Do you feel like you’ve tried everything to lose stubborn belly fat without success? Try these five easy ways to lose weight around your midsection.
You watch what you eat, drink lots of water and you exercise regularly yet your belly fat won’t budge. Sound familiar? Many women notice that as they reach their 30, 40s and beyond, it’s much easier to put weight on even when you are doing ‘all the right things’. So you double down on your efforts: eating less and exercising more.
What you may not realize is that this classic approach to weight loss can actually make your belly fat stick around even longer and it’s all because of two key hormones: insulin and cortisol.
Insulin is a hormone that lowers your blood sugar by storing the glucose in cells. Cortisol is the hormone released when we experience stress. Cortisol triggers the release of stored glucose from your liver and insulin responds to reduce it.
When you are chronically stressed from not sleeping enough, exercising without proper recovery time, not eating enough calories or skipping meals, you get stuck in a chronic cycle of more insulin being produced to reduce the sugar release from cortisol.
Over time, this can lead to insulin resistance in which the cells become resistant to the constant insulin and need more to be signaled to lower the blood sugar. This leads to high insulin and high blood sugar. Since insulin is a fat-storage hormone, it concentrates fat cells in your abdominal region.
Now that you understand why stubborn belly fat appears, here are five ways you can combat it.
Incorporate More Protein
Most women fall short of their dietary protein needs and it’s vital to consume enough to maintain metabolically active muscle, which will help you burn fat more effectively. Besides muscle maintenance and repair, protein will keep you full for longer and minimize cravings for sugar.
Be sure to incorporate protein with every meal and snack. A serving of protein is the size of your palm. Not interested in consuming more animal protein? Have a smoothie with one scoop of plant based protein powder, use hemp hearts in sauces or salad dressings, use tofu or tempeh products in place of traditional meat-based recipes and add legumes to soups, bowls or salads.
Don’t Skip Meals
The first rule of keeping blood sugar stable and stopping the insulin/cortisol cycle is to eat regularly. The size of your meal or snack will determine how long you can go before you next eat something but eating every three to four hours is generally a good place to start.
It’s easy to skip meals when you don’t plan ahead. Book in with our Holistic Nutritionist, Jessica, for a meal planning strategy session.
Be Mindful of Carbohydrates- But Don’t Eliminate Them
Carbohydrates have a bad reputation when it comes to weight gain but the right types in the right amounts will help your fat loss efforts, not hinder them. In fact, going too low carbohydrate- especially for females- is a recipe for metabolic damage and excess cortisol.
Have a serving of carbohydrates with every meal but aim to get them from fibrous sources like winter squash, brown rice, quinoa, legumes and yam. Avoid refined carbohydrates like pasta, bread and noodles. Be sure to stick with a normal serving size: ½ cup to 1 cup per meal, depending on your caloric needs.
A note for women with PCOS: finding your Unique Carb Tolerance is key for managing high insulin and high blood sugar. Book in with your Holistic Nutritionist, Jessica, to find out how you can do this.
If you think that by choosing lower calorie options like a vodka soda you aren’t doing any damage to your fat loss efforts but the truth is: alcohol causes blood sugar fluctuations and contributes to stubborn belly fat. If you choose to imbibe, be sure to have it with a meal and limit drinks to 2 per week.
Cut Back on Sugar
Sugar is, not surprisingly, the worst culprit for blood sugar fluctuations. However, just because you don’t eat cake, cookies or desserts regularly doesn’t mean you are eating a low sugar diet. Watch protein bars, specialty coffees, sauces and any packaged foods for sneaky sources of sugar. Avoid anything with over 7 grams of sugar per serving size.
Losing stubborn belly fat is possible, even if you feel like you’ve tried everything. It just takes a shifting of your diet to support your individual needs for carbohydrate and protein intake and meal size and timing. Book in with our Holistic Nutritionist, Jessica, to get started today on an individualized nutrition plan for losing stubborn belly fat.