Don’t Focus on Losing Belly Fat

If one of your New Year’s resolutions was to lose the fat around your middle, you need to think again.

There’s no question your health and overall appearance will improve once your stomach fat is reduced.

But, assuming you want to get in shape by learning how to eat healthy, focusing on losing belly fat is the wrong thing to pivot on.

Here’s why…

1. You can’t lose belly fat
That’s right – the notion that certain foods and exercises target your belly fat is a persistent myth.

The claim that it’s possible to spot-reduce body fat comes from fad diets, and bogus claims on diet pill bottles.

In reality, spot-reduction of stomach fat is only possible if you opt for liposuction, or some other form of cosmetic surgery, which isn’t something I would recommend doing.

So, if it isn’t impossible to get rid of belly fat by doing abdominal crunches and eating cabbage soup – what can you do?

  • First of all, instead of trying to figure out how to lose belly fat, focus on making healthy food choices.
  • Don’t think about what you can’t eat, but focus on the positive – what you can eat.
  • Consume a wide variety of vegetables and fiber-rich fruits (berries are excellent), lean proteins (wild fish, grass-fed beef, lamb, pork, and poultry), healthy fats, and some whole grains.

2. Get moving
While you don’t need fancy exercise programs to get in shape – you don’t even need to go to the gym, in my opinion – you do need to be active.

Obviously, there are many ways to stay active, and if you have a favorite activity which keeps you off the couch, stick with it. If you don’t, walking is a great option. Aim for at least 30 minutes three times a week.

Daily, moderate-intensity exercise is the best way to reduce belly fat, because when you lose weight and tone your muscles, your belly fat will start to reduce too.

Some research suggests exercising with weights may be effective in trimming stomach fat. So, it could be worthwhile adding into your exercise routine as well.

3. Don’t focus on numbers
As you lose weight, your stomach size will decrease, but don’t be tempted to focus on the numbers. It’s so easy to jump on the scale every morning to check if you’ve lost anything, but it’s really enough to check your weight once a week.

If you haven’t lost any weight in a week, or maybe even gained a few pounds back, don’t panic. Your body needs time to adjust and adapt to your new eating habits and activity levels, which takes time.

Actually, it’s perfectly normal for your body to take a breather from losing weight for a week or so. Check out this article on weight loss plateau.

4. Believe in yourself
Remember, you don’t need a New Year’s resolution to get in shape – you can shape up on your own terms, anytime you want.

Believe that your body will treat you well if you take good care of it, by eating nutritious foods and being a little more active than normal.

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About Jennifer O'Neill
This is a guest post by Jennifer O'Neill


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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Cathy in NZ February 1, 2010 at 8:19 pm

Over the Summer, when I was away doing basically nothing but daily walk and alot of resting/watching the tides I started watching an American programme called The Biggest Loser.

Each week they weighed in & if they fell below a certain line they would be up for elimination…some weeks they wouldn’t lose a thing and the trainer/whoever would start to say later “that was because you didn’t do xyz” – whereas I thought, “no it was just one of those weeks” – the program later showed them at the final night when they could win quite large sums of money dependent on their weight loss….I was surprised how much weight had dropped (I assume all them had had some sort of cosmetic surgery to remove the previously seen rolls of fat)

I know it was just a game show but it seemed at times a bit far fetched…and I wasn’t really sure that the food products suggested (branded stuff) really was going to work. Actually I don’t think they showed any sort of food that they were eating other than supposedly water consumption and ‘what they previously chowed through’

- unbalanced in many ways…it was interesting though to see the hype placed on losing weight etc.
.-= Cathy in NZ´s last blog ..Helpmates in Unexpected Places =-.

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Melanie February 2, 2010 at 10:03 am

Hi Cathy,
Yes, I know the show you’re talking about. It’s certainly entertaining to watch.

While I think there are some good points from the show, I also think it’s wide open for teaching people unhealthy habits. The competitive nature of the show would be bad for most people, who would end up trying to lose the pounds at all costs, without giving much thought to the effect it’s having on their long-term health.

I’ve heard there are a lot of unhealthy practices going on behind the scenes too, such as participants starving themselves and purging before weigh-ins. Not good.

Anyway, it’s unrealistic for most of us. In our daily life we don’t have the luxury of a personal trainer, dietitian and chef on tap to help us lose weight.

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Ruth February 4, 2010 at 8:46 am

Thanks for this article, Melanie,
I agree it’s all about changing our habits, giving ourselves time, and focusing on overall health, rather than losing fat from a certain area.

I’ve never watched the Biggest Loser, but just knowing that Jillian Michael’s is on it puts me off! I don’t like her approach to diet and exercise: It’s gruesome, you miss out on what you like, but it’s the price to pay to be skinny. I tried out the “30 day shred” and discovered the benefits of circuit training, but I can’t stand her constant talk, a lot of which is not encouraging. Not to me, at least!

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Cathy in NZ February 4, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Hello Ruth

In the end, I realised it was quite a false-hope sort of show. At one point the male trainer was advising someone in his group that the guy in say Season 5 who had won, had returned straight away to his old self and now the size of a house…whether that was true or just a way to make someone focus I don’t know.

Yes, I noticed the hardness of the female trainer – I don’t think I ever saw a soft side to her. Even when they were on the electronic scale she had this huge ‘doubting’ face both before their totals and after their total for the week.

Everything was about brands. OK brands exist in the real world but it was if only that particular brand would make you lose weight. The year, that my TV channel was showing was Season 6 and I note from the website that they are somewhat further up the Seasons so obviously it’s a ‘popular show’ with good ratings.
.-= Cathy in NZ´s last blog ..Bad Hair Day (not mine!) + other interesting opinions… =-.

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Melanie February 5, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Hi Ruth,
Thanks for your comment.

I think Jillian Michaels annoys many people with her approach. I wouldn’t want to mess with her, lol It makes good TV though, I suppose people would find it too boring to watch if it didn’t have characters like Jillian there to pull viewings. A bit like Simon Cowell I imagine in the music business!

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Marina March 3, 2010 at 9:24 pm

If there is a thick layer of fat around your belly that looks ugly and spoiling your life chances are that you have slow metabolism and poor digestion caused by unhealthy eating habits.

In this case you will be able to lose fat around your waist faster than in other areas by switching to a healthy eating plan and combing it with quality exercise routine. Healthy diet will improve metabolic exchanges and flatten our belly naturally (to some point, after which, you will have to focus on overall weight loss diet plan combining it with moderate physical activity).
.-= Marina´s last blog ..Feb 26, Egg Grapefruit Diet Plan =-.

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Sam @ Lose Belly Fat November 25, 2010 at 2:00 am

Great advice about watching your diet when trying to get that flat stomach. I think this is one part of the equation that many people either don’t consider, or are not willing to commit to. I think it is probably easier to do the physical work than to adjust diet, at least for me.

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Melanie November 27, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Hi Sam,
I think I am the opposite. I don’t mind eating healthy, but my exercise regimen waxes and wanes!! However, it’s a work in progress :-)

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Wendy July 3, 2013 at 7:32 pm

Hi there – I’m new to this site and I badly need some advice.

Some background: I’m 49, female (guess you got that bit!) and menopausal. I was a big girl at school and bullied for it. At University I found a great way to lose the weight (and ruin my life). Bulimia. I have been ashamed and sickened by my secret for 35 years. Alcohol had also crept up on me. But (because of the purging) I was never fat. 5’3″ (158 cms) and 110 lbs (50kgs). I workout or run 5 times a week. My problem is an ugly spare tyre around my belly which I loathe to Hell. It’s been there all my life – it’s the reason I purged and drank.

3 weeks ago, I decided to completely change my life. Out went purging – and alcohol. Also out went white refined sugar and flour, pastas, cereals, cakes, bread, sweets, crisps, any boxed or pre-packaged meals, fast food, fried (in bad fat) food and junk food, trans fats and biscuits. Why? Because my Mum and my Granny are both type 2 adult-onset diabetics. I’m very carb resistant (I suspect) and next in line – no thanks! I’m also gluten intolerant, so out went grains, too.

Now it’s a healthy mix of good fats (coconut oil, butter, omega 3′s etc), fish, lean chicken, eggs (our own and omega 3 enriched), salad stuffs and non-starchy veggies. Lots and lots of fresh water every hour. Full-fat dairy (in moderation) eg natural greek yoghurt etc. I have a sweet tooth, so the snacks that keep me on the straight and narrow (at 11am, 4pm and 8pm) are tiny muffins made from a low carb cookbook and sweetened with stevia/erythritol. Same combo goes in my morning yoghurt to sweeten it.

So – what’s going wrong? In the 3 weeks (NO cheating) I’ve piled on 3 kgs and I look and feel like a bloated whale. My motivation is strained and I’m at my wits end. This is my personal nightmare – gaining weight. I’m not constipated, but I suspect it’s water – the thought that it might be fat is too horrible to think about. I’m doing a 30 min weight workout each morning. I can’t be trading muscle for fat, because the fat is horribly visible – like a Massey Furgusen tractor tyre slung around my midriff. Buddha in the bath……

I’m NOT going back to the old me. But I need some answers, advice and support.

PLEASE help. Thanks.

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