So how much is too much? Interestingly, you can take a simple waist measurement to determine whether you have too much fat in your belly:
1. Place the tape measure just above your hip bone around your bare abdomen. It should be snug but not tight.
2. Hold the tape level.
3. Exhale to measure - avoid the urge to suck in your gut.
For women, measuring 35 inches or more around your waist might put you at risk while for most men, the risk factors increase with a waist size over 40 inches. If your result puts you in the at-risk category, it is wise to make a few changes, which usually includes dropping some unnecessary weight.
Losing belly fat is done by exercising and eating right. If you are consuming fewer calories than you are expending, you will lose weight.
Now, here's the best news yet: As you lose weight, the first weight to go will be belly fat. That's right - because belly fat or visceral fat (deep abdominal fat) is more metabolically active than subcutaneous fat (right under the skin), it disappears first.
Cardiovascular exercise such as walking, hiking, cycling and swimming - any activity to make you breathe harder will help you burn fat.
Unfortunately, many people mistakenly believe doing isolated abdominal work (crunches), will reduce their belly. It won't. It will increase abdominal strength, but it won't "shed," "trim" or "blast" the belly fat.
Strength training, on the other hand, has been shown in studies to affect visceral fat. Here's another excellent reason to make both cardiovascular and strength work part of our regular physical activity.
Now to diet, a major player when it comes to belly fat. Certainly an overall dietary plan including lean protein, whole grains and being mindful of calories in and calories out will ultimately decide your belly fat fate. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, whole grains can help you reduce that deep abdominal, visceral fat. Keep in mind that labels that promote multigrain, stone-ground, 100 percent wheat, seven-grain or bran are usually not whole-grain products. Try whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa (not a true cereal grain but a botanical fruit of an herb plant), whole wheat and bulgur (cracked wheat).
Despite what the infomercials and magazine covers tout, the secret to shedding belly fat is not accomplished in 10 days or 5 steps but rather by changing your lifestyle. By exercising more, eating less and consuming nutritious foods, you will be on your way toward a leaner middle and a healthier you.
Cindy Boggs, fitness presenter, author and Activate America director, has been an ACE-certified coordinator/instructor since 1989. Send your questions about fitness, training or health to YMCA of Kanawha Valley, 100 YMCA Drive, Charleston, WV 25311, or e-mail cindys...@aol.com. Look for Cindy's fitness advice book, "CindySays ... "You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World" on her Web site www.cindysays.com or contact the YMCA at 340-3527.