In an ideal world, you would perform a few hundred crunches for a few months, lose belly fat, get chiseled abs, and then live happily ever after like every Disney movie.
But we live in the real world with charlatans trying to trick you into buying body wraps, 6-minute ab workouts and ab-rocket trainers supposedly designed to “fight” and “target” belly fat.
The question is:
How real is this? Can you get the flab off your belly simply by doing ab exercises? Well, researches looked into this back in 20111. Here’s what they did & found:
So, trying to target and lose belly fat is like trying to bail out water from a single swimming pool corner. That’s a pipe dream. The only way to lose belly fat is to reduce your overall body fat percentage.
“But… Egis, losing fat takes too long…” – you might be thinking in your head.
10 YEARZ. Yes, with Z at the end. Because fuck it. I can do what I want, I can write how I like.
So, 10 yearZ. That’s how long I’ve been telling my new clients one and the same thing when they asked:
“Egis, how can I lose fat from my belly?”
To this day, the answer is the same. Word for word:
“Chill the fuck down, focus on fundamentals, be patient and stay consistent.”
M’kay, let’s open up Pandora’s box and see what are these fundamentals to lose overall body fat and thus, belly fat.
Fundamental #1: Negative Energy Balance
Like I said in my book, the fundamental fact is that your body will NOT tap into stored body fat unless you’re burning more calories than you’re consuming. You have to create a negative energy balance (aka calorie deficit)2.
Losing body fat comes from taking in fewer calories than you burn. Anyone who can prove otherwise will surely win a Nobel Prize in physics for disproving the first law of thermodynamics. I am unaware of that particular Nobel having been awarded.
Fundamental #2: Strength Training
Let’s be honest: not all of us are able to lift weights. Some of us have money issues and not enough time. You’re granted exemption from lifting weights if:
- If you’re a Koala. These bastards look gorgeous as they are, aren’t they? Why the fuck should they worry about getting ripped, right?
- If you’re a sloth. I would lose my plot waiting for the bench to free up. Sloths are freakn’ slow, man…
- If you’re a varan. I’ve seen a few of them in Sri Lanka. They look dangerous and ugly. Don’t like them. Don’t want to share a squat rack with them.
Other than that, you have no excuses. Trying to lose weight without exercising, is like trying to bail water out of a ship with a hole in the hull while refusing to fix the hole.
Strength training simply has way too many benefits to pass on it.
And don’t even start with that “I don’t have money for a gym membership” crap. You won’t spend $40/month on a gym membership but you have enough money for a few $5 lattes each week?
It all comes down to priorities. Put on your big boy/girl pants and sort that shit out.
Don’t know how to get started with strength training? Don’t fret and hire me to take care of that.
Fundamental #3: Staying Active Outside The Gym
I’ve talked waaay too much about non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) in this article. It’s everything that’s not formal exercise. It’s calories burned through leisure, occupation activity, basic activities of daily living, fidgeting, etc.
If you’re in the gym for an hour a day, that only accounts for 4% of your entire day. The rest of your time awake makes up 63% of your day. That’s 63% of the time you have an opportunity to get some more movement in your life.
NEAT actually accounts for MORE caloric expenditure than exercise. NEAT can increase energy expenditure by as much as 350-1200 kcal per day. Reports the research review by Levine et al3.
Even a 15-minute walk during your lunch break will make a HUGE difference in the long run. An extra 15 minutes will result in an extra 91 hours of walking during the year and an extra 274 miles walked at a casual pace of 3 mph (weekends included).
So, spending an hour in the gym 3 times per week doesn’t give you permission to sloth around the house for the rest of the day.
Fundamental #4: Tracking Food Intake
You’re very likely to be eating more than you think.
It’s very common for individuals to graze on bites, licks, and tastes of food throughout the day, underestimate portion sizes or simply not remember what they have eaten. This is a big part of why I harp on the importance of tracking food intake.
Tracking food intake is a lot like using a GPS
Say, you got a new job. You have no clue where this place is. Yes, could get there without a GPS. But you would make heaps of wrong turns and it would take a shitload of time.
Alternatively, you could use a GPS. It would take you there both quicker and on the first go. You would use a GPS until you get familiar with that place your job is located in and then go on your own.
The same goes for tracking food intake. It might suck balls at the start but you’ll get better as time goes. You’ll get more automatic. The more automatic you can make this process – the more likely it is you sustain behaviors, create habits, and achieve lasting results.
Tracking food intake doesn’t mean counting calories using an app is your only option. You have a few more options:
- Writing down what you eat, when you eat it, and how full you feel in the food diary;
- Taking pictures of what you eat and then making changes based on what you see at the end of the week.
I’ve written about tracking calories so fucking much that any time it’s brought up again, I feel like jumping on an electric chair. Go learn about calorie tracking here once you’re done with this article.
Fundamental #5: Sustainability & Adherence
Ever wondered why shitty diets like keto, paleo, low-carb, or Atkins fail in the long run?
Because they are unsustainable & impossible to stick to for long enough to develop healthy habits. It doesn’t matter how healthy deepthroating kale five times a day, chugging liquified chicken breast each morning, and drinking loads of water are if you can’t see yourself eating that way 5,6,15 months from now.
Sustainability and dietary adherence are by far the most important factors for long-term weight loss4.
- Individualize Your Food Choices
Long-term adherence to a diet is impossible if you eliminate foods you like. Yes, if your favorite food is ice cream, you’ll have to eat smaller portions and less frequently but as long as you’re in a caloric deficit and eating mostly (~80%) whole foods, you can have “fun” foods like that.
- Individualize Your Macronutrient Distribution
How much protein, carbohydrates, and fats you eat should be decided by YOU and your preferences. It’s not for some keto charlatan to decide.
How long will you last after eliminating carbs and going full-blown keto if you love eating fruits, bread, rice, and other carb-based foods? Not fucking long. At least until you pig out.
- Get educated in nutrition
Increasing education levels in nutrition are associated with higher adherence in at least two studies that I know of. Reading this article is your first step.
“Lose belly fat” is the cute name (because the fitness industry knows what sells best) but it’s way outside the realm of reality.
There are no magic wands, no hidden tricks, and no secret handshakes that can make your belly fat go away. But with these fundamentals, you’ll lose body fat and belly fat along with it.
And if you want to get a nicer-looking body both faster and with less wrong turns made in the process, I dunno, hire me to coach you, maybe?