How to lose belly fat

Today we’re talking about how to lose excess weight in one particularly annoying place: your belly.

Or are we? Stick with me here as I reveal the secrets no one’s ever told you about how to lose belly fat.

First things first: losing belly fat isn’t exactly easy. If you’re prone to storing fat there, it will take dedication and discipline. But it is possible.

I want you to take a look at these before and after pictures.

Picture obtained via Healthywage. To read more about Kristin’s story, click here.

Do you think Kristin achieved her belly fat loss (and overall incredible weight loss) by taking a diet pill? Or by performing a 5 minute exercise circuit 3 times per week?

Of course not! This woman made a commitment to lose weight and get healthier, and achieved it by working her butt off.

Wait a minute…

Isn’t this post specifically on how to lose belly fat?

Bonus secret #1: There’s no way to target just your belly fat. (Not really a secret because this info’s been out for awhile). Your body holds onto belly fat just like it holds onto fat in your hips, thighs, etc. So to eliminate belly fat, you have to decrease body fat as a whole.

Have you already been losing weight and are just looking to get that final belly fat off? Great! I’ll be covering that too!

Please note: Check with your physician before starting any exercise routine or starting any particular diet. See this Disclaimer for more details. This post may contain affiliate links. For details, please visit my Disclosure page. Thank you!

But first, don’t forget to snag my free Weight Loss Checklist. Make sure you aren’t missing a key strategy that would help you lose weight more effectively:

free weight loss checklist

5 Little-Known Secrets about How to Lose Belly Fat

Secret #1: When you lose weight, you actually lose visceral belly fat first

Wait, hold the phone. You lose belly fat first?? This goes against everything we’ve thought to be true! Is this right?

Yes…and no. And that’s because of the key word “visceral.” Because guess what? You actually have TWO TYPES of belly fat.

Belly Fat #1: Visceral

Visceral adipose tissue (aka visceral fat) is the dangerous abdominal fat that surrounds your internal organs.

Researchers have discovered that much of the initial weight people lose is from their visceral abdominal fat.

Hmm, this actually makes sense because organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been saying for years that just 5-10% weight loss can drastically improve your health.

It’s thought that you lose visceral belly fat first because your abdomen is the closest fat source to your liver. Then as you continue losing weight, your liver begins to draw on other fat sources, such as your thighs and potentially your subcutaneous abdominal fat (what we all know as “belly fat”).

Belly Fat #2: Subcutaneous

Let’s talk about the subcutaneous fat now. This is the fat you can see. So as I said above, when I say belly fat, I’m talking about subcutaneous abdominal fat.

Why does it seem like some people store subcutaneous abdominal fat first and then lose it last? Probably because they do.

Here are some possible reasons why we accumulate belly fat:

  • Genetics – every body is different, and different bodies store fat in different places
  • Insulin resistance
  • Inflammation, which can be caused by excess visceral fat
  • Increased cortisol due to stress
  • Hypothyroidism, which may be treated by a doctor
  • Aging, especially for postmenopausal women

Regardless of the reason why the belly fat got there, making healthy lifestyle changes will help to decrease it. Even if the reason is genetics, with hard work you can lose it. And if the reason is inflammation caused by dangerous visceral fat, that’s all the more reason to make healthy changes!

Remember, you lose visceral fat first! Even if you can’t see changes on the outside at first, keep going! Your body will eventually get to that subcutaneous belly fat.

Let’s say you’ve lost a decent amount of weight. Even though you’ve slimmed down, you’re fighting to get rid of some lingering belly fat. Chances are:

Secret #2: You’ve probably come very close to losing the last of your belly fat before

And chances are, one of these is true:

a. You just didn’t keep going

You don’t put on belly fat overnight, and you can’t get rid of belly fat overnight. It takes time. And often you don’t even notice it’s working at first. KEEP GOING!

RELATED POST: 3 Science-Backed Methods for Staying Motivated to Lose Weight

b. You didn’t make enough changes

Just swapping out your burger for a salad at lunch may not get you results if your dinner is heaps of pasta and you binge on wine every night. Be honest with yourself. Like I said, losing belly fat isn’t easy. You’ll achieve your goal, though, if you follow my three components below.

c. You plateaued because your body got too used to your workouts

Plateauing is the worst. It means you were working hard, achieving changes – and then your body sabotaged you. Our bodies are smart and are good at adapting to the workloads we throw at them. You have to keep challenging yourself to continue seeing changes. If you think this is what happened to you, read this post to switch things up:

RELATED POST: Fun Ways to Change Up Your Exercise Routine – Prevent Boredom and Plateauing!

How to lose belly fat for good

Background photo in this pin created by valeria_aksakova –

Secret #3: You ate too much of the good stuff

As we’ll talk about more below, nutrition is absolutely key to losing unwanted belly fat. Unfortunately, sometimes even “clean eating” isn’t enough.

It’s no secret that eating too many calories will prevent fat loss – and may lead to fat gain. In order to lose weight, you must use more calories than you consume.

So even if you’re eating healthy ingredients like nuts, nut butters, avocados, granola/protein bars, and protein shakes, eating too much of these healthy foods could have easily prevented losing your belly fat.

RELATED POST: Healthy Grocery List – 12 Foods I Refuse to Buy at the Grocery Store

Secret #4: Weight training is the reason you failed

Or rather, lack thereof. In a book by Adam Campbell called The Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises, Campbell shares 20 reasons why weight lifting is so incredibly beneficial. One such reason is that you burn more calories, and specifically, more fat.

A University of Wisconsin study that Campbell discusses in the book showed that weight lifting elevated participants metabolisms for 39 hours after their session. Another study at Penn State University showed that those who completed weight training in addition to cardio lost the same amount of weight, but shed more pounds of fat during the study. This means that the other groups lost muscle – which isn’t going to give you the results you want.

Moral of the story: weight training is key to weight loss. And don’t worry, I tell you how to do it below!

Secret #5: You’re not sweating/breathing hard enough

Are you performing only light exercise? Barely breathing hard or breaking a sweat? Well, you’re probably not burning fat because of that.

When you lose weight, where does the fat go?

Fun fact! The process of converting fat into energy results in two waste products: carbon dioxide and water. Carbon dioxide is what you exhale, and water is released in your sweat and your urine. The harder you’re working, the harder you breathe and the more you sweat – aka, the more fat you burn!

How to Lose Belly Fat: The Three Components

You must make healthy eating decisions (decreasing calories and minimizing sugar), perform cardiovascular exercise, and perform strength training. Do these three things and soon your friends will be asking you how to lose belly fat themselves.

Nutrition for the win!

Eating is the key, without a doubt. Numerous studies have shown that groups who make effective diet changes will lose more fat.

Consider another study Campbell discusses, conducted at the University of Missouri. They took people who had recently lost weight with diet and exercise and split them into two groups. They then had both groups increase how many calories they ate every day, but one of the groups also continued performing exercise 5 days per week.

Can you guess what happened?

They all gained back their belly fat.

You can’t outrun (literally) a bad diet. You just can’t.

You’re hearing this from a certified personal trainer and someone who worked as a registered nurse for 2.5 years, most of that time spent counseling people on how to lose weight.

Clean up your diet AND watch your calories. That’s the only way you’ll lose the belly fat.

If you’re not sure where to get started with healthy eating, I highly recommend the book 400 Flat-Tummy Recipes & Tips by Good Housekeeping. I have it myself and am extremely impressed by the simple, easy-to-make recipes. All of the meals I’ve made from it have been delicious!

400 flat-tummy recipes and tips

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Exercise: Cardio

Although I say that nutrition is king for losing belly fat, cardio will only accelerate the progress. Not only that, but it will get you so much healthier along the way. By performing cardio, you’ll decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease while accelerating fat loss because you’re using up calories.

Here’s what to do:

Cardio must become your new best friend.

Frequency5-6 days per week (always take at least one day off/week)
Duration40-60 minutes OR two sessions of 20-30 minutes
Modes if BMI ideal or overweightWalking, jogging, biking, rowing, elliptical, swimming
Low-impact modes if BMI indicates obesityWalking, stationary biking, rowing, swimming

Check your BMI here. If obese, please perform only low-impact cardio to decrease chance of injury.

Since cardio is going to be your new best friend, make sure you pick something you like! There’s something out there for everyone.

RELATED POST: Exercise of Choice – Why I’ve Been Running Less

Consider cardio as only half of your exercise regimen. The other equally – if not more – important half is strength training.

Exercise: Strength training

With resistance training, it’s important to stay safe. You’ll want to push and challenge yourself, but not get injured.

This table shows some good starting parameters:

Frequency2 days per week
Sets2-3 sets per exercise
Repetitions12-15 reps
WeightHeaviest that still allows you to complete all reps
Rest1 minute between sets
TechniqueLift fast and lower slow
How many exercises?12-25 total sets per workout

Circuits have been shown to be highly effective for weight loss. A circuit is when you complete 1 set of all the exercises back-to-back, rest, and then repeat. My 10 minute ab workout is a good example of a circuit.

RELATED POST: Weight Lifting for Female Beginners: 6 Crucial Tips You Need to Know

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Having excess belly fat is so frustrating. But I hope I’ve shown you that it is possible to get rid of. You just need to implement proper nutrition, cardio, and strength training and you’ll be well on your way!

How to lose belly fat

Sometimes implementing just one change is a great starting place. You’ve got this!