Many people have a hard time reducing fat around their midsection normally due to poor dietary, lifestyle and exercise choices (yes even exercise can increase belly fat! I explain this below). Aside from aesthetics, carrying extra fat specifically around your abdomen (the nerdy term is visceral fat) is a clear sign of hormonal imbalance and is actually harmful to your health as these fat cells are found in the spaces surrounding the liver, intestines, and other organs. Visceral fat accounts for about 10% of body fat in most people, and it can actually pave the way for increased risks of diseases like diabetes, heart disease and dementia.
The two of the most common hormone imbalances responsible for visceral fat are chronically elevated levels of insulin and cortisol. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels to tell us whether to store or burn fat, and cortisol is a hormone that is released when our body is under stress (it fluctuates throughout the day which is completely normal), but if either are at constantly high levels your body actually resists weight loss and what shows up is the dreaded ab flab!
So what can you do to help rebalance these hormones?
- Get sufficient sleep: Make it a priority to get your 7-9 hours of sleep to keep cortisol regulated.
- Manage stress: You can’t avoid stress, but look at ways you can control it like meditation, deep belly breathing, and moderate exercise. If you drink coffee, reduce consumption as it worsens already high cortisol levels and opt for green tea instead.
- Don’t overdo the exercise: There is a fine line between training hard and overtraining. Too much exercise can push the body’s stress response too far, actually harming your efforts in losing belly fat as over exerting your body increases cortisol production. Look to incorporate a fitness routine that includes heavy weight training, with a few high intensity exercises and yoga to keep cortisol regulated. Also rest days are crucial to help repair and restore the body so don’t be afraid of a little time off if you want to see results.
- Avoid alcohol: Skip the 6-pack if you want that six pack ’cause it ain’t called a beer belly for nothing. This includes juices and sodas. Liquid calories and refined sugar causes insulin to spike and store fat instead of use it as fuel. Instead, load up on filtered water. General guideline is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water (at least!) throughout the day to help clean out your system and increase metabolism.
- Upgrade your nutrition: In order to take advantage of insulin’s fat burning effects, consume your starchy carbohydrates post workout and focus the rest of your meals with a quarter of your plate of lean protein, a couple tablespoons of healthy fats like nuts, seeds, avocado, and olive oil, and at least half your plate with fibrous (non-starchy) vegetables and leafy greens. Pictured below is a great example of a belly fat-burning meal.
Pictured: Baby kale, parsley, tuna, hummus, carrots, olives, dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds. Find more meal examples and tips on my Instagram feed.
If you’ve already been implementing these tips and still not seeing a reduction in belly fat, this would call for further investigation and it’s best to work with a qualified health practitioner to uncover the root cause and find the solution. Book your free 30 Minute Coaching Call with me to help uncover what’s really going on!