The fat around the belly, particularly the lower abs and love handles tend to increase as we age.
Especially for us, women, this waist expansion starts to accelerate during the middle age years.
And, no matter what you do, the "lower stomach fat" and side "love handles" refuse to go away.
If you are like most women, you probably follow a "healthy diet" and an "exercise regime" to try to burn and lose your lower belly fat and muffin top.
But the stomach fat just won't budge.
The worst part is, you are losing fat everywhere else, even in other stubborn areas such as the ‘hips', ‘thighs' and ‘buttocks'.
But the rest of the excess fat just sit around the midsection.
It's frustrating. I know.
One of the main reasons why it particularly seems hard to lose stomach fat is because your body considers the midsection being the best place to store extra energy because it takes less energy to carry it around, says Mike Adams, editor of naturalnews.com.
But the truth is, losing lower belly fat is not hard.
It just takes the right strategies for your body to unlock the stubborn lower belly fat and melt it off.
Another truth is that losing your lower belly fat can save more than your self-esteem. It can save your life.
According Harvard Health Publications, lower belly fat and 'love handles' threatens your health.
In this article, I’ll you show you exactly what to do to lose the belly fat and stubborn 'love handles' using 7 scientifically proven strategies.
But before we get into the planning, it’s important to understand the different types of fat in your belly.
Types of fat
- Subcutaneous fat
- Visceral fat
When trying to lose belly fat, you are actually fighting off two types of fat, or more precisely, 2 layers of fat.
Subcutaneous fat is the fat that's directly underneath the skin. The visible, pinchable fat is all subcutaneous fat.
The other fat is visceral, or active fat, that is stored around vital organs like the pancreas, liver, and intestines. This inner layer fat is invisible since it's under the outer layer belly fat, subcutaneous fat.
The one you are desperately wanting to lose is the outer layer subcutaneous fat.
Aesthetically, you want to reduce your subcutaneous fat so you have the appearance of a nice, lean, 'toned stomach’.
However, visceral fat is a bigger health concern than subcutaneous fat.
Dr. Travis Stork explains the dangers of visceral fat in this video.
This active fat is known to release cytokines that cause chronic inflammation.
Not only that, because it's so close to the living organs, in which our health heavily depends on, its existence can lead to numerous diseases and chronic illness. So much so that Harvard calls "apple shape", a shape of chronic disease.
They point out that the following health conditions are often associated with visceral fat:
- Breast cancer
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- Alzheimer’s diseases
- insulin Resistance
To get rid of the lower belly fat and love handles, you need to fight off both layers of fat.
Before moving on to the 7 scientifically proven ways to "lose lower belly fat", let's also learn how and why so much fat gets accumulated in the mid section in the first place.
What leads to fat accumulation in the lower belly
Image credit: samadimd.com
There are several factors that contribute to growing "belly fat" and "love handles".
- Poor Diet
These are just several factors that have been reported by many studies.
While some influencers such as age, gender and genetics are beyond our control, some including poor diet, sleep, and stress are something we can tackle and change.
The easiest and simplest way to reduce your unwanted fat around your trunk is to manage the three internal factors.
By managing the "belly fat influencers", you can manage and reduce your lower belly fat.
With that in mind, let's discuss 7 strategies to manage the 3 "belly fat influencers" you have power over.
3 Strategies for Managing Stress
Out of all things that influence your lower belly fat, the one that shocks many women the most is the stress.
Stress and bulging lower belly fat may appear unrelated to most, but it's not.
In fact, Yale reports the link between the two is strong and stress is a big player in the appearance of fat around the midsection.
They state “ Non-overweight women who are vulnerable to the effects of stress are more likely to have excess abdominal fat, and have higher levels of a stress hormone called cortisol.”
The study explains that high level of cortisol (stress hormone) can be responsible for fat storage around your vital organs.
Stress formulates the perfect path way to lower belly fat.
The more stress you have, the more cortisol you'll build up and more fat you accumulate in your lower belly and love handles.
One way to reduce your cortisol levels is to manage your stress level.
But don't get mistaken. The type of stress you need to manage is the persistent one. It's the stress that doesn't go away without a proper stress management.
If you only experience stress temporarily, be aware of the two types of stress and proactively take measure to reduce it.
The first type of stress is temporary stress. It has a reverse effect on eating and temporarily shuts down your appetite.
What happens is, when you experience a short term stress, your body signals a part of brain called hypothalamus to produce appetite suppressing hormone.
The brain also releases adrenaline which puts your body in the fight-or-flight mode, in which your mind puts eating on hold temporarily. Together, your appetite decreases and puts eating on hold for a short term.
However, when the stress persists, it unlocks a different phychological response. This is the second type of stress that's persistent, long-term and constant.
It's often referred to as "chronic stress".
Having persistent stress activates your body to releases cortisol, which prompts "stress eating" by increasing appetite.
According to Elissa Epel, the founder and director of the Center for Obesity Assessment and lead researcher on UCSF study, the role of stress in overeating, “Stress affects the same signals as famine does."researching the role of stress in overeating."
For most women, when the stress hits and the hunger level skyrockets, they reach out to "comfort food" like fatty fries and sugary cakes. British Nutrition Foundation calls this phenomenon "stress-induced changes in eating behavior".
In easier terms, we are wired to grab sugary, fatty food during cortisol surge.
This is true even for healthy weight women.
In fact, their study notes anywhere from "65-85% of women are at risk of stress-induced changes" in eating and body weight changes.
After all, all those foods we call "comfort foods" truly send our brain the signal of pleasure and comfort and really comfort our brains at the time of stress.
This makes reaching for carrot sticks when everything in your body is craving fatty, sugary foods is truly a hard battle. But constantly giving in can surely lead to weight gain and obesity, let alone trimming lower belly fat.
The first strategy to fight the battle of "stress eating" is to stay clear.
No.1: Make Your Fridge and Pantry Junk Free
keeping sugary snacks and fatty foods handy just makes the matter worse.
Instead, stock your fridge with "healthy snacks" and throw away anything you know you shouldn't be snacking on constantly. Because with "chronic stress", the chances are, you will be snacking them much more frequently than you should.
No2: Keep Healthier Snacks Handy
But fighting your body's demands coming from stress-induced physiological and psychological changes is hard and may only last so many times.
If you need to give in at times, it's better to do it with healthier versions of your comfort foods.
This way, you can avoid the unnecessary calories, unhealthy fats, loaded sugar and every other food chemicals often found in stored-bought, conventional packaged foods.
Instead, here are some great tasting "comfort food" recipes you can safely snack while you learn to manage your stress.
No.3: Reduce Stress with Low-intensity Exercise and Meditation
While the first two strategies focused on how to cope with overeating without expanding waistline, the most important strategy in countering "stress eating" is to learn to properly manage stress.
A recent study verifies it.
University of California San Francisco's study on stress reduction and mindful eating reported that their female participants who had the greatest reduction in stress seemingly had the most loss of deep belly fat.
Here are just few suggestions for countering stress.
No.4: Mind and Body Practices: Yoga, Tai Chi and Meditation
According to Harvard School of Public Health's study on stress and overeating, low-intensity exercise seemingly reduces cortisol levels.
Activities such as yoga and tai chi are great examples of low-intensity exercises that offer both physical and psychological benefits.
Meditation is another practice scientifically proven to reduce stress.
It's said to help people make mindful choices including food.
With meditation, you may be able to pay better attention to your body's hunger, cravings, fullness, and urges and make better food choices and a wiser way to combat the impulses.
Best Strategy to Manage Sleep
No.5: Regularly Sleep 7-8 hours at Night
A five-year study on sleep reported by Harvard found the link between lack of sleep with growing visceral fat.
In the study, adults who slept less than 5 hours at night accumulated significantly more "visceral fat".
Best Strategy for Managing Eating
Image credit: Ali Inay
Stress and sleep have much to contribute to your lower stomach fat, but they are not the only ones. Often a poor diet is the obvious thing to blame.
No.6: Avoid Foods That Increase Belly Fat and Eat Foods That Reduce It
Image credit: Leon Ephraïm
If you are consuming foods that is high in unhealthy fat or packed with excess sugar, you could be unknowingly sabotaging your flat belly efforts.
According Rush University Medical Center, "sugar increases belly fat" and fiber reduces belly fat. Sugar is one of the biggest reason people get fat.
But most of us already know that excess sugar is unhealthy.
So what should you eat instead to lose stomach fast?
It may be hard to believe, but there are really delicious foods you can incorporate into your diet that target your midsection. According to Poliquin, "when you combine these foods with regular exercise, you’ll see the pounds almost falling off."
Foods below have been called numerous times as flat belly foods for their aid in sleep, weight loss, belly fat loss and hunger management.
3 Foods to fight lower belly fat
Image credit: prevention.com
Add fish to your diet to help fight off lower belly fat and the unwanted love handles.
Fish is a true superfood, one of the healthiest sources of high quality protein and healthy fat.
Unlike fatty meat products, it’s not high in saturated fat.
It's also a low-calorie protein source with per serving calories ranging just 90-130 calories.
With fish containing as much protein as meats (19-26 grams per serving), it's a sure way to take in more protein without adding calories.
Here is a comparison of fish and meats
Serving size: 3 oz
- Protein: 19-26 grams
- Calories: 90-130 calories
- Protein: 18-27 grams
- Calories: 151-235 calories
This low calorie, high protein nature makes fish an ideal choice of protein by itself, but its benefits to your lower stomach are not limited to that.
Fish is actually loaded with nutrients that are hard to get elsewhere and great help in flattening your belly.
The fat that’s in fish is the healthy fat, the kind that is essential to your health. Its omega-3 fatty acids are known to normalize the natural rhythms of your pineal gland, a small gland in the brain.
When it's deficient, the rhythm is thrown off and puts sleep hormones out of balance. (remember belly fat influencer #2 is sleep, and how lack of sleep can lead to belly fat.)
Omega-3 can also help decrease your risk of developing cardiovascular disease and even "your body fat".
According to Poliquin, leading fitness institution and publisher of "Nine Secrets to Losing Belly Fat Fast", these types of fats help lose fat around the midsection by improving insulin sensitivity.
Poliquin described "fish oils improve insulin sensitivity because it gets incorporate into the lipid (fat) layer that protects cells. This allows the cellular receptors to bind more easily to insulin so that the body burns glucose for energy more efficiently."
I know you can’t wait to start eating fish, but before you do, you should know some type of fish can cause more harms than good to your health.
Some fish may contain high levels of mercury, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), dioxins and other environmental contaminants. Levels of these substances are generally highest in older, larger, predatory fish and marine mammals.
Here’s a list of recommended fish by the According to the American Heart Association that are safe to eat:
- Canned tuna ( Albacore tuna is best)
Fish NOT to Eat
- eating shark
- king Mackerel
these fish contains high levels of mercury and can be harmful to health.
Note: Albacore tuna is best
Eggs have had a bad reputation they don't deserve.
They are not only an excellent protein source and proven to help you lose weight, 65% more weight and 61% more BMI to be exact (a study published in the International Journal of Obesity).
What about high cholesterol?
According to ahealtheirmichigan.com, there is actually little-to-no relationship between dietary cholesterol and higher blood cholesterol levels. They further clarified that eggs bad cholesterol count is a myth.
Eggs are really all around flat-belly-foods.
It not only scores high on Satiety Index Scale, providing great satisfaction that leaves a lasting impact throughout the day, it's a nutrient dense food that particularly works well with belly fat.
One egg only contains about 77 calories but loaded with 6 grams of protein, as well as 9 essential amino acids including B12.
This vitamin B12 is something that's often overlooked but critical to fat burn.
According to "Noreen Kassem", hospital doctor and livestrong.com medical writer, vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that boosts metabolism for energy and burn stored fat and calories.
It is also partially responsible for the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body, aiding in fat metabolization.
No.3: Tart Cherries
If you are one of 63% of Americans whose sleep needs are not met during the week, you need tart cherries.
There are number of foods such as banana, corn and tart cherries that produce a sleep hormone called melatonin, but out of all other food choices, tart cherries definitely come on top.
New research reported on University of Florida Health Communications showed drinking tart cherry juice twice a day for two weeks helped increase participants sleep time by an average 84 minutes.
There are other numerous studies that back tart cherries' role in better sleep.
But that's not all there is to tart cherries.
They are low in calories (51 calories/cup) and packed with additional belly fat fighting benefits.
Natasha Turner, ND reports cherries' significant weight management benefits including reduced belly fat on her piece Six Hidden Health Benefits of Cherries.
According to her, researchers found that cherries can lower blood levels for cholesterol and triglycerides. They can also prevent weight gain and fat store.
Belly fat particularly the visceral fat, which lies deep within the abdominal cavity, where it pads spaces between our abdominal organs.