Belly fat has become so common we could almost call it an epidemic, especially the kind around your lower midsection. This type of fat is also referred to as visceral fat, as it is a deep abdominal fat that surrounds your organs. Interestingly, even skinny people can have excess lower belly fat (hence the term skinny fat) and it has dangerous implications for everyone.
Lower belly fat is unfortunately more than just an aesthetic annoyance, as its solidly linked with many chronic diseases such as diabetes, insulin resistance, heart disease, chronic inflammation and more. In this article, we’ll explore the important topic of how to get rid of lower belly fat, so you’ll not only be able to fit into your favorite pair of jeans, but also dramatically reduce your risk of disease for the long term.
These twelve strategies can kick-off healthy habits and boost your ability to get rid of visceral fat.
1. Cut the Carbs
Carbs are a confusing nutrition topic, and while they’re certainly not the devil, they also aren’t all created equal. Simple carbs come from refined grains like white breads, pastas, cookies, cakes and other processed sources, and play a big role in lower belly fat. In fact, studies specifically show that refined grains cause visceral fat and whole grains decrease it. Instead, stick with complex carbs from whole grains, legumes, beans and starchy veggies like sweet potatoes, for example.
2. Increase Healthy Fats
Believe it or not, you need to eat fat to lose fat! If you’re used to eating a lot of carbs, cutting them back often leaves you hungry. Good fats like olives, olive oil, coconut and coconut oil, avocado, nuts and seeds have a high satiety index, meeting they keep you full for longer, therefore decreasing appetite and cravings. Adding in plenty of medium chain triglycerides is a great start, particularly from a high quality coconut oil. I like to buy in bulk to be prepared and not fall into the trap of needing to use unhealthy oils.
On the flip side, decreasing unhealthy trans fats is key for getting rid of belly fat. Avoid like the plague any ingredient that says: “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” that are often found in packaged foods.
3. Experiment with Intermittent Fasting (IF)
Fasting might sound daunting, but it’s actually a practice that’s been used historically across the globe for religious, spiritual and health purposes. IF is a gentle form of fasting that’s been shown to reduce belly fat, and involves limiting your eating to certain hours of the day and fasting for the rest. For example, you might try the 16:8 approach, where you stop eating around 8pm and don’t eat your first meal until noon the next day. Any eating/fasting window that works for your schedule will do, and often feels more natural to the body than you might think.
4. Get Your Heart Rate Up
The right amount and type of regular aerobic activity is important for getting rid of belly fat. Choose a form of cardio that you enjoy, whether that be running, walking, dancing, swimming, etc. Be sure not to do too much cardio, as that can actually increase your stress hormones and potentially increase belly fat, too. Shooting for 30 minutes 5 days per week is ideal, and consider investing in a tracker to optimize success and progress.
5. Do Interval Training
Interval training simply combines bursts of all-out exertion with periods of lower exertion, and is often called high intensity interval training (HIIT). Try making two of your cardio sessions each week a HIIT workout, as this form of exercise has been linked with a reduction in belly fat and waist circumference, both markers of heart disease.
6. Reduce Inflammation
Visceral fat especially can create long-term inflammation, which can increase your risk for disease. Especially if you’ve made diet and lifestyle changes to no avail, consider hidden sources of inflammation like an infection, toxic burden or food intolerance, for example. Working with a professional can be very helpful.
7. Address Underlying Issues
On a similar note, underlying issues such as hormonal imbalances, insulin resistance, leaky gut syndrome (damage to the gut lining) and others can make getting rid of lower belly fat seem downright impossible. Working with a nutrition professional or integrative doctor can also make a world of difference.
Stress and anxiety can cause the adrenal glands to overproduce cortisol, which has been directly linked with more belly fat, leading to that “pear” shape, especially in women. Managing stress can be challenging, so beginning with small steps such as including 10 minutes per day of meditation or deep breathing is perfect. Finding a meditation book if you’re new to the practice can be extremely helpful. Any stress management technique that you feel helps you will also help to get rid of belly fat.
9. Eat More Fiber
Fiber is key for overall health, and soluble fiber in particular has been shown to help reduce belly fat by keeping you full and controlling appetite. Soluble fiber mixes with water to form a gel-like substance, which slows the digestion of food. Excellent sources include flax seeds, whole grains, legumes and sweet potatoes.
10. Get Enough Protein, But Not Too Much
Not only is protein basically the building blocks for our cells, but it’s also important for fat loss. Getting enough protein decreases the hunger hormone ghrelin and increases various fullness hormones. Studies show a direct link between good quality protein sources and decreased belly fat. However, don’t go overboard with protein, as you still need to keep overall calories in check, not to mention that too much can be stored as body fat. How much protein is right for you depends on your size, activity level and more.
11. Limit Booze
While the occasional glass of red wine might actually benefit your health, excess alcohol is a surefire way to increase your lower belly fat. Research shows that too much alcohol directly causes increased visceral fat, so stick with a max of one glass of red wine per day if you’re a woman, and two if you’re a man.
12. Look at Your Gut Health
Fascinatingly, research suggests that imbalances in gut bacteria (too much pathogenic bacteria and not enough probiotic bacteria) can impact the distribution of body fat and contribute to fat accumulation around your waist. It could be for this reason that many health experts recommend a probiotic to help with not only digestive health, but weight loss, too. If you have symptoms like gas, bloating or even not-so-obvious symptom like excess belly fat or weight loss resistance, taking a close look at gut health is key.
Lower belly fat is both a common trouble area for many people and a marker for increased risk of disease, so be sure to take the important steps needed to get rid of it. Your body will thank you.