The middle-age belly fat battle

Call it the Middle-Age Middle. We look down, and suddenly our feet are gone, and all we see is belly.

Emory Healthcare internist Dr. Sharon Bergquist says belly fat can sneaks up on us, as we lose muscle and put on more weight each year.

"So, we start to lose 3 to 5 percent of our muscle mass beginning in our 30s," Dr. Bergquist says. "And the best way to counter that is exercise, exercise, exercise."

Aerobic exercise like running or walking will burn calories, but resistance training is the best bet for beating belly fat.

By building muscle, you'll burn more fat, even when you're not working out.

So, the best exercise to build muscle are those that use several muscle groups at one time, like circuit training or "boot camp" type workouts that incorporate resistance training.

And, Dr. Bergquist says, whether you're working out, or tweaking your diet, slow and steady doesn't necessarily win the race.

"For a long time, we've actually had a bias in telling everybody to do things slowly," Bergquist says. "If you do it too fast, you're just going to regain all the weight. And that's not necessarily true."

Instead, she says, do what works for you.

"For some people, that's jump-starting and doing something that's really aggressive up front.'" Bergquist says. "And for other people, that slow, steady small change is what helps make it stick for them. And there is no right or wrong."

What you're eating can make or break your attempts to lose the fat.

Processed, high fat foods get quickly converted into belly fat, the most dangerous kind of fat, says Bergquist.

So, lighten up on those foods, and load up on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.

But, Bergquist says, be wary of any diet that is too restrictive to sustain.

"I think the better way to approach diet is to really think of it as a dietary pattern," Bergquist says. "Just a way of life, that you're shifting to a healthier mindset. That you're just going to make better choices. The term diet really implies restriction. And if you're eating the right foods, you should not be feeling restricted."