This week's "But Why? Wednesday" is good reading for anyone but it's mostly aimed at the women folk. Men and women these days really do suffer equally from pressures regarding how they look so there will be a follow up post at a later date for the guys but for this one we're concentrating on this from a female perspective.
This isn't necessarily an answer to a specific question, it's an answer to many questions that I hear again and again from women. Why can't I get rid of my belly/ cellulite/ Christmas kilos blah, blah, blah?
First thing I'm going to stomp is cellulite. Why can't you get rid of it? Because over 90% of women, the world over, have cellulite. It's normal. You may as well try to get rid of your freckles. Skinny girls, big girls, doesn't matter. The reason you have cellulite is because a woman's body stores fat subcutaneously (between the muscle tissue and skin). Men's bodies tend to store their fat around the internal organs. It also has a lot to do with the way connective fibres hold your skin and muscle together. Cellulite is totally normal and we all need to get over it.
As for the "belly fat" or the "last few kilos", it's about time someone dropped a truth bomb on this one. Six packs are not necessarily a sign of health, particularly in women (though healthy women can have them!). There are no hard and fast numbers but it's generally agreed that women who drop below 13-17% body fat are risking fertility and health issues. In order to get a sixpack, you usually need to drop below 10% body fat. Let that sink in.
So many women get caught up in trying to shed those "last few kilos" and the reality is, your body is holding on to them for dear life and it has a very good reason to. Of course there is such a thing as carrying too much body fat but women need to understand that their bodies, at their healthiest, are actually designed to carry between 20-30% body fat.
Our bodies are not modern, the design is very old. Even though many of us have abundant food sources and we aren't at the mercy of the elements as much anymore, as far as our bodies are concerned, we're still in a daily struggle for calories. Over the hundreds of thousands of years that we've been living in such a way, our bodies have developed some amazing coping mechanisms. One of which is how and why we store body fat.
The whole reason we store fat is as an emergency food source. In the past, when seasons were good and we were able to consume a caloric surplus, our body would take what it needed and then store as much as it could for later in the form of fat deposits. Inevitably, when the seasons would go bad and food would be scarce, our body would burn the fat to keep us alive until such time as we found some more food or things around us improved.
Males and females store fat in different ways too. Women, as the bearers of children are designed to store more fat than men because theirs had to nourish not only themselves but also had to provide food for any unborn or breastfeeding children.
Our body still works that way. That's why it's generally harder for women to lose weight and they also put it on more rapidly then men. That's also why a woman's body will stubbornly hold onto that last little bits. The more you starve your body, the more it just thinks you're going through a drought or famine so it starts trying even harder to turn whatever it can into fat. Ever wonder why that cupcake goes "straight to your thighs?", or why your boyfriend or husband can eat things without putting on weight?
More than that though, if you have to train excessively and only eat celery smoothies to keep those last few kilos off, how sustainable can that really be? A happy body is a stable body.
It's really time that we stop beating up on ourselves for not looking a certain way and focus on health. You can be skinny and be just as unhealthy as someone who is morbidly obese- aesthetics mean very little and body fat percentages are guidelines only. Focus on getting your health right. When you're truly healthy (mind, body and soul), your body will find where it wants to be. Whatever your belly looks like when you're healthy, learn to celebrate it and love it because that's where your body is happiest.