No one wants to hear it, but there is more to losing belly fat than just eating right and exercising. This stubborn fat can be hanging around for a multitude of reasons, and if you don’t tackle these first, then no number of crunches or sit-ups is going to help. It is important to remember that losing belly fat goes beyond aesthetic motivations, as an excess of fat around the abdomen could be an indicator of something more serious. Deep under our skin we hold visceral fat, which is necessary to pad the organs but in excessive amounts can lead to diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. With this in mind, before doing your next set of 50 crunches, read on to learn the mistakes you are making in your battle against the bulge!
1. Bad Sleep Leads to Overeating
It is obvious that without adequate sleep we won’t have the energy for that 9 am spinning class, but did you know that poor-quality sleep has been strongly linked to storing fat in the body? This is because the regular functioning of two appetite-controlling hormones, leptin and ghrelin, becomes interrupted by a lack of sleep, stimulating hunger and the sensation of never feeling full. Hence, you are more likely to snack between meals to satiate this, adding several hundred extra calories to your daily diet. A minimum of 7 hours of sleep a night is enough to keep your hormones in check and your weight-loss goals attainable!
2. Stress Spikes Cravings
Stress in any amount is never a good thing, but prolonged stress or anxiety can be detrimental to our bodies as well as our minds. Ever wonder why you reach for comfort food at the end of a taxing day? It could be something to do with cortisol, a hormone which is steadily released for as long as you are stressed. The hormone not only spikes cravings for sugary foods but also encourages the storing of fat around the belly. Therefore, try incorporating stress-management techniques like meditation into your daily life for a healthier mind and body!
3. Crunches and Sit-Ups Don’t Help
There are countless workouts online that promise to target belly fat, only to have you panting through 100 crunches or sit-ups. But the frustrating truth is you cannot spot-reduce fat. Fat in the belly can only be diminished through exercises that effectively burn fat all over the body. Workouts that fluctuate your heart rate, namely HIIT workouts (high-intensity interval training), have been proven to be killer for body fat. And at an average duration of around 10 minutes, busy people have no excuse!
4. Be Wary of Hidden Sugars
The mistake many people make when trying to lose weight is reaching for energy bars, ‘healthy’ granolas, fruit juices, etc., thinking that as long as they are avoiding fat, they will lose weight. What they don’t realize is that a lot of low-fat or ‘energy’ foods contain massive amounts of sugar which the body likes to convert to fat for excess fuel. This is why it is so important to read food labels when you are trying to lose weight, as that innocent-seeming granola bar might be concealing a satanic amount of sugar.
5. Starvation Diets Aren’t Sustainable
Heavily restricting your calories in order to lose 10 pounds in one week is an unhealthy and ultimately fruitless way of losing weight. Not only will you inevitably put those pounds back on once you return to a usual way of eating, but you might end up triggering your body’s starvation mode. This involves the slowing down of your metabolism, which controls the rate at which you burn calories. The body will also hold onto fat in the absence of food to use as energy. Instead of resorting to crash diets, try to focus on making healthy lifestyle changes that can be maintained for years to come.
6. Protein Is Key
If you are trying to lose belly fat, you should be focusing on adding protein to every meal. While carbs can satiate cravings, the protein will make you feel full for longer, meaning you are less likely to snack between meals or consume too-large portions. Protein also helps build lean muscle and stimulate calorie burning, which is why gym-goers reach for protein snacks and drinks immediately after a workout. Watch out for protein bars though as they can be high in sugar. Instead, snack on nuts and seeds and pile your plate with plenty of green veggies!
7. Don’t Expect Overnight Results
Lastly, don’t expect immediate results. Although belly fat can form quickly, it can take ten times as long to get rid of. It will be hard work, but as you start to see changes, you will be motivated to keep going. The trick is to start now so that in 3 months you can see what you’ve achieved and not be bemoaning your belly!