Nobody likes belly fat, but almost everybody struggles with it to some degree.
Among all kinds of fat, belly fat is the one that gets the most attention. We are frequently asked to help our training partners lose weight – and often, it’s specifically about the extended, round belly that tends to accumulate after 50 or so.
Here’s the good news: Belly fat isn’t inevitable. We’re here to show you how to exercise and eat right in order to lose body fat for better health — and to feel, look, and move better.
The bad news: There’s no miracle cure for body fat or to reduce it around the belly or anywhere. Despite the myths, just doing 100 sit-ups a day will not give you a flat stomach. Neither will endless planking on its own, a tea sold at the “nutrition store,” or rubber wrapped around your midsection.
It’s the myth of spot reduction. Everybody wants to say, Here’s who you lose the fat that’s on your left knee…. Or behind your right ear … or on your shoulders…
So how do we fight belly fat?
- Think about losing fat in general, not in one spot. As you continue to eat right and exercise, fat will melt away. Your body will hold onto it in certain areas longer than in others. That’s natural.
- Build and maintain muscle. We lose muscle as we age unless we practice resistance training, which means lifting weights, using resistance bands, etc. – anything that offers weight against your muscle to build it up. Muscle is essential for carrying out the daily activities of life and it helps prevent falls.
- Don’t forget about cardio. Decades ago, we were told that cardio was the singular path to slimming down. Now we know that’s just not true. But it is necessary. The World Health Organization suggests at least 150 minutes of moderately intense exertion each week. We say that’s a good start.
- Use small groups or trainers. This can be a smart way to learn how to safely and effectively exercise to reach your goals, including lower body fat.
- Eat right. This means choosing whole foods over processed foods, limiting portions and snacking, and eating just until you’re no longer hungry. Read nutrition labels at the store, and don’t buy products full of ingredients you can’t pronounce. Watch out for added sugar and corn sweetener. Cut back on fruit juice, and drink more water.
Finally, a bonus tip: Take it easy. Stress is body fat’s best friend. It releases cortisol inside us, which contributes to various problems, weight gain among them.
So, let it all go. Meditate, breathe, read a paper book… And let us help approach belly fat the right way.
Holly Kouvo is a personal trainer, functional aging specialist, senior fitness specialist, brain health trainer, writer, and speaker.