Can you really lose belly fat if that’s all you focused on? Well, the quick and dirty answer is…yes and no.
Spot Reduction Fat Loss
Is this even a thing anymore? When I was growing up, I did crunches and sit-ups for days to try to lose belly fat. It never worked…I ended up with amazing abs that NO ONE would ever see! No fat loss, just a stronger core.
Not a bad thing but…you cannot spot reduce belly fat no matter how many ab exercises you do. It’s just not a thing!
This is because your body doesn’t decipher where fat comes off. Fat just comes off from anywhere it wants!
Totally not fair (because my initial weight loss all came from my chest)!
It truly doesn’t matter how many crunches you do or how long you can hold that plank. Over time if you keep these exercises up (and I strongly encourage you to do this), you’ll get that coveted 6-pack. You just won’t see it!
To really target belly fat, you must focus on the bigger picture – a combination of exercise AND nutrition.
And, really, exercise is only a small part of it…what you eat plays the biggest role to lose belly fat.
Why You Can’t Lose Belly Fat
Struggling with stubborn belly fat? Frustrating!
Struggling with stubborn belly fat AND eating healthy and exercising? Insanity!
Yes, some women have a genetic predisposition to belly fat. However, this is a really small percentage of us.
The real reason behind why you can’t lose belly fat is probably due to one of two key factors: STRESS & HORMONES!
Yup, if you are living with chronic stress in your life (which, let’s be honest, most of us are), your stress hormone – cortisol – is going to be high. Like, all the time. And one of cortisol’s main jobs is to prepare you for ‘fight or flight’, which means it does what it can to mobilize stored energy and then store this up for later use. As fat. Especially in the belly!
And, just to let you in on a secret: Because exercising boosts cortisol levels, too much exercise can actually make your belly bigger!
Plus, have you ever noticed that when you’re super stressed, you’re hungrier? And you crave comfort foods (aka carbs)?
So, not only does stress cause more belly fat, it makes you eat more food! NOT a good combo!
5 Tricks to Lose Belly Fat Naturally
Remember how I said there is a “yes” answer to whether or not you can really lose belly fat? Well, here it is…
Eat a balanced whole foods diet.
Ever heard that “abs are made in the kitchen”? This is mostly true! You have to eat the right foods to settle down that cortisol and keep your cravings and hunger at bay.
Make sure you’re eating a belly-fat-loss nutrient-dense diet every single day. Reduce your carb intake and focus on high quality sources of protein, healthy fats at every meal (avocados, eggs, olive oil, salmon, etc.) and limit your intake of whole grains and starchy carbs. Fill the rest of your plate up with low-carb vegetables and keep fruit intake moderate. Oh, and don’t forget that alcohol does your waistline no favors, so limit that!
Ditch the sugar.
Seriously. Excess sugar consumption may actually be the primary nutritional driver behind why it’s so hard to lose belly fat! Ditch soft drinks, baked goods, candy, milk chocolate, and any other foods with a lot of added sugar. Especially high-fructose corn syrup.
Sugary foods and drinks create excess belly fat. Plus, they contribute to insulin resistance which causes those dreaded love handles. And cravings.
Keep your digestive tract happy.
Really, EVERYTHING health-wise starts with good digestion. Doing this will help keep gas and bloating down (helping you look less puffy).
Some tricks to help keep this important system healthy are:
- Eat a balanced, whole foods diet
- Staying away from foods you may be sensitive to
- Eat fermented probiotic-rich foods
- Eat slowly and mindfully – chew your food!
- Watch portion sizes
- Consider taking digestive enzymes if things don’t improve
While technically also a part of the digestive tract, the liver is so important that it needs its own category! Your liver helps detoxify excess hormones to keep them balanced. AND, the liver removes toxins that could also boost your cortisol levels. So, hopefully you can see how important the liver is!
A few options to boost its health could be to have a daily detox herbal tea, increase your consumption of organic leafy greens, and, of course, reduce alcohol and caffeine.
Finally, the RIGHT exercises!
Want to really lose belly fat fast? Switch from cardio aerobic exercises to those that build muscle. Think full-body HIIT workouts, lifting weights or resistance training.
A Fun Fact About Belly Fat
Did you know that it’s believed that certain areas of the body have more metabolically active fat cells than others? This means areas like the chest, arms and stomach respond WAY better to changes in exercise and nutrition!
Unfortunately, the butt, hips and thighs aren’t as responsive. But, don’t give up – strength training and eating more real food has made a HUGE improvement in these areas for me!
Reduce That Cortisol
Eating right and exercising properly to lose belly fat are GREAT! BUT, if you don’t also work on stress management, you will never get where you want to be.
So, add in some amazingly effective stress management tips to boost belly fat loss!
- GET MORE GOOD QUALITY SLEEP – Short sleep or poor-quality sleep may lead to weight gain, including belly fat accumulation. Plus, lack of sleep eventually starts to trigger more hunger and cravings.
- EXERCISE AND MOVE YOUR BODY DAILY – Not only does exercising regularly do a body good, but it’s a totally underrated stress reliever! Even if all you can manage is a 30-minute walk, this will do you SO MUCH GOOD!
- CARVE OUT MORE TIME FOR SELF-CARE – meditation, yoga, hot baths, breathing, reading, listening to music, go for a walk, spend time with trusted & supportive friends… and the list could go on! You choose something that you enjoy and do it every day! My go to self-care? Books – I LOVE to read!
To lose belly fat, you must focus on nutrition. Real, whole foods are your best friend. But, you also need to be eating the RIGHT foods for fat loss – the foods that specifically balance the hormones that hold you back.
My 12-Week Belly Fat Solution is a hormone balancing program designed specifically for women’s hormones. To help them ditch the cravings and hunger so that they can finally balance the hormones and see that fat disappear!
Healthline: 12 Things That Make You Gain Belly Fat
Strong Lifts: How to Lose Your Belly Fat Quickly and Naturally
Medicine & Science in Sports Exercise Journal (Study): Effect of exercise training intensity on abdominal visceral fat and body composition