Ask Dr. Marla: How can I get rid of post-baby belly fat?
By Dr. Marla Shapiro
on November 03, 2011
I have four children, ages 10, 8, 5 and 3. I am 5’2, 109 pounds and 40 years of age. I have always weighed 100 pounds. Lately, I have noticed that my stomach is now having rolls of fat and it looks like I am two months pregnant. (I have taken the test and I am not pregnant.) Is there any exercise that I can do to get rid of this belly fat? I feel tired all the time and don’t know if it is from the extra weight.
Four children and the lifestyle that entails translate to a busy mom! I am sure you are taking care of everyone and putting you last on the so-called “to do” list. I have to ask, when is the last time that you had a check-up?
First things first – see your own physician. You should have a detailed history and physical examination to make sure that you are not anemic and your iron and B12 levels are in range. A routine fasting sugar and cholesterol profile are important to assess. It would also be prudent to have your thyroid level checked as we can see postpartum underactive thyroid that can lead to fatigue and weight gain.
Weight around the middle can be part of a constellation of findings that can go along with Metabolic Syndrome. The definition of Metabolic Syndrome includes central obesity (defined as waist circumference 80 cm for women, with ethnicity specific values for other) plus any two of the following four factors:
raised triglyceride level
reduced HDL cholesterol – the so called good cholesterol
raised blood pressure: systolic BP 130 or diastolic BP 85, or treatment of previously diagnosed high blood pressure (hypertension)
raised fasting plasma glucose Metabolic Syndrome can increase the likelihood for heart disease and diabetes so it is important to know if you are at risk.
Prescription for you-time
Once any underlying medical issues have been excluded my prescription is to make time for you. To that end, focus on your own diet and nutrition. Find the time to invest in exercise. While we talk about 150 minutes of exercise per week as the ideal goal, recent studies show that as little as 15 minutes a day of low intensity activity can lower your risk for death and cancer. As we get older we lose muscle mass and we want to make sure you maintain and build yours up.
Dr. Stacey Irvine of Totumlife in Toronto recommends a high-protein, low-sugar diet. I often advise my patients to look at the glycemic index diet, which pays attention to the types of carbohydrates they eat (glycemicindex.com). Follow a plan that you can incorporate as a long term lifestyle rather than a quick fix. Quick fixes don’t last!
A partner can motivate you and help you stick to a schedule. Try resistance training twice a week and an aerobic activity three times a week, such as brisk walking, biking, jogging or swimming. You might think sit-ups are a good way to reduce the belly fat, but there’s no such thing as spot reduction. Instead, aim for improving overall fitness with regular exercise that targets large muscle groups.