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Ester Marsh column: Taking off belly fat

Happy Memorial Day! I want to thank all our service men and women who died serving our country, and thank you to our active duty military for your service.

Hopefully, the weather will hold up and everyone can have a nice outdoor Memorial Day. This is also the time that outdoor pools open up, and you know what that means — bathing suit season! Some people embrace it, others are terrified with this season of more exposure of skin. Fortunately, there are many bathing suits out there which flatter any shape or size. Remember, beauty comes in all sizes!

Most people ask how to get rid of belly fat. I wish I had the “magic potion” to get rid of belly fat! You can’t spot reduce by diet and exercise — unfortunately, you can’t pick the area where you lose fat. When people ask me that question, I always say “the push away exercise”— “push away” from the table!

It takes hard work, eating sensibly and working out the whole body to get in shape and to be healthy. Anyone can lose weight. I often speak to groups in the community, and when I ask who has lost weight before, most people will raise their hand. There are a lot of crazy diets out there that say you can’t eat some things, but must eat a lot of something else. There are even diets where you only eat 400-500 calories a day, which our body can’t survive on. Typically, an average female needs a minimum of about 1,500 calories a day and an average male needs about 2,000 calories. Of course, it all depends on age, weight and activity level, but 400 or 500 calories is not enough. Even when you are able to stick to this diet and lose weight, you eventually have to come back to the real world. Losing weight is doable, being on a diet is workable but keeping it off is the hardest thing to do.

When the results are quick and noticeable, it makes it easier to stay on a diet, but eventually real life will kick in again and you will have to work to keep the weight off.

When you lose weight, your fat cells shrink. You can’t get rid of them unless you have liposuction where you can spot reduce, but you will also see a huge reduction in your wallet! So you can’t really lose fat cells by diet and exercise, but you can make more fat cells your whole life. Understanding this fact makes it easier to realize that when you get off your diet, you gain the weight back, plus more.

My advice to lose that belly fat is to continue to exercise and change your eating lifestyle. That’s right — not a diet, a lifestyle change. The weight will not come off as fast as before, but when you are losing one to two pounds a week, your chance of keeping it off will be much greater. When you are really having a hard time eating sensibly, Weight Watchers is still my favorite weight loss program. They will teach you real-life sensible eating. And if you have a smartphone, there are all kinds of apps to help you with counting calories and how many you burn, such as “My Fitness Pal.”

Besides exercising and eating a balanced diet, watch your posture! By standing up straight with your shoulders back and belly tight, it looks that you took off five pounds instantly! Be proud and love your body, strive for health and the rest will come. And I wish everyone a wonderful Memorial Day!

Ester Marsh Associate Executive Director JF Hurley Family YMCA

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