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Last Updated on December 15, 2020

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

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:

    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 January 14, 2021

    How to Create a Healthy Meal Plan for the Week

    How to Create a Healthy Meal Plan for the Week

    Meal plans are a great way to cut down waste, make shopping for food quicker and easier, and help you to stick to healthy choices. But where do you start? What makes a healthy meal plan for the week, and how do you know what to include?

    Firstly, there is no healthy meal plan that works for everyone. At different stages of your life, you will need different levels of nutrients, but there are some general principles that you can follow, and then adjust as necessary. Here’s how to create a healthy meal plan for the week.

    The Backbone of Your Healthy Meal Plan

    For the vast majority of adults, these practical tips should be the backbone of your meal plan:

    • A range of fruits and vegetables
    • Whole grain carbohydrates (brown rice, brown bread, millet, bulgar wheat, etc)
    • Fermented food such as kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut
    • Unsaturated fats such as extra virgin olive oil, rapeseed oil, avocados, and nuts
    • Two portions of oily fish such as salmon per week (or nuts and seeds if you don’t eat fish)
    • A handful of nuts and seeds a day
    • Aim for 30g of fiber a day
    • Eat a range of beans and pulses (such as chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, and lentils)
    • Drink approximately 8 glasses of water a day[1]

    Calorie Counting

    A calorie is the energy required to raise the temperature of 1g water from 14.5 to 15.5°Celsius. This is calculated in a laboratory, by burning the food. However, the food is not “burnt” in our bodies, and people’s metabolism and energy expenditure vary, so it’s a very rough estimate.

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    The absorption and, therefore, how much energy is available for you to use, is also affected by how the food is processed. An example of this is sweetcorn. If you grind it down into a powder and make a tortilla, you will absorb far more calories than if you eat whole sweetcorn kernels. Instead, you will see most of the kernels untouched, in the toilet!

    Another concern with calories is that instead of thinking about nutrient quality, it promotes prioritizing quantity. For example, there is a huge difference in the number of nutrients you could consume in 500 calories of fruit and vegetables, versus 500 calories of ice cream.

    Also the number of calories you need varies according to so many factors, such as age, gender, lifestyle, and activity level, that it is hard to accurately predict exactly how many you need. Instead, I prefer to recommend a general principle of how to balance your plate and a reminder to eat mindfully when you are physically hungry, not because of an emotional trigger.

    How to Balance Your Plate

    When thinking of your healthy meal plan, for each meal your plate should contain approximately:

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    • Fruit and vegetables (1/2 plate)
    • Whole grains (1/4 plate)
    • Lean protein (1/4 plate)
    • A spoon of unsaturated oil

    This will help you when you think of each meal to work out what to include and approximate portion sizes.

    An Example Day

    Breakfast

    • Overnight oats, with chia seeds, quinoa and milk or fortified plant based milk
    • A piece of fruit

    Snack

    • A handful of mixed nuts

    Lunch

    • Grilled tofu with a mixed salad and bulgar wheat
    • A piece of fruit

    Snack

    • Apple slices with nut butter

    Dinner

    • Chicken / tofu / salmon with miso brown rice and spring greens
    • OR vegetable curry, daal, and brown rice
    • OR stuffed aubergine with mixed vegetables and millet or quinoa
    • A piece of fruit

    How to Adjust Your Meal Plan

    There are certain phases when more or less nutrients are needed, so it is important to consider your changing needs.

    When You’re Pregnant

    During your pregnancy, you should limit oily fish to once a week, and only 2 tuna steaks or 4 medium sized cans of tuna per week, because of the risk of pollution.

    You should also avoid the following food groups:

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    • Raw or undercooked eggs
    • Unpasteurized cheese
    • Raw or undercooked meat
    • Pâté
    • Swordfish, shark, and marlin
    • Homemade ice-cream with raw egg
    • Soft-serve ice cream from vans or kiosks
    • Vitamin A supplements
    • Liquorice root
    • Alcohol

    When You’re Breastfeeding

    While you are breastfeeding, your body needs more calcium (1250mg), selenium (70mcg), and iodine (200mcg). Ensure that you include these in your meal plan.

    When Going Through Menopause

    Menopause

    changes your long-term risk of disease, so it is important to focus on items that help support bone and heart health. The framework above already sets out a diet to support long term heart health, but for bone health aim for:

    • 1200mg calcium per day
    • High-quality protein at every meal
    • Foods rich in vitamin K
    • Foods rich in phosphorus
    • Foods rich in magnesium

    Organizing Your Shopping

    Once you have completed your healthy meal plan for the week, you can save the ingredients that you regularly need to an online shopping list, in order to make repeat ordering simpler. Some recipe books also now have a QR code so that you can easily synchronize the ingredients needed with your online shopping.

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    Try to eat seasonal fruit and vegetables where possible, but canned beans, frozen, dried, and freeze dried fruit make great substitutes for fresh, retaining most of the nutrients.

    Final Thoughts

    Creating a healthy meal plan for the week may be daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’ll become a fun addition to your weekly planning, and one that will ultimately improve your overall lifestyle. Try to use the general feedback above and adapt it to your own specific needs. Enjoy looking for new and exciting recipes to include in your plan!

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    Featured photo credit: Ello via unsplash.com

    Reference

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