I always get asked “I’m losing weight but not belly fat. Why?”
It’s easy to lose weight and VERY easy to go wrong with it.
You can lose weight by extreme dieting, crash dieting, not drinking enough water, you can even lose weight when you have DIARRHEA.
Why did I just mention diarrhea? I’m just trying to say that there are many ways to weight loss but very few of them actually address the real reasons we gain weight, especially around the abdomen.
Have you lost weight but not your belly fat? Sorry, Your scale is LYING to you.
Most common weight loss methods are actually either causing you to lose water weight or muscle mass, or even bone weight, none of which is the intention. We do not want to lose too much water just to trick ourselves into thinking we’ve lost weight. Neither should we be happy when we end up losing our muscle or bone mass instead of actual fat.
Let’s first understand why we get so fat, especially around the belly. When you understand the WHY, it becomes very easy to make changes that bring real results.
- Our metabolism slows down as we grow older, which means we burn fewer calories every decade from our 20s. In our 20s and 30s it’s a slow and steady decline of around 2% per decade, but the rate of decline becomes much more dramatic in our 40s and 50s. One reason for this is we no longer produce new bone, so we need fewer calories to begin with.
- While metabolism slows down and we need fewer calories than we did when we were younger, we either continue to eat the same way as before or we eat even more processed and refined foods for the same of convenience.
- We are far less active, spending long hours sitting at a desk inside air conditioned cubicles.
- Stress. We are very stressed all the time. Stress plays a huge role in weight gain around the abdomen. This is because when we are stressed, the body secretes stress hormones like cortisol which converts stored muscle into fuel for immediate use (glucose), because our ancestors used to need extra energy during times of stress to fight or run from predators. We no longer face the same kind of threat, but stress hormones cannot differentiate between chronic stress and real life threatening situations, and continue to convert muscle into glucose. Most of this glucose remains unused and is then deposited as belly fat, raising triglyceride and cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and heart disease. This also contributes to insulin insensitivity and type 2 diabetes.
- We sleep less. Sleep signals the body to stop producing stress hormones, and any lack of sleep contributes to elevated stress hormone levels causing the same problems as mentioned above.
- Caffeine. This comes as a surprise to many, but caffeine stimulates the release of stress hormones (which makes us feel alert and not sleepy). Again, this contributes to belly fat in the same way.
- Alcohol. Like a drink? We all know how that contributes to belly fat.
- Thankfully, it’s not all bad news. We can do something to reduce belly fat (as well as lose weight the right way).
Here are some simple lifestyle changes to help reduce belly fat:
1. Eat nutrient dense whole foods. This means lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which contain essential nutrients that your body needs for proper functioning, and fibre which helps satiate and fill you up.
2. Cut back on processed foods which contain added sugars and refined grains which are devoid of any nutrients, as well as other additives and preservatives.
3. Download the booklet above for healthy snacks ideas. Seriously. You need to eat smaller meals throughout the day and HAVE HEALTHY SNACKS. I cannot stress this enough. Most people focus on cutting back calories to such an extent that they never consider snacking an option until they get too hungry, and by then it’s usually too late and they are reaching for the most convenient (and often unhealthy) snacks such as chips or cookies or so-called ‘healthy’ bars which are all full of sugar, refined carbs and unhealthy additives. Focus your energy on healthy snacking throughout the day to nourish your body and you will find your cravings, belly fat and your weight disappear. FOR GOOD.
4. Exercise. Weight bearing exercises strengthen the bones and help build muscle, helping to boost your metabolic rate. Aerobic exercise (even walking is great) helps burn excess calories.
5. Practice stress management. This is far more important than people realize. Chronic stress is a major risk factor for several diseases.
6. Sleep at least 8 hours a day.
7. Minimize caffeine consumption. Replace coffee or tea with herbal tea. Coffee stimulates the body’s stress hormones, which convert stored fat from everywhere in the body into sugar for immediate use (the fight or flight response). This extra sugar seldom gets used and ends up getting deposited around the abdomen (belly fat).
8. Avoid alcohol and other sugar sweetened beverages.
NOTE – Just caloric restriction is not the goal here. Only restricting calories may help with weight loss in the short term, but you will quickly put on all the lost weight unless you take the steps to make these simple lifestyle changes.