I used to think that you could target belly fat by doing specific exercises and focussing much time in the gym on Abs.
I look at it like this: there are 3 powerful components at my disposal to not only lose, but also maintain my healthy weight.
I can use these 3 tools in whatever capacity I need to as my lifestyle changes and life naturally follows the ebbs and flows of busy. Sometimes that means more focus on my nutrition and less on activity when my life gets hectic. And when I have more time, I focus on strength training, and less on the other elements (and vice versa with my cardio).
It’s an ever shifting balance but thankfully, the scales of balance have always levelled out for me. I enjoy eating (this girl can throw down at a dinner table), so I love that I have cardio/strength training to supplement that.
Pyramid of Tools:
Nutrition and Water
Resistance Training: Strength
Aerobic Activity: Cardio
I quickly learned that weight loss is not localized and the most important tool within my control is my diet (that’s why it’s on the top of the pyramid).
Back to that pesky belly fat we all want to shed. Belly fat is visceral fat. You can strengthen the abdominal through exercise, but until you get rid of the visceral fat, you will not be able to see the fruits of your labour.
There is a saying “abs are built in the kitchen”. Boy have I have learned this truth through the years. You simply can not out run a bad diet. There are certain types of foods you can eat that can help you lose weight, and when paired with exercise (both cardio and strength training), the belly fat decreases. Yay! That’s great news right?!
Another fun fact I learned, fat cells don’t disappear, they just shrink. WTF?! So there is no finish line for me, I have found a lifestyle I’m completely in love with which allows me to maintain my healthy weight, and practice gratitude for this healthy body. It’s an act of love to take care of myself.
So here’s some tips on the nutrition side of the pyramid:
Choose foods high in soluble fibre.
Soluble fibre absorbs water and helps slow down food as it passes through your digestive system. Studies show this type of fibre promotes weight loss by helping you feel satiated so you naturally eat less.
Foods high in fibre: pears, strawberries, avocado, broccoli, apples, raspberries, bananas, carrots, beets, brussels sprouts, lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, split peas, quinoa, oats, popcorn, almonds, chia seeds and sweet potatoes.
Choose lean protein sources.
Protein raises your metabolic rate and helps you retain muscle mass during weight loss. A diet with a focus on lean protein, complex carbohydrates (think veggies/whole grains), and healthy fats will also help you to feel full and regulate your insulin.
Lean protein sources: fish, wild game, chicken, turkey, bison, beans/lentils, eggs, soy, cottage cheese, nuts/nut butters, protein powders (whey, soy, veg).
Cut out refined sugars.
There are countless studies linking belly fat with a diet high in refined sugars. Sugar is like a drug. It can feel impossible to control cravings when you ingest large amounts; personally, I try not to eat sugar “in moderation”. It’s a trigger food for me, so cutting it out as much as possible worked best for me. There’s no more roller coaster of energy…which wasn’t even true energy but rather spikes in my blood sugar. When you go up you must come down.
I choose foods that keep me coasting straight and steady. Like top rolled down on a converatable, hair in a scarf, sunshine on my smiley face. lol I feel in control and have a steady source of energy from my food choices.
Food is fuel. Choose wisely. I can’t even begin to explain the amazingly positive difference in my moods, energy, and all around happiness when I gained control over my sugar addiction. My family is thankful for that change too. 😉
Avoid drinking your calories.
Most fruit juices, pops, cocktails are not only high in sugar, but the body does not process these types of calories the same as food counterparts. There really is no nutritional value to drinking orange juice, versus eating an actual orange and choosing water with lemon instead. Fruit juices may contain some vitamins, but they also contain as much sugar as a soda pop.
Avoid foods that contain “Trans Fats”.
Trans fats have been linked to inflammation, heart disease, insulin resistance and abdominal fat gain in studies. I know…yadda, yadda, yadddda. But seriously friends, read your labels. These are often listed as “partially hydrogenated” fats. Not all fats are created equal. Some fats are heart healthy like Omega-3 fats found in Salmon. Omega-3’s are termed essential fatty acids because the body can not produce them on its own and they are essential for health.
This is quite possibly the most important and simple tool at your disposal. I aim for 100 oz a day or 4 of those Costco contego bottles.
Track your nutrition with a free online app.
This not only helps me stay accountable, but it also gives me a valuable snapshot of my day and a look at my macro breakdown (Protein/Carbohydrates/Fats). I can clearly see how much sugar, fibre, sodium, protein, carbohydrates, and fats I am consuming every day. I do not focus on calories, but rather quality of my calories along with the activity I fit into my day. Knowledge is power. We all know to lose weight, you need to consume fewer calories than your body needs. I try not to make it overcomplicated.
Use Cardio as a tool.
Cardio is not only vital to heart health, but it’s an essential tool to burn calories. When you combine cardio with strength training to gain muscle, you can change your entire metabolic rate. Read that last sentence again and let it soak in, because it’s so freaking amazing. You can change your entire body composition!
For me, intensity is key. The human body is brilliant; it adapts quickly to whatever you throw at it. To avoid plateaus, I mix things up…always keep my body guessing. Add cardio into my strength circuits, go for different intensity runs through out the week, combine walking/jogging/sprints…just mix it up (plus I won’t get bored). Try new cardio activities: bike, swim, hike, get out with the kids and get active. If you have the ability to run/move/jump/walk, you are so blessed. Many are not afforded that luxury. Look at it as a gift.
Muscle is an active tissue, which means you are burning calories while you are chillin’ like a villain long after your workout. We naturally lose muscle as we age, so the only way to get muscle is to build it. If you build it, health will come.
Not sure where to start? Hire a personal trainer so you learn proper form and avoid injury. If you are in my area, send me a message. 🙂 And oh my my, it’s addicting, I just love my one hour of lifting time. I zone out and feel so powerful and full of pride. Results come quickly when it comes to strength training.
- Use cardio to burn
- Strength to build a strong foundation (like a house made of bricks)
- Food to fuel your amazingly beautiful life
It’s as simple as that for me; and my happy weight was a byproduct of that equation (along with a healthy dose of self-love). Treat YOU just as you treat those you love most in your life.
Reduce stress and get your sleep.
Studies have linked the stress hormone “cortisol” to increased belly fat storage as well as increased appetite. Do whatever feeds your spirit in a positive way: go for a walk/run, try yoga, go kayaking, go for a hike surrounded by beauty.
I mean come on my friends!!!! Look at this amazing planet we live on….move as the body is designed to and soak up the beauty around you.
Practice gratitude for all the blessings in your life, and start your day off that way (listen to Peter). We may not be able to control the stressors in our daily life, but we can control our perceptions and outlook. It’s in HOW we handle that stress that’s most important.
Move more, eat quality, feed your body/mind/spirit in love, rest, be ever grateful…repeat.
The body is a miraculous machine, it’s always in a state of healing. When I think about the years I abused by body with no activity and highly processed foods, I’m amazed it just kept on urging to move. Yes, it can feel like it takes a long time getting that weight off, but when you compare it to the years spent abusing it….it’s not even comparable.
What took me almost two decades to put on, my body responded in love within 18 months (and I had my beautiful girl in the middle of it all). How amazing is that?! So very grateful.
From my thankful heart to yours,