Is it possible to spot-reduce my belly fat?


Hi Ariane,
This may be a silly question or maybe a common one. I know we all have different body types which lead to a concentration of body fat in certain areas. But is there actually a way to target the specific area where we accumulate the most fat? Or is it just about lowering our body fat and eventually seeing a change in that problem area?I ask because i have always had belly fat. Even when was 15 lbs lighter and had lower body fat in my teens, my stomach was never flat. My waist does get significantly smaller, and im sure i lose fat (of course for me its hard to tell) but i never have been as toned as i’d like. So i always wondered if i need to have really low body fat for this to happen since it seems it’s the last place that goes for me. Hope this makes sense. Thanks, R.
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Hi R.
this is not a silly question at all. Where you store body fat says a lot about your genetics, your diet, your hormones, stress levels and your workouts. And to a certain extent you can affect where your body will change.
Firstly, a six-pack is only visible if your body fat is low enough to expose the muscle underneath. That’s not a matter of working out, but a matter of clean eating and balancing your hormones. Why hormones? If you’re constantly stressed, it throws off your hormonal balance and creates fat storage in your belly area. Most women tend to store more body fat around the thighs, hips and butt. Typically women lose body fat from top to bottom. Most get skinny on top but retain bigger hips, thighs and butt. Again, this has to do with hormones. We have fat receptors in the lower body that are much less active than those in the upper body and while those respond quickly to clean eating and working out , the lower body fat receptors in a woman don’t respond quite as fast. Plus, to make matters worse, they can be slowed down by many factors, such as stress, too much sugar in your diet – creating high insulin levels, and the hormonal changes over the course of your menstrual cycle. Did you know that those lower body fat receptors will respond much better based on where you are in your cycle? They will respond much better in the week before and of your period because estrogen levels are then low and in the week before and after ovulation you are much better off pushing the intensity in your workouts because your body can actually handle more stress, intensity and more starchy foods. Your fat burning is amped up much more. When I work with private nutrition clients one-on-one, we always consider the hormonal impact on fat burning and actually schedule the right kind of workout and nutrition based on the hormonal cycle. It sounds quite complicated but with the right plan and education, you can create changes in your trouble zones quite effectively and save yourself a lot of trial-and-error.
Let’s get back to your stomach. You’re only going to see a six-pack ab definition if your body fat is lower than about 18-22%, so unless you get there, you can’t really say that you’re always storing fat on your belly. It may just be that you store it everywhere evenly and you notice it there more.
Women who tend to store fat around the waist typically have higher testosterone levels and lower estrogen and progesterone levels.  If you’re under lots of stress, then the excess cortisol makes it even worse, so stress control is the most important thing, along with a clean diet with moderate carbohydrate intake and lots of lean protein.
How do you work that? In the week leading up to your period and the week of your period, do workouts that boost muscle mass without causing an intense stress response. Lift heavy weights and at the same time keep your carbs in check by choosing mostly veggies. Add lots of walking to reduce stress and add relaxation, such as yoga, sleeping enough and foam rolling. Plan your high-intensity workouts for the other two weeks of the month, where you can also afford to eat slightly more starches as they won’t affect you just as much.
See, fat loss isn’t all about calories, but about the hormonal impact you create with food, exercise, rest and your mindset.
Cheers, Ariane
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