John Hanc - Live Right Live Well

Fitness: How to Lose a Gut and Keep It Off!

So you've put on a few pounds and gotten yourself a beer belly. Even worse, it's making your heartburn worse!

Forget fat-burning pills and belly-reducing gadgets. The real secret to losing that tummy lies not in a bottle or some magical exercise machine, but between your ears.

Here's how you really bust a gut:

Five Hundred a Day Keeps the Fat Boy Away

The arithmetic of weight loss is simple: Burn more calories than you're taking in, and you'll start to lose pounds. Exercise scientist Jeff Potteiger, Ph.D., of Miami University in Ohio recommends shooting for a deficit of 500 calories a day. Thirty minutes of aerobic activity will generally burn about 250 to 300 calories for the average male. About two beers or one-half cup of Haagen-Dazs has about the same caloric value. Simply add the exercise, subtract the beers or the bowl of ice cream, and presto! You'll have a 500 calorie deficit. Do that consistently for a few weeks and weight loss will always follow.

Primal Screen: Turn It off When You Eat

"Food plus screens is a terrible combination, especially for men," says registered dietitian and nutritionist Janice Baker of San Diego. "When you're eating in front of a TV or computer screen, your brain becomes disengaged from your satiety controls. You start to lose the sense of whether you're full or not. So you'll eat more food than you really need to." Instead, turn off the tube and tune in to your family over the dinner table.

Real Men Eat Breakfast (and a Snack)

Channeling their inner caveman, guys think the way to lose weight is simply to starve themselves. So they skip breakfast or lunch, feel real macho, then they come home and grab anything, Baker says. By the time they sit down at dinner, they will have consumed more calories -- and probably more junk calories -- than if they had eaten a healthy breakfast and lunch. Instead of being Mr. He-Man, she says, "eat a healthy breakfast, a healthy lunch and have a planned, healthy snack before you leave work so your appetite isn't out of control."

It's Not Just What You Eat But How Much

Even the healthiest foods can add extra pounds if you eat enough of them. So if you want to trim that waistline, start experimenting with portion control and cut back on the amount you eat. "This doesn't have to be drastic," says Robert Morea, a former bodybuilding champ who is now a certified strength coach in Brooklyn, N.Y. "Maybe it's one piece of chicken, instead of two. One serving of potatoes, instead of helping yourself again and again." Before taking another bite, stop and ask yourself: Do I really need this? Am I really still hungry? Often, the answer will be no.

Move It to Lose It!

In the latest physical activity guidelines, released last October, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that all adults do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. However, if your goal is weight loss, the guidelines specifically state that you may need to do up to 300 minutes per week. In other words, if you're serious about losing that belly, 45 minutes of activity, four to seven days a week, should be your ultimate goal.

Oh, and all those crunches you've been doing to "flatten" your stomach? Forget it. Having a strong midsection is a good thing, but all the sit-ups in the world are not going to magically melt away your tummy. "You can have great core strength," says Dr. Potteiger, "but if you can't get that percentage of body-fat down, you're never going to see those abs."

Clothes Make the (Thin) Man

Believe it or not, what you wear can make a difference in how you eat and whether you succeed in shedding extra pounds. Baker tells her clients not to wear sweat clothes or pants with elastic waistbands outside of the gym. "Wear comfortable, but unforgiving clothes," she says. That means belts and pants that are going to cry uncle when you start filling up. Conversely, adds Dr. Potteiger, "if you're consistent with your weight loss efforts, your pants will let you know -- they'll start feeling looser." And you won't just be making a fashion statement. A new study conducted at the German Institute of Human Nutrition in Potsdam-Rehbrücke found that men with the largest waist circumference had more than double the risk of death compared to men of normal girth. So if having the profile of a pregnant woman is not enough to motivate you…dude, how about your mortality? Now go bust that gut!

John Hanc is a New York-based fitness writer who writes for Runner's World, The New York Times, Family Circle, AARP Bulletin, Newsday and others. He is the author of eight books, including The Coolest Race on Earth: Mud, Madmen, Glaciers, and Grannies at the Antarctica Marathon (Chicago ReviewPress 2009).


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Health - Fitness: How to Lose a Gut and Keep It Off!