Have you tried many diets, eat healthy and exercising frequently but find that no matter what you do there is still a layer of fat hanging around your mid-section? Doesn’t look nice on the beach yea? Belly fat is considered the worst kind of fat; it contains an enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen. Excess estrogen increases the number of alpha-receptors which inhibit fat metabolism and therefore blunt fat burning. So more belly fat means more estrogen, which in turn means more fat! Despite all this, it’s not hopeless; you can still lose weight and burn off that belly fat and get your dream beach body. Here are the 5 most common reasons why you’re not losing belly fat and how to overcome them!
Reason #1: You Don’t Restrict your Carbs Enough
It is hard to recommend a specific amount of carbs for cutting body fat. Requirements vary based on your gender (men have better tolerance), regularity and frequency of exercise (you can have more carbs on training days), your body composition (Leaner people tend to respond better to carbs). But aim to reduce your carbs to 30% of your diet. This will ensure you burn off body fat while still having enough energy to function.
Reason #2: You Eat Too Much Sugar Unknowingly
It is very important to avoid hidden sugar when it comes to losing your stubborn belly fat. Why? Sugar increases insulin release, which is a hormone that regulates blood sugar and fat storage. It takes sugar to your muscle cells to be used for immediate energy or to be stored as glycogen (energy source of the muscle). But if your glycogen stores are full, insulin will store excess sugar as fat.
Avoiding sugar means no refined white sugar. Remove it from your coffee or tea but also avoid eating foods that are high in hidden sugar like breakfast cereals and granola bars. Although advertised as “high in fiber” and displayed in the “healthy foods section” in some of the stores, these foods are processed and have added sugar. Some brands of instant oatmeal have up to 4 or 5 teaspoons of sugar in one serving! Make your own oatmeal instead or choose more natural forms of breakfasts likes eggs and greek yogurt!
Reason #3: You Still Drink Fruit Juices
Although fruits are rich in vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants, many are high in sugar. Sugar spikes your blood sugar levels fast, leading to higher insulin release and slowing down your fat burning process. Limit your fruit intake to 1 or 2 servings per day.
If you want to grab fruit as a snack, go for low sugar fruits like berries (strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries), kiwi, grapefruit or green apples. Low sugar fruits are also high in fiber. Also, make it a point to avoid fruit juices; although they are full of vitamins and minerals, they are also full of sugar. It takes around 3 to 4 oranges to make a single glass of juice! Instead, dilute your fruit juice with half water, or try having flavored waters instead.
Flavor your water by making infusions with ginger, lime, lemon, cucumber and mint.
Reason #4: You Have High Cortisol Levels
There are other factors than diet and exercise that can contribute to building-up those ugly fat layers – elevated cortisol levels.
Cortisol is a hormone that regulates our glucose metabolism, blood pressure and immune response. Above normal levels are problematic. Cortisol plays a role in mobilizing fat from storage depots and relocating it to fat cells in the abdomen. So basically, cortisol moves your fat from the periphery to the central region, your belly!
Sleep deprivation, chronic stress and skipping meals can all contribute to increased cortisol levels. Keep your cortisol levels normal by sleeping at least 7.5 to 9 hours per night.
Sleep deprivation makes us wake up with higher amounts of cortisol. A recent study published in Sleep investigated the effect of sleep duration on fat gain over a 5 year period and found that subjects who slept less than 5 hours per night accumulated abdominal fat!
Stress also increases your cortisol levels! Chronic work stress is related to increase in central fat stores according to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Regular exercise is one of the best ways to combat stress by releasing endorphins: “the feel good” hormones in the brain. Be sure to exercise at least 3 times per week.
Reason #5: You Are Over or Under Eating
You could be eating healthy and sleeping properly but not consuming the right amount of calories for your specific needs. In other words are you’re under eating or overeating?
You need to be on a caloric deficit of around 500 kcal to trim body fat. If the caloric deficit is too little, you will not see any results; if the caloric deficit is huge, you will lose muscle mass which will slow down your metabolism.
Calories requirements are different from person to person. Visit a nutritionist for advice on calorie intakes based on your age, gender and activity levels!
Once you know the amount of calories you need, count them! It might seem time consuming but you will get better results by tracking; prepare your meals in advance using proper measuring tools, and use a fitness app to track your macros.
To sum up, to get rid of stubborn belly fat:
- Avoid refined sugar, use stevia instead
- Avoid processed food like ready to eat breakfasts or low fat products, switch to whole and natural foods instead
- Limit your fruit intakes and go for berries, green apples and kiwis
- Stop juices, flavor your own water instead
- Don’t skip meals, have breakfast, lunch, dinner with 2 snacks
- Make sure you’re having the right amount of carbs for your age, gender and activity levels
- Make sure you’re on a deficit of 500 calories
- Sleep at least 6 hrs per day
- Exercise regularly
Wolf, R. 2010 The Paleo Solution. Las Vegas (NV): Victory Belt Publishing.
Brunner EJ, Chandola T, Marmot MG. Prospective effect of job strain on general and central obesity in the Whitehall II Study. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2007; 165: 828–837.
Hairston, Kristen G., et al. Sleep duration and five-year abdominal fat accumulation in a minority cohort: the IRAS family study. Sleep. 2010; 33.3: 289.