You would never know by looking at Leslie Roberts, 47, that he was a heavy child. But the Global TV news anchorman, who was raised on unhealthy habits, had to teach himself to lead a fit life. Now he worries that his family history and stubborn abdominal fat may predispose him to health problems. He wonders if shrinking his waist could expand his longevity.
"To extend my life. My parents died very young. My father died of cancer and my mother died from liver failure at 56."
Before he moved to Toronto, Mr. Roberts ran regularly in Montreal. Now things are different. "I took up spinning two years ago. Whenever my suits fit snugly - and I know my clothing didn't shrink - I spin a lot. In a week I can see results," says the broadcaster, whose waist size is 34.
"I have been exercising for 26 years doing too much cardio, not enough weights."
Also, "I have a home mini-gym with an elliptical and work out with a trainer twice a week. Monday, Wednesday, Friday is chest and arms. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday is lower body."
"I work the 6 and 11 o'clock newscasts. First thing in the morning I have oatmeal, or pineapple and strawberries with granola. I used to eat sugary cereals.
"Lunch is grilled chicken on a salad - with the dressing on the side. I learned the hard way that a cheeseburger was often a better choice than a salad with all the dressing.
"I limit red meat to a steakhouse once a month. I'm a big sushi fan; I go to Shogun in Yorkville. I start with the edamame, and then wakame soup [seaweed and mussel broth]followed by barbecue salmon hand roll and salmon and tuna.
"Throughout the week, I shun carbs - except on Saturdays when I eat pasta, pizza or chocolate-banana bread."
"We have the power to determine our health by what we put in our bodies," says Mr. Roberts, who visits schools and advises parents about health issues and the emotional pain of being an overweight kid.
"I'm usually watching CNN or CP24, but the spin class has great music."
"My arch-nemesis is my love handles. I find that I always have that inch to pinch."
Waist size is a good indicator of internal fat around organs, and unhealthy belly fat can be risky, says Paul Oh, a medical director at Toronto Rehab's cardiac program. But love handles by themselves aren't a concern.
There are ways to optimize the effects of exercise and diet on health and waistline, Dr. Oh says.
Check health risk markers
When belly fat translates to a waist size greater than 40 inches (102 centimetres), that "does denote a potential cardiovascular risk, especially for middle-aged men."
The risk is even higher if there are other accompanying features of metabolic syndrome, Dr. Oh says.
Although his waist is not in the danger zone, Mr. Roberts should check with a doctor for other health flags such as increases in blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels, Dr. Oh says.
"The likelihood is these diagnostic criteria are fine, but more of these, and belly fat, increase the risk of diabetes [and]note>, heart disease."
Reduce calories three ways
Mr. Roberts's mixed cardio program is smart, Dr. Oh says. It uses different large-muscle groups, which can change or minimize stress on joints and is great for heart health. But considering his activity level and his desire to achieve weight loss, Mr. Roberts needs to burn an extra 3,500 calories a week to lose a pound every seven days.
He can achieve a calorie deficit by adding an hour of walking a day, switching to cardio interval bursts, or cutting 250 calories from his daily diet by eating smaller portions or nixing small treats such as soft drinks or a muffin.
Train abs to burn fat
Finally, Dr. Oh sees one body part in Mr. Robert's strength-training routine that is overlooked, but could lead to a belly-fat breakthrough.
"He needs to do a total-body resistance training routine - including core - rather than just upper or lower body. Some of our research using direct imaging of the abdomen and total body fat/muscle composition shows that you can reduce abdominal fat by combining aerobics with total-body resistance training."
By adding an abs workout, Mr. Roberts will tone up more muscle, which leads to greater calorie burn even after a workout, and will speed his metabolism, assisting in greater weight loss, Dr. Oh adds.
Special to The Globe and Mail