As we get older, we put on weight in three main parts of our bodies: the belly, hips, and thighs. But that’s not a consequence of ageing; that’s a result of our habits and lifestyle.
What we eat, how much we move, and how much we eat, are some of causes of belly fat, but there’s more much to it.
During our daily lives, we spend a lot of time sitting. We drive to work in our cars, and we use our car to go back home. Spending most of our day in a chair reduces our activity levels, so more of the food we eat is stored as fat instead of being burned for fuel.
If you reduce your levels of belly fat, your body will look more attractive, but I can also tell you that, in my experience, this is just one of the awesome benefits. There are lots more good things to come!
Less belly fat means more benefits:
- More self-esteem – physically you look better, psychology you’ve achieved your goal, it’s a double win!
- More energy – you’ll have less weight to drag around, and that means everyday tasks and exercise are easier and less tiring
- More willpower – if you can lose belly fat, you can make other changes to your body, diet, lifestyle, and health. You’ll find it easier to achieve all your goals
- More clarity – less foggy mindedness means more productivity and creativity
- More calm – more activity and less sugar means more stable blood glucose levels, and more energy, and that will reduce your anxiety levels
Why am I gaining weight around my lower stomach?
These are the most common causes for gaining belly fat, along with alternatives and solutions to help change your habits and get rid of it forever. Gradually replace your unhealthy habits with new, healthier habits, to improve your wellbeing and lose belly fat at the same time!
Inactivity – not enough walking
Most people spend all their work time sitting down. They also drive to and from work too. In fact, you probably spend more time sat down than anything else you do all day. Sitting down uses very little energy, and unused energy from food soon turns into fat – especially around your belly.
Fix this problem by enjoying a 20-minute walk every day. Call on a neighbor or friend and make your walk more sociable and enjoyable. Walk briskly to get your heart rate up and so you are slightly out of breath. If you have a dog or kids, why not take them too?
If you feel like going a step further, run for five minutes and then walk for five minutes. Repeat as many times as you feel comfortable. There is no need to go crazy, and it’s better to do a little today and more tomorrow, than do too much today and none tomorrow! After all, tomorrow is a new day. However far you walk, try and do it regularly, but remember that even one walk per week is better than none.
If you’re used to running, try and get out and run for 15 minutes or more. Get your body moving and sweating. Exercise not only helps you to stay in shape by burning calories, but also keeps your cardiovascular system working smoothly, and makes your skin glow. It’s very good for your leg muscles too.
Eating too many high sugar and processed foods (bad carbs)
Your body needs only a few grams of sugar to keep on working, and it’s designed to store any excesses and reserve them an uncertain future. When you eat high sugar and processed foods, your body uses just a little of the energy they contain, and then the rest is stored as fat. This fat is stored around your liver, which contributes to belly fat!
For this reason, try to avoid buying and eating processed food. If you really have to buy it, check the food labels to see just how much sugar it contains. Remember, an adult should not consume more than 33 grams of sugar per day. That might sound like a lot, but that’s how much sugar is in a can of coke.
Why not join my 20 No-Sugar Days Challenge? See the results for yourself after just seven days without added sugar. Fruit is allowed and recommended. I created this challenge to help me break my sugar addiction, and I’m sure you can do it too. The challenge is 100% FREE! Start here.
Drinking alcohol on a regular basis
One beer can contain as much as 12 grams of sugar per serving. Spirits contain at least 10 grams of sugar per ounce. Mojitos, Margaritas and Caipirinhas can contain over 30 grams of sugar per serving. That’s a lot of unwanted sugar!
Beers, distilled spirits, and mixed drinks are all high in sugar. If you regularly drink lots of alcohol, your diet is high in sugar, and your body will store this sugar as fat around the liver to create more belly fat.
Red and white wine contain only 1 or 1.5 grams of sugar per serving, so you can feel free to enjoy an occasional glass of wine!
Drinking sugary drinks like sodas
One regular-sized can of coke contains 33 grams of sugar, which is the maximum amount of sugar an adult should have per day. Most people eat way more sugar than this when you stop and consider the sugar in other foods such breakfast cereals, candy, processed meals, and snacks.
And it’s not just coke; all sodas are high in sugar. Don’t take my word for it; check the nutrition labels on your favorite beverages the next time you go to the supermarket. You will be so surprised!
Drink water, prepare your own fruit juices, smoothies, or even milkshakes. Drink green or black tea without adding sugar. I used to always add sugar to my morning coffee, but I don’t anymore.
It can take a while to get used to it if you have always added sugar to tea and coffee in the past but, over time, you will soon come to enjoy the real taste of unsweetened beverages as sugar often masks their true flavor.
Overeating – eat what you need there is no need to overeat
When you eat, your brain is flooded with dopamine, which produces feelings of happiness and pleasure. This is why we enjoy eating, and why eating is often a reward or a celebration.
When we eat high sugar food, the amount of dopamine released is very, VERY high. That’s why many people really enjoy sugary and highly processed food.
This is also why people often crave high sugar food; they are after that dopamine fix; it’s what your brain wants more and more.
We get great pleasure from eating, because our brains always reward us for that behavior by producing dopamine.
More food means more dopamine and a happier brain, but it also means increased fat stores. Your body is happy about this too because the more fat you have, the better equipped you are to deal with periods of food scarcity. Of course, in the modern world, food is never really scarce!
Unfortunately, your body doesn’t appreciate that you’ve got enough fat stored already and makes you crave more and more food. This leads to habitual overeating, and we eat not because we need to but because we crave the dopamine.
Our brains have lost their way and are literally addicted to high sugar foods. The only way to stop this addiction is to break the sugar habit and get things back in balance again. (Try my 20 no-sugar days challenge here). We should make an effort to eat what we need instead of constantly overeating.
Low-fiber diet – eat more greens
If you usually eat in restaurants, or buy processed food, you probably don’t have enough fiber in your diet.
Processed food is very low in fiber. I recommend that you have a look at the nutrition label on processed foods and you’ll soon see that fiber is nonexistent. Fiber keeps your digestive system healthy, and that can help reduce bloating, leaving you with a happy, healthy, flatter belly.
To get more fiber in your meals, try to prepare more of your own food. Choose some healthy recipes you like. Get the ingredients all together on a piece of paper or on your phone. Go to the supermarket and buy exactly what you need. Spend a couple of hours in your kitchen preparing five lunch meals for the week. Place each meal in a container, freeze it, or put it in the fridge. In the morning, grab your lunch as you leave for work or school.
This way, you can enjoy a homemade meal at work in your lunch hour, avoiding spending money at a restaurant. Or, even worse, eating junk food and putting on eight.
When cooking at home, or going to restaurants, don’t go always for carbs like French fries, potatoes, rice and pasta. Instead, pick vegetables and salads. Not only does this add more fiber to your diet, it also reduces the amount of sugar and calories, making your meal, lighter and easier to digest. This means more energy, less sleepiness after eating, and more focus to finish your work tasks.
Simple actions for reducing belly fat
These actions are listed from easy to more advanced. Take baby steps to incorporate these behaviors in your daily life.
Avoid sugar – the number one cause of obesity and belly fat
Avoid high sugar foods: cereals, sodas, cookies, ice cream, candy bars, and most processed food. Read more at Five processed foods to avoid and their alternatives.
As an alternative, go for no-added sugar foods: make your own ice cream, prepare low sugar cakes and desserts, drink water, tea or coffee. For more ideas please read Looking for no-added sugar foods.
5 simple ideas to you can start implementing today, find it here.
Reduce alcohol – high in sugar and bloats your stomach
Most alcoholic beverages are high in sugar, which is why you feel bloated after too much beer. But don’t take my word for it; see for yourself. If you regularly drink a beer or two per day, try a week without beer, and you will see that your belly is much less bloated.
Daily Walks – if you don’t usually walk very much
If you are like me, you drive to work, work sat at a desk, and then drive home again. You are not walking enough. Because you spend most of your day seated, your body doesn’t get enough activity, and so you will accumulate fat around your belly.
Start with a 20-minute walk after work or at lunchtime, or wake up early and start your day with a walk. It doesn’t matter when you walk, so long as you do more of it.
Your body needs daily physical activity to keep it working.
Avoid soda and any beverages with added sugar.
High sugar drinks make you bloated and crave more sugary food.
As well as walking, why not try our 5 Minutes Home Workout Routine to Lose Belly Fat.
Or you could try running. If you are not used to it, start out with regular walking, try alternating five minutes of walking with five minutes of running, and start slow.
5 Minutes Home Workout Routine to Lose Belly Fat
This is a set of exercises especially designed to help you burn the extra fat accumulated around your tummy.
Reduce carbs – try a low carb week
I’ve just published a 5-week breakfast, lunch and dinner plan. All the meals are tasty, healthy, and low in carbs. Try it for 7 days and see the benefits for yourself. Challenge coming soon …
If you can’t go without pasta and rice, go for the whole grain version instead e.g. wild rice instead of white rice. They taste as good, but are lower in carbs and calories, but higher in fiber.
Avoid processed food – eat more homemade food
Fast food, junk food, and processed food is high in salt, sugar and trans fat. That’s why you feel so bloated after chips, takeout hamburgers, or frozen meals. High salt diets lead to high blood pressure (Ask Sarah – Why We Should Eat Less Salt). Sugar and trans fats increase the fat stores around your liver, making your belly even fatter.
Try this for yourself to see the results: for one week, prepare your own meals and eat no junk food, takeouts, or processed food. You will be surprised (but happy) with the results.
We have a lot of recipes: low carb, low sugar, slow cooker, smoothies, superfood recipes, meal replacement shakes, paleo, homemade protein bars, soups, ice creams and more. All organized here.
Don’t start smoking or quit smoking
Smoking increases the chances of storing fat (from sugar) in your abdomen, rather than your thighs and hips. Some people start smoking to help them lose weight because it can also help curb your appetite, but it doesn’t really work. It’s also very bad for you. If you don’t smoke, don’t ever start. And if you do smoke, it’s time to quit.
Fasting is a huge and very interesting topic. I’m still doing my research but, so far, the results have surprised me in a marvelous way! Fasting is not just about “not eating” but is way more profound and impactful. You need to be well informed before trying 24-hours of fasting, or not eating for even longer periods.
But, for the purpose of losing belly fat, I recommend that you try three days of intermittent fasting.
For three days, you will skip breakfast. That’s what I do most days of the week. I wake up at 8 a.m., skip my breakfast, and have my first meal of the day at 12 p.m.
Then, one hour before your lunch, have some fruit. That’s very, very important; break your fast with fruit, not bread, not processed food, and not sugar. Always break your fast with raw fruit.
In the morning, you may feel what you think is hunger but, believe me, it’s only cravings. You have enough energy stored in your body that you can use for energy. Missing breakfast will not cause you to starve!
When you feel these cravings, ask yourself “Am I really hungry? If I am, let’s have a couple of carrots!”
Your next thought will most certainly be “What I really want is that granola, or those cereals, or a piece of toast with butter or jam”.
That’s not hunger; those are cravings.
You will now experience the mighty power cravings have, but don’t worry, if you don’t pay any attention to your cravings, they will soon fade away. Cravings come and go.
After just one morning of skipping breakfast, I’m sure you will feel less bloated, calmer, and have more energy. That’s just the beginning of the fasting experience.
Soon I will write a lot more about this topic, but I’m still experimenting and studying to learn how to master fasting to achieve the best possible results.
What do the studies say about belly fat?
“Unlike fat parked on the hips and thighs, fat around the middle produces substances that can create serious health risks.” from Harvard Health Publications “Taking aim at belly fat”
Harvard Health Publications have published an article about the health implications of belly fat. In this article, the author separates the subcutaneous from the visceral fat.
90% of our belly fat is subcutaneous and the other 10% is called visceral or intra-abdominal fat. In this 10%, researchers have found what looks to be a host of chemicals and molecules with “potentially deleterious health effects”.
The same article also gives a warning: “Different studies and researchers have found that visceral fat can have implications on different chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, dementia, asthma, breast cancer and colorectal cancer.”
So, I highly recommend that you slowly start changing some of your bad habits, and incorporate new ones. It’s way easier than you think! And as well as losing belly fat, you’ll have more energy, feel less bloated, have more motivation for other challenges and goals, and have greater mental clarity and focus. This all adds up to more happiness, less stress, and more productivity and creativity.