Let’s talk about the big misconception of targeting belly fat.
The big misconception
I often get asked a similar question over and over by many people. The question being: “what exercises can I do to get rid of this lower belly fat” or “love handles” as many like to call it.
I still get this question from my mother (she doesn’t refer them to love handles) even after explaining to her a thousand times.
It’s a big misconception that certain exercises, like abdominal crunches, can burn the fat around the belly. This is usually referred to as “targeting belly fat” or “spot reduction”. The only people to blame for this thought process are the money scheming health and fitness gurus trying to sell you a 6-pack-abs program for thousands of dollars.
Don’t believe the hype!
The harsh reality
I’m sorry to break it to you, but it is not possible to target a certain area of fat on the body, let alone belly fat.
You can do all the ab crunches, leg raises, sit-ups you like, but this may only result in a strong core and not necessarily burn fat.
The body makes up its own mind when reducing fat, and I hate to break it to you, the lower back, lower belly area is usually the last place it will go.
What can you do?
Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to get those 6 packs you’ve always dreamt of.
No magical pill to take, no certain exercise to do, no easy way. It pains me to say it, as I too wish this was the case.
So, what to do?
You will have to ensure you are in a calorie deficit.
This means each day you will need to burn more calories than you consume. I will break it down for you and make it as simple as possible.
Exercise 3 times per week
Let’s create an example and use a makeshift person named Sarah.
Sarah is struggling with her weight, she wants to start losing some pounds but can’t shift her eating habits. Sarah consumes the same calories week after week. She has an office job and is sedentary. Whatever Sarah is eating, she is not really burning off but her body has adapted to the calorie intake and now her weight is stagnant and maintaining what she has.
All Sarah needs to do to start losing weight is eat the same as she does but exercise 3 times a week.
This could be weight training for 30/40 mins, this could be 30/40 mins on a cardiovascular machine such as a treadmill, elliptical trainer, exercise bike, etc.
If you are not a member at a gym you can always do your workout at home. Here are a few exercises you can try out. Make a circuit with 5 exercises. 30 seconds on 30 seconds off. Repeat the circuit 5 times.
- Exercise 1 : Burpees
- Exercise 2 : Jumping jacks
- Exercise 3 : Mountain climbers
- Exercise 4 : Sit ups/Crunches
- Exercise 5 : Knee taps.
If you are unsure of any of these exercises stated, you can type them into Google or YouTube and you will be sure to find a demonstration on each.
So why will this work you say? Surely I need to eat ‘healthy’ and ‘clean? ‘
Well, yes, if you do not eat a mixed diet with helpings of fruit & vegetables at least 3/4 times per week, then I suggest you do so.
That being said, by working out 3 times per week Sarah could potentially be burning 1000/1500 calories more than usual. This is around 2.5 kilograms of fat. Therefore, this will result in around 2.5 kg weight loss per week, give or take.
If she was going to do this, she needed to feel comfortable and confident while working out. She didn’t have any clothing to workout in so she decided she needed some Gym Apparel to wear. She invested in some gym joggers and tops.
By doing this, not only did she feel comfortable while working out, she almost felt obliged and made herself accountable to workout. Let's be honest, we could all use an excuse to buy cute exercise clothes.
Sarah was now working out 3 times per week, losing roughly 2.5 kg per week.
Unfortunately for Sarah and everybody else, the body is very adaptive and after 4/6 weeks Sarah starts to notice her weight isn’t dropping anymore. The metabolism is a crazy thing and it will adapt to your calorie input fairly quick. What now?
Decrease calorie intake
Sarah now has to increase her calorie deficit again. She is already working out 3 times per week, therefore her next move is to decrease her calorie intake. If you don’t know how to count calories or don’t have an app to chart your intake, don't worry. Simple changes can make a huge difference.
Sarah has a can of coke and a chocolate bar every day at work (amongst other meals). Sarah decides to cut down and have a coke and a chocolate bar every other day. This is a huge difference. One can of Coke contains up to 140 calories. A chocolate bar on average contains 200-250 calories. Cutting both of these out 3 times a week can make another calorie deficit of around 1000/1250 calories. Sarah will start losing weight again and there are no real drastic measures she has taken.
It's not hard to cut out one can of coke or a chocolate bar, now is it?
Creating a habit
Sarah now feels 10 times better, the habit has caught on from a prolonged & consistent effort. She gets the bug for working out so she decides to add an extra workout per week. She now feels bad for having a can of coke and a chocolate bar because she doesn’t want to ruin the efforts training.
Her life has now completely changed with a shift in mindset and a few little tweaks.
Small changes can bring big changes. If you are like Sarah and feel you need to lose some weight or eat healthier, there’s no time like the present. Be like Sarah, make the change and live a healthier lifestyle physically and mentally.
If Sarah can do it, so can YOU!