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How to Lose Belly Fat

I thought I would put together an article on how to lose belly fat. This is a topic a lot of people want to know about and there is a lot of misunderstanding on the process involved. If you are someone who tends to put on fat around your belly, engaging in a fat loss process may be even more important than if you naturally gained fat in different areas of the body.

A number of studies have indicated that if you gain fat around your midsection, you may be at increased risk of heart problems and other conditions than if you say naturally gained fat around your thighs (i.e. a pair shape physique).

In the health profession, the diagnose of people who should be treated for weight issues is based on a number of factors, with your body mass index being central to the diagnosis. The potential increased risk of belly fat is strong enough that the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute [1] recommend to health practitioners that if a male has a waist circumference greater than 40 inches, or 35 inches for a female and they have significant other risk factors, that person should be treated for weight issues if even if their BMI does not class them as overweight or obese.

With this in mind, the need for weight loss in overweight people who put on fat around their abdominal region is a very serious issue. Lets now take a look at some of the basics of how to lose belly fat.

Losing Belly Fat Comes Down to Consistent and Healthy Fat Loss Generally

The first thing to understand in how to lose belly fat, is that different exercises and nutritional programs aimed at fat loss do not target a specific area of the body, but simply look to achieve fat loss in general. Different people tend to put on fat in different areas of their bodies and lose fat from different areas during different stages of the fat loss process. Where you gain or lose fat is largely based on your genetics rather than a particular approach to fat loss.

As such to lose belly fat, you simply need to aim for consistent, healthy fat loss and if you get that right, this will take care of the fat around your abdominal.

Some people believe that the key to losing belly fat and have your abs visible is abdominal exercise. Abdominal exercises (like crunches, sit ups, ..) will help develop your abdominal muscles, however no amount of strength in your abdominal muscles will give you a visible six pack abs if you have a layer of belly fat over your abs. In order to have visible abs, the first thing you need to do is to get rid of your fat around the abdominal region.

You will typically need to achieve a very low body fat percentage to have visible abs, and it is not until you achieve this that additional abdominal exercises will result in more visible definition to your abs resulting from the additional muscle developed from your crunches and leg raises, …

Calorie Counting for Fat Loss

One of the most widely adopted and respected approaches to fat loss is calorie counting. Losing weight through maintaining a basic calorie deficit is recommended by bodies such as the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the US Department of Health and Human Services [1] and the American Dietetic Association [2]. Organizations such as these release position statements that are designed to instruct health practitioners on how to treat problems such as obesity and weight issues.

I am a believer that these sorts of position statements represent a sort of majority consensus of the evidence based research communities view on a fat loss process. I mention these sources as there are so many competing theories on fat loss, that if you are putting in the effort, you want to be sure that you are adopting a respected approach that is backed by research, rather than simply being influenced by the latest fat loss craze of the moment.

In order to lose weight, you need to maintain a basic calorie deficit. If you consume more calories than you burn, you will put on weight, while if you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. In order to maintain consistent fat loss, you want to introduce a mild calorie deficit. There are a number of problems with trying to introduce a calorie deficit that is too extreme in an attempt to lose weight too quickly.

A severe calorie deficit can result in the loss of more lean muscle rather than fat. Muscle burns calories at a higher rate when at rest than fat, and as such burning muscle in your weight loss efforts will be counter productive for a fat loss process.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the US Department of Health and Human Services [1] recommends that a weight loss process should aim to lose about 1 to 2 lbs a week. A calorie deficit of 3500 calories should result in around 1 lb of weight loss.

This implies creating a calorie deficit of 500 to 1000 calories a day will lead to the desired 1 to 2 lbs of weight loss per week.

If you are new to the idea of calorie counting for fat loss, I recommend to take a look at our overview in the article how many calories should i eat a day. This article will outline the key points and allow you to get your bearings in terms of starting a calorie counting process.

The Key Elements to Successful Fat Loss

For the reasons outlined above I am a firm believer that that the fundamentals to fat loss involve aiming for a consistent, steady rate of weight loss, through introducing a basic calorie deficit in an overall maintainable lifestyle adjustment.

I also like Tom Venuto‚Äôs recommendations in his fat loss classic “Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle”. Among other things, he outlines that there are 4 key elements to achieving fat loss:

  1. Motivation
  2. Nutrition
  3. Aerobic Exercises
  4. Weights Training

If you can get all these 4 elements into your approach, the results will be very strong. In terms of these key aspects, when you combine all 4 elements, the sum of the whole is greater than the contribution of each of the elements in isolation.

Looking at each of these elements in a bit more detail:

1. Motivation: Weight loss motivation is a wide topic. Some of the most important issues include understanding the reasons why you want to lose weight. For example, understanding the health risks associated with obesity if your weight is at that level will put the importance of a weight loss process in perspective.

Additionally, it is very useful to set sort term and long term goals. For example, a goal by tomorrow may be to calculate the calories you should be eating and start to maintain a journal where you record your diet, exercise and weight loss or gain over time. A one week goal may be to lose your first 1 to 2 lbs, while your long term goal may be to get your BMI into a normal weight range. Another closely related point here is that by maintaining a journal of your progress, this will keep you attentive to the process and help maintain your motivation through time.

2. Nutrition: I guess the first rule of nutrition for weight loss is to maintain a basic calorie deficit until a healthy weight is reached. Additional issues include eating many regular meals with smaller portions to keep the digestive system operating and thus burning calories. Getting enough protein is also important to minimize the chance of a loss of lean muscle through the process.

You can then even go into more detail such as looking at given macro-nutrient ratios (carbs, protein and fat), as outlined in Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle.

3. Aerobic Exercise: Aerobic exercise has the benefits of a) decreasing health risks irrespective of your weight due to increased fitness and being active, and b) burning calories while you are actually performing the exercise. I liked the way Tom Venuto put it: if he was overweight now and knew as much about fat loss as he now does, he would be doing aerobic exercise seven days a week until he had gotten his weight under control.

4. Weight Training: Engaging in regular weight training through a weight loss process is the best way to prevent the loss of lean muscle through the process. By maintaining your muscle weight while losing fat, you minimize the degree that your body will reduce the calories it burns at rest.

Additionally, while weight training may not burn the sort of calories that aerobic activity burns while you are performing the training, it has the effect of increasing the calories you burn for a period of time after the after the training session itself.

You can read more about the role of exercise in losing belly fat in our article exercises to lose belly fat.

I hope this article has helped give a heads up on how to lose belly fat. If you are interested in taking this further, I recommend taking a look at the burn the fat, feed the muscle ebook.

A final point is that if you are embarking on a weight loss process or worried about your weight, you should consult your doctor, as they will understand your specific situation and be able to give you personalized advice or let you know about any issues that may be important


[1] The Practical Guide: Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults (2000). National Institutes of Health. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. North American Association for the Study of Obesity.

[2] Position of the American Dietetic Association: Weight Management (2009). Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Volume 109, Issue 2 , Pages 330-346, February 2009

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