You Asked: Can You Lose Weight Just from Your Stomach?

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This article originally appeared on Time.com.


Whether you have some extra weight in your upper arms or rear end, it makes sense that targeting those areas with exercise—curls for your arms, lunges for your butt—would slim them down.


Weight-loss experts refer to this as “spot reduction.” But it turns out that in most cases, this kind of laser-focused weight loss isn’t possible. One study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that six weeks of intensive ab workouts did nothing to slim the exercisers’ midsections. A related study found that 12-weeks of one-armed workouts resulted in less loose skin in the trained arm, but zero fat loss.


Working out just one part of your body probably won’t slim it down, but some body parts are more likely to shed fat when you exercise. Your stomach is one of them.


MOREThe TIME Guide To Exercise


“Some fat deposits are more metabolically active than others, and those may be more responsive to exercise interventions,” says Arthur Weltman, a professor of medicine and chair of the department of kinesiology at the University of Virginia. “Abdominal fat in particular is one of the most metabolically active fats.”


When you exercise, your workouts trigger the release of hormones, Weltman explains. The higher the exercise intensity, the more of these hormones your body pumps out, and the more of that metabolically active fat you lose. (Some of Weltman’s research suggests that high intensity interval training (HIIT), in particular, may slim your midsection.)


If you have fat stored in your gut, arms and chest, a lot of your fat is metabolically active, so it will likely respond to exercise and diet changes, he says. That’s especially true of your abdominal fat. The bad news is that extra fat in these regions is also linked with a greater risk for diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other ailments.


MOREHow Apple Cider Vinegar May Help With Weight Loss


On the other hand, if you store excess fat in the hips, butt and thighs, that fat is not metabolically active. You have a lower risk for many diseases, “but that fat is very hard to reduce,” he says.


What type of exercise is best for targeting the tummy? One studycompared strength training to aerobic training in terms of fat reduction in different parts of the body and found that while aerobic training—running, swimming, cycling—led to greater whole-body fat loss, resistance training targeted abdominal fat in particular.


In a nutshell, spot-targeting fat isn’t very effective—in most cases. But if you’re trying to lose fat around your stomach, a mix of resistance training and high-intensity aerobic exercise, along with a healthy diet, may help reduce your belly fat.


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Oprah Says Her Weight Troubles Were 'Always Such a Physical, Spiritual, Emotional Burden'

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This article originally appeared on People.com.


Oprah Winfrey sunk into a period of depression at age 44 — and she can pinpoint the moment when it happened.


The media mogul had just put her heart into her latest film — 1998’s Beloved — and the movie had opened one day prior.


“I shall never forget Saturday morning, October 17,” Winfrey, 63, tells Vogue for their September issue. “I got a call from someone at the studio, and they said, ‘It’s over. You got beat by Chucky.’ And I said, ‘Who’s Chucky? What do you mean it’s over? It’s just Saturday morning!’ I knew nothing about box office projections or weekend openings. It was ten o’clock in the morning, and I said to Art [Smith, her personal chef at the time], ‘I would like macaroni and cheese for breakfast.’ ”


Laughing, Winfrey says, “And soooo began my long plunge into food and depression and suppressing all my feelings.”


The box office failure of Beloved left Winfrey in a six-week-long depression, though she had trouble recognizing it at first.


“I actually started to think, maybe I really am depressed. Because it’s more than ‘I feel bad about this.’ I felt like I was behind a veil. I felt like what many people had described over the years on my show, and I could never imagine it,” she says. “What’s depression? Why don’t you just pick yourself up?”


Thinking about the positives in her life pulled her out.


“That’s when the gratitude practice became really strong for me,” Winfrey says, “because it’s hard to remain sad if you’re focused on what you have instead of what you don’t have.”




And Winfrey says she’s very different now than she was at 44, when Beloved came out.


“By the time you hit 60, there are just no…damn…apologies. And certainly not at 63,” she says. “And the weight thing that was always such a physical, spiritual, emotional burden for me — no apologies for that either.”


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How to Trick Your Brain into Eating Less, According to an Expert in 'Gastrophysics'

Author Charles Spence says this new “science of eating” can help you lose weight.
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Can a DNA Test Really Pinpoint Your Perfect Diet and Workout? Here's What Science Says

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It sounds either too good or too futuristic to be true: Just by spitting into a tube, you can find out the answers to questions that plague us all: Why can’t I lose weight? Why can’t I sleep? What exercises should I do for a perkier butt?


This is the claim from a new crop of so-called lifestyle DNA tests—genetic tests that, rather than estimate your risk of developing various diseases, provide clues regarding your nutrition, fitness, sleep, even your taste in wine.


In July, lifestyle DNA tests inched closer to mainstream with the launch of Helix, a first-of-its-kind marketplace for personal genome products: For $80, Helix will use a saliva sample to sequence 22,000 of your genes, unlike other at-home DNA tests, which look for specific gene variants.) Then you can pay for analysis of your results through products designed by third-party vendors that partner with Helix.


The idea is to enable users to get even more info out of their DNA sequencing, explains James Lu, MD, PhD, one of Helix’s co-founders and its SVP of applied genomics. Accessible genetic data can make insights you’re already tracking–say, on a calorie-counting app, or fitness wearable–even more salient. “It’s the next layer of information people have about themselves,” he says.


RELATED: 25 Exercises You Can Do Anywhere


Helix users have 33 products to choose from. There’s SlumberType, which promises to unlock how your DNA affects your sleep. Muscle Builder offers to reveal  “your genetic response to exercise,” and provide a 12-week “genetically-guided” training plan. And EmbodyDNA, by popular weight-loss app Lose It!, recommends slimming foods based on your genes.


The products, which range from around $25 to a couple hundred bucks, comb through your genome looking for markers linked to specific traits. (For each analysis you purchase, Helix only provides access to the portion of your genome that’s relevant.) For example, you might have a genetic marker common among night owls, or people with higher BMIs. Knowing you’re predisposed to a late bedtime might be extra incentive to cut back on caffeine, explains Dr. Lu; or knowing you’re predisposed to a high BMI might make you think twice about having bacon at brunch.


If that doesn’t sound like the quick fix you were expecting, that’s because there is “no magic DNA pill,” Dr. Lu says. Instead, he sees Helix as a source of extra insight into your wellbeing that can help you make healthier decisions.


In fact, many of the recommendations you’ll get through Helix are based on more than your genes alone. Take, for example, Wine Explorer: For $30, the product will suggest bottles “scientifically selected based on your DNA.” But Wine Explorer also asks questions about your wine preferences to learn more about other factors that influence taste beyond your genes. Dr. Lu compares the product to Netflix. “Wine Explorer builds a profile based on genetic markers, and then when you get wine, you rate them, which helps it make better predictions over time,” he says.


RELATED: 14 Fad Diets You Shouldn’t Try


Suggestions for the best diet or exercise routine for you may also not be as genetically tailored as you’d hope. For starters, research shows genetics often play only a small role in the effects of diet and exercise, explains Erica Ramos, the president-elect of the National Society of Genetic Counselors. “When studies see a difference between a group with a genetic variant and [a group] without it, pounds lost or muscle built tends to be on a fairly small range,” Ramos says.


It seems your behavior matters a lot more than your DNA in these instances. Based on your genes, “there might be a slightly higher chance you’d lose weight with a certain type of diet, but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t gain weight on it if you’re eating more than you’re burning,” explains Ramos, who is also a clinical genomic specialist at Illumina, a research company backing Helix.


She says the recommendations through Helix aren’t meant to be a specific plan for execution, but rather a guide: “As we get more insight into the little things that impact us, I think the hope is we’ll be able to see what we can tweak to be happier and healthier.”


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Joann Bodurtha, MD, a professor of pediatrics and oncology at the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine, adds that diet recommendations based on genetic testing are probably not individualized enough yet to be helpful. For example, she says, “most people will benefit from eating a Mediterranean diet,” and it’s tough to tell if the eating plan benefits those with a certain genetic marker more than than those without the marker.


Yet another caveat to the science behind lifestyle DNA tests: Some of the research used to formulate recommendations was done on very specific populations. Research in Olympic athletes, for instance, suggests that there are genetic characteristics of the muscles that might predispose someone to be a better sprinter than a long-distance runner—but we don’t yet know how those findings apply to those of us with less ambitious fitness goals, Dr. Bodurtha says.


She recommends considering lifestyle DNA tests with “a healthy dose of skepticism,” especially any that offer to tell you exactly what to eat or how to exercise. She’s also concerned that they might serve as a distraction, and lead people to ignore more established markers of poor health. “You don’t want somebody saying, ‘I’m out of breath and my fingers are turning blue, but my DNA test told me I wasn’t likely to have a heart attack.'”


That said, Dr. Bodurtha recognizes that DNA tests are exciting (who isn’t at least a little curious?!­) and that the field is progressing fast. “If they help you exercise more, or be a little more attentive to your diet, they fall into the ‘Do No Harm’ category,” she says.


Bottom line? As long as you know what a company is doing with your genetic information (that means reading the privacy regulations, even though it won’t be fun); you have an easy-to-understand explanation from the company about what your results can and can’t tell you; and you’re ready to face the sometimes surprising results (“You have a half-brother!”), it probably won’t hurt for curious folks to give lifestyle DNA tests a try.


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Oprah Says Her Move to Weight Watchers Was for Her Health, Not Vanity

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This article originally appeared on People.com.


When Oprah weighed more than 200 lbs., she wanted to lean on the body positivity movement to feel comfortable about her weight — but she couldn’t do it without risking her health.


‘‘For your heart to pump, pump, pump, pump, it needs the least amount of weight possible to do that,” Winfrey, 63, tells The New York Times magazine. “So all of the people who are saying, ‘Oh, I need to accept myself as I am’ — I can’t accept myself if I’m over 200 pounds, because it’s too much work on my heart. It causes high blood pressure for me. It puts me at risk for diabetes, because I have diabetes in my family.”




The media mogul — who purchased a 10 percent stake in Weight Watchers in Oct. 2015 before starting the program herself — says the current trend to stay away from terms like “diet” or “skinny” while stressing body acceptance is not so simple to follow.


“This whole P.C. about accepting yourself as you are — you should, 100 percent,” Winfrey says, before clarifying that her personal acceptance required finding a weight-loss plan, which is why Weight Watchers works for her.


‘‘It’s a mechanism to keep myself on track that brings a level of consciousness and awareness to my eating. It actually is, for me, mindful eating, because the points are so ingrained now.’’


Now, Winfrey tells the magazine, she doesn’t care if she’s ever skinny again — she just wants to be in control of her body.


Winfrey told PEOPLE in January that she’s down 42.5 lbs., and she’s “finally made peace with food,” after just over a year on the program.


“This has been the easiest process that I’ve ever experienced,” she said. “At no time during meals do I deprive myself.”


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From 'Sketti to Skinny: Mama June's Eye-Popping Weight Loss Journey in Photos

The 37-year-old reality star underwent a series of weight loss and plastic surgeries, documenting the process in a WEtv series, Mama June: From Not to Hot. 
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Fitness Star Anna Victoria Doesn’t Weigh Herself. Here’s the Number She Pays Attention to Instead

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Anna Victoria has made it clear she’s not a fan of scales. The superstar fitness blogger and trainer doesn’t weigh herself, and urges her followers not to obsess over how much they weigh either. 


Victoria’s onto something: A scale can tell you your total weight, sure, but it can’t tell you much more. It won’t reflect how much muscle you’ve gained thanks to a new strength training routine, or how much fat you’ve lost after making healthy diet swaps.


Instead, Victoria recommends finding out how much body fat you’re carrying around, and then tracking that number monthly. You can do so with body composition tests, which reveal how much of your total weight is fat compared to muscle, bone, and water. These tests can be done with at-home gadgets, or devices at fitness centers—or with more high-tech machines at weight loss clinics and research facilities.


In a new YouTube video, Victoria, who’s no stranger to baring all online, set out to measure her body composition using a bunch of different tests or tools–and got six different results, ranging from 14.2% to 26.4% body fat.


The lowest result surprised her, she says in the video, but hardcore female athletes are often in the body fat percentage range of 14% to 20%. Everyday exercisers are typically around 21% to 24% fat, while women with a body fat percentage of 32% and higher are considered obese, according to the American Council on Exercise. (Male athletes are usually around 6% to 13% fat, while men with 25% body fat or higher are considered obese.)


RELATED: 13 Best (and Worst) Ways to Measure Body Fat


There’s research to suggest that body fat percentage is actually a better measure of health than the number on the scale. A 2016 showed that people with more body fat were more likely to die early than people with less fat, regardless of how much they weighed. The good news is that your percent body fat is totally modifiable, says John A. Shepherd, PhD, director of the Body Composition, Exercise Physiology, and Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the University of California San Francisco. 


“Body composition is one of the most modifiable risk factors we have for many common diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer,” he explains. “A lot of our disease risk factors–like genetic risk factors or family history–you can’t do anything about.” It’s worth knowing your body fat percentage, he says, so you can be aware of how it might affect your health–and then get to work changing it.


So how do you measure your body composition? Here are the six methods Victoria tried, and her surprisingly variable results.




Hydrostatic weighing


This test involves expelling all the air from your lungs and then being submerged in water. The water displacement gives your technician an idea of how much of your body is fat compared to lean mass. Yes, hydrostatic weighing is as inconvenient as it sounds—and it’s not all that easy to find a facility to perform this test, either.
Victoria’s results: 14.2%


Bioeletrical Impedance Analysis (BIA)


BIA machines send an electrical current through your body (don’t worry, you don’t feel a thing) to measure fat. The technology can be extremely accurate when used in a weight-loss lab setting, but at-home scales and handheld devices you might remember from gym class aren’t always so spot-on.
Victoria’s results: 26.1% on her BIA scale at home; 18.8% on a handheld device at a gym


Calipers


The classic “pinch test” involves measuring how much of you is pinchable in different spots on your body, like your belly and thighs. Well-trained professionals can be pretty accurate with these devices.
Victoria’s results: 23.4%


DEXA Scan


Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry is typically used to measure bone density, but can be used to examine muscle and fat, too. A DEXA scan is considered the gold standard of body composition testing.
Victoria’s results: 23.5%


Bod Pod


The most expensive option, this space-age-looking pod works similarly to hydrostatic weighing but uses air displacement instead of water to calculate your lean and fat mass.
Victoria’s results: 26.4%


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So, how could one incredibly fit woman have such a range of results?


The testing methods often use different calculations to arrive at their final percentages, explains Shepherd, so it’s not totally off-base for various methods to produce a range of results. But, he warns, there’s also a chance at-home devices aren’t as accurate as machines used in professional settings.


Your best bet is to stick with just one testing method and focus on how your results change over time. That will allow you to compare your numbers from month to month better than if you were comparing the results from different testing methods, Victoria says.


Shepherd agrees: “You can use home technology to monitor changes in body fat, even though the absolute value might be off,” he says.


The method you ultimately choose will likely depend on where you live—since you may not have easy access to all these tests—as well as your budget. Victoria paid between $45 and $95 for her six measurements, but prices can vary. She also points out that it’s important to keep other variables similar too, like measuring your body composition around the same time of day each time, or having the same trainer operate the calipers for you.


Seeing the progress you’re making can be a powerful thing: “How much you weigh is not what is important,” she says in her video. “What is important is that you are working hard to be your very, very best, every single day.”


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How I Found My Feel-Great Weight—and Lost 63 Lbs.

Laura Kelly, 27, 5’3″, from Melrose, Mass.
Before: 196 lb., size 8/10
After: 133 lb., size 4
Total pounds lost: 63 lb.
Total sizes lost: 2/3


Laura’s wearing: Under Armour Geo Run Tank Top ($27; underarmour.com), Under Armour Fly-By Capri ($38; underarmour.com) and SpeedForm Gemini 3 running shoes ($130; underarmour.com).


I blame grad school for my weight gain. As a full-time student who was also working a part-time job and holding down an internship, I had no time to eat on a regular schedule, let alone make mindful eating a priority. Every night, I’d have a huge dinner and then go right to bed. By the beginning of 2015, my last semester, my bad habits had caught up with me. I didn’t realize how much so until I stepped on a friend’s scale and saw the number 196 staring back at me. I thought the scale was broken, but it wasn’t.


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Choosing better eats 


For the next week, I didn’t know where to turn. At my cousin’s suggestion, I joined Weight Watchers. Though initially skeptical, I got hooked when the results came fast: I lost 15 pounds in the first month. I learned how to rein in portions and build balanced meals, which changed both what and when I ate. I turned to meals like overnight oats for breakfast and roasted veggies and hummus on whole-wheat bread for lunch, which kept me full throughout the day. No longer famished by dinner, I kicked the vicious cycle of going to sleep stuffed and packing on weight because of it. By May, I was down another 15 pounds.


RELATED: The 5 Best Strength Moves for Weight Loss


Amping up workouts 


Since exercising earned me more Weight Watchers points, I upped my routine from twice-weekly Zumba and yoga classes to four workouts per week, adding in runs, barre classes, and personal training. While I never used to think my size messed with my workouts, the more I lost, the easier exercising became. Today I’m sweating regularly and eating clean to maintain my 135-pound frame. And as a Weight Watchers ambassador, I get to help others reach their goals. Knowing that my story inspires people to get healthy makes my low point and all my hard work feel worth it.


RELATED: 9 Science-Backed Weight Loss Tips


Laura’s get-fit crib sheet 


1. Set a curfew. Gorging on a late dinner used to leave me feeling too full, so I wouldn’t have a meal until noon the next day. Now I try to finish my last meal before 8 p.m. to help keep my eating schedule regular and my portions in line. 


2. Make a sweat date. My mom and I weight lift with a trainer one night a week. Not only is it a time for us to catch up, but showing up for each other keeps us accountable no matter what! 


3. Master your cravings. When I need a treat, I reach for avocado or almonds first. Their healthy fats are satisfying enough to curb my need for sweets, so I’m less tempted to grab junky alternatives. 


4. DIY comfort food. Rich in antioxidants and complex carbs, sweet potatoes are one of my favorite healthy foods to dress up. I top them with melted ghee and cinnamon to make them taste indulgent.


 


As told to Anthea Levi


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Can Losing Weight Really Slow Down Your Metabolism?

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It’s true that losing weight can reduce the number of calories you burn, but I wouldn’t dwell on it. It’s tough to predict just how much your metabolism will drag and how long the slowdown will persist; the scientific research on the metabolic effects of weight loss is a little all over the place. Some studies have found that overweight or obese people who lose weight do suffer lasting metabolic damage that makes it hard to keep the pounds off later. But other research has found that those same groups can drop pounds with no long-term penalty at all. Don’t forget: Metabolism is partly genetic. That means that even if you and your best friend shed the same amount of weight, your bodies could respond differently.


RELATED: 8 Metabolism Secrets That Can Help You Blast Calories


Interestingly, some experts now believe that the speed at which you lose weight may be an important factor in what happens to your basal metabolic rate (that is, the calorie burn at rest). There’s evidence that people who lose weight quickly through intense calorie restriction see a significant metabolic slowdown. That’s because when you create a dramatic calorie deficit—by slashing calorie intake big time or going crazy with exercise—your body fights back and tries to hold on to energy by reducing the number of calories you burn; this is often referred to as “starvation mode.”


RELATED: 3 Ways Mindful Eating Can Help You Stay Slim


Until the research is more definitive, the best piece of advice I can give (and you’ve probably heard it before) is to slim down slowly, whether you have five pounds to lose or 50. Metabolism aside, a slow and steady weight-loss plan is a more sustainable lifestyle change than a crash diet. Most experts recommend losing at a rate of one pound per week, by creating a calorie deficit of roughly 500 calories a day (a registered dietitian can help you craft a more tailored nutrition plan). One more bit of advice: Make time for strength training. Increasing your muscle mass will help you burn more calories at rest.


 


Health’s medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine.



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