Whether you spent the Bank Holidays sipping the best supermarket prosecco in the sunshine or booking your place on the best bootcamps, chances are that now June has arrived – and with it the promise of summer vacations – your thoughts are turning to how to best to boost your body confidence.
For some women, that’s chilling the eff out by lying horizontally in the park. For others, it’s reigning things in a bit to get back to the best shape for you (that’s mentally and physically).
And there’s nothing wrong with that – you get to decide how healthy and happy looks and feels to you.
According to Google “How to get rid of belly fat” is a common search term. But that’s hardly a surprise given that we’re in the season of nakedness. Truth is, stubborn belly fat for some women can be the deciding factor in whether to ditch the kaftan on the beach or not.
Fortunately, knowing how to get rid of belly fat is easy to understand and action if you so wish.
Whether you’re about to holiday in Southern Italy, have a string of summer weddings coming up or simply want to feel a bit healthier in your skin – belly fat has been linked to symptoms of diabetes, after all – our expert plan has everything you need to help you steadily lose belly fat over the next month or so.
Because belly fat shouldn’t hold you back and summer is all about having fun.
WHAT IS BELLY FAT?
First things, first. Before we show you how to get rid of belly fat, it’s important to know exactly what it is we’re talking about.
“Belly fat or abdominal fat is the subcutaneous (which means under the skin) fat that sits around the waist and provides a store of energy, and also protection and heat, for the organs,” says Tarik Belalij, personal trainer and nutritionist at Everyone ActiveBecontree Leisure Centre. “Small amounts of fat below the skin is normal and healthy, it is the visceral fat, which surrounds the organs that can be the most dangerous type of fat – leading to heart attacks and diabetes.”
How to know if you’ve got this type of fat situation going on? “Excessive visceral fat is what causes the ‘beer gut’, pushing the stomach out from the inside,” Belalij says.
So, we’re not talking bloating, which comes and goes.
And, a brief word of warning: women need belly fat to function – fat cells store oestrogen so have too little and your whole hormonal function can go out of whack, causing serious health issues such as irregular periods and infertility. Periods stopped? Too little body fat could also be the cause.
GET RID OF BELLY FAT – WEEK ONE
LAY THE FOUNDATIONS
It may seem surprising that your first port of call isn’t stripping back calories and hitting the home HIIT workouts, hard. But, when it comes to how to get rid of belly fat, there are other, more important, triggers that, left unchecked, could trip you up before you’ve even left the starting blocks.
“Stress may be an evolutionary response that helps keep us alive,” says performance nutritionist and qualified dietitian, Tom Irving, “but frequent and persistent doses can elevate cortisol levels, which is both inflammatory as well as antilipolytic (anti-fat burning). We also tend to overeat when we are stressed.”
And US researchers agree, with their findings showing that, in the simplest terms, if you’re highly strung, like, always – you’re far less likely to lose unwanted belly fat. Try these tricks for combating stress symptoms.
Don’t underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep, too. Yes, it can help combat under eye bags but, according to the University of Leeds, adults who get more than six hours of sleep per night are likely to carry 3cm less around their waist.
Head to bed (and eat your dinner) earlier and follow the WH “how to get to sleep” guide to ensure a lack of shut-eye doesn’t hold your belly fat loss back.
According to Luke Hughes, Origym PT, a lack of sunlight can increase levels of belly fat. Indeed, findings presented at the European Society of Endocrinology annual meeting, revealed that, in women, both total and abdominal fat were associated with lower levels of vitamin D.
In addition to sunlight, vitamin D can be obtained from food and supplements. Check out nutritionist Rob Hobson’s guide to overcoming a vitamin D deficiency.
Note your starting point
“Remember that scales don’t take into account muscle mass so the best way to check your progress is by taking pictures,” says Belalij. “Take them in the morning under the same lighting and compare your physique each week. If you check your belly in the mirror every day, chances are you won’t notice any differences, which could be disheartening.”
GET RID OF BELLY FAT – WEEK TWO
WATCH WHAT YOU EAT
“When it comes to knowing how to get rid of belly fat, the next best to start, is to watch what you eat,” Belalij says.
Which means, sadly, the more glasses of rose and chocolate-coated pretzels you eat, the longer it will take to reach your flatter belly goals. “When you digest large amounts of calories, your body allocates some of these to functional systems which work to keep you alive (think the brain, muscles and organs),” says Belalij. “It also uses it to fill up energy stores. Any excess is then stored in fat cells around the body – typically being those of the belly.”
What to avoid to get rid of belly fat
1. PROCESSED FOODS
Dense in calories, carbs, fats and sugars, these are essentially a belly fat inducing combination – typically they’re nutritionally unsatisfying but mood-wise pretty feel good, meaning you can’t help but eat more. And more.
Seven cals per gram may not sound like much but one or two G&Ts later and they soon add up. Plus, because the breakdown of alcohol is prioritised, its energy quickly tops up glycogen supplies with the remainder being stored as fat.
3. INFLAMMATORY FOODS
This could be types of sugar or simply any food that doesn’t agree with you, as this causes your stomach to flare up, sending the body into panic mode and increasing fat storage as a safety mechanism.
4. SAUCES AND DRESSING
Read unnecessary hidden calories. Flavour your food with calorie-free herbs and spices, instead.
Your perfect “lose belly fat” plate
“Include lots of nutrient-rich vegetables, a source of protein and some healthy, unprocessed carbs,” says Belalij. “Start with leafy greens such as spinach, kale and collard greens, then add carrots, broccoli and peas. Lean meats, including turkey and chicken, are ideal as they are lower in fat and therefore calories, or, if you are vegetarian/vegan, add in tofu or a handful of nuts such as pine, cashew or almonds and a sprinkling of seeds (sunflower, sesame, pumpkin). When it comes to carbohydrates, rice, quinoa and potatoes are perfect.”
Make this steamed shredded chicken recipe your new evening meal go-to.
GET RID OF BELLY FAT – WEEK THREE
SWITCH UP YOUR WORKOUT
Think smashing out 100 crunches every day will get you abs like Britney?
“While crunches will help strengthen your abdominals and core muscles, they’re not enough in isolation to burn calories,” Hughes says.
Instead, Hughes recommends a rounded body-weight routine, or strength training comprising of kettlebell exercises, done at high intensity, as these will help to burn calories and increase muscle mass, which will, in turn, how to shed body fat – even within a limited time period.
“Burning calories through cardio exercise like this helps to burn fat, particularly when we operate at a calorie deficit,” says Hughes. “Try adding star jumps and mountain climbers into your workouts or taking up climbing (specifically bouldering) and rowing, which combines cardio with strength building.”
And how often to work out to get rid of belly fat? Well, as you know, too much cortisol can counteract your belly fat loss efforts. Belalij suggests doing 30-minute sessions, three times per week. “As you start to lose belly fat your body will want to cling on more and more to what is left, so you must increase the intensity or duration of your workouts, the more fat you lose,” Belalij says. And Hughes agrees:
“The key to continually improving and losing belly fat is to scale up your workouts on a weekly basis. Even if you don’t feel stronger, incrementally increase the intensity and load of your workouts, and you will soon see improvements to your fitness.”
Could this be the best workout to lose belly fat?
GET RID OF BELLY FAT – WEEK FOUR
SUPPORT YOUR GUT
Followed all the above to the letter, but not losing belly fat as quickly as you might like? It could be that the levels of good to bad bacteria in your gut aren’t at their optimum.
Researchers from Washington University found that people with excess weight, including abdominal fat, tend to have greater numbers of the Firmicutes bacteria, suggesting this one could encourage the body to absorb more calories from food.
Don’t believe us? Here’s what your poop can tell you about your belly fat.
Reset your gut with these 12 steps.