I have been a person who worries about whatever I put in my mouth most of my life. I’ve dieted, counted calories and starved myself – all in the name of being thin. At the ripe old age of 50, I realised that 'thin wasn't in'. Fit, healthy and strong is now the new 'thin' and boy, am I glad! I’m not a naturally thin person. I have curves and even if I exercised intensely every day and ate very little, I would still have curves. It’s how I’m made.
So why are women generally curvier than men? Why do we seem to have more jiggly bits in all the places we don’t want them, eg. our thighs and bottoms? Well, principally, we are genetically designed to carry, and hold on to, extra fat in order to nurture a fetus and to breast feed and to have a backup supply of fat so we can care for our offspring in times of famine.
Different from men, female hormones also play a part as we produce oestrogen which acts as a fat storing hormone resulting in us carrying around 5-6% more body fat than men. Unfortunately, it’s easier for women to put on body fat and harder for us to lose it. And that’s where 'stubborn fat' and cellulite come in. Female fat cells, and the structure of our layers of skin, are quite different from males’ and that’s why guys don’t get cellulite and we do. Saying that, though, 70% of cellulite is caused by lifestyle and 30% by genetics.
I think us girls put far too much emphasis on how we look rather than feeling good about who we are inside. The way to feel good about yourself (in my book) is to eat well, exercise regularly and to think positively. I'm as guilty as the next person of suffering from mild body dysmorphia - I've always hated my thighs. I'm nearly 52 and I still haven't quite accepted my body. I'm getting there, though, and I hope that I will be able to say I love my body (and mean it) at least before I die!
So how much fat should we have? The 'ideal' for a woman is between 22% and 25% which is achievable if you are regularly exercising and eating clean. Over 32% is considered to be too heavy which, unchecked, can lead to obesity and has serious health consequences for women of any age. Breast cancer after menopause, infertility and stress incontinence are just a few conditions that are attributable to being overweight and that are female-specific.
On the other hand, too little body fat, for example in the case of anorexia and bulimia, can lead to a loss of bone mass plus interruptions in menstrual cycle. The body is also forced to slow down all of its processes to conserve energy resulting in serious medical consequences; for example, heart failure.
So we need our fat. Full stop. But what do you do if you feel you have too much and you want to reduce your body fat and to break down some cellulite?
- Walking is one of the best ways to lose a few pounds and an easy way to begin a fitness routine. Brisk walking for at least 30 minutes per day (preferably 45 minutes to 1 hour) on a route that will challenge you with ups and downs of inclines and hills. Ensure you wear a good pair of trainers.
- Bodyweight exercises such as squats and lunges can be done at home or in the gym. Google search bum and leg exercises and you’ll find numerous results that can help you with doing things at home. If you are member of a gym ask a Personal Trainer to help you with the correct technique. I am in the planning stages of putting exercise videos on my website so you'll be able to visit later and get some tips on exercise form.
- Check out my other blog on How To Keep Working Out In Winter for more tips on exercises that don't involve the gym.
- Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables – more of the latter.
- Reduce/eliminate your intake of sugar, processed foods and refined carbohydrates.
- Reduce your alcohol intake and try to have at least 4 or 5 alcohol free days per week.
- Drink a lot of water every day and reduce your caffeine intake. Try herbal teas. (I’m a recent convert!)
- Swap your normal iodised table salt for Celtic sea salt or Himalayan crystal salt.
Try not to look at the above tips and think you have to do them all by tomorrow. Take one at a time and give it a go. When you’re ready, take another one and so on. Before you know it these things will have become part of your daily life and you'll be feeling so much healthier and happier.
This is Taryn Brumfitt. She has started The Body Image Movement to help women grow to love their bodies more. You can check out this inspiring and wonderful woman by clicking on the image below.
To sum up, if you nourish your body with the right foods, keep it happy with exercise, challenge your negative thinking and have faith in yourself, my belief is that you can learn to accept and appreciate your body for the wonderful machine that it is.