But still have a bigger belly than you would like?
First – I want you to stop feeling guilty about it. It is NOT your fault.
It is not down to will power, but...
Other factors, which I covered in ‘Why dieting doesn’t work‘ include gut microbiome & inflammation. If you suffer from frequent food coma, or that afternoon lull after lunch (in combination with brain fog) – you may have a higher circulating level of insulin that is causing belly fat.
Now, first let’s bust some common myths here about belly fat:
Exercising is the best way to lose weight and get rid of belly fat. Contrary to popular belief, exercise is NOT the best way to lose weight OR belly fat. Exercise is essential for health, and I recommend daily exercise to everyone (..no I don’t mean daily gym sessions, I mean exercise and movement incorporated into your daily lives and an active lifestyle like the centenarians of the blue zones). There is no disputing how beneficial exercise is for our body and mind. However, if you are trying to lose weight, looking at what’s on your plate is much more useful.
Yes, exercise does burn calories but remember that body weight set point I talked about in ‘Why dieting doesn’t work : if you burn more calories your body will just make you more hungry…so you eat more.. and your weight will stay the same.. unless you restricted calories – in which case you DO lose weight, but it is very terribly miserable and therefore does not lead to lasting results.
Plus, there is such a thing as ‘Over-exercising’ – intensive training is a form of ‘stress’ on our bodies and if not done correctly, can lead to increased stress hormones to be released (e.g. cortisol) which then can lead to INCREASED belly fat.
Crunches and ab exercises help me get a flat belly. NO! Crunches will tone your abdominal muscles but it cannot get rid of what’s known as the ‘visceral fat’ surrounding your organs and visceral fat is the main contributor to ‘belly fat’. By all means, do the abdominal crunches and exercise, this will help to strengthen your core and help you build strength and prevent backaches and injuries but sadly it will NOT lead to a flat belly.
To get a flat belly you need to get rid of the visceral fat. To do that you need to tackle the hormones that’s telling your body to deposit belly fat by changing your diet, reducing inflammation in your body.
I need to count calories and restrict that! No. Calorie counting does not work (long term) – as I explained in my post on ‘Why dieting doesn’t work’. What I do recommend though… is ‘counting nutrients’.
When you break down hunger and REALLY analyze it, you will realize that a lot of the time, we are not truly ‘hungry’ when we think we are – we might crave food because of habit association e.g. munchies whilst watching TV, popcorn at the cinema, hot dog and chips at the game.
We want to eat because we have formed habits and associations with certain activities. Also, if we have built up reward circuits in our brain e.g. with sugar, where you get a high/feel rewarded by eating sugar, your brain will send you signals to WANT sugar even when you are not hungry, just to feel good (i.e. craving).
And once that reward circuit is established, you will need regular hits in order to feel ‘normal’ or good. It is nothing to do with will power anymore, your brain has been hijacked.
Also, your body needs nutrients and when it does not get them, it makes your hungry – hungry for nutrients – so focus on eating nutrient dense foods will help you with food cravings and ‘hunger’.
I need to eat more proteins and less carbs. This notion has been promoted by faddy diets like Atkins, based on the idea that protein does not affect your blood sugar and therefore does not lead to weight gain. However, too much animal protein can lead to inflammation and insulin resistance.
And what does inflammation and insulin resistance do? It leads to weight gain.
And in fact, protein has the same effect on insulin as sugar i.e. protein can cause the same insulin spike as sugar. So, although you may temporarily lose weight by following these faddy diets, it is questionable whether you can achieve long term health and more likely than not, the weight will just pile back on once the diet is over – because you did not really address the underlying issue that is causing weight gain. In fact, anything that leads to insulin resistance will make you gain weight even more rapidly when you resume a normal diet.
In my next article, I will talk about the hormones that lead to belly fat and what you can do to ‘reset it’. Stay tuned and sign up to my newsletter so you don’t miss it.