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    Gut Check: A Man... A Belly... A Plan

    Your Best Beach Body, Part Six

    Mark at Rehoboth Beach

    OK guys, it’s your turn. This week, we’re turning our attention to your six pack zone — yes, it’s in there somewhere. We’re going to do guy level girth control so you can strut your stuff at the beach or poolside. And ladies, you might want to read this blog aloud to the guy(s) in your life for a reality check. Speaking of which, men stand up right now. Look straight down to the floor. Notice that belly bump that makes it mission impossible to see your feet? That’s what I call BOBBelly Over Belt. Yep, and I’m noticing that most of you have a pretty healthy dose of BOB. Your poor belt is stretched to the max, as you cling to the last notch (now a mile wide), refusing to get the next size up. Guys, kick the denial and let’s talk reality. We’re going to bust your BOB and get this buffed bod show on the road.

    As a physician who’s spent years helping men to manage their weight and adopt healthy lifestyles, I get where most of you are coming from with regard to your health. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. Research has shown that what gets a guy to seek help with his weight is usually a crisis and awakening — a new medical condition affecting himself or someone he knows; a change in his social world ranging from a divorce to a career change; and, advancing age with a renewed desire to live long and well. Whatever the motivation, reducing your gut size will not only help you feel better, it’ll save your life.

    Pam and Mark at Rehoboth Beach

    Alright, let’s have a look in the mirror. Most guys notice that the aging process involves a crazy combo of body enlargement and shrinkage. Staring at your image, you realize that your dome-like belly now extends way out into the neighboring county, your legs have taken on the appearance of skinny knobby rods, and frankly you’re starting to look like your patio grill. Aging’s a bear. It’s time to man up and bust your gut.

    It’s all things belly for a guy. Why is it so important to whittle your middle? As I’ve noted countless times in my books, blogs and articles, too much intra-abdominal fat is lethal for everyone. Some inner belly fat is needed to maintain core body temperature, cushion the organs and act as a source of fuel. However, once your belly rises over your pelvic bones, you’ve got too much fat. I call too much internal belly fat “toxic fat” because it’s directly related to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Toxic fat equates to a body out of whack. Waves of excess free fatty acids start to circulate along with a tsunami of stress hormones, while your blood sugar balance takes a turn for the worse. The upshot of all of these changes is a spike in your body’s level of inflammation and a major increase in the risk of no less than 39 different diseases. And just in case you’re going to rest on your family’s longevity laurels, a recent study of the top predictors for heart disease in men showed that the number one risk factor was belly size, not how long grandpa lived. So get off your laurels and get into this gut busting plan.

    As I always do, we’ll use the MIND MOUTH MUSCLE template to keep things easy to understand and simple to follow.

    Here’s how to shed your BOB:


    Your gut’s too big. When you look down, you can’t see your feet (or anything else for that matter). Your belly never leaves the floor during a pushup. The flight attendant hands you a belt extender without your asking. At the beach, women run the opposite direction and kids are asking if there’s a baby in there. This is not a pretty picture. For that matter, grab your camera and take a sideways picture of yourself and plaster it all over the place. Makes a terrific screen saver. Your new mantra is “bust a gut”.


    Enough with the evening feast.
    Too many guys are meal skippers and tend to consume the grand majority of their calories at dinner. Newsflash: that’s how sumo wrestlers are able to gain and maintain their mountains of flesh. Unless you have aspirations for donning the loin cloth and mixing it up in the ring, kick your sumo habit and eat every 4 hours starting with breakfast. This means making sure to have a protein based snack (e.g. protein shake, peanut butter and jelly on pita bread) in mid-afternoon so that you can rein in the calories at dinner.

    Shrink your gut with protein. Forget the old way of dieting and deprivation. Stay satisfied by concentrating on consuming lean proteins throughout the day. Egg white omelets, whey protein shakes, lean poultry, grass fed beef, fish, legumes, nuts and low fat dairy are great sources of guy protein. Here’s a great way to satisfy your cravings and keep you full. Try to combine your protein with fiber, mostly in the form of veggies. Occasional fruit is fine along with controlled portions of whole grains.

    Fight fat with fat. If you want to bust your BOB, you need to make certain to eat enough healthy fats. Fat, like protein, is very satisfying and will help to curb your cravings and control your hunger. These include the fat associated with lean protein (see above) in addition to olive oil, nuts, flax seed and foods like avocado.

    Choose carbs carefully. Think vegetables when you think carbs and you can’t go wrong. And I don’t mean pounds of potatoes. I’m talking about veggies with deep colors reflecting their high levels of anti-oxidants. Have fruit as well, but watch your portions as they’re packed with more calories. A cup or two of whole grains is fine, just don’t overdo it. Avoid refined, processed sugars to melt your belly fast.

    There’s a reason it’s called a “beer belly“.
    And, now a word about alcohol. If you’re a guy who’s drinking every day and sometimes to excess, I’ll bet you a crisp 0 bill that if, for one month, you either eliminated alcohol entirely or dropped it to no more than 1-2 glasses of wine or 1-2 beers only on Sat and Sun, you’d drop 5-10 pounds off your belly. Yep, that’s how potent alcohol is on packing on belly fat.


    Avoid the all or nothing.
    Many previously sedentary guys who’ve just gotten the toxic fat memo, freak out and hit the gym with way too much gusto. Guys see other tribe members pumping iron, the testosterone starts flowing and before you can say “Hey man, can you spot me on my shoulder press”, you pop a tendon. Rein it in dudes. You didn’t pack it on overnight and you’re not going to drop it in nanoseconds either. More importantly you’ll end up hurting yourself and then you’ll quit altogether. If you have any medical conditions and/or physical disabilities, make sure to clear any new exercise and nutrition plan with your medical team.

    Carve it with cardio. Bag the old belief that you had to live on a dreadmill for an hour to shed fat. Research now shows that shorter periods of intense exercise is the name of the game. So, pick your aerobic form of exercise– walking, running, swimming, biking, elliptical, rowing– and warm up for 10 minutes. Then, crank up the intensity by adding any combination of speed and resistance. You want to feel a degree of difficulty such that you can’t conduct a conversation with the guy on the next machine. Do this for anywhere from 1-5 minutes (the more trained you are the longer you’ll last) and then return to your baseline level. Repeat this anywhere from 3-6 times. Normally you can get a terrific cardio-intensive workout in 20-30 minutes. And, you’ll notice that over time, your baseline level increases, showing that your endurance and strength are improving.

    No gut, gobs of glory. Along with your cardio, weight training is essential to drop belly fat. Try to find 2-3 days per week when you can spend 20-30 minutes on these simple exercises. These exercises are gym free, and if you do hit the gym, there are usually terrific ab machines you can use as well. The key is to start your weight training and stick with it. Right now we’ll concentrate on the core work.

    1) Workin’ the Upper Ab: Get on the floor and bend your knees at a 90-degree angle while keeping your feet flat on the floor. You can cross your arms over your chest or place them behind your neck gently supporting your head. Do not jerk your neck. Keep all movements smooth. Take a breath, contract your ab muscles and lift your shoulders off the floor to about a 30-degree angle. Never ever sit up all the way. Hold for a count of 3 and while exhaling, lower yourself back to the floor and your starting position. Repeat this for three sets of 10. Rest for 30-60 seconds between sets.

    2) Going for the Lower Ab: Stay on the floor in the starting position described in #1. This time, while you breathe in, lift your knees up towards your chest while lifting your bottom off the floor. Hold for a count of 3. Breathe out and slowly lower your legs to the starting position. You should be feeling the tension as your lower ab muscles contract. As you continue to repeat this exercise, you’ll feel a muscular burn as well. Repeat this for three sets of 10 resting 30-60 seconds between sets.

    3) The Big O. We’ve hit the upper and lower ab muscles so now it’s time to work the obliques. Get back into your start position. This time you’ll place your right foot across your left knee and your left hand behind your head, letting your right arm rest to the side. Take a breath and while twisting your torso, bring your left shoulder to your right knee. Hold for a count of 3, then gently lower to your starting position. Repeat 10-20 times. Switch sides and repeat.

    4)  The Time Saver’s Ab: Pinched for time? No problemo — the ab-bicycle to your rescue. Get into your start position on the floor. Lift your shoulders slightly off the floor with your knees bent in toward your chest. Bring your left knee and right elbow together while extending your right lef to a 45-degree angle. Then, switch, bringing in your right knee and left elbow and straightening your left leg to a 45-degree angle. Don’t jerk your body. Make these movements as smooth as possible. Do 10-30 repetitions, rest for 30-60 seconds and repeat three times for a real belly buster.

    5)  Drop and give me 10: And you thought a pushup was only about those other muscles. You’re wrong. The core is key to any good pushup. Whether bent knee or full legged, you want to contract your ab muscles throughout the exercise. As you reduce your belly size, it’ll become easier to push off the floor and your back muscles will be relieved of the belly burden as well.

    Alright guys. There you have it — your official Back to the Beach Gut Check. You’re a man, you’ve got the belly and now you have your plan. Bust a gut!

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    Photos: Dr. Pam Peeke

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