ycdt_100322_belly_be_gone_lara.jpgDon’t hate me if I tell you that I have never had a problem with love handles or belly flab. The one scary time I thought I grew a muffin top turned out to be a case of wrong jeans’ size. The metabolism of my 20s has slowed down in my 40s, but exercise—5 to 6 times a week, for at least an hour each session—is as natural to me as brushing my teeth.

Now, now; I can hear the moms screaming: “But you never got knocked up! You don’t have kids! No stretchmarks! Your budget for gym workouts is my budget for Spanx!” True, but if I brandished a photo of mom and entrepreneur Tweetie de Leon Gonzalez in a bikini with her hubby and four kids (see photo below), you can’t use that excuse either.

In an informal “body-part-I’d-like-to-fix” survey among friends, I found that belly flab trumped wrinkles. Not all of us have the moolah to get liposuctioned (plus, I’m no fan of invasive procedures), or have the time to do 250,000 crunches to burn one pound of fat (say University of Virginia researchers… yup, that’s 100 crunches a day for 7 years), so what can we do?

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If Tweetie can, so can you! (Photo used with permission)

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Eat flat-belly foods. Consuming more protein which you’ll find in meat, fish, dairy, and nuts, in exchange for carbs helps reduce overall belly fat. Some specific examples of flat-belly foods: almonds, beans, spinach, instant oatmeal, eggs, peanut butter, olive oil, whole grains, whey (protein powder). Want a specific diet plan? Check out The Abs Diet for Women (Fully Booked, P798) by David Zinczenko, editor-in-chief of Men’s Health US.
 
Be wary of sugar content. It’s a no-brainer, but you won’t believe how sugar can lurk in the most innocuous of foods, from that extra plop of ketchup to the diet soda that’s lulled you into a false sense of “low-calorie” calm. Processed foods are major culprits. Take time to read nutrition labels. Use natural sweeteners like honey or cinnamon which won’t give you a sugar high and spike up the calories.

Be wary of salt content. No sugar? No salt, too? Before you roll your eyes in exasperation, hear me out: You’re on vacation; you want your belly to be as flat as possible, so you lie prone on the deck chair (that kinda flattens your tummy out)… and then promptly reach for the giant bag of chips. We know that salt retains water, so nutritionists suggest you keep your salt intake under 2,000 milligrams each day. Read the nutrition labels. Yes. Again.

Relax.  You’ve heard of friends losing weight because of work or personal problems, but who the heck wants to lose weight being stressed out? Those friends are exceptions anyway. Yale University researchers say that your belly is four times as likely to store stress-induced fat compared to the rest of your body. Worry, and you produce extra cortisol, a hormone that prompts the body to store fat.

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Giving paddleboarding a try. (Photo by Jijo de Guzman)

Go get some exercise. You didn’t think I was letting you off that easy, did you? No, you don’t need to exercise every day. Even three sessions a week will do. That cool? Do exercises that not only work out individual muscles but the entire core so that you’re getting the double-benefit of burning more fat while getting toned. Pages 31-32 of the March issue of Women’s Health show you how (No crunches required!). The best workouts for the core and torching belly flab? Pilates, by far. Running comes next. Water sports can even be great core builders. Must-try: Stand-up paddleboarding; a sport that builds endurance and engages your core to keep your balance. There’s a group that explores various parts of the Philippines on their paddleboards. Now how cool is that? Contact George Gesner at g_gesner@yahoo.com, the distributor of Star Boards and stand-up paddleboards in the country.

I can list more ways to torch flab but it’s all up to you—how much do you want that flat belly? How important is it to you to look great in that bikini or that bodycon dress? Quit blaming lack of time, your mom’s genes, the kids, your period, or the full moon. Those abs are there, hidden under that flab. Eliminate it by examining your daily diet and striking a sustainable work-life balance. You can do this!
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