Time for a Gut Check
|Guys should forget the six-pack abs and just lose the beer belly.||Darrell Miller||09/24/05|
September 24, 2005 12:00 PM
Author: Darrell Miller (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Subject: Guys should forget the six-pack abs and just lose the beer belly.
Time for a Gut Check
Guys should forget the six-pack abs and just lose the beer belly.
When a woman noticed her husband standing on the bathroom scale and sucking in his stomach, she said, “I don’t think that’s going to help.” “Sure it will,” he responded. “It’s the only way I can see the numbers.”
Funny line, sure. But whether you’re talking about “love handles,” a “spare tire” or the proverbial “beer belly,” having a tummy that hangs over your belt buckle is no laughing matter. It’s not even a matter of the quest for “six-pack abs” or a “washboard stomach.” It’s a matter of health.
Consider this: A recent study appearing in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that a man’s waist size can be a good predictor for the development of type 2 diabetes. A Harvard Health Professionals team, led by Dr. Youfa Wang, an assistant professor at the John Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, analyzed data from more than 27,000 men who were tracked for more than 13 years. The team found that men with larger waists or a higher body mass index (BMI) were both at greater risk for type 2 diabetes than slimmer men. (You find your body mass index by dividing your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in meters. If your waist size is 40 inches or less, a BMI of 25 or over means you’re overweight.)
“Abdominal fat measured by waist circumference can indicate a strong diabetes risk, whether or not a man is considered overweight or obese according to his BMI,” says Wang. The Harvard team found that men with waist sizes of 40 to 62 inches were 12 times more likely to develop diabetes and suggested that the current recommended waistline of 40 inches or below for men may need to be lowered.
Okay, now that we’ve scared the bejeezes out of all you guys under 6-foot-4 who by your pants in the big-man store, let’s talk about what you have to do to shop anywhere in the mall. Again, this is not about looking like a Greek ab god. This is about diminishing your risk for a myriad of health problems and being able to comfortably bend over for a ground ball during the pickup softball game. And there are no shortcuts, so forget about liposuctioning those years of accumulated lard. Despite what all those TV makeover shows say, liposuction can only really enhance your body aesthetic if you lose a large chunk of the surface fat first.
“Those makeover shows have it all backwards,” says Dr. Bruce Nadler, a fitness trainer who also happens to be a plastic surgeon. “They do surgery on someone’s midsection and then have them doing intense workouts when they are supposed to be recuperating from surgery. I wouldn’t do liposuction until you see what diet and exercise can accomplish. When you have all the weight in the midsection the dangerous fat is deep within the body. So liposuction may make you look better but it won’t necessarily improve your health.”
The Gut Check Plan
Talk to any exercise expert worth their weight in body fat, including Nadler, and they will tell you that on of the biggest fitness fallacies is the notion that intense abdominal workouts and use of abdominal machines (like those sold through those interminable infomercials) are the keys to getting a flatter and more “ripped” midsection. In fact, for many people it’s not physiologically possible to achieve a flat tummy because abdominals are not designed to be flat. And the idea of “spot reduction,” exercising the area where you want to lose the fat, is now considered a myth. Research has shown that fat is lost all over your body, not just in the area that you work.
It’s not that you can’t benefit from doing abdominal exercises. Crunches, situps and leg raises, when done properly, are great for muscle tone and endurance (and you do burn calories), but the real key to achieving a wonderful waist size is losing body fat. How do you do that?
“Dropping a few inches from your midsection,” says Nadler, “depends on four things- calorie reduction through proper diet (eating very little fat, consuming complex carbohydrates and doing it all in smaller portions), stepping up aerobic activity (such as running an bicycling, which burns excess calories quickly and safely), and resistance weight training (which not only increases metabolism and helps burn more excess calories, but also builds and strengthens the abdominal wall).” Then, adds Nadler, when you’ve just about reached your waist=reduction goal, but genetics still won’t give you a flatter stomach, “that’s where plastic surgery may come in as icing on the cake.”
Nadler also advises men not to panic if they don’t notice a substantial weight reduction during a training program. “When people are doing weight and resistance training they are too hung up on the scale,” insists Nadler. “Muscle weighs more than fat so don’t judge your progress by what you weigh, but on what your percentage of body fat is. That’s the number you want to see going down.”
So how long does it take for men with an oversized gut to lose the excess? “Depending on how much they have to lose,” Nadler says, “it takes anywhere from three to six months.” By the way, for men in their 30s and up, there are also two important side benefits to decreasing the waist size and firming up the gut: better overall posture and diminishing the potential for chronic back pain. So get to work guys; suck it up so you can stop sucking it in. -Stephen Hanks