Ester Marsh column: How do you get rid of belly fat?

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 29, 2022

This question is the No. 1 question in any YMCA, fitness center or weight loss center. My initial answer is always “the push away exercise.” Interested, they ask, “Which one is that one?” It’s the one where you push away from the table! After a good chuckle, we talk about what it takes to get rid of belly fat. I wish I had the magic potion to get rid of belly fat, but I don’t. Again, it takes hard work, eating sensibly and working out the whole body to get in shape but more importantly to be healthy.

Anyone can lose weight. When I used to speak for groups in the community, before COVID, and ask who has lost weight before, most hands will go up. The craziest diets are out there — no this or no that, lots of this and none of that. And how about the diets where you only eat 400-500 calories? Your body can’t survive on those kinds of calories. 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. Even when you are able to stick to this diet and you lose weight, you eventually have to come back to the real world. Losing weight is doable and being on a diet is workable but keeping it off is the hardest thing to do. I know when the results are quick and noticeable, it makes it easier to stay on a diet but eventually real life will kick in again.

When you lose weight, your fat cells shrink. You can’t get rid of them unless you have liposuction, and when you get off that diet you are on, those fat cells are waiting to fill up again. And on top of that, you can make more fat cells your whole life. Sound familiar? Lose the weight, gain it back and more? It’s a vicious circle. My advice to lose that belly fat again is to continue to exercise and change your eating lifestyle. That’s right, not a diet, a lifestyle change. That belly fat/weight will not come off as fast as before but when you are losing one or 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 one of my favorite weight-loss programs and there is another very successful online lifestyle change program called Noom, where I know people who have been very successful using this program. Both will teach you real life sensible eating by changing your habits and mindset around food and exercise. And if you have a smartphone, there are all kinds of apps out there 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, shoulders back, belly tight, it looks that you took off five pounds instantly. And even that we have had snow the past weekends, warmer weather is just around the corner. Soon, people start scurrying trying to get into bathing suit shape, so don’t procrastinate. But most importantly, be proud and love your body, strive for health and the rest will follow.

Ester Hoeben Marsh is health and fitness director of the JF Hurley family YMCA.