Secret to a flat belly


By Elle

Talking about diet isn’t entirely related to fashion, but it falls into the periphery, and since I stumbled upon an immensely helpful approach to losing weight (or maintaining a healthy weight), I thought I should share it with you.

As a 40-year vegetarian (who’s now mostly vegan), I’ve not struggled terribly with weight, but once I hit my 50s, I noticed I was sprouting a little meno pot, a pesky pot belly that mushrooms once you hit menopause and that no amount of planks will faze. Ugh.

My lifetime approach to maintaining a healthy weight has always revolved around simply leading a healthy lifestyle. I don’t diet. I never have. Diet, to me, is a four-letter word. But, of course, one can eat healthy foods and still gain weight if the quantity is off.

So I managed my weight with a calories in/calories out equation. I view my calories in/calories out much the same way I manage my household budget, just replacing the idea of dollars with calories. For example, I have a daily budget of 1,200 calories. Once I reach that amount, I stop eating. Of course, monitoring calories is difficult and you often have to rely on guesstimation — and that naturally equates to underestimation — which is why I keep my daily budget low, at 1,200. I know there are days that I definitely exceed that number. But for essentially all my life, this approach has worked just fine.

Until the arrival of meno pot.

Because I work in healthcare, I’m hyper aware of (and hyper interested in) the connection between lifestyle choices, wellness and chronic disease. I work with amazing people who are on the forefront of wellness and lifestyle medicine, and it was through their work that I first heard about the benefits of intermittent fasting. Aha!

I started intermittent fasting about six weeks ago, and I am seeing the results. Here’s my technique: During the week, I eat only between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., giving me an eight-hour window to eat.  If I’m not hungry at 10 a.m., I wait until I am hungry, usually by 11 a.m. or so. On weekends, my eating window narrows by two hours, opening at noon and closing at 6 p.m.  I’m strict about the hours because, just like calories in/calories out, I know there will be times — dinner with friends, usually — when my window will need to stay open longer. So whenever I can control my eating window, I do.

Within the parameters of intermittent fasting, I still follow my calories in/calories out approach. Obviously, if you scarf down a plate of pancakes, a large pizza, a sheet cake and three pies within a six-hour window, you will not see positive results!

There are many ways to intermittent fast. Some people eat only every other day. Others fast for a few days and eat for a few days. I think using the daily window approach is an easy way to start, and you can build from there if you wish.

From what I understand, intermittent fasting burns fat, improves insulin resistance and increases longevity. Read more about it in this article from Cleveland Clinic.

Another benefit of intermittent fasting is that it’s easier on your digestive system. Giving your system a break for 16 hours or more allows it to rest and recover from the hard work of digesting food. If you have digestive issues, intermittent fasting may help you.

Here’s another tip I learned from Dr. Michael Roizen, which you can find in his new book What to Eat When: A Strategic Plan to Improve Your Health and Life Through Food: eat your carbs before 2 p.m.  Definitely good advice that I’m trying to follow.

Now, with all that said, I just discovered that Mama Santa’s restaurant in Little Italy now offers their drop-dead delicious pizza with a gluten-free crust (I’m gluten-free). I was there the other day with one of my granddaughters, enjoying a plate of G-F pasta (yes, after 2 p.m. but before 6 p.m.!), when I commented that I was waiting for them to make gluten-free pizza. The gentleman looked at me with surprise and said, “We do!
We use a gluten-free artisan bread, and it’s really good!”

I’m pretty sure I squealed with delight. I thought about ordering an onion pizza to go, but knew that I would eat a slice or two on the way home — you have to enjoy it while it’s still hot and who could resist Mama Santa’s onion pizza anyway. Instead, I said, “OK, I’ll be back soon.”

Two days later, true to my word, I picked up my G-F onion pizza (light cheese, since they don’t offer vegan cheese — yet) and ate half of it immediately, enjoying every single savory bite.

I’m not sure how Mama Santa’s onion pizzas are going to affect my new, flatter belly, but I do know that I’ll probably be picking one up weekly, at least for awhile.

Thanks for reading, and I hope this information helps you. If you are interested in intermittent fasting, be sure to read up on it because (1) I’m not an expert and (2) it’s not right for everyone (e.g., diabetics, pregnant/nursing women).

I have to run — my noontime window is open!