Midsection Perfection

So you’ve got a couple of unwanted inches that have made a permanent home around your waistline. Whether that ring around the middle has been plaguing your belly for a couple months or most of your life, there’s good reason to lose it…and it’s got nothing to do with how you look out on the beach!

Why Fat is Important
Simply stated, men and women need to hang on to a little bit of body fat to help make sure our heart pumps, skin stays smooth and hair stays shiny. Regardless of how fit we are or how diligently we watch what we eat, women will always need to carry more essential body fat than men. The reason being is mostly for reproductive reasons. That said, if we were just left with essential body fat, we’d look mighty lean. It’s the unnecessary body fat, the stuff that gives that “Jello-like” feel around the belly, butt and thighs that we need to watch out for. Exactly where body fat distributes itself plays a huge role in our overall health.

Where We Tend to Gain It
While women may carry more body fat, some  store it in the hips and thighs, other store it on top – through the back and chest, some distribute evenly and others get hit in the belly area only. If there was one body type that was healthier than others, it would be the pear. Even though the pear-shaped figure may not be the most desirable body for women who are concerned about a skirt that’s suddenly tighter throughout their lower body, it’s a lot healthier than an ever-expanding waistline. It’s fairly common for men to gain weight through the midsection. Rarely do you see men with disproportionately larger bottoms. It’s just not the way hormones work in men.  

Why Too Much Belly Fat is Bad

Excessive visceral fat through the midsection has been associated with high blood pressure, high levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. According to a recent Harvard study, 427 healthy men between 17 and 90 found that in each decade of adult life, the body fat of sedentary men increased 17 percent and the waist circumference 2 percent; regular exercise, though, reduced fat accumulation to just 3 percent per decade and held the mid-body bulge to just 1 percent per decade.

The Dos and Don’ts of Belly Fat Burn
So what works and does not work when it comes to minimizing abdominal fat?

Does NOT Work:
Crunches and curl-type ab exercises. Yes, these exercises do help strengthen the muscles that are lying under the layers of fat, but it won’t reduce the stuff that rests on top. Keep doing your core work. It’s essential for a strong back and abdominal region. It won’t necessarily burn off the fat that surrounds that area. 

Does Work:
Consistent regular interval exercises several times each week (anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes) has a positive impact on reducing not only abdominal body fat, but high blood pressure and cholesterol, too. Get your heart rate high for a few minutes, working in the “comfortably uncomfortable” (or higher) zone. Then let your heart rates drop by easing off. When you’re recovered, repeat the process.  Don’t forget to maintain a balance of core work, too! 

Does NOT Work:
Store-bought fat burners. While the jury is still out about how effective over-the-counter fat-burning concoctions really are, they certainly can’t help you spot reduce and abs-only region. Use common sense here – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And of course, before reaching for a quick fix remedy from your drug store’s shelf, talk to your doctor.

Does Work
: Decent supplements. If you have a problem with digestion, feel bloated or like something isn’t right in your belly, take a good probiotic containing lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium (one works with the small intestine and one works with the large intestine). Another key supplement is a good digestive enzyme at the beginning of a meal. Lastly, include a good soy-free protein supplement, including whey-based, casein-based or pea/rice/hemp-based (if you’re vegan).  The protein supplement won’t necessarily help with bloating or indigestion, but it’s an easy go-to after a tough workout and beats a high-sugar energy bar or drink. 

Does NOT Work
: Fat-free diets. If you’re on a fat-free or minimal fat diet now, STOP! You will only gain body fat. Sounds counterintuitive, I know, but you can’t fool your body. Without some dietary fat you’ll send your body on a crazy blood sugar roller coaster ride, feel hungry shortly after you’ve eaten and generally throw your whole body off kilter. 

Does Work
: Healthy fats. Many of us simply eat too much, and responsibly cutting calories alone could make a big difference. Along with proper caloric intake, eating a balanced diet of protein, fat and carbs has a much greater impact on overall health. Eat LESS refined carbohydrates. Eat a DECENT amount of protein. Eat SOME healthy fat (omega 3s, coconut oil, butter for some, raw nuts, avocado, etc.) important component to staving off hunger and regulating blood sugar levels. The longer you feel satisfied, the less likely you are to go for the sweet stuff.

Does NOT Work: Six hours of sleep (or less). You’ll throw your body’s cortisol levels off, thereby throwing off a myriad of other hormones. Ultimately, burning the midnight oil will make you tired, cranky and thick through the middle. Sleep.

Does Work: Seven hours of sleep (or a little more). Your body has chance to rest, digest and repair. Most of us are not in a zen-like state throughout the day. We need the time at night to relax, which allows our hormones to reset. Think of your hormones as little messengers that tell your body where to store fat – and where to get rid of it.

Good luck on your quest to washboard abs!

My ebook, 20 High Energy Workouts is filled with interval-only workouts scalable to any fitness level. Why not download it and give a few workouts a try? If you want something more hands on, my 40-Day Shape Up will be open for business next week!


 Want more tips like this? Hang out with me on Facebook. I’ll be posting some really great health and fitness tips over the next few weeks, and I don’t want you to miss out. See you there. Traci



Top Five Anti-Aging Tips: Simply Everyday Steps – No Prescription Required

Top 5 Anti-Aging Tips

With all the creams, injections and surgeries out there to help us maintain a youthful look, it’s easy to forget there are a lot of things we can do on our own to slow the signs of aging. Here are five of the easiest ways to improve not only the way you look, but also the way you feel!

: In an ideal world, we’d all get eight hours of solid quality sleep. Some of us are very good about adhering to this standard, and some simply don’t. Our bodies have a need for a significant amount of uninterrupted sleep (right around eight hours), whether we feel we need this much or not. The less sleep we get, the less time our body has to repair and rebuild all the damage done throughout the day. Damage can be in the form of poor air quality while sitting in traffic, a hard workout or simply stress, to name a few. On a cellular level, we need time to rebuild before we start the “damage cycle” again the next morning. We’ll never wake to be as young as the morning before, but a good night’s sleep could just be the damage control your body needs.

: There is no greater enemy to wrinkles than water. Unfortunately, many of us make the mistake of drinking cola, juices or coffee in lieu of water. Chemicals in diet cola, sugars in juice and caffeine in coffee often negate the benefits of hydration, stripping your body of the nutrients it needs. The best type of water to drink is purified. Straight tap water with no home filtering process whatsoever is chemically-treated and can be harder on your body.

: Numerous berries, nuts, fish, vegetables and beans are abundant in antioxidant-rich foods. Antioxidants protect our body’s cells from free radicals that can damage our bodies in many ways, from premature aging all the way to cancer. Free radicals damage our bodies in much the same way rust damages a car. Think of antioxidant-rich foods as a healthy way to keep the rust away.

As counter-intuitive as this may sound, a diet too low in fat is not only unhealthy, but can also make you look older than your years. Eaten daily and in moderation, healthy fats found in dairy products, nuts, fish and meat maintains healthy skin tone, shiny hair and keeps our appetite in check. What’s more, fat in the diet makes the absorption of the vital vitamins, A, D, K and E possible. If you’re not already doing it, try adding a small amount of fat in the form of olive oil, a healthy cheese, avocado, ground flax seed or even coconut oil to your favorite meal or as part of a snack.

Exercise in the form of strength training or cardio is the best way to feel not only energized, but also youthful. Whether you’ve got 20 minutes for a quick walk or one hour for strength training, get your exercise in! After a good, heart-pumping workout, you’ll find yourself feeling much more energized, motivated, healthier and happier that you were before you started. Exercise keeps you healthy looking on the outside, and, more importantly, functioning healthy on the inside.

Copyright 2010 www.TraciDMitchell.com. All right reserved.

Quick & Nutritious: Spaghetti Squash

Cooking with Spaghetti Squash

How many times have you glanced over at the section of your grocer’s produce department that holds dozens of odd-shaped gourds, only to keep walking by?  Unless it’s Halloween and you’re shopping for the roundest, most orange pumpkin in the patch, hard-shelled squash, including acorn, butternut and my personal favorite, spaghetti, are all but ignored. Ignored, too, are the incredible nutritional benefits of noodle-like food.

Preparing squash, particularly spaghetti, is not as cumbersome as you might think. In fact, making a meal around spaghetti squash is as easy as baking a potato! Spaghetti squash is harvested and most available toward the end of summer. Uncooked, the flesh of this squash looks like a solid yellow mass; when cooked, however, the squash falls out of its shell like strings of angel hair pasta.

Commonly baked, boiled or steamed, spaghetti squash can be served as a pasta substitute with marinara sauce. Weighing in at only 75 calories per eight-ounce serving, spaghetti squash is a carb-watchers dream food. What’s more, spaghetti squash is loaded with fiber, folic acid, vitamin A, potassium and beta carotene.

The easiest way to prepare spaghetti squash is to bake it, seeded and sliced in half, flesh down in a little bit of water at 375 degrees for one hour. Pierce the shell a few times before baking to allow the water to steam thoroughly. After it’s done, let stand for 10 minutes before removing the squash with a fork. Serve with a little bit of parmesan cheese, or as a full (pasta-substituted) Italian meal.

Did You Know…

Most spaghetti squash have a pale yellow flesh, but back in the early 1900s scientists engineered a version of the same squash that is more orange than its yellow counterpart. Still considered spaghetti squash, the orange version is slightly sweeter and contains more beta carotene. Both have the same great taste and low calorie count…so eat up!

Want to try something different for dinner tonight? Here’s a delicious spaghetti squash recipe that’s great for the whole family.

Turkey Spinach Spaghetti Squash

1 lb Lean Ground Turkey, cooked
4 c. Baby Spinach, chopped (fresh)
4 c. Spaghetti Squash, cooked
1 ½ c. Cheddar Cheese, shredded
1 c. Onion, chopped
1 c. Chicken Stock (preferably organic)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine and mix turkey, spinach, squash, onion and chicken stock in medium size bowl. Consistency should be relatively thick. Pour mixture into casserole dish. Top mixture with cheddar cheese. Bake covered for 20 minutes. Remove cover and continue baking for 10 minutes.

Copyright 2010 www.TraciDMitchell.com. All right reserved.