By Sue Treiman
If you’re feeling a bit long in the tooth, odds are you’re getting wide around the tummy, too.
As we age, metabolism slows, muscle mass declines and, sadly, the dreaded middle age spread often debuts. The round-the-belly bulge actually consists of two layers, the subcutaneous fat lying just beneath the skin and the deadlier visceral fat. Lying close to vital internal organs, the deepest fat layer can actively interfere with metabolic processes, wrecking havoc with insulin levels and increasing the risks for high blood pressure and other conditions.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that the right tools can help anyone let the air–or the fat–out of their spare tire.
“People can and do lose weight well into their 40s and 50s,” reassures Dr. Maria Briones, an attending physician in Cardiac/ Orthopedic Rehabilitation Services at The Burke Rehabilitation Hospital. “The thing is, the older you get, the more aggressive you have to be about weight loss. Once you’re 45 or 50 you have to be very into it and know a lot to simply maintain your shape.” Sadly, metabolism declines by an estimated five per cent per decade, which makes yesterday’s jelly donut far more fattening today.
So Dr. Biones’ strategy is create educated, aware and committed patients. Shunning the strict no-carb rules of the Atkins diet, she opts for foods that are low on the glycemic index, releasing their calories gradually. High glycemic founds, causing the most dramatic fluctuations in blood glucose and insulin levels, are avoided. They include white bread, potatoes and certain fruits. Starvation is also verboten, since dramatic reductions in calories can send the body into a fat–protective mode that can drop the metabolic rate by 25 per cent.
Dr. Briones designs controlled portion meals rich in vegetables and choc-full of lean proteins to guard against the loss of muscle mass.
In addition to a sensible eating plan, Adam Pliskow, owner of New Castle Physical Therapy in Millwood, prescribes regular cardiovascular routines and frequent weight resistance exercises. “If you want to get rid of the spare tire, you need to do cardio work three to five times a week and strength train two to three times, while controlling your diet on an everyday basis. There’s no shortcut,” he insists. Pliskow and Dr. Briones agree that quick-fix remedies hawked on infomercials–from fat-melting pills to ab exercise machines –just do not deliver.
“You cannot spot reduce,” Pliskow emphatically states. “It’s a myth.”
He focuses on large muscle groups routines, squats, leg curls and others lower body exercises, to jump-start the burn, also emphasizing core training for people concerned about their mid-sections.
“I work on postural awareness and isometric exercises for the abdominals, which are basically the foundation of Pilates. A simple stabilization exercise, where you tighten up and draw in the muscles just below your belly button, offer the best chance of reaching the deepest corset muscles,” says Pliskow.
Hastings on the Hudson resident- Sue Treiman, an Emmy Award winning writer, TV producer and online executive, is a Sunday Business contributor to the New York Post and runs her own communications business.