5 Reasons You Still Have That Gut

smiling woman sitting on workout ball(BlackDoctor.org) — No matter what angle you stand at when you’re looking in the mirror, that gut hanging over your belt doesn’t look all that great.

But it’s important for men to remember that, when it comes to that gut, there’s more at stake than just looking buff. Excess belly fat can tag along with a laundry list of chronic conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

There are plenty of reasons why your efforts to flatten your stomach may be falling flat — starting with these mistakes in what, how, or when you eat.

I’ll Just Exercise It Off

If you’re eating and drinking more calories than you’re burning off, you’re heading in the wrong direction. And though you may be confident that you can make up for it in the gym, think twice.

Exercise is not enough. This is something that Brett White, MD, a family medicine physician at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, often tells his patients who need to reduce the size of their midsection.

“There’s a mythology about the role of exercise in weight loss,” White says. “Even if they get a bike or a treadmill, they still have to change their diet. Exercise is critical for cardiovascular health but realistically, to lose weight, it starts with what we put in our mouths.”

In his practice, San Francisco-based dietician Manuel Villacorta, RD, MS, founder of the weight management web site eatingfree.com, sees many men in their 40s and older who have discovered the shortcomings of exercise in their weight loss efforts.

“It’s what worked before,” Villacorta says, “but now they are finding that it doesn’t have the same effect.”

Of course, you need to be active to lose weight and to keep it off. Just don’t count on exercise alone to cover your calories — especially when you’re packing away too much, too often.

Eating Whenever You Want

Not only do you have to watch what you eat, you have to pay attention to when you eat.

Eating on the run rather than according to your body’s natural rhythm may contribute to weight gain. By eating at odd hours, you may be throwing off the brain signals that tell you when you are hungry and when you are satisfied, and that just might lead to eating more than you should.

Many people, Villacorta says, skip meals, thinking that cutting back on the number of meals they eat will help them slim down. That’s not true.

“Some of my heaviest clients eat fewer meals in a day,” Villacorta says.

What happens when you put off eating is your metabolism starts to slow down and your body begins to store fat. And, the bulk of that fat gets stored in your midsection, Villacorta says.

“Anything that affects the metabolic rate will contribute to fat build-up,” Villacorta says.

Your metabolism slows down naturally as part of the aging process, he says. Although there may be nothing you can do about that, you can make sure to keep it as active as possible by eating regularly. That means breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with healthy snacks in between.

White agrees. “Ideally, you want your body to run like a machine, fueling it regularly throughout the day,” he says.

Man-Sized Meals

This is an obvious one, but controlling portion size is key to controlling the size of your gut. This is a lot easier to do if you stick to good timing practices, because you are less likely to overdo it if you don’t let yourself get too hungry to begin with.

“Excessive hunger is often followed by gorging,” White says.

Your three meals, Villacorta says, should be no more than 700 calories each. A cup of steel-cut oats with a cup of blueberries and a tablespoon of walnuts makes a great power breakfast. Lunch and dinner should be 4-5 ounces of lean meat for protein or a similarly sized serving of omega-3 rich fish, such as salmon, with veggies and a whole grain like quinoa or brown rice. And for your mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks, skip the chips and cookies. Instead, eat an apple and a cup of nonfat Greek yogurt.

In White’s experience, the healthier the food you eat, the more of it you can allow yourself.

“People think that dieting means eating less; they envision hunger,” he says. “But if you move from steak and potatoes to fruits and vegetables, you can actually eat more.”

You also want to move away from processed foods. They may be quick to prepare, but they can contribute to weight gain because they are often higher in fat and sugar than are whole foods.

Stress-Related Eating

Stress, which may put you at risk of diseases such as heart disease and depression, can also contribute to weight gain.

Stress affects how you think. If you are consumed by thoughts of an upcoming meeting with your boss or worried about how you are going to make your mortgage payments, it’s less likely that you are going to have the mental energy to compose a healthy menu for yourself each day.

Instead, when you are feeling anxious, you are more likely to turn to sweet, fatty foods like candy and cookies.

“Stress is a huge problem,” Villacorta says. “And not just big stress, but everyday stress caused by missed alarms and running late.”

So if you want to be able to loosen your belt, you have to take steps to control your stress levels. And that’s not just about what goes on your plate.

For his own stress, Villacorta follows his therapist’s recommendation and does some simple relaxation exercises. Twice a day, he spends a few minutes taking deep breaths.

“I started doing that, and it was amazing,” he says. “Stress is going to be there,” Villacorta says, “but you can still learn to be healthy.”

Not Paying Attention To Liquid Calories

Before you reach for another soda, pour yourself a cup of juice, or have another beer, take a look at the nutrition label and see how many calories you’ll be consuming. You may be surprised to learn that an 8-ounce serving of each is 100 calories or more. Considering how much fluid your body needs in a day, you could be flooding it with gut-expanding calories.

The better option when thirst strikes is to down a glass of water. And if you drink milk, opt for the skim or low-fat varieties. You’re still getting the calcium and vitamin D you need, but without the added calories.

“You want to move away from whole milk, and consume large amounts of water rather than juice,” White says.

It’s even more important to go easy on alcohol. Aside from the obvious health reasons to avoid excess drinking, alcohol is not easy on your midsection — and not just because of its calories.

“When you drink, your inhibitions go down,” Villacorta says. “You stop caring and hunger starts to strike.”

Prepare Your Home For This Emergency…

girls staring in fire
(BlackDoctor.org) — What’s the first thing you do if there’s a gas leak? What shouldn’t you do if there’s a power outage? Do you and your family have an emergency escape plan? Take steps to prevent and act fast should a home emergency strike – big or small.

Gas Leak

Care for your pipes. If you’re excavating outdoors, don’t dig until you have your utility company flag where the lines are. Don’t use basement pipes to hang heavy items, and make sure the gas connections to your stovetop range and other gas appliances aren’t fraying or cracked. By law, “gas pipes leading into a concealed area should be labeled gas, but this isn’t always the case,” says Bob Kordulak, a code secretary for the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors National Association. For extra peace of mind, you could install a natural-gas detector, which detects methane and propane gas leaks (ask your local utility company for recommendations). Still, your nose is your best system of detection.

Educate the family. Make sure every family member knows the basic rule of gas safety: that anytime they smell an unmistakable rotten-egg odor or hear a hissing sound and can’t immediately identify the source, they should get out of the house.

Power Outage

Don’t overload the circuit. Limit the number of appliances plugged into any outlet. When you lose power in one part of the house, it’s probably because your food processor, toaster, and microwave are sharing the same outlet.

Back up files regularly. And consider buying extra batteries and a DC-to-AC auto adapter if you use a laptop computer. This will allow most laptops (12 volts or less) to be operated from the cigarette lighter of a vehicle.

Stash flashlights. Store one in each bedroom. And avoid lighting candles, if possible, as they could cause a fire.

Alert your power company about special needs.
If somebody in your home relies on electrical medical equipment, call your power company now to let it know. Your home will be a priority when electricity is being restored.

Frozen Pipes

Remove garden hoses from their spigots.
Cut off the water supply to outdoor faucets before the frosty weather arrives. Leave the faucets turned on so the pipes are drained before winter.

Insulate vulnerable pipes. Using heat tape or heat cable (sold in hardware stores), wrap uninsulated water supply lines anywhere heat doesn’t reach, such as the garage, crawl spaces, or under cabinets.
Allow water to trickle through pipes. Even during freezing spells, regularly let a little water?cold or hot?to run through the pipes. Set the thermostat at 65 degrees, and open the cabinets under sinks to expose them to as much heat as possible. If you’re leaving for an extended period during the winter, turn off the main water supply, set the thermostat at no lower than 55 degrees, and keep the cabinets open.