For many of us, belly fat has become the number one scourge of both our good health and appearances. It’s stubborn, it slows us down and it wreaks havoc on many a man’s or woman’s self-esteem. Belly fat makes us gaze with hopeless longing at the slim, beautiful models who grace the pages of our favorite magazines and shy away from sexy summertime clothing that we wish we could wear.
It is this longing to look and feel better that has spawned one of the biggest and most successful industries in the developed world – the diet industry. Makers of magic weight-loss pills and fat-burning detox programs make it sound so easy. You can lose ten pounds in a month, five pounds in a week or even a pound per day! Of course, you’ll also lose a hefty sum of money in the process. Not only that, but many miracle weight-loss schemes purported to shrink your stomach are actually counterproductive; and though they may work temporarily, the inches you lose from your waistline via these expensive shakes or supplements often return with a vengeance as soon as you stop using them. If that weren’t bad enough, read the fine print on your new magic diet miracle product and you’ll most likely find a list of restrictions and possible side-effects that may make you a little less than comfortable.
Forget all of that nonsense. We’re about to change the way you look at belly fat for good.
While it may not happen as quickly as the manufacturers of all of those fat-blasting, pound-shredding, super magic diet programs want you to believe that it can, once you become aware of what causes fat to form around your midsection and stay there, getting rid of it becomes a much easier process. Better yet, once you cast aside your “spare tire” using natural and healthy methods, you’re far more likely to actually keep it off.
If you’re ready to shed some pounds, lose those love handles and rethink your wardrobe this summer then read on dear friends as we reveal the good, the bad and the ugly truths about belly fat that the diet industry doesn’t want you to know!
1. Not Sleeping Makes Your Belly Grow
Sleep-deprivation is a big problem for a lot of people and while you may not realize it, lack of sleep can have a direct effect on the size of your waistline for a couple of reasons.
Being tired makes us more likely to make unhealthy food choices such as drinking too much caffeine or partaking in sweets in an effort to catch and maintain that ‘sugar-high’ to get you through the day.
Not sleeping enough night after night also throws off your body’s metabolism and hormone balance, both of which are required to be in good condition in order to burn any kind of body fat – belly or otherwise.
If you need a little help getting into a regular sleep routine or if you have trouble drifting off once your head hits the pillow, read up on some of these tested and confirmed tips for getting a good night rest every night. Plus, discover how you can use essential oils to help you get restful sleep more regularly.
2. Worrying About Belly Fat Makes It Worse
Stress is probably the biggest hidden cause of weight-gain and retention of fat around the midsection. When we experience stress of any kind, our bodies respond by producing two hormones – adrenaline and cortisol. The former provides a rush of energy which facilitates the instinctive fight or flight response. The latter then instructs us to replenish that lost energy (even if we didn’t really use it) by eating. A lot.
Unfortunately, this stress-eating instinct drives most of use to crave high-fat, salty or sweet foods which not only provide a large number of calories very quickly, but also trigger the release of pleasure hormones in the brain.
So if you’re stressing about losing belly fat, you can stop now and start smiling instead because the information in this article is going to make losing weight a whole lot easier.
3. Poor Digestion Hinders Weight-Loss
A well-rounded diet which includes a good balance of fats, proteins and complex carbohydrates, as well as all of the essential vitamins and minerals your body needs is critical for healthy weight-loss. That said, if your digestive tract isn’t working properly, you very well may have a deficiency in one or more important nutrients which could easily result in the retention of stubborn belly fat.
Check out these warning signs to determine the status of your gut. If you believe that you do indeed have some form of digestive malfunction, you may want to speak with your doctor about getting a professional diagnosis. You can also take steps to naturally improve your gut health by eating naturally probiotic foods.
(Even if your digestion is in perfect condition, probiotic foods are delicious and nutritious! Learn more about them here.)
4. Genetics May Be A Factor
Though it should never be an excuse to live an unhealthy lifestyle, some people do have a genetic predisposition for thickness. Under no circumstances is this a bad thing, nor should it be a reason to dislike your physique. (If your genes are coded to retain fat, just remember that adipose tissue is the animal kingdom’s natural defense against cold weather.)
That said, don’t let genetics prevent you from following through with the other items on our list. Even if you don’t achieve a supermodel flat tummy, you will improve your overall health and feel better as you do.
5. Consistent and Correct Exercise Is Necessary
There’s no getting around this fact. If you want a slim waist, you have to get some exercise. Do it consistently, do it right and most importantly, learn to love it. As previously stated, being stressed out causes our bodies to produce cortisol which is one of the big causes of belly fat-retention, so do everything in your power to make exercising fun.
Go walking with a friend or with your pet if you have a furry companion who’s willing to take a stroll with you.
Force yourself to smile while you get in your daily dose of physical activity. While this may sound utterly ridiculous, the physical act of smiling can actually trick your brain into producing “happy hormones” which will in turn create a positive experience for you.
In terms of ‘correct’ exercise, you’ll want to focus on a balance of cardiovascular activities and whole body resistance-training. (Squats are a great choice for building fat-burning muscle!)
Avoid spot exercises which target the midsection only as these will build muscle underneath existing belly fat and actually cause your waistline to appear larger and increase the amount of time before you notice your stomach begin to trim down.
6. Why Post-Pregnancy Belly Fat Lingers
For a lot of women, post-pregnancy belly fat is seemingly impossible to get rid of. No matter how good her diet or how perfect a woman’s exercise routine may be, the impervious mommy-tummy is there to stay. While hormonal changes may be the culprit, they aren’t always to blame.
In some cases it isn’t actually an over-abundance of belly fat which causes this appearance of a ‘fat stomach.’ Pregnancy can actually cause the abdominal fascia (the connective membrane which holds our abdominal muscles and organs in place) to become stretched out. Because it isn’t elastic like skin, over-stretched fascia doesn’t retract back to its original form, resulting in a permanent bulging tummy effect.
In about 30% of pregnancies, a woman’s abdominal muscles separate along the mid-line fascia (known as diastasis recti) causing a permanent bulge. If you believe that either of these conditions apply to you, you’ll definitely want to speak to your doctor for a professional diagnosis and to discuss treatment options.
7. The Ugly Truth About Diet Pills
Store-bought diet pills often claim to help you lose weight by suppressing appetite or increasing metabolism, however the actual effects of these drugs are minimal. The same could be achieved by going for a 15 minute walk or by making some very simple dietary changes (which we’ll get into momentarily).
So diet pills are a waste of money – often a big waste; and as though that weren’t enough, they can also be quite dangerous. Many of the more aggressive weight-loss supplements are also potentially damaging to your organs, specifically those responsible for flushing waste toxins out of your body (ie: kidneys, liver, bladder). In some cases, these diet products have been known to cause stomach ulcers or damage to the digestive tract, both of which actually make weight-loss much more difficult.
(But wait! There’s more…)
Diet pills which are sold exclusively online aren’t even regulated like those found in stores. What this means is that these supplements could be adulterated with modified prescription drugs or other chemicals deemed unsafe by the Food and Drug Administration. To make matters worse, the offending chemicals usually aren’t listed anywhere on the label or packaging.
In conclusion: Unless they are specifically prescribed for you by your doctor, stay far far away from all diet pills and never purchase weight-loss supplements from untrustworthy online sources!
8. Fad-Diet Books Tell Pretty Lies
“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” – Benjamin Disraeli
If one were to take the word ‘statistics’ out of Disraeli’s reverent aphorism and replace it with ‘fad-diet books’, the statement would still be an accurate one. The majority of these manuscripts – held near and dear and vehemently defend by those who swear by them – tell very pretty lies. They take one or two facets of healthy weight-loss, hype them up and make them appear to be the magic key to dietary success through subtle manipulation of facts.
In reality, fad-diets generally don’t work or if they do, it’s only under very specific circumstances. This is because most of them offer unrealistic approaches to eating which are unreasonably inconvenient or too expensive for the average person to sustain for more than a short period of time. Once a person “falls off the wagon”, the weight comes right back and the number of pounds gained post-fad-diet is usually much greater than the number that was lost.
So why does this happen? While it may not always be the case, for the majority of people it is a direct result of enforced dietary restrictions imposed by the fad-diet. Being denied your favorite foods makes you crave them even more. Once the restrictions of a fad-diet are lifted, most people immediately return to their long-lost guilty pleasure foods and binge far more heartily than they normally would. The lesson to be learned here?
“Everything in moderation, including moderation.” – Oscar Wilde
In other words, don’t fad-diet. Eat smart and remember that it’s okay to enjoy your sinful snacks every now and then – just not every day. Which brings us to…
9. What You Eat (or Don’t Eat) Directly Affects Belly Fat
There are a few important dietary habits which you will need to develop if you want to trim down your waistline and keep it that way. However before we dive into this topic, there is one very crucial point that needs to be made. These dietary changes alone will not give you a six-pack, twelve-pack or supermodel flat stomach. What they will do is help you to shrink your waist, feel better in a form-fitting white top and have fun picking out a new swimsuit this year. At the same time, you’ll have more energy, improve your overall health and lower your risk of cardiovascular or other chronic life-threatening diseases.
Stop Eating Sugar
White sugar, brown sugar, table sugar, powdered sugar, fructose, sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, cane sugar, evaporated cane juice, anhydrous dextrose, corn sweetener, corn syrup solids, corn sweetener… there are a lot more. If you’re interested to know the 61 different ingredient names which all translate into ‘sugar’ on food labels, you’ll find them listed here.
Of the good, the bad, and the ugly; sugar is definitely among the ugliest. Not only is it one of the biggest contributors to the formation of all forms of adipose tissue (not just belly fat), it also destroys your health in a lot of other subtle and scary ways. Curious to know more? Read all about it in this article.
Avoid Chemically-Altered Sugar Substitutes
In most cases, no-calorie sweeteners are worse than eating sugar. They may not immediately rush in and out of your blood stream only to end up adding to your waistline, but they can make it much more difficult to lose that extra weight. While there are many claims regarding the dangers of ingesting artificial sweeteners (claims which may or may not have been refuted via long-winded responses delivered by legal representatives of the manufacturers of said artificial sweeteners) there is an endless stream of first-person accounts regarding the side-effects of using them.
To reduce the confusion and stay on the safe side – if it doesn’t come from nature, don’t eat it. That said, for all of your natural health and weight-loss needs, go with organic Stevia. It contains no calories, it has no funny aftertaste, it’s good in everything and is minimally-processed from the leaves of a plant.
Reduce Your Carbohydrate Intake
Sugar isn’t the only food which goes straight to your belly fat. Bread, rice, pasta and other simple carbohydrates which are easy for the body to digest and flood your blood stream with glucose also typically get stored as fat. If you’re prone to belly fat, you can bet your bottom that’s where these types of foods will end up.
Eat Foods Which Increase Metabolism
Protein-rich foods such as soy, nuts, legumes, lean meat, and cold water fish like mackerel, tuna, and sardines are all great for boosting your metabolism and helping you to shed belly fat. These work better than any miracle diet drug that has ever existed, they won’t mess up your body and you can happily keep eating them for the rest of your life without worrying about horrible side-effects or spending obscene amounts of money at your local supplement store.
10. Drinking Healthy Will Help You Lose Belly Fat
It may take some serious effort and several weeks of diligent practice to develop healthy drinking into a habit. However, this is quite possibly the single most important piece of dietary advice when it comes to losing belly fat. (That’s why we saved it for last.)
Remember That Juice Is Not Fruit
The fiber in fruits and vegetables binds to the sugars they naturally contain and make them slower to digest. Thus they have less of an impact on blood-sugar and are far less likely to end up stored in your fat cells.
With all of the fiber removed, juices from those same fruits and vegetables fall into the simple-sugar category. Your body digests them quickly, they go straight into your blood stream, your blood-sugar levels rise and your pancreas responds by producing insulin. Insulin signals cells throughout the body to pull sugar from your blood stream and either use it for energy or store it as fat.
Read more about how blood-sugar affects your body in this article.
Cut Out The Alcohol
A good friend once told me, “You can’t drink a six-pack if you want to have a six-pack.” Seeing as how he was a professional bodybuilder and personal trainer with perfect washboard abs, I considered this sage advice.
While it’s true that beer is one of the worst (it’s basically liquid bread); in all of it’s myriad forms, alcohol in general is not your BFF when it comes to trimming your tummy. Sugary liquors and sweet wines also rank at the top of the list, as far as being bad for belly fat.
If you insist on enjoying a drink or two each week, make the conscious decision to drink dry red wines or low-calorie beers which contain less carbohydrates and thus will do less damage to your waistline. Remember, one serving of beer is 12 fluid ounces (that’s for a 5% gravity brew) and a single serving of wine is 5 fluid ounces.
For additional information on standard serving sizes for alcoholic beverages, the NIH offers a detailed explanation here.
Stay Away From Soda and Energy Drinks
Sodas and energy drinks are often full of simple sugars which create belly fat. Even calorie-free options wreak havoc on the metabolism and digestion due to artificial sweeteners and stimulants found in these types of beverages. While there may be some safe options out there, the best advice is to simply avoid them while you’re trying to shed those extra pounds.
Drink Enough Water
This really cannot be stated enough. Water helps everything in your body to move, function and cleanse itself properly. If you aren’t drinking enough water, you won’t burn belly fat as efficiently. Furthermore, drinking water ensures that any waste toxins released from expended fat tissue will exit your body smoothly and in a timely fashion without putting undue stress on your liver and kidneys. So if you want to burn belly fat, be sure to drink enough water. (You can use this calculator to find out how much your body needs.)
Or Drink Water With A Little Something Extra
Of course, drinking nothing but water all day every day can be pretty boring, especially if you’re used to soft drinks, juices and other belly fat burning ‘no-noes.’ Fortunately there are a few other options.
Green Tea is an excellent metabolism-booster which is also immensely good for your overall health.
Try adding a splash of lemon to your water to increase the hydration potential of your trusty H2O, give it a little flavor and add to it’s fat-burning potential.
Get the full scoop on more foods and drinks that will boost your metabolism and help your body to burn fat faster in this article!