Sunday, September 13, 2009

So what’s belly fat got to do with health?

Someone said to me once, ‘oh it’s middle age, that’s what happens when you turn 40. Why else do they call it ‘middle aged spread?’’ So I thought, it was normal to start spreading and bloating as I got older but I hated it. I felt uncomfortable, I looked awful in clothes, I had little energy and I’d get seriously puffed as I walked up stairs.

And yet, I knew plenty of people my age and older who looked great. They were fit, strong and very young looking. I thought they were freaks, it can’t be normal to look like that when you’re 50 – surely they must starve themselves and work like crazy to keep that shape. Surely they must be impossible to live with, they can’t possibly enjoy going to a restaurant, they mustn’t enjoy life! That sure wasn’t for me!! I still wanted to eat, drink and do as little exercise as I was currently doing.


I was watching Oprah one afternoon, as you do… And Dr Mehmet Oz was the guest. He just happened to be talking about middle age spread and belly fat and actually said ‘if a woman’s waistline is over 90cms, then it has the same affect on her as if she had breast cancer.’ Well Oprah said the same as me ‘WHAAAAT?” The audience collectively dropped their jaws on the ground and you could almost see all of them frantically feeling their waist and wishing they had a tape measure.

I didn’t even have to go and find a tape measure as I just knew my waist measurement would be in the danger zone – and it was! I knew it was time to do something about it.

Killer Fat!

I’ve always had a big bust and seem to carry my weight around the bust, under the arms around the back and on the abdomen. I’ve got slim arms and legs and a narrow hip, so I guess you can call me an apple shape. And so, I just slotted myself into the ‘apple’ category. You know how all the TV shows say we’re either an apple or a pear or an inverted triangle or an hourglass or whatever. I’m a stylist, I’ve been telling women that for years and saying ‘Oh, I’m an apple shape, this is the clothing drama I have..”
Well girls, it appears an “apple”(or a well rounded one) is not necessarily normal or healthy – here’s why!

I feel I’ve always looked ‘hefty’ and I blamed my bustiness for the reason why I always had trouble with clothes. But as time has gone on, my thickening waist became a worry. Never more so than when I went for an insurance policy standard medical and heard the doctor say, “I’m not worried about your weight, it’s your waist measurement that’s of concern. You do realize that’s the killer fat area don’t you?”

Ah, no – I didn’t – better tell me!!!

Many physicians will tell you that the weight that is accumulated around the hips and thighs is dramatically different both physically and metabolically to that which accumulates around the mid section – and that applies for both men and women.

Back in our early primitive days, weight that accumulated around the thigh and hip was primarily used as storage e.g. in times of starvation, lack or pregnancy – even though today, with today’s overabundance of food, we wouldn’t look at it that way, but it’s considered normal to carry fat in that area. However, fat that is slowly accumulated around the middle section is not made up of increased number of fat cells but actually increased size of the cells. And this is what’s dangerous. They get bigger and bigger and lead to insulin resistance, high blood pressure and eventually can lead to diabetes, heart disease and stroke. When I was young, those diseases really didn’t mean anything to me. I’ve now seen exactly what heart disease, diabetes and stroke actually look like. It’s not where I want to be, so I had to do something

So how does it get there when you think you've done nothing different?

Like a lot of women I was a size 10 most of my life, even after two kids I seemed to bounce back. It wasn’t until I hit my late thirties and crept into my forties that I noticed I wasn’t changing my lifestyle habits but weight still crept right round the middle (apple) section.

I’d head off to work with toast and coffee, be starving by 10am, go for another coffee and a couple of cookies to see me through til lunch. Lunch usually consisted of something with bread or chips, would be sleepy by 3pm, looking for a chocolate bar and another coffee to give me a boost of energy, and by the time I got home I was famished.

I found myself starving by the time I got home, hooked into a champagne or two while cooking dinner and a nibble on some nuts, chips or olives to stave the hunger while dinner was being prepared, which usually consisted of a lot of pasta, rice or potatoes and fried meats. No vitamins, no essential fatty acids, way too many carbs and loads of sugar. For some strange reason I was often cranky, incredibly sleepy by 8.30 and rarely went for a walk or did exercise. I thought, well I run about in the office, go up and down stairs a lot and deal with stress all day – isn’t that enough exercise? No wonder I’m tired.

What was happening was I spiraling toward insulin resistance, diabetes type 2, my blood pressure was rising, my sleep was broken, I woke up tired every morning and did exactly the same thing day after day. Hence, the middle was bloating out, my skin was also puffed and unhealthy looking, my hair was dry, my nails brittle, my temper short and hormones started to fly all over the place.

My ‘insurance’ doctor warned me that if I didn’t do something pretty toot smart that I’d be looking down the barrel of full blown diabetes as I was already showing signs of glucose intolerance, was in full blown metabolic syndrome and would have a life sentence on me if I didn’t get my act together. My husband was in a worse state and he knew it which was why he was avoiding going to see the doctor. He used to fall asleep at the dinner table and in front of the computer and was morbidly obese. Not a healthy pair at all! (In fact I’ve loaded up photographs of us on my website, you can actually see the growing ‘apple’s in both of us).

So we decided to do something about it. We got the weight off, and that process will be discussed in a future blog entry – BUT … I still now need to tighten the last of the belly roll. Just because I started getting fitter and started dropping the weight doesn’t mean I totally managed to completely get that belly down, tone up and create the shape I want. That’s the final step – to make sure the tape measure really does show the right number at the end of this journey.

So join me in future posts when I’ll talk about the process. What do we eat, how do we eat it and how do we change our exercise routine. It’s not all that you think either!!

See you in the next post

Anne Noonan
Style and Wellness Coach
Ph: 0417 761 998


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