When you can grab a handful of flesh from your abdomen, you might be worried that you will never lose it. Taming your belly fat is troubling for many, and there are a lot of myths about the best ways to tackle the problem.
Holly Lofton, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine and director of the weight management program at NYU Langone Medical Center states, “When it comes to losing belly fat, there’s a lot of misinformation out there.” Different people will swear by different diets and techniques, but it all comes down to your lifestyle choices.
Learn about some of your “healthy” habits that may be interfering with your efforts and progress and figure out how you can tone your midsection best.
1. You are eating too many frozen meals, packaged meal bars, and processed snacks.
Even when snacks and meals are labeled as “low-calorie,” processed foods are almost always going to be higher in sugar and sodium. This will ultimately hit your waistline. Lofton states, “Salty foods lead to belly bloat, and your body stores excess sugar—even in its natural forms, like honey—as fat.”
A recent study published in the journal Hepatology showed that people who are consuming snacks that are high in fat and sugar will tend to hold onto extra belly fat than those who get most of their calories from well-balanced meals.
2. You focus too much on crunches.
When you try to target one part of the body by spot training, like doing crunches, this will not help you lose fat in this area. Lofton explains, “You have to lose weight overall to see results.” While crunches or other targeted moves will help to build muscle, the muscle will remain hidden under the layers of fat until you lose the excess weight. This can actually make your belly look bigger as your muscles grow.
Instead, try to focus on moves that work your whole body, or multiple groups of muscles. This is especially important for your core. A strong core helps to prevent injuries, and building up your larger muscle groups will help you burn more calories and lose more weight.
3. You’re not getting enough sleep.
You probably already know that not getting enough sleep is not good for your health. But, you may not realize that losing sleep can lead to increased belly fat.
A recent study conducted by Wake Forest University found that people who slept 5 hours or less per night, on average, weighed more—specifically carrying more fat in their belly area. This is related to the hunger hormones that are controlled by proper sleep, since they can often increase when you are tired. Not only will you eat more, you will have less energy to get to the gym and work off those extra calories. All the more reason to get enough shut-eye every night!
4. You focus on weights at the gym.
Although it’s true that weight lifting does build muscle mass and can help you burn more calories, if you want to trim your body then you have to do plenty of moderate and high intense cardio work. Lofton states, “Aerobic exercise is key to burning those calories stored as fat.” Work up a good sweat while you are at the gym, and add in some extra resistance work to burn the fat, especially in the belly area.
5. You’re eating too much good fat.
It’s true that the fats that are contained within avocados, nuts, and vegetable oils help to fill you up and promote weight loss, but you still have to be careful about how much you take in. It’s easy to take in too much. One ounce of almonds, which is a small handful, contains about 165 calories, so eating an entire bag can add tons of extra calories to your diet. Measure your servings carefully, and add just enough of these healthy fats to get the benefits without adding unnecessary fat to your diet.
6. You still drink diet soda.
By now, you really should have kicked this habit. There has been a great deal of research showing the potential risks associated with regular intake of diet soda, not the least of which is storing more fat in your body than you need. The artificial sweeteners contained in the beverages seem to slow metabolism, according to several studies.
And, other studies have shown that those who drink diet sodas frequently reward themselves for restraining by adding sweet treats elsewhere in their diets. If you like bubbly drinks, try switching to flavoured seltzer or flavoured water, just squeeze some lemon or lime into your drink. Lofton explains, “Your body uses water to break down fat cells, so it’s important to stay hydrated.” Herbal teas are another great option.
Sure, belly fat can be pesky to tackle, but if you are aware of some of the so-called healthy habits you follow, then you might have a chance at conquering it once and for all.