I can't get rid of my abdominal fat!

Dear Alice,

Help! How do I get rid of abdominal fat? I've been working out now for two years. I seem to be toning up everywhere but my midsection. I am a middle-aged adult female.

Thanks for your advice

Dear Reader,

First things first—congratulations on keeping up the physical activity routine! Creating time for regular exercise is quite the challenge and changes in physical appearance aren't always the most obvious nor the quickest; hopefully you're feeling the benefit of increased physical activity such as increased energy, enhanced mood, and more restful sleep. The rate at which we lose or gain weight and the extent to which we can tone various parts of our bodies depend on numerous factors, including age, lifestyle, habits, and yes, genetics. That being said, evidence demonstrates that spot-training (trying to lose weight in specific body parts), doesn't tend to work very well. If you have the means, you may find that meeting with a personal trainer for a session who can evaluate your current routine or a registered dietitian who can evaluate your current eating patterns can tell you more about how you can continue to make progress towards your goals. You may also think about what these goals serve in your life and how you feel about your progress with your physical activity aside from the flatness of your midsection. 

Although abdominal fat has become an indicator of health, depending on your body fat distribution and body type, a flat stomach may not be an accurate marker for you. As you're probably aware, regardless of sex or gender, body composition changes over time and body fat increases with age, particularly after 30. Becoming healthier and lowering the risk for diseases may look different from achieving a specific body shape or size, as defined by white, Eurocentric beauty standards. Pressure from family and friends may make some feel as though it's "perfect body or bust," but this outlook can be stressful and dangerous, both mentally and physically.

As you continue to track physical indicators of progress, it can be helpful to be mindful of your personal motivations for exercise. Do you feel healthier than before? Has a medical professional noticed beneficial changes in health, such as lowered cholesterol and decreased blood pressure? Other than your midsection, are you satisfied with the toning of your body? To what extent does your personal dissatisfaction with your appearance stem from unrealistic portrayals of bodies in the media? Thinking through these questions may help you understand what other accomplishments you've had with your weight that aren't dependent on the number on a scale or the size of your clothing.

Discussing your concerns with a health care provider may help you determine what weight is supportive of your body's needs at your age, height, and other factors such as genetics. Professionals can also help you refine eating patterns and exercise routines so that you can safely achieve your body goals. Another avenue may be expanding your conditioning routine to include your body image. By aligning positive thoughts and feelings with the body you inhabit in this moment, you can celebrate and honor the journey your body has carried you through.

Last updated Dec 02, 2022
Originally published Mar 22, 1995

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