People have a weight problem the moment they start to show signs of a middle aged spread. This is where fat most commonly accumulates, and this is where it does the greatest harm. Many people today ignore these tell-tale signs.
Surveys show that two thirds of Australian men are over-weight, yet kid themselves they're not. Others believe that the love handles appearing around their waist are an inexorable part of the ageing process. That's total twaddle. Whether we're eighteen or eighty our muscles never turn to fat. If we exercise too little and eat too much, our muscles waste and our fat stores swell, but while these biological changes often occur together, they're not causally linked.
The moment you spot the signs of a bulging belly take yourself in hand. Embark on a regime of life style change which will enable you to achieve permanent weight control without the need for regular spells of crash dieting. There are no short cuts, and no easy ways of losing your spare tyre by spot reduction. You can have your belly kneaded until it's black and blue, but none of the surplus fat will be dispersed. Only the person giving the massage will lose weight. Nor can you flatten your stomach with electrical stimulation.
The muscles of your thighs and belly wall will react if you wire them up to a machine which subjects them to faradic stimulation, but the twitches produced will be nowhere near as strong as the powerful contractions you'll get if you carry out tummy strengthening exercises. Despite this well known fact a well-known company continues to market these machines, and claims to have sold over three million units, on their copywriters' promise that they will 'improve muscle tone and body shape'. This doesn't prove that faradic stimulation works, merely that there are a multitude of gullible people anxious for a quick fix cure.
Abdominal crunches can improve your posture, but they don't get rid of midriff fat. This was shown some years ago when a group of volunteers carried out an average of 185 sit-ups a day for 27 days and showed no reduction whatsoever in their levels of abdominal fat. If it's cosmetic appearance that matters, you'll get quicker results by wearing an abdominal belt or old fashioned belly binder, like the elasticated 'Magic Knickers' now being offered by Marks and Spencer to shape the female waist, derriere and upper thighs. These have the added advantage that they can also improve the abdominal circulation, since blood tends to pool in the abdomen when the belly sags. Tests carried out in America have shown that people with protruding bellies can speed the circulation of their blood by as much as 40 per cent if they wear a stout abdominal belt.
But these contraptions are cumbersome to wear, and restrict the easy in- and-out movement of the stomach wall which should accompany the regular rise and fall of the diaphragm during easy, natural breathing. The simple solution to these problems is to develop a firm, washboard abdomen. This can be done by the regular performance of an exercise which fitness buffs refer to as an 'abdominal retraction'. This can be performed without expensive equipment, and without scrambling about on the floor, since it involves no more drawing in the tummy wall in an imaginary attempt to pin the navel against the spine. This should be done at odd times during the day, when you're waiting for a bus, or standing in line in a check-out queue. This won't reduce your weight, but it will improve your health and enhance your appearance. Next time we'll investigate the benefits, and long term effects, of liposuction as a means of spot reduction.