What causes fat around midriff and what exercises get rid of it?

(24 Posts)
PavlovtheCat Thu 05-Sep-13 10:36:29

I am quite slim. I have relatively toned upper and lower, bearing inning I have done hardly any exercise for a long time due to back problems. I Am back exercising, and toning well, stregnething muscles as I want. But as I am getting fitter, I am not touching what is now becoming a prominent overhang. I am using the cross trainer, and swimming. I am doing core strength exercises, but I can't do twisting exercises yet.

What do I need to do to get rid of this fat/tone it?

Is it really fat do you think, or skin?

Obviously if it is skin then there is nothing you can do, exercise or diet wise, to get rid of it.

If, however, it is fat (which is impossible to tone, by the way, you must just lose it grin) then it may be that that is simply the last place you lose weight - and losing it elsewhere first is making it seem more prominent to you. Eventually if you are getting to a healthy weight then it will reduce. The core exercises you are doing are all good and will definitely be giving results muscle-wise.

Also look at your diet - sugar is frequently the main culprit with belly fat, so you may be losing weight through a low cal diet but if there is lots of sugar - or sugar substitutes - still being consumed this may be affecting you.

The other thing that can affect belly fat is stress - this can be stress/lack of sleep in your day to day life or extended periods of cardio can have the same effect on some people as it stresses the body. If you are doing lots of long cardio sessions think about switching to shorter sessions of interval training.

PavlovtheCat Thu 05-Sep-13 22:20:03

sleep the thing is, I have always been slim, and recently I lost too much weight. I was really skinny (disability which led to medication fucking up my appetite). It didn't become all flabby as I was always relatively well toned, not buff in any way, but not hugely flabby around my waist. I lost a lot of the weight I think as I lost muscle tone, pretty much everywhere and there was no excess skin due to the weight loss. And now I have put it on again, possibly rather too quickly as the reason for my weight loss has disappeared (surgery followed by stopping the medication in question). But, I haven't put on excess weight and not back to my pre weight loss size. It's not even much, really, but, it's obvious enough that it hangs out of my trousers! But, I can't wear bigger trousers, as there is no fat anywhere else so they hang on me! It's just that place that's the problem, nowhere else.

I can't lose weight, I will be too skinny again!

But, interesting about lack of sleep and stress! I have had a huge amount of stress over the last couple of years, and my sleep is shocking. But, funnily this is only becoming an issue as my stress levels have subsided a little. But, my sleep is a big issue. Didn't even think that it would be a problem that would affect stomach fat!

Is 30 mins on the cross-trainer a long time? I thought it was quite reasonable - I do around 30 mins, followed by 10-15 lengths, but only been building up to this in the last few weeks, so not regularly this much until very recently.

PavlovtheCat Thu 05-Sep-13 22:22:47

oh yes, and sugar. So, I suspect that might be the culprit. I am relatively good sugar wise, I don't have it in hot drinks, or on my cereal, don't add it to much, don't eat cakes etc. But. I have returned to work in the last 3 weeks, and I am partial to a bit of chocolate and some crisps instead of stopping for a lunch break

That might be in then eh? <sigh> oh, getting old sucks! once upon a time I could eat two bars of the stuff and a bag of crisps, every single day at work, and it would leave no mark on me...

PavlovtheCat Thu 05-Sep-13 22:23:37

i lied. i do eat cake. just not too often (says recalling afternoon tea at the weekend where I ate my body weight in the stuff)

If you have the will to do it (its tough!) then try and cut the sugar out as much as possible - at the very least avoid any refined sugar. And you probably don't need me to tell you that crisps and chocolate don't really constitute a nutritious lunch smile.

It doesn't sound like the cardio will be causing it, it could be an issue if you were regularly spending more than an hour doing cardio, long runs etc. but if you are building up your fitness then what you are doing is probably good.

Are you weight training? It is so important for everyone, I could go on for ages about the health benefits, especially for women, even more so for those approaching, going through or post-menopause, but if you feel "skinny fat" then it can change your physique dramatically for the better. Along with a great diet its honestly just the best thing for battling the effects of ageing.

Lazysuzanne Thu 05-Sep-13 23:28:18

it's maddening isnt it...the tenacity of belly fat angry
I have found it helpful to use a heart rate monitor with cardio so that I can log exactly how intense the sessions are.

Assuming that you are making steady progress/improvements t might just be a case of keep on going and the fat will eventually go?

PavlovtheCat Fri 06-Sep-13 20:15:54

lazy i need to get a heat monitor, the cross trainer etc has one on, the ones i use at the gym, for they are not accurate. my physio today said it had a 20% either way accuracy, but, the other day it gave it as high as 189! and I felt fine, and today it said 98 and I was sweating buckets! My physio has given me a good training programme, added to today when I saw him and told me not to worry about midriff weight, he said it will sort itself out in time. He did say that to burn fat, i would need to work at level 3 plus for 1 whole hour!! But, also that I didn't need to do that right now, strength is key.

sleep I have never done weights. But, physio has just started introducing some small weights into my programme to build up strength, i used some weights for the first time today!

Lazysuzanne Fri 06-Sep-13 23:05:04

I agree the gym cardio hr is sometimes way out.
I saw a drop in body fat when I started doing longer one hour plus cardio sessions, then again i dont quite have the grit for short high intensity sessions (made for comfort not speedgrin) so I'm not in a position to say which is better.

Good luck with it all smile

PavlovtheCat Sat 07-Sep-13 08:16:59

lazy I think I am going to enjoy longer lower sessions, as I enjoy listening to good music while on the cross trainer - i find that once I get past 12 mins, I can keep going. Yesterday I had to stop at 30 just over minutes rather than struggle to get there (physio said don't do more than that just yet). I did go a little over, because I wanted to see who one master chef grin.

I also find I like to plod along in the pool, not fast lengths, but lots of them, sometimes broken up with a sauna wink. Haven't got back to that yet, only managing 10 lengths after the gym, but soon enough I will be there, there isn't a rush. Does swimming increase heart rate too like the cross trainer? I never feel like it does.

Depends (like everything) on how hard you are swimmimg Pavlov wink.

Suzanne (hi again after our little chat about weights in the other thread by the way smile)...didn't you find you also lost muscle with extended cardio? I don't want to derail Pavlov and I may have misunderstood but it sounds like she doesn't actually have that much weight to lose and maybe she should try and build up some muscle and lose some fat, take the focus off the number on the scales coming down?

HRHLadyG Sat 07-Sep-13 09:45:51

Sugar and stress! The Adrenal Glands are in the stomach area and when they are continuously strained force the body to store fat around the belly.
Try drinking lots of water to flush out fat cells, Yoga, Cardio Exercise for not longer than 30_40 mins at a time, Limit caffeine & alcohol, make sure you get enough good sleep!

PavlovtheCat Sat 07-Sep-13 09:46:31

sleep that's right. I don't want to lose weight. I want to get rid of the bulge in the middle of my belly that hangs out when I wear trousers. I am slender everywhere else, and becoming reasonably well toned. It's not fat as in excessive weight, it's additional flab that is out of proportion to the rest of me.

PavlovtheCat Sat 07-Sep-13 09:49:23

HRH I can do all those things apart from the sleep. It's my biggest bugbear. I have reduced caffeine lots, increased my water intake lots, am about to go back to body balance (yoga, pilates, thai chi) next week, don't drink much alcohol (two glasses last night, first for several weeks I think).

I do love a bit of chocolate though. I generally eat healthily, don't eat red meat, but chocolate, I can eat far too much so I will cut that down.

And sleep - it's just not going to be resolved any time soon. But, if I do the rest, that's over half way there right?

All good Pav smile. Try switching to dark (70%+) chocolate, much less sugar and because of the less sweet taste you won't feel like eating as much as with milk choc.

Try and make sure you are eating protein of some kind at every meal, if not meat then include fish, nuts, eggs, lentils, dairy. Keep pursuing the weight training, I really think that sounds like the best thing for you to be doing (as well as the yoga and cardio).

Lazysuzanne Sat 07-Sep-13 10:30:39

Im a little confused about the belly problem now, it's not fat but it is flab?
Do you mean that it's lack of abdominal muscle tone?
Perhaps you have intra abdominal fat (as opposed to sub cutaneous)

Sleep re the muscularity vs cardio endurance thing, supposedly the two are mutually exclusive, seems to me that this is because focussing intensely on either thing is very taxing, I find I dont have enough reserves to do both and I have backed off the weights because of spending more time on cardio.
I think I've lost a bit of upper body strength but I've trained lighter because I dont want to overload my shoulders (swimming)

HRH, does water flush out fat cells?what happens when you exercise for more than 40 minutes?
Yes the adrenals are in the stomach area, but so are a whole load of other organs, are you suggesting that their proximity is relevant confused

Suzanne from all I have read, and HRH's post backs up is that yes, the location is relevant.

Wrt to extended cardio, you are burning lots of calories and losing weight, but that weight will be made up of both fat and muscle.

Bear in mind that these are extreme examples and no two bodies can be compared completely fairly, but - think of Paula Radcliffe physique, lean and sinewy, very low body fat, few of us will get to that level of fitness or body fat but if your body, as many do, becomes stressed, even if your bmi is low, it can lead to skinny limbs but retention of belly fat. Whereas if you think about a sprinter or Jess Ennis who does shorter events and no doubt weight trains, she still has very low body fat - by normal standards - but not as low as a distance runner, and will have more muscle too.

The theory is that regular short bursts of intense cardio, ie interval training, shocks the body into fitness gains and burns fat but doesn't take the body into a state where it a) burns muscle or b) gets stressed. But one word of caution, before doing high intensity intervals you should get to a decent level of fitness, which is what Pavlov will be building up with the cardio and swimming. the only thing I might change about that is to mix up the machine you choose Pav, use the stair climber and treadmill, rower or stationary bike too - bodies adapt very quickly to the cross trainer and you will gradually be getting less out of the workout smile.

Oh and Suzanne, you probably won't have noticed the loss of muscle so much despite all the swimming because the weight training will be offsetting it smile

Lazysuzanne Sat 07-Sep-13 11:22:58

well yes clearly I'd have lost muscle if I wasnt still weight training!

I think the jury is still out on the subject of which type of cardio is 'better'
horses for courses!

In terms of what type of cardio is better for the body Suzanne I'm not sure the jury is still out, I think you'd struggle to find a fitness professional who would recommend regular endurance type cardio for anyone. Obviously if you want to compete in marathons/triathlon type events then a certain amount will be required, or if, like you, you simply enjoy it, then obviously it's great for you. But it carries a greater risk of injury, stress on joints, possibility of stress on the system leading to the belly fat problem...and of course lots of time. When you can get better fitness and physique benefits from intervals with less time investment it's a bit of a no brainer.

Lazysuzanne Sat 07-Sep-13 12:00:17

Well in the interests of saving time (ive not much spare what with all the cardio)im gonna agree to disagree on the hard n fast vs long and slow issue grin

smile

PavlovtheCat Sat 07-Sep-13 20:06:42

suzanne I don't know if it's fat or not! I am presuming it is, as it's flabby. I know it's not simply poor muscle tone, as I have had a serious back condition for a while and not been able to exercise for ages, and for much of that time, barely been walking even, and although no toned stomach, neither has it been as obviously flabby. So, I guess it's fat! Subcutaneous, or other? I have no idea!

But, what I shall take from this is that I am doing the right things, add some weights (but not too many, I almost fell over with the tiny dumb-bells given to use with the gym ball grin) and to mix up cross-trainer and other cardio! I can't use the rowing machine at the moment sad and, tbh, probably not ever sad but can do the bike.

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