Definitely the number one question and concern I get asked about as a trainer and fat loss coach is how to get a trimmer tummy. Honestly, I am no superstar fitness model with a shredded six pack (lol surprise!) and quite frankly, I have battled this area of my body my whole life too. It has by far been the most frustrating area to get “control” over and to feel confident about. I like to eat and drink wine, and I don’t have time to workout all day (even though I am a trainer lol!) – probably the same as most of the “normal” women out there.
And I will add, that often I felt discouraged by fit people trying to tell me that “anyone can get abs if you work hard enough”…especially if they haven’t battled weight issues for most of their adult life or hadn’t endured multiple pregnancies with an already too big belly. I’m sure there are lots of women who “got their body back” after pregnancy (I personally wasn’t looking to get my body “back” after pregnancies, I was still looking for it!!) or have fabulous before and after pics of how they earned their six packs. But that was never me. Hard as I tried, that belly fat hung on for dear life. I really NEVER thought I would be able to beat this struggle. I figured I had bad genes, I liked food too much, and I was destined to be “chubby”. But I am stubborn and determined, so I went on a mission to get to the bottom of it!
I am a real woman with real life stubborn belly fat who is approaching 40 with three kids and a busy life. I have spent years working on finding the REAL keys to losing belly fat and changing my body for good.
Here are my top 5 “Real Life” strategies I have used for losing that belly fat and for staying trim over the past four years:
1. Drink lots of water. This also includes cutting out things like soft drinks (diet AND regular), juices, alcohol, and for some – coffee…. :S Optimally, you want to drink probably more water than you are used to – around 4L a day (or more if you are extremely active). Green tea (hot or cold, unsweetened) is also a great thing to ADD daily, as it helps to flush out toxins and can help with fat-burning. When you are dehydrated, you are likely to bloat, which can add to the appearance of a rounder tummy. Staying hydrated helps your body to flush out fat and the toxins fat holds. Good news for your belly – plus it’s cheap and easy to do!
2. Eat Lean Belly Foods. These are foods like veggies, proteins (like chicken, fish, turkey, lean cuts of beef, eggs, whey, etc), low-sugar fruits, a small amount of *some* whole grains (a topic for another post lol), and healthy fats. Fat-storing belly foods are things like breads, sugars, processed foods, high sodium foods, artificial sweeteners (or “diet” foods), and even chemicals on non-organic produce. Definitely we can add alcohol to this list again, as well as (of course) all forms of “junk food” (see processed, sugar, and salt foods).
YES – abs ARE made in the kitchen! You don’t get a lean belly by doing hundreds of crunches. A lean belly is revealed through allowing your body to enter “burn mode” instead of “storage mode” – you don’t want to starve your body and you don’t want to overeat. The “sweet spot” for belly fat burning is found in eating LOTS of the Lean Belly Foods so that you get adequate nutrition and energy for your body – without the “storage” effects from the foods that cannot be utilized fully or create an excessive glucose response in your body. So you MUST eat, but WHAT you eat is crucial.
3. Ab exercises do not burn belly fat. Building a strong core is essential to overall fitness and injury prevention, and developing your core can help to give a nice shape to your mid-section – BUT to get lean, you must exercise in way that effectively burns FAT. Did you know that some forms of exercise may even contribute to fat storage? For those who do not have much muscle to begin with, doing long steady cardio like jogging or logging time on gym cardio machines will actually feed off your lean tissues for fuel (not just use fat stores for fuel) and will tend to cause fat to be STORED in the midsection instead. Why? Well, it comes down to hormones. Our hormones work to keep our body in a state of balance. So long periods of endurance activity, like running, can cause a stress response in our body (cortisol) which in turn triggers the storage of fat. On the other hand, shorter periods of weight training and other intense exercise that is done in “burst” type fashion will create a mostly fat-burning/muscle-sparing state, but will also allow for the release of human growth hormone and testosterone (yes, women need testosterone also!) WHICH oppose the effect of cortisol’s fat-storing properties. I am a PRIME example of this, as I used to be a runner and even though I got “skinny”, I still could not get rid of my belly fat. Once I added weight training and greatly reduced my cardio time, *magic* started to happen…
4. Stress, anxiety, depression. and fatigue must be dealt with. All of these things do not add to our “caloric intake”, but they DO have a profound effect on whether we are storing or burning fat, particularly in our bellies. As women, this can also coincide with our estrogen levels – which combined can can make us feel “inflated” very quickly through our cycles and as we deal with age. There is too much detail to go into for this post, but some great info from Metabolic Effect here and here.
All in all, even if you eat “right” and exercise regularly, if you are chronically stressed, worn out, can’t sleep, or deal with depression, it is possible that you will hang on to belly fat regardless of what you do. So it is VERY important to treat the sources of these issues and focus on mindset and lifestyle strategies to move your mind into a place where your body can respond effectively. Mind health always = body health.
5. Lastly, but most importantly – you must do all these things CONSISTENTLY!! There is no
magic formula that says you can “see your abs in 14 days if you follow these rules”…no, the *exact* formula will be different for everyone. Some will get to see more definition after 2 weeks and others may find that it takes time just to de-bloat. We all have different food sensitivities, lifestyle factors, and personal histories that contribute to how our bodies respond to changes like these. What DOES matter is that you stick with what works for YOU and contributes to YOUR goals. If magic doesn’t happen after 2 weeks or even 2 months, it doesn’t mean you are doomed. Your body needs to find it’s sweet spot. For me, this took at least SIX MONTHS before I really started to see changes. It felt like nothing was happening despite all my efforts – then BOOM – it was like all my persistence and discipline was presented like an award in the form of slimmer tummy. But I had to keep on keeping on in order to get there. Stick with it to get your reward – most others will give up and quit too soon.
For me personally, the leanness of my belly has a spectrum. I am very
sensitive to the foods I eat and honestly if I wanted to have “ripped” abs (or even somewhat visible abs) most of the time, I would have no life and would never eat a carb again. I really don’t want to live that way! I love food, I love living life – so I live within my own formula for staying comfortably lean. There are times that I “tighten up” (like right now because I will be wearing a bikini for two weeks in August) and so I just switch to eating MORE of my Lean Belly Foods. I don’t crash diet, that doesn’t work – I watch my intake more carefully and go extra intense on my workouts.
I no longer have to worry about losing it all again – maintaining this kind of lifestyle lends itself to completely changing your overall body composition and metabolic function.
—> This is just me TODAY – sticking to a “normal” lifestyle strategy that works. My midsection enjoys being “fluffy”, and after 3 kids I have lots of loose skin. I’m no fitness model, but I have figured out what really works for me and I no longer have to “worry” about it 🙂
Are you ready to get a trimmer tummy and lose the extra belly fat once and for all?
Please contact me for coaching if you need help navigating these changes and how to make it work best for YOU! I coach you starting where you are now, and work with you so that the changes you make are not abrupt and uncomfortable. We start with small, but effective steps and find YOUR formula for success.
I am currently accepting a small number of private online clients throughout the summer – contact me here to get started.
Also check out SOUL SISTERS FIT CLUB online membership for group online coaching with me and access to my client resources and tools – only $29 per month!