You may be weight to height proportional, but your body may contain a low percentage of muscle and a high percentage of body fat. You may have thin arms and legs, but are they soft? If so, that may be a sign that your body is losing muscle and accumulating fat, and the excess fat is gathering in areas where you're genetically inclined to store it and that is around your middle.
Scale weight is a subject of great debate. Some people feel that it doesn't matter at all such as serious weight lifters who weigh slightly heavier than what's considered normal, but have very low amounts of body fat, and some people think that scale weight is the holy grail, judging what shape they are in solely by how much they weigh.
For example, a 50-year old woman might feel proud that she still weighs 120 pounds, just as she did at 20 years old. But if she didn't exercise during those 30 years, her body composition will have shifted so that her body doesn't look as good as it did at 20, despite the fact that the scale weight is the same. That's because her muscle tissue declined and her body fat has grown.
Body weight does matter, depending on the individual. A person with 50 or 100 pounds to lose will need to lose body weight and body fat. Simply building muscle alone won't cause the body composition shift that is required to become a lean and healthy weight.
On the other hand, for someone who doesn't have much weight, if any, to lose, going by scale weight alone is misleading since it does not reflect how much body fat and muscle your body has.
So what's the solution?
To decrease fat anywhere in your body, you need to burn more calories. But the way in which you do so matters.
Aiming for straight weight loss by dieting, can cause you to reduce some belly fat, but you may also get skinnier in areas you don't want to, like your butt and face. Also, dieting alone leads to a significant loss of muscle mass, and you need more muscle, not less. A better, more efficient approach would be to try to shift your body composition by building muscle and losing body fat through exercise. Ultimately the scale may stay about the same, or you may even gain a few pounds, but the scale weight is not very important.
So what kind of exercise will do the trick?
What you shouldn't do is spend all your time doing abdominal exercises, or to buy an ab-exercise gizmo that you might see on an infomercial promising to slim you down quick and easy. Many people think that if they can pummel away at their abs long enough to feel a burning sensation, that they are making great strides towards a flatter belly. This is simply not true.
The burn is from muscles fatiguing, not fat burning off. And no research has shown that core exercises like crunches, sit-ups or those done on any abs machine will whittle fat off your belly. They can strengthen your muscles, but will not do anything about losing the fat around them. And when it comes to building more muscle, you need to build it all over, not just in your belly.
Your first step is to do more cardio (walk, run, bike, use any cardio machine at the gym, dance, etc.). If you're a beginner, you should start slow and easy, building your way up gradually to longer, more intense and higher-impact sessions. If you haven't been doing anything, simply trying to fit in 15 or 20 minutes of cardio on most days of the week (walking five or six days a week, for example), may even make a difference. The more cardio you do the more fat you lose, especially in your belly. So once you've built up your fitness level, aim for 60 minutes or more of cardio on most days of the week.
The importance of strength training
In addition, you should start strength training using resistance bands, dumbbells, or weight machines (if you have access to a health club). You don't need to spend as much time on weights as you do on cardio as long as you are challenging your muscles each time. Aim for doing about one 12-repetition set of eight to 10 exercises that target all the major muscles in your upper and lower body two to three times a week. Each session may take you about 15 to 40 minutes depending upon how many sets you do of each exercise. As you get stronger, add another set until you are doing three sets of eight to 12 reps for each exercise. When this gets easier, increase the weight.
Keep in mind that any weight training at all will increase your strength if you're new to it. But once you've been doing it for a few months, if you don't increase the resistance, you won't get stronger or build muscle. You will probably need to eat more healthful food to get in more calories per day to fuel your extra aerobic exercise and the muscle growth you are trying to achieve.
Give it a few months of this exercise regimen and you should start to see a firmer, stronger, thinner-bellied you.
10 Diet Mistakes to Avoid
1. Not eating enough protein, especially early in the day.
The government's recommendation for protein is 0.4 grams per pound of body weight. This is barely half of what you need to build muscle, which in turn will help you, burn fat. You need protein!
2. Skipping breakfast.
Breakfast doesn’t mean grabbing a soda or eating a doughnut. You need to eat whole foods such as oatmeal, eggs, fruit, and yogurt. Your brain and body needs nutrients to function.
3. Skipping other meals because you didn't think ahead.
Maybe you're in meetings all day and haven't eaten for six hours. When you finally do, you may choose badly because you're absolutely starved. What's more, you eat too quickly when you're hungry and you outrace your body's "fullness" signal. Try to eat every three hours.
4. Eating carbs only.
A plain bagel even with orange juice is one of the worst breakfasts you can eat. Your blood sugar will light up like fireworks on the Fourth of July. This stimulates the release of the hormone insulin, which signals your body to stop burning and start storing fat. It also triggers hunger, making you reach for something else that will skyrocket your blood sugar again. Better to start your day off with eggs, whites only if you’re concerned about your cholesterol, and a side of fruit.
5. Thinking in terms of "snacks" packaged in boxes and bags.
Stop planning your meals around snacks. Just plan frequent meals. When you do the snack thing, you're not saving yourself calories from a meal. Oftentimes you're upping your calories.
6. Consuming cheap, empty-calorie carbs.
Non-diet soda, potato chips, cookies, popcorn, and white bread have made America fat. The empty calories are bad enough, but the real damage comes from the havoc these wreak on your blood sugar.
7. Falling for the fat-free gimmick.
Just because it says "fat free" doesn’t mean you can eat twice as much of it without gaining weight. You'll still be consuming a bunch of calories. What's worse, the phrase non-fat is usually code for more sugar.
8. Not "fishing" for healthy protein.
Generally speaking, plant fats are healthier than animal fats. But the fats in fish are an exception, especially those from darker fleshed ones like salmon. The omega-3 fatty acids they contain are just what the doctor ordered to keep your heart healthy. Substitute fish for another animal protein several times a week and supplement with omega-3s for good measure.
9. Not drinking enough water.
By the time you crave water, you're already dehydrated. That can short-circuit your workout and eventually cause health problems, which is a shame, since all you have to do is turn on a tap. Drink a minimum of 12 6-ounce glasses of non-caffeinated fluids per day, plus an additional 6 ounces for every 15 minutes your train.
10. Shopping in the center aisles of the supermarket.
Not everything in the center aisles of your local supermarket is junk (like tuna) but the vast majority of what you'll find there has been pumped full of chemicals and processed. Unless you need a greeting card, a magazine, or a can of shaving cream, stay on the store's outer aisles, where all the fresh stuff lies.
10 Secrets of the Effortlessly Thin
The majority of thin people whether they have been lean all their life or managed to lose weight and keep it off, share several healthy strategies that help them stay thin and healthy with seemingly little effort.
1. They don't diet
Or at least not in the traditional, all-or-nothing, deprivation sense of the word. You need to get rid of that diet mentality and realize that what you are doing is making a permanent lifestyle change. You do have to cut back on calories if you want to stay thin, but it's about reassessing what you eat and being more sensible in your choices, not about a quick-fix, crazy diet. Thin people tend to have a better quality diet than those who are overweight. They eat more fruits and vegetables and more fiber, and drink more water, all healthy things that provide more food volume for the number of calories.
2. They keep track of their weight
Thin people know how much they weigh, and they monitor that number by stepping on the scale frequently. It's not about a having an unhealthy fixation on that number on the scale, but it's a way to catch a 5-pound gain before it suddenly turns into a 20-pound gain. Aim to keep your weight within a five-pound range, and if you see it go above that buffer zone, make sure you have an immediate plan of action for how to address it.
3. They exercise regularly
9 out of 10 people who've lost weight and maintained it exercise regularly and make it a critical part of their lives. Even if you've never been a fitness fanatic, it's not too late to get moving. Even taking a few 15-minute walks throughout the day will be a move in the right direction. Once you start to enjoy the mood-boosting and calorie-burning advantages of exercise, start looking for ways to keep your workouts interesting. Join a local gym and try a variety of classes and cardio machines, find friends to walk with, or experiment with at-home exercise DVDs.
4. They don't solve problems with food
Almost everyone is guilty of occasionally drowning their sorrows in a pint of ice cream or taking out frustration on a batch of brownies, but thin people definitely don't make it a habit. They do not eat for emotional reasons. When you are upset, bored, lonely, frustrated or angry, ask yourself if food is really going to solve the problem, or will it just end up making you feel worse after you finish eating? Chances are, the food won't fix what's bothering you, so it's important to come up with a list of other small pleasures you can turn to instead of food. Some ideas include going for a walk, watching a movie, calling a friend, playing with your kids, or taking a bubble bath. In my book “Get Fit Stay Fit” I address the emotional eating in more detail.
5. They stop eating when they're full
Most thin people pay attention to internal hunger cues. Thin people are tuned into noticing when they are full, and they stop eating even if there is food left on their plate.
6. They don't surround themselves with temptation
Rather than stocking the cupboards with junk food, thin people's kitchens are filled with healthy foods. That doesn't mean you can never have any indulgences in your house, just that you shouldn't have so many that you're likely to overeat them. For example, if you love to bake, give most of your sweets away to friends, or have your kids bring them to school or soccer practice, leaving just a few behind to enjoy yourself.
7. They allow themselves treats
Thin people let themselves eat what they crave, sometimes even indulging in a treat every day. The difference is that they do it consciously, choosing exactly what they really want to eat and then eating slowly and enjoying it. So if it's chocolate you want, don't try to eat around the craving with an array of foods that don't really satisfy you. Instead, allow yourself to have a small but really delicious chocolate bar and put the craving to rest. More on this in my book ‘The Best You can be’
8. They eat breakfast
Nearly 80 percent of the successful weight loss losers and thin people eat breakfast every single day. Make sure that you eat within an hour of waking up. Breakfast is literally breaking the fast of the night and until you send food into your system, your metabolism doesn't really start to kick in.
9. They move, stand and fidget more
Thin people are rarely sitting. Beyond their regular fitness routines, they simply move around more which burns more calories throughout the day, potentially burning up to 350 more calories.
10. They don't skip meals
There are two problems with skipping meals. Going more than six hours without food will slow down your metabolism, plus you'll likely get so desperately hungry that you'll grab anything as opposed to something healthy and you will over eat. Thin people keep their stomachs between one-quarter and three-quarters full at all times. The best way to do this is to eat frequent mini-meals every three or four hours.
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