotage
Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much to derail your healthy eating efforts before they become habits. Try these tips to keep you on course with healthy eating:
- Have healthy, easy-to-eat foods on hand all the time; that way they’re ready and within reach when you’re tempted to snack or indulge.
- Stay away from salty, fatty, and sugary foods; they’ll just trigger your craving for more.
- Drink plenty of water because dehydration can trick you into thinking that you’re hungry for unhealthy food. Skip sodas, tea, and coffee, which don’t quench your thirst.
- Keep stress under control.
- Eat regularly to keep yourself from getting too hungry and splurging on junk.
- Cook more food than you need for a meal, and freeze the rest for leftovers. Heat them up when you’re too tired to fix something healthy.
- Make healthy food taste delicious by making it more flavorful. Season your meal with garlic, vegetable oils, onions, or vinegar instead of salt.
It’s all about making a commitment, and the sooner you start the easier it will be. So go ahead and disprove that adage about old dogs and new tricks by changing your eating habits today.
Get more information in the Senior Health Center
Last updated : 1/25/2010