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Last Updated on December 15, 2020

The Biggest Myth About Losing Belly Fat: Can You Lose Belly Fat Only?

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The Biggest Myth About Losing Belly Fat: Can You Lose Belly Fat Only?

There’s a guy in the fitness center I manage that is struggling with losing belly fat. To battle that issue, he chooses to wear a ‘fat-losing belt’ and rubs his belly with a special ‘fat-burning ointment’. He has tried to lose his belly fat for over a year now, with little to no success.

Most people think that they can target specific areas of their body to lose fat; for instance: they want to lose weight on their belly or on their thighs only. This is called spot-reducing fat, but this is mostly a stubborn myth. Although there could still be some truth behind it. In this article, I will explain the reason why this is, and how you can actually lose your belly fat.

How fat reduction works

In biochemistry class, you are taught that fat is stored as triglycerides in fat cells. You also learn that fat is energy dense and a pain in the rear for your body to metabolize.

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    Fat is so hard to break down because it’s stored as triglycerides. To use the fatty acids, your body first has to cut the glycerol molecule from the fatty acids. From there, the fatty acids travel within the blood stream to the muscle cell, where it gets turned into energy inside the mitochondria.

    You don’t have to understand every single step of this process. The key takeaway here is that using your fat as energy is what your body doesn’t necessarily want to do.

    The truth behind the myth

    Scientists established long ago that targeting specific areas of fat was impossible. The myth has persisted largely because of dubious infomercials that play non-stop at 3am in the morning.

    But this myth actually has some truth behind it. If you touch your body part with the most fat stored, you will notice that this part is cooler than the other parts of your body. That’s because in this area there’s minimized blood flow.

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    Most spot-reducing gimmicks try to increase the blood flow to a certain area of your body, such as your belly or your thighs. In theory, this works; but practically, the effect is so minuscule that you won’t see any real difference.

    Don’t believe the hype. If it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.

    How to lose body fat instead

    All living organisms must obey the first law of thermodynamics. The balance between energy intake and energy expenditure determines energy storage. Your body stores energy in the form of fat cells.

    To lose body fat, you have to burn more energy than that you consume. It’s simple actually. Here are three ways how you can do this:

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    1. Pump up your muscles

    While you may not be able to decrease the fat size on a certain body part by training in the gym, you will better your proportions. If you struggle with belly fat, training your back muscles will get you a better look in the long-term, as your body will look more proportional.

    A great exercise if you want to spot reduce belly fat on your thighs is to do the squats or the leg press. These exercises train your whole body and help strengthen the muscles underneath. This creates a toned look in the long-term. Ask a competent friend, or hire a professional coach for workout advice.

    2. Hit that treadmill

    Due to your genetics, you can’t decide where you will lose fat in the first place, but your actions will decide if you lose fat in the first place.

    A great way to lose fat is cardiovascular training. While most people hate doing cardio (I’ve been there too), it nonetheless is important for your heart health. If you simply can’t manage to step on a treadmill, you can sign up for martial arts classes or do a team sport where you exert yourself on a regular basis. A friend of mine has lost over 20 lbs by doing martial arts 2 times a week.

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    3. Eat like an adult

    We all know which foods are good for us. Yet our actions don’t match our understanding most of the time. Sometimes we eat like we are 5 years old.

    The best advice I can give you in the case of nutrition is to eat like a freaking adult. Eating cereal for dinner or Twinkies as a snack? To be blunt here: take a look in the mirror. This is not how you are supposed to eat.

    Start with simply eating more of the good stuff on a daily basis. Eat a little bit more vegetables than you are usually eating and you’re already making a great decision.

    For more weight loss guidance regarding nutrition, you can watch this video:

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    Don’t believe the hype

    Spot reducing doesn’t work. Don’t believe the media hype and scrupulous advertisers.

    Ointments and specific belts may help you but it’s in a very minuscule way. Stick to the basics: train your muscles, do cardio regularly and eat like an adult. The results will come; be patient and enjoy the process.

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    Florian Wüest

    Qualified and experienced fitness trainer and online coach.

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    Published on August 24, 2021

    What Is a Whole Food Diet And Does It Really Work?

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    What Is a Whole Food Diet And Does It Really Work?

    I’ve been a dietitian now for a long time (more years than I care to mention), and if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that fad diets are best avoided. This is why I’m so pleased that whole food diets are being talked about more and more.

    Rather than a “diet,” I prefer to think of a whole food diet as a way of life. Eating this way is balanced, and it is a great way to support your all-around body health and longevity. Plus, it’s delicious and—in my opinion—not limiting either, which is a massive bonus.

    A well-balanced diet follows some fairly basic principles and, in essence, consists of plenty of the following:

    • Fruit
    • Vegetables
    • Whole grains
    • Lean protein
    • Nuts
    • Water

    This is essentially all a whole food diet is. Unfortunately, there isn’t an accepted definition of the whole food diet, which means that there are some highly restrictive versions around and some involve principles to frame your diet around rather than strict rules.

    Read on to learn more about the whole food diet as a framework for eating rather than a strict rule book of dos and don’ts that restricts your lifestyle.

    What Is a Whole Food Diet?

    By definition, a whole food diet consists of eating foods that are as close to their natural form as possible. It’s easy to get lost in a quagmire of organic, local, or pesticide-free, but a whole food diet is basically food in its most natural form. Obviously, spices can be ground and grains can be hulled, but you get the idea. You eat the whole food rather than what’s left after being refined or processed.

    In other words, it involves a lot of cooking because whole foods do not involve anything processed. That means no premade sauces, dips, or convenience foods like chocolate bars, sweets, or ready-meals. It also includes things like tinned vegetables and white bread.

    Why? Processed and convenience foods are often high in salt, saturated fat, and additives in comparison to anything homemade. Because of this, their toll on your overall health is higher.

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    Can Other Diets Also Be Whole Food Diets?

    Here’s where it gets confusing—yes, other diets can also be whole food diets. Eating a whole food diet is a lifestyle choice, but many other diets can exist within a whole foods construct. So, diets like the MIND Diet and Mediterranean Diet are also whole food diets.

    For example, here are the foods involved in the MIND Diet:[1]

    • Green, leafy vegetables five times a week
    • Five or more different colored fruits and vegetables every day.
    • Berries five times a week
    • Five or more servings of nuts a week
    • Olive oil five times a week
    • Whole grains five times a week
    • Oily fish twice a week or take an algae-based omega-3 supplement
    • Legumes and pulses five times a week
    • White meat/mix of plant-based proteins twice a week
    • Vitamin D supplement
    • Minimally processed foods
    • No more than one glass of wine a day
    • One or two coffee or tea a day max
    • Two liters of water a day

    That’s pretty much a whole food diet, right? As long as any meat or plant-based proteins are as unprocessed as possible, then it can be a whole food diet.

    Other diets, like a vegan diet, for instance, could be whole food diets or not. It really depends if processed foods are included. Some food substitutes are really heavily processed, so it’s important to read labels really carefully. But it’s only some, not all.

    And here’s where it gets woolly. If you don’t need to eliminate certain food groups for whatever reason—ethical, health, religion—then a whole food diet can be great. But if you do exclude certain foods, then it could be beneficial to include certain “processed” foods. This is to make sure that you don’t miss out on vital nutrients to keep you healthy.

    Processed Foods That Are Okay on a Whole Food Diet

    Many brands of cereals are fortified with B vitamins, which can be hard to come by on a plant-based diet.

    For example, vitamin B12 (needed for maintaining a healthy nervous system, energy, and mood-regulation), is largely found in animal sources. It is something that those on a plant-based diet need to keep an eye on, as studies show that around 20% of us are deficient. And we also know that 65% of vegans and vegetarians don’t take a B vitamin supplement.[2]

    So in that case, choosing a cereal fortified with B vitamins would be a good option, if done wisely. By that I mean use your discretion and check the labels, as many brands of cereals are packed with sugar and additives. But you can strategically choose minimally processed foods using a whole foods mentality.

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    As a rule of thumb, if there are any ingredients that you can’t pronounce, don’t understand, or sound artificial, they probably are best avoided.

    Benefits of a Whole Food Diet

    In a 2014 analysis by Yale University, they concluded that “a diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants, is decisively associated with health promotion and disease prevention.”[3]

    A diet rich in fruit and vegetables or other high-fiber foods like whole grains and nuts is really important in maintaining good long-term health and preventing health problems like diabetes and cancers. These kinds of foods also help our bodies to cope and control the effects of inflammation.

    In fact, one review from 2019 stated that “diets high in plant foods could potentially prevent several million premature deaths each year if adopted globally.”[4] This is a big endorsement for a whole food diet.

    Whole Foods and the Gut

    Whole foods are loaded with fibers that are sometimes lost during processing or refinement. Fiber is essential for a healthy gut because aside from its traditional “roughage” reputation, it also feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut, providing a whole host of other benefits.

    They also provide a lot of variety, which the gut loves. The more variety, the better. So, even though you might fall in love with certain recipes, it’s important to mix up the kinds of whole foods you eat to maintain a healthy gut. Aim for 30 different whole foods each week. It’s easier than you think!

    Whole Foods and the Brain

    The brain is a really hungry organ, and it uses 25% of the total energy you consume from your food. Everything it needs to function at its best is—you guessed it—a whole, unprocessed food.

    In fact, the best diet recommended for brain health is the MIND Diet. In one study, it was shown that people who follow the MIND diet closely had a 53% reduced rate of developing Alzheimer’s.[5]

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    Some of the best whole foods for the brain are:[6]

    • Oily fish
    • Nuts
    • Eggs
    • Berries
    • Broccoli
    • Whole grains

    Is It Easy to Follow a Whole Food Diet?

    Once you’ve got your head around having “ingredients” rather than “ready-to-eat” things in your kitchen cupboards, it’s actually very easy. The only issue is the lifestyle and habit changes that come along with it.

    It is very likely that for many people, following a totally, religiously whole food diet may be unattainable at least some of the time. For example, there are days where you don’t get time to make your lunch or if you want to enjoy social eating. Similarly, people who have young children or who are working more than one job are unlikely to be able to follow a whole food diet all of the time.

    Sometimes, we put ourselves under pressure to be as perfect as we can with diets like this, which can lead to an eating disorder called Orthorexia, which is a preoccupation with healthy eating.

    This means that following a whole food diet, in principle, can be healthy and accessible for some people but not for everyone. It also means that those with previous disordered eating, as always, need to avoid any form of dietary restriction or rules around their diet.

    Is a Whole Food Diet Boring?

    Absolutely not! The beauty of this way of eating is that there are barely any recipes that are off-limits. If you can make it yourself using natural ingredients, then it counts. So, dig out your recipe books and get familiar with your spice cupboard.

    Here’s my advice if you’re just starting: stock up on coconut milk and canned tomatoes. You’ll use them all the time in sauces.

    Best Hacks for Sticking With a Whole Food Diet

    Here are some tips to help you stick with a whole food diet and develop this lifestyle.

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    1. Practice Batch Cooking

    Especially in the beginning, if you’ve been used to eating more convenience-based or packaged foods, you’re likely to feel like you spend the majority of your life in the kitchen. So, I’d suggest getting your cookbooks out and planning around five things to make per week. If you make double, or even triple portions depending on your household, you’ll have enough quantity to last several meals.

    For example, his could be homemade granola. Make it once, and that’s breakfast sorted for a week. Whole food diet ingredients like oats, quinoa, buckwheat, nuts, and seeds are all delicious, and great nutritional resources to keep you feeling full until lunchtime.

    I also love to make big stews, sauces, and curries that can happily be reheated and added throughout the course of a few days.

    2. Make Your Own Convenience Foods

    Sticking to a new way of eating can be really difficult, especially for your willpower. So, it’s very important to make it as easy as possible for yourself.

    Pre-chop. Pre-chop. Pre-chop.

    If you’ve got a container of carrot sticks on hand or can happily munch on a few pieces of melon from the fridge, use those—it’s almost easier than grabbing something from a package. This can extend to your other vegetables, too. If you get your veg delivered or buy it from a market, choose a few things to slice after you wash them. That way, if you need a speedy lunch or a lazy dinner, it’ll be ready in minutes.

    Ready to Try a Whole Food Diet?

    If you’re looking to maximize your overall health, well-being, and vitality, I’d absolutely suggest a whole food diet. But, as with everything, it’s important to do what works for you and your own lifestyle.

    Featured photo credit: Louis Hansel – Restaurant Photographer via unsplash.com

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    Reference

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