How to Lose Love Handles: Burning Belly Fat
Probably one of the most common reasons we begin a health and fitness journey is because we want to look better and feel more confident, and one of the most common obstacles we face is getting rid of belly fat.
Let’s face it, we all getting healthier and stronger and living long happy lives. But we just would love if we could get rid of the extra weight around our midsection and that might be our main motivator, and that’s absolutely fine, it is a nice goal. However it is definitely not an easy feat, and regardless of how many intense hours of crunches and cardio we can’t seem to get into that fit body we all crave.
Let’s take a look today at some research to see what is the best way to achieve this goal and not only look better but improve our health and prevent disease by reducing our waist the smart way.
Why do I have belly fat?
There are a few reasons why you might be accumulating some extra insulation around your belly:
You have a higher body fat percentage. Usually, genetics and hormones will determine body fat distribution, but people with higher fat percentages will have bigger bellies.
You’re a man. Men tend to have a thicker midsection, this is called android (male) fat distribution due to their visceral fat stores seeming to absorb a greater proportion of dietary fat.
You are a postmenopausal female. Hormonal changes after menopause will produce a shift in body fat distribution, with a decrease in leg fat, and an increase in abdominal fat.
You’re counting more candles on your birthday cake. As fat cells age, they secrete more inflammatory factors and also get redistributed from subcutaneous fat to visceral fat.8
You’re under a lot of stress and produce more cortisol. When in excess this particular hormone will be absolved on the abdominal visceral fat.
Genetics. Some genes have been linked to different fat distribution patterns. We all have these genes but they express differently in everyone and can lead to a predisposition to carry more fat around our midsection compared to our limbs. 10,11
Why fat matters
There are two types of fat that can be stored around our midsection. The first one is subcutaneous fat, the one that lies under our skin but outside our abdominal muscle wall, far from our organs.
The second one, which was already mentioned above is visceral fat, the one that lies deep in our abdomen and surrounds our organs. This is the one we should be more careful about because it can have a negative impact on inflammation, formation of arterial plaque, and an increased risk of metabolic conditions like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
No spot reduction is possible
Sorry to break it out to you. Regardless of all the magazines, influencers, and online articles that promote exercises, superfoods, or diet tricks to burn that belly fat or give you defined abs in X weeks, spot reduction of fat to a specific body part, like your abdomen, is just not possible.
Belly fat will go away as a result of total body fat loss, which will go away with appropriate changes to our habits in physical activity, nutrition, stress management, sleep, etc. And just so you have a general idea, to lose about an inch of waist circumference you need to lose about 4-5 pounds of overall body weight. And a healthy and sustainable rate of weight loss would be about 0.8-2 pounds per week to maintain the results long-term without compromising good health.
It is important to understand this to avoid unrealistic expectations on results, looks, and timeframe of our goals.
Measuring belly fat through waist circumference.
Research shows that there is a direct relationship between waist size and higher mortality risk of approximately 25%, even in people without other markers of health risk like a normal BMI, non-smokers, no prevalent disease, and across different ethnical groups.
Measurement should be performed in the waist 1 inch (2.5 cm) above the navel, over the edge of the hip bone. A “large waist circumference” was classified as being higher than 102 cm (about 40in) for men and over 88 cm (about 35in) for women as recommended by the World Health Organization.
Abs are made in the kitchen and more useful advice
You probably heard this one and is absolutely true. The biggest results will come from your effort in maintaining proper nutrition from all the exercise, massages, or crunches you could do all day long. Here are some general tips to keep in mind:
Consume slightly fewer calories than you do now to ensure a healthy weight loss
Focus on minimally processed whole foods and a wide variety of nutritious ones, specially vegs and fruits, and make it enjoyable to you so it is easy to maintain in the long term
Try eating more vegs, fruits, and protein as all of these will help you stay satisfied for longer.
Find some form of movement and physical activity that you like and try to do it very often. It doesn’t have to be perfect just needs consistency.23 So no need for long intensive sessions and endless ab crunches if you don’t like them. Find something you enjoy and stick to it, and it is also totally fine to change your mind in the middle and experiment with new activities.
Add other healthy habits and strategies to your daily effort to maintain a healthy body weight like drinking more water, sleeping 7-9 hours every night, going for a daily walk, etc.