Body fat in women accumulates naturally on areas including the abdomen and hips or thighs creating the commonly referred to "apple" or "pear" shaped body. Accumulation of fat can happen anytime in a woman's life, but is more strongly associated with certain phases in life such as puberty, menopause, or during pregnancy. Fat storage can be driven by hormonal changes, but there are actions you can take to maintain a healthy body weight throughout life. Spot reducing, or getting rid of fat in a certain area with specific exercises or foods, does not work. When you begin a weight loss regimen, fat stores reduce in areas specific to your body and genetics rather than come off of the areas you might want it to. Here are some tips on reducing body fat and achieving a healthy weight in women:
Eat a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet is the foundation of a weight loss program. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, unprocessed protein sources and healthy fats all play a part in maintaining weight. Avoiding processed foods that are high in unhealthy fats like fried and packaged foods and concentrated sources of sugar like soda and desserts are some of the first steps to take when working towards a healthier diet and reducing weight.
Eating on a regular schedule including breakfast, lunch and dinner each day combined with healthy snacks if needed between meals can help balance blood sugar and hormones and avoid overeating due to hunger. Consuming high fiber foods and staying adequately hydrated is another important piece of eating a healthy diet for weight control.
Focus on Sleep
Lack of sleep is now linked to weight gain, inability to lose weight and metabolic problems. Sleep is a critical period of fat-burning time when the body must rely on its own storage for energy. When this natural process is disrupted by night eating or a lack of sleep, it leads to issues regulating metabolism and ultimately, to weight gain. Lack of sleep can increase inflammation and causes shifts in hormones so a focus on sleep is critical to a healthy weight.
Regular exercise can help achieve a healthy weight and burn fat. Current recommendations by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that 150 minutes of moderate activity like brisk walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity like jogging, in addition to weight training twice weekly, is needed for general health. For weight loss, 30-40 minutes per day may be required; the American College of Sports Medicine recommends 200-300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week for long-term weight maintenance. If that sounds difficult, start slow and increase weekly. Even small amounts of activity can create positive changes to your health, even if it will not play a role in losing weight.
Make a Commitment
Remember, losing weight and keeping it off requires a long-term lifestyle changes including incorporating healthy habits with food, exercise and sleep. Crash diets and fad programs do not work in the long run because they are often unsustainable and can lead to ups and downs in weight that can eventually slow your metabolism and create more hormonal problems. Be patient; safe weight loss occurs slowly, at a rate of about one or two pounds a week. Stick to your program over time and enlist qualified professionals such as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for safety and long-term support. Work with your doctor to adjust medication as you lose weight and to get clearance for increasing activity levels. The best plan for combatting fat accumulation in women is to avoid putting on more weight in the first place, so enlist these tips today to stay healthy over time.
Ginger Hultin, MS, RD, LDN is a Chicago-based dietitian who specializes in integrative oncology. With a Master's degree from naturopathic Bastyr University, she practices plant-based nutrition and specializes in lab interpretation and appropriate supplementation. Ginger also had a passion for fitness and maintains both group fitness and personal training certifications.