My Turn: Her war on belly fat
"Nobody in our family has a flat stomach, Carolyn," my dad stated authoritatively. A scientist, he generally gave us The Last Word on Every Subject. I looked up from my rounded belly. "Well, I still wish mine were flat," I told him as we sat at the table after dinner, nibbling as we talked.

Who knew? Belly fat is dangerous. I complained all those decades ago because mine hung over my jeans, a sign of much after-dinner-snacking. Back then, we did not know that a big belly pumped its own chemical mix throughout the body. That mix is toxic.

Dieting sends me into a rage of rebellion. I won't do it. I will eat what I want. That said, even I will take on a realistic goal with a win-win result. Turns out, taking off just a few pounds skims off the worst fat.

Visceral fat is not the skin-deep, pleasingly plump kind of fat. It's the nasty stuff lurking inside, encircling organs. It acts like an alien organ secreting its own cruel chemical mix, which contributes to heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.

But here's the good news for resistant dieters like me: Visceral fat is the easiest to lose. It dissolves before the subcutaneous fat. Here's the best news: When we take off about 15% of our overall weight, we erase around 40% of our visceral fat (this according to a 2001 study in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition).

Since my family legacy is to eat, not diet, I picked the Moderate Exercise Cure. It's generally walking 35 to 45 minutes for five days a week. That's doable. My dog goes along, motivating me to keep to my daily schedule.

And because I like to eat large portions, I fill heaping plates of green stuff and whole grains. Eating fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, meat and whole grains takes more off the belly than eating a diet with the same calorie content that includes refined grains. I've read that refined grains trigger insulin spikes, which lead to fat deposits. However, I admit that the reason I pick whole grains and greens is that they provide more bulk and I feel fuller. I grew up liking that "stuffed" feeling.

Back in the 1970s, my father had a pot belly. I used to nag him to eat more vegetables, but he laughed at me. "Baloney," he'd say. He had a quadruple bypass in his 60s and paralyzing dementia the last two years of his life. He liked to lecture better than take advice, but if the word had been out on the chemistry of metabolic syndrome, I think he would have listened.

I reached my goal as a female who wants to kick out visceral fat, a waist of 33 to 35 inches. Though the quest to knock out the fat got me started, the practical result is that I feel energized and enjoy a closer relationship with … my dog!

Slayback is a teacher and marathon runner. She writes on fitness and family matters. Her articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Sasee magazine and PersimmonTree.com. She lives in Newport Beach with her husband and Chihuahuas.

My Turn is a forum for readers to recount experiences related to health or fitness. Submissions should be 500 words or fewer, are subject to editing and condensation and become property of The Times. Email health@latimes.com. Read more at latimes.com/myturn.