One of the toughest spots to slim down for many women is the tummy area. Endless sit-ups and crunches seem futile, and diet after diet don’t deliver results — and we want to know why. That’s why we’re getting expert input into this age-old fitness question and sharing tips for how you can finally slim down your midsection.
We asked Dr. Scott Weiss, board-certified athletic trainer, licenced physical therapist, exercise physiologist and founder of Bodhizone, for his insight into how to lose belly fat for good.
The hard truth about belly fat
So you want to get rid of belly fat? The good news is that it’s possible. The bad news is that there is no quick fix or magic formula. That latest celebrity diet might look like your answer, but it’s likely not. “People don’t know or understand the exact formula, so they are shooting in the dark by using the newest weight-loss fads,” says Weiss. “Physiology 101 states that there is no such thing as spot reduction. Fat loss happens from everywhere in the body, not just the spots you want it, and unfortunately for some people, the abdomen and butt are the last and hardest areas to lose fat from,” he explains. This means that losing belly fat comes down to being fit all over and committing to a healthy lifestyle — not a fad diet.
What you’re doing wrong
Doing sit-up sessions galore and still not seeing results? That’s because abdominal exercises alone aren’t going to melt belly fat. “People think that exercising your abdominals, obliques or core as a whole will aid in fat loss around the abdomen,” says Weiss. He’s referring to your rigorous ab routine that isn’t your golden ticket to a flat stomach. “This is because aerobic training burns fat, and exercises to strengthen your abdominals, like planks, crunches and rotational exercise, are not aerobic; they are anaerobic,” he explains. Abdominal exercises alone might strengthen your core, but they don’t do anything to get rid of the layer of fat hiding your muscles.
To lose fat, Weiss advises burning 300 to 500 calories per exercise session and doing four to five sessions per week — in addition to your core workout.
Food and fat storage
Getting rid of belly fat means minimizing the amount of fat you’re storing in your midsection. This comes down to a simple formula. “It’s all about calories and quantity when it comes to fat storage. The more you eat and do not burn, you will store,” explains Weiss. He advises eating several smaller meals in a day (versus three large ones), because whatever is not used in the body is stored. Meaning, if you eat a large meal and then sit for the rest of the day, those calories have nowhere to go but exactly where you don’t want them to. “Anytime we eat food with empty calories or non-nutritious calories, it is usually not used by the body and stored as fat,” Weiss says. “Examples are alcohol and solid fats, which are cookies, cakes and very sugary, rich foods.”
Success comes from hard work
Achieving a flat stomach is not an impossible feat, but it does take two very important things: commitment and hard work. “For the belly fat to decrease, it takes time, and you can never just reduce one specific area alone. The belly will go if you keep it up for the long run. Trust me,” assures Weiss. “Once fat is reduced and weight loss occurs, it is easier to see the muscle underneath.” If you want to see results, increase your cardio while continuing to strengthen your abdominal muscles. In terms of specific exercises, there isn’t one magic ab-flattening move you can do. The key is to work both the lower and upper abs along with the obliques. Talk to a personal trainer if you’re unsure what exercises to add to your workout or need some new ideas to shake up you abdominal routine.