You only need to be online for approximately 2.35 minutes before a pop-up ad will appear somewhere on your screen telling you how to lose 5 kilos in 2 weeks.
“Want to know how to lose belly fat fast? Just eat this fruit every day.”
“Dying to figure out how to lose weight fast? Eat these four foods and you will lose belly fat fast.”
“Looking to get a flat tummy quickly? Take these pills harvested by rainbow unicorns hand-reared on kale to have a flat stomach in 10 minutes.”
Could it be true that we can eat miraculous foods to give us the rippled stomach of our dreams? No freakin’ way, according to Georgie Rist from the Dietitians Association of Australia.
How to lose belly fat naturally
“Body weight is largely influenced by the balance between energy in versus energy out, but age, genetics and dietary composition may play a part,” she tells. “There is no quick fix nor one-size-fits-all when it comes to weight loss or losing belly fat.”
“Weight loss occurs across the body when following a weight loss nutritional and exercise plan, but there are some dietary and lifestyle approaches that may help enhance more abdominal fat loss, such as including green tea (up to 6 cups), reducing sugar, eating smaller meals and more slowly, learning to breathe correctly and practising mindfulness and stress management.”
What to eat to lose belly fat
It’s not a great mystery that fresh fruit and vegetables, and lean protein hold the key to weight control, so looking at what goes into our bodies is a good start.
“Excess energy, high sugar, refined carbohydrates, high saturated fat, excess alcohol and excess food can contribute to expanding waistlines and therefore abdominal fat,” tells Georgie.
“Additionally, poor gut health can contribute to weight gainand inflammation which can interfere with fat loss. An unhealthy gut can also cause bloating which may play a role in perceived high belly fat. High salt intake and stress can also cause bloating and expanding waistbands.”
Gut health is obviously important for a flat tummy, but less obviously, so is our mental health. Many people don’t realise the effects that stress has on belly fat, and by reducing our stress levels we may be able to kick-start our road to Midriff City.
When your stress levels are high your body produces more of the hormone cortisol, which makes your body resist weight loss.
Stress makes your body think you’re in danger and you might starve, so you hang on to the calories you consume like a squirrel storing nuts for winter.
“Learn how to switch off and implement stress management strategies, such as laughing, giving back, meditation, yoga, floating, cooking, talking with a friend, writing or whatever you find relaxing to switch off your stress hormone, cortisol,” suggests Georgie.
“Stress triggers our fight or flight response and was useful when we were running from tigers in the wild but we aren’t doing that as much anymore. Cortisol can also be your enemy when raised long term and when coupled with an unhealthy diet and lifestyle, plays havoc on your health and waistline.”
What exercise to do to lose belly fat
So, we can’t diet to spot reduce our pouchy bellies so perhaps exercise is how to lose belly fat? Perhaps a million sit-ups a day with the Turbo Ab-Blaster 3000?
Here are 3 things you need to know about exercising for weight loss
1. “Sit-ups will not reduce belly fat,” says trainer Felicity Aitken from Dynamic Health and Fitness, whose 15-year fitness career has taught her the secret to taut tummies.
2. “Sit-ups are actually bad for your back, as are planks. Women who have experienced abdominal split after pregnancy and childbirth can even find sit-ups make their tummy rounder and make the separation more prominent,” she continues.
3. “Functional training is much more beneficial for the core and therefore abdominals. Flipping tires, reaching exercises and sprints are all great for mid-section, but still, they will train and tone your entire body and not just one area.”
But don’t overdo it…
Although we need to be mindful of our overall body fat because too much is a health risk, too little fat causes issues also.
“Women are supposed to have some belly, arm and hip fat as it helps to regulate the menstrual cycle,” says Felicity. “If you have too little body fat it can stop your period.
“Many people think more and more training is the key to weight loss, but rest and relaxation is just as important to allow the body to recover and bring our stress levels down.”
The bottom line – or the waistline as the case may be – is you cannot simply drop belly fat no matter what you do. Your pot-belly, rolly tummy and squishy curves are not your enemy. Your mind often is.
Instead of hating on one specific area of your rig you can clean up your diet, boost your exercise regime and improve your overall health in order to improve and change your body shape.
Clicking on any of those sensational ads will not provide a shortcut and only feed the negative feelings to your lovely tummy.
If you’re thinking of changing your diet or fitness routine in any way, be sure to speak to your GP, nutritionist and personal trainer first.