A question that I get asked all the time is about losing belly fat. Hands down, it is the biggest concern for men and women alike and I’m here to tell you that there is hope!
The key largely lies in your diet, followed by the type of exercises that you do.
I know that’s not the magical solution most of you wanted to hear, but the truth is that everything else, from the ab roller to the slimming tea, is just hype and a waste of time and money.
About 80% of what you eat determines your ability to lose those dreaded love handles and that trademark “mommy pooch”, while the remaining 20% is determined by your exercise and lifestyle habits.
What this means is that no amount of exercise, no matter how great, can undo a poor diet that is filled with processed foods and too much sugar.
Abs are Made in the Kitchen
Eating healthy isn’t rocket science.
Everyone knows they should be eating lots of vegetables and fruits, different sources of proteins (plant and animal-based), Omega-3 fats from nuts or fish sources, and clean water.
So instead, here is a list of some of the worst offenders that need to be avoided or drastically reduced:
|Refined & Processed Foods||
|frozen dinnersfast foodbreakfast cereals
packaged granola bars
bottled salad dressings
|desserts (cakes, cookies, donuts, muffins)juice drinksartificial sweeteners
A Note on Fruit
Fruits are very healthy. They are loaded with beneficial vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber.
However, their natural sweetness can come at a price when consumed in excess.
Even though fructose is a natural sugar, it can inhibit fat loss, so the key is in managing your portions.
The same applies to any other natural sugar such a honey, maple syrup, and so on.
The safe and general recommendation is to consume two to three fruits per day.
And for those who like numbers, keep your grams of fructose to less than 25 grams per day.
The Best Belly-Busting Exercise
Infomercials often tend to make people believe that there is one specific ab device or exercise that can melt belly fat.
Unfortunately, spot reduction is a myth. You cannot target fat from a certain area of the body by doing a specific exercise.
In order to lose belly fat, you need to lose overall body fat by decreasing your total body fat percentage.
Nutrition supports your training and only once you clean up your diet will your exercise efforts really begin to pay off.
With that said, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been repeatedly proven to be extremely effective in reducing abdominal, trunk, and visceral (internal) fat.
HIIT is a type of training protocol that involves short bursts of effort with brief periods of rest in between.
Several studies have confirmed that HIIT burns more fat than exercising continuously for an entire session and as a result, you can exercise in a shorter amount of time and burn more calories.
The majority of my Free-B workouts are based on the HIIT principles, so I encourage you to try them if you haven’t already.
Beginners can do them once to twice per week and if you’re more advanced, include HIIT 2 to 3 times per week, in addition to lower intensity workouts throughout the week.
The idea is to instinctively push your body when you’re full of energy and rest when it is sore, low on energy or lacking sleep.
Sleep & Stress
If you still seem to be having problems despite legitimate efforts, there are a few other factors aside from diet and exercise that can drastically affect your ability to reduce abdominal fat.
Sleep and stress reduction are crucial to our wellbeing and they are often overlooked when it comes to weight management.
If you’re not getting enough sleep (~8 hours per night) or your life is full of stress, your body releases cortisol – a catabolic or muscle wasting hormone that actually holds onto fat in the abdominal region.
Aside from that fact, stress can wreak havoc on the body and can lead to a number of more serious health issues if left unresolved.
It is recommended to be asleep by 10:30pm.
If you’re a night owl, you can get into this cycle by waking up very early (~5am) and spending the day without napping.
Within a day or two of early rising and late night sleeping, you will have the urge to sleep earlier than usual and hopefully develop healthier bedtime habits.
Stubborn Fat Exists
Fat tissue has two types of receptors that cause stored body fat to be released for energy; alpha-2 and beta-2.
The higher the ratio of beta-2 to alpha-2 in the fatty tissue, the easier it is to burn and the lower the ratio of beta-2 to alpha-2, the more difficult it is to burn.
As it turns out, belly fat has a very low ratio of beta-2 to alpha-2 which explains why it is usually the last place to go.
Does this mean that it is impossible to lose stubborn fat deposits?
No. It is possible, but it will require body fat percentages in the single digits, which for many can do more harm than good.
Personally, in a bid to get rid of the “mommy pouch”, my body fat percentage needed to be very low.
Esthetically speaking, I was happy with my flat stomach, but this also resulted in a flatter chest and a sunken-looking face, which wasn’t worth it.
Today, I’ve come to terms with my stubborn belly fat and aim for a healthy look instead of what society deems to be perfection.
The Bottom Line
If you eat properly, exercise appropriately, sleep well and reduce the stressors in your life, a flatter stomach is the inevitable result of a healthy body.
If however after all of your efforts you still have stubborn fat deposits, then maybe it’s time to accept and love your body’s natural curves.
Being healthy and having a healthy body image is far more important.
After all, the ancient fertility goddesses had hips, breasts, and yes, belly fat too!
Do you think maybe it’s time that society redefines the image of beauty? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
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