How to lose belly fat

What comes to your mind when you hear the words "belly fat"? You know that annoying fat in your midsection that you're self-conscious about. The one that you feel makes you look terrible in bikinis and tight-fitting clothes. Or, what are you most concerned about with having it? Does extra pounds in the midsection only affects our physical appearance? Almost everyone with belly fat that I know are concerned about their physical appearance. But, did you know that belly fat is also harmful? Belly fat is a risk factor for high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, strokes, dementia, certain cancers among other health problems.

This fat in the belly region is referred to as visceral fat. Visceral fat cushions our internal organs by surrounding them so they serve as a means of protection. However, too much of this fat in the midsection can also cause harm as stated above.

What causes belly fat?
Some belly fat is caused:
- by the foods and drinks that we consume. However only under certain situations, excess belly fat will arise. These are:
  • excess calories from carbs, proteins and, fats/too many foods and drinks
  • unhealthy foods and drinks

- by not being active or doing little or no exercise

- medical conditions
Three are:
  • hypothyroidism
  • adrenal fatigue
  • Cushing's syndrome

- by age
Older people tend to have more belly fat rather than younger people simply because as we age our metabolism slows down.

- by hormones
  • hormone imbalances
  • the hormones insulin and cortisol

- by medications

- due to genetics

Do you want to start losing the extra pounds in your mid-section and stop adding to it? Then you need to identify what caused you to gain it and is causing you to keep adding to it. All you got to do is look through the causes and see if you're doing them. Once, you know then you can try the solutions that I have listed below. So let's get into them!


Some ways to lose belly fat are:

In order to lose belly fat, you would have to make changes in your lifestyle particularly nutrition, activity levels and stress levels. Strugglers of belly fat have varying extra pounds in their midsection and so that will determine how much work they would have to do in order to achieve their desired results. It will also determine how long it will take to lose the extra pounds.

So let's look more into the different areas that changes can be made!


Food fuels our bodies and it enables it to perform all of its bodily functions. These very foods can make us gain excess belly fat, add to our belly fat, prevent us from losing the belly fat and some can promote weight loss. So we need to avoid or reduce our intake of the bad/unhealthy ones and eat more of the good/healthy ones.

Tips on food consumption

- Eat a balanced healthy diet with your required calorie requirement and not a lot more

Generally, you should eat a well-balanced diet that is rich in complex carbohydrates, rich in proteins and healthy fats. You should not be scared of healthy fats and you'll learn more about the ones to eat below. Excess calories are more than what your body needs and so it will be stored as fat.
Our nutritional needs will differ based on our age, gender, activity levels and so on (see Estimated calorie needs per day, by age, sex, and physical activity level). Our calorie requirement will further differ if we want to eat a balanced healthy diet with reduced calories to lose weight.

- Eat more protein
The body uses more energy in calories to burn proteins than it does for carbohydrates and fats. Additionally, proteins take longer to digest and as a result, you will feel fuller longer. Lastly, you should consume lean proteins.
Read: How to make the right choices when it comes to protein

- Consume good fats and avoid bad ones

We cannot survive without fats. With that being said we should avoid the bad fats and consume the good fats. It is very important to remember that all fats are high in calories whether it's bad or good and so even if they are good you should not eat too much.

Which ones to avoid and which ones to eat?
Try to avoid saturated fats and trans fats and instead consume monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Saturated fats and trans fats cause belly fat whereas monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats do not.

Some examples of the fats to avoid
Saturated fats: dairy and meat

There are natural trans fats as well as artificial trans fats. However, not all trans fats are bad for you. Natural trans fats are found in animal meat and are not bad for you. On the other hand, artificial trans fats are made by the hydrogenation of oils to form a solid fat by man. These are bad for you.

Trans fats (artificial trans fats): found in fried and processed foods

Examples of the fats to eat
Consume omega - 3 fatty acids which is a type of polyunsaturated fat. Other foods that are rich in omega - 3 fatty acids are wild salmon, trout, sardines, mackerel, catfish, chia seeds, walnuts, olive oil, flaxseed and sunflower seeds.

Examples of monounsaturated fats: olive oil and avocados

- Consume foods that contain catechins
Catechins is a class of antioxidants that is shown to help burn fat cells. Foods that contain this class of antioxidants are green teas, red wine, berries, chocolate, apples, etc.

- Snack smartly
Watch what you snack on and how much you snack simply because snacks can add up to lots of calories. Additionally, snack on healthy snacks like fruits instead of unhealthy ones like chips and so on.

- Don't skip meals
When we skip a meal or two, we'll get so hungry to the point that all we can think about is food. We would eat whatever we can get our hands on so even a large bowl of unhealthy food seems like a good idea.
The point is when we skip meals will be more hungry and will most likely overeat and eat unhealthy foods.

- Reduce your carbohydrate intake and when you eat carbs eat more complex carbohydrates
Too many carbohydrates can cause a spike in insulin which can ultimately lead to belly fat gain. How so? You eat a lot of carbohydrates and so your bloodstream is flooded with glucose. In comes insulin. Insulin will deliver glucose around the body and the extra will be stored as fat. Simple carbohydrates are more so converted to belly fat.

Additionally, our bodies primary source of energy comes from carbohydrates but simple carbohydrates are broken down by the body at a much faster rate rather than complex carbohydrates which means that high-fiber complex carbohydrates will keep you fuller longer. This is great for weight loss because if you feel fuller longer you will eat less often which will result in less calorie intake which is great for weight loss. So choose complex carbohydrates instead.

Examples of simple carbs are sugar, candy, and soda
Examples of complex carbs are whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruits

- Cut back on bad processed foods and try to eat whole foods instead

Some processed foods are high in:
  • sugar/high fructose corn syrup
  • fats
  • sodium/salt
Processed foods are also addicting so you won't want to stop eating them. Additionally, processed foods are low in fiber and so all of this makes them terrible for weight loss.
When we think of processed foods we think that they are all bad but the truth is not all processed foods are bad (or contain lots of the above-listed ingredients) and so you should always read labels so that you can buy the healthy ones.

Some examples of good processed foods are frozen vegetables and fruits, canned tuna and salmon, canned beans (Choose the healthy ones. You can read on how to choose these here), pickles, dried fruits, fortified milk, sauerkraut and dark chocolate.

Some examples of bad processed foods are canned foods with lots of sodium, candies, processed meats, fast foods like burgers and fries (mostly high in trans - fats and calories), sodas and white bread (and so on increases inflammation in the body) and bacon (contains saturated fats).

Processed foods and fats
Certain processed foods contain saturated fats. As stated above saturated fats cause belly fat. Also, processed foods are high in trans fats.

Processed foods containing sodium
Some processed foods contain lots of sodium. Sodium will not cause us to gain belly fat (Sodium doesn't have calories) but it will cause us to retain water which in turn will cause us to weight more and cause a bloated appearance in the belly region.

Processed foods containing sugar
Some have high sugars - high simple carbs intake and you feel hungry faster and so on as mentioned above.
Examples: sodas, certain breakfast cereals that have lots of sugar and low in fiber, ketchup and fruit juices with lots of sugar.

High fructose corn syrup can lead to belly fat gain as well.

Lastly, the addition of lots of sugar and fat to processed foods will make them higher in calories.

Solution? Replace processed foods with whole foods instead.

- Eat well-balanced meals every three to four hours
So once you have an idea of what to eat and what to avoid then you can plan small meals. This can increase your metabolism. It can also prevent you from getting really hungry. It is very important that you divide your calories among these meals and not eat extra calories.
Our bodies will take about 4 hours to fully digest a meal. After that low blood sugar will arise and that will trigger hunger. The longer you wait between meals/take to eat the more likely you'll feel much more hungry and tend to grab unhealthy foods or overeat (Generally the longer that you take to eat the hungrier you'll get).


- Increase your activity levels
How active our bodies are will determine how many calories we burn. If we are not active and consume excessive calories then that will lead to weight gain.

Ways in which you can increase your activity levels
You can increase your activity levels by:

⍈ exercising
- weight lifting on a consistent basis

- Doing cardio like:
  • Jogging
  • Running - Go for a run at the park, etc. or try running on a treadmill.
  • Cycling
  • Jump rope
  • Walking - If you have to go somewhere and the distance is short enough to walk to then instead of driving to it walk. You can also walk your dog if you have one, take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, clean your home, do gardening, etc.

- Sleep
There is a link between sleep and belly fat gain. If you want to lose weight make sure you get enough quality sleep! You should sleep for about 7 to 8 hours.

- Reduce your stress levels
Stress also has an impact on our weight gain and loss. Cortisol is a stress hormone that our bodies produce during times of stress.

How does cortisol lead to weight gain?

Our bodies produce high levels of cortisol when we're stressed which results in an increased appetite. An increase in appetite may cause us to overeat (eating lots of food that we don't need) which will lead to weight gain. Weight gain via this path will most likely happen in the belly region.

It is important that we avoid stress as much as we can and when we can't avoid stress that we find ways to cope with it (Read: Ways to cope with stress)

- Reduce your alcohol intake
Do you drink alcohol? If so then that can lead to weight gain! How so? Well, alcohol contains 7 calories per gram which means that it will add up to your overall calorie intake.

- Keep track of what you eat
This is achievable if you count your macros and keep a food journal.

Excessive calorie consumption can occur, and we might not even know it. Keeping track of your macros can prevent this from happening. This is even made easier to do because there are apps available these days that you can use to do so. Alternatively, you can keep a handwritten journal.

Additionally, having a food record to look back on in the future can be very helpful to compare what works and what doesn't. For example, you might consume a higher percentage of carbohydrates for a period and a lower percentage on another period and the lower percentage period showed greater weight loss. Or you check and see that eating certain foods makes you feel hungry faster and on those days you eat more than other days.

Some of us might have never counted macros before and might not know to average macros in foods. By counting for a while you can learn how to eyeball it and maybe would not have to count in the future.

Related: The best ways to lose weight

There is no one way to lose weight. What might work for one person might not work for another because people have different reasons for gaining weight. Also, one way alone might not work so a combination of ways might.

Always remember that weight loss doesn't require you to starve yourself. It's about eating the right foods in moderation. Additionally, remember that looking unsightly in clothes is not the only disadvantage of having belly fat - belly fat can also affect your health. Belly fat loss is possible and don't compare yourself to others weight loss. You are your own person and it takes time so keep your head up and keep trying.

Good luck on your belly fat weight loss journey and I'm going to leave this quote with you for a little motivation and inspiration.

"Eliminate the mindset of can't! Because you can do anything!" - Tony Horton