Belly Fat… and Your BACK!

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

Let me start my FIRST blog with a disclaimer…I am NOT a doctor, nurse, or nutritionist.  What I am about to discuss comes from my personal studies, readings, and experiences.  This should be considered as nothing more than a conversation with a friend…

It may seem like something we’ve read over and over again, and yet some of us still don’t seem to make the correlation between the size of our bellies and our back pain.  We know we don’t like the way our bellies look, and we know we have back pain.  But most of us can’t seem to put the two concepts together.  I’m not ashamed to say, I have been one of these people.  Even as a massage therapist!  It just didn’t click.  I knew it wasn’t a good thing, but I didn’t realize until recently just how the things we do every day can really put strain on our backs, typically the low back.  So I thought I would take a few minutes to point out a few key concepts that I have figured out, and maybe it will click for you too.  (If it hasn’t already)

First, how do we get belly fat?  That might seem like a silly statement, but I think there is something we don’t realize, or want to think about.  Of course you would say “overeating” causes belly fat, or “stress.”  Both are correct.  But I’m talking about what actually makes the belly start to protrude.  The first thing that happens is the belly expands, yes, from overeating or stress.  At this point, though, it has some room to move around in our abdominal cavity, you know where the other organs such as our lungs live.  It is once this space is filled to capacity that we begin to see our bellies expand.  This means we are putting strain on our lungs and other organs.  Think about obese people who have trouble breathing!  This concept alone is, and should be, very frightening!

Next, what types of foods or stress cause our bellies to expand?  I can’t say specifically for each person, because there could be food allergies involved, hormones, and who knows what else.  But it has become common knowledge in recent years that carbs and alcohol (also a carb) is typically to blame.  But our bodies do need carbs!  So please, if you choose to do the low-carb thing, don’t get rid of your whole grains!  This is fuel for our bodies!  (Unless you are allergic, of course.)  On a personal note – stop blaming the white potato!  The poor white potato has become the outcast of our diets thanks to diets like Atkins or South Beach.  It is so full of vitamins and minerals, and is low in calories, it can be a great thing for a healthy lifestyle.  It’s more about what we put on said white potato that makes it the devil!  But I digress.  There are great “diet” plans out there, which I’d rather call healthy eating plans.  The word “diet” in our modern language sounds so temporary, and it shouldn’t be.  A couple that I like are The Abs Diet (and The Abs Diet for Women) and Prevention’s Flat Belly Diet.  But find one that suits you if you are looking for a change.  I can tell you, from following The Abs Diet myself, what I liked most about the plan is that it tells you what to eat as opposed to what not to eat. Plus, they focus on protein which helps to keep us going and stay full.

Next – STRESS!  Yes, we all know about emotional stress, but what we don’t think about is the physical stress affecting that cortisol release in our systems!  YES!  It is released just the same!!  What I mean by physical stress is what is going on inside the body.  Not drinking enough water can make the body think it is dehydrated – stress!  Not getting enough sleep doesn’t allow the body to perform at peak performance – stress!  Not eating enough (especially skipping breakfast!) makes the body think it is starving – stress!  So it isn’t just about the emotional stress we feel from trying to meet deadlines, or getting the kids off to school on time.

So why does this affect our backs?  Simply put – STRAIN!  24/7 your back deals with the strain gravity puts on it by the belly pulling forward.  This can cause extra pull on the spine or sacrum, leaving you with back pain.  Also think of this, and yes, this is the light that just went on for me lately!  When you sleep, do you sleep on your side?  I do!  So what is happening is the belly is now pulling from another angle!  I don’t know all of the specifics – but I do know that my sacrum and S.I. joint has been affected from this!

How do we get rid of it?  As I mentioned earlier, there are lots of plans out there!  I can’t tell you which one is right for you.  Keeping your core muscles strong is important not only for flattening your belly, but keeping your back strong.  Pilates is great for this!  There are also “topical” options, such as ItWorks! Ultimate Body Applicators, which helped me tighten and trim (link below to learn more).  But what I really would like to do is quote something that is helping me to get me started…again.  I think we start to look at our belly like it is the enemy!  This was on page 1 of Prevention’s Flat Belly Diet by Liz Vaccariello that gave me a new perspective and I wanted to share.

“Be kind to your belly.  No matter how flat or round, jiggly or rock hard – it’s yours, and it’s powerful.  It’s probably the center of some of your most profound memories.  Think about it…the laughter you’ve shared, the romantic dinners you’ve had, the butterflies you’ve felt, the children you may have carried.  All these set up house in – yes – your belly.  And for that it deserves your respect.  Your appreciation.  And more than a little love and kindness…even when you’re struggling to button your jeans.”

I’m not trying to preach LOSE THAT BELLY FAT!  But I do want you to be aware of the connection between belly fat and back pain.  Now you can decide to learn more, and make your own educated decisions on YOUR BODY!  After all, it is your body.

…cheers to our health!