Here are the 10 mistakes everyone makes when trying to lose belly fat
As the cooler months start to arrive in the northern hemisphere, many of us will look down at the 'summer body' we didn't quite manage to achieve and think, "ah well, there's always next year". Halloween is coming up, after all, and then there's Thanksgiving, then Christmas - really, the next few months are just a constant food festival.
But don't give up just yet! If you're on a mission to shift a little weight from your mid-region, here's 10 mistakes you might be making - and how to fix them.
1. You're being impatient
If you've ever tried to diet before, you know it's a grueling process. So often it seems that you put in so much effort, but see little reward. However, this might be because you're not giving it enough time for the fruits of your labour to show. "It’s easy to become impatient and frustrated when you’re trying to lose weight and haven’t seen the results yet," says Dr. Luke James, an expert on shifting stubborn fat. "Stick with it for at least eight weeks and you should notice a change."
2. There's too much sugar in your diet
Cutting down on calories is one thing, but holding back from carbohydrates and sugars is more important when it comes to losing belly fat. Dr. James has a tip for this: "Try cutting back on the amount of simple carbohydrates you eat, like pasta and bread, and substituting for healthier alternatives like courgetti." It's also important that you don't cut out carbs completely, but consciously limit your intake.
3. You don't get enough protein
"Protein is great for fat loss," says Dr. James. "It helps build and preserve lean muscle tissue and can increase the amount of calories you burn. It’s also a great source of energy that helps you feel fuller for longer, so you’re less tempted to snack." So why not swap your slice of toast in the morning for a boiled egg? Or snack on some almonds instead of grabbing a bag of chips? Protein shakes and bars are also a viable option.
4. You need more sleep
Believe it or not, the amount of shut-eye we get of a night can have a serious affect on our weight. Dr. James explains: "We all have two hormones that affect our appetite: ghrelin and leptin. When we don’t get enough sleep, our ghrelin levels (the hormone that makes us feel hungry) rise, and our leptin levels (the hormone that makes us feel full) drop. This means that when we’re awake, we tend to eat more but feel less satisfied."
Make sure to get between seven and nine hours of sleep a night in order to avoid this problem.
5. You're working out wrong
When looking down at that stubborn pouch of chub creeping over the waistline of your pants, it's easy to think that abdominal workout = abdominal weight-loss. Alas, this is not the case. "Belly fat is simply where your body stores energy, so you need to take a whole-body approach to tackle it." Try doing some squats, or go for a quick sprint. Weight-lifting is also great, too, as it will build muscle which burns fat faster. Basically any form of high intensity interval training will do the trick.
6. You're working out too much
Yes, it is possible - especially if your body is not used to regular or intense exercise. "Your body needs a healthy balance of exercise and rest. Doing too much prevents the body from shifting excess fat. Exercising without rest can impact our levels of the steroid hormone cortisol and cause an increase of stubborn fat stored in the belly," says Dr. James.
7. You're dieting too much
Suddenly changing your food intake - otherwise known as crash-dieting - is an unsustainable way of approaching weight-loss, and should be avoided at all costs. "It might seem like a quick and easy option, but eating too few calories can actually do more harm than good. If your calorie intake dips too low, your body could go into starvation mode. This will slow down your metabolism, making it harder for your body to lose weight."
Instead, make sensible choices about what you cut down on, and try replacing foods with healthier options rather than cutting them out altogether.
8. You're stressed out
In this fast-paced modern world, who isn't stressed out? As difficult as it sounds, it's important to manage stress - not only for the sake of your mental health, but your physical well-being, too. "Feeling stressed can wreak havoc on our bodies," says Dr. James. "It can cause our body to produce the steroid hormone cortisol, which can make you crave sugary foods that provide instant energy and pleasure." Again, this is not a sustainable way of living.
9. You're not tracking your progress
Diets and exercise regimes have a tricky way of convincing us that time is passing slower than it really is. After two days of eating well and going for an evening jog, you'll feel like you've been training strenuously for two weeks, and pretty soon you'll complain about a lack of results and give up. But you shouldn't! "There are some great apps and wearable tech devices available that make it easier to stick to your plan. They can help you monitor your goals, your food intake and the calories burned during exercise. If these aren’t an option, write down a meal and exercise plan. This will help you stick to your goals and remain focused."
10. Your motivation has gone
I get it. After a long, stressful day, there's nothing you want more than a hot bath and a family-sized pack of Doritos. And maybe you'll cave every now and then - but that's ok, we all do it. However, one bad day should not completely derail your plans. "If you’re feeling particularly unmotivated, ask a friend to join you for your workout and then afterwards cook something healthy for dinner together." Or, if you don't feel up to any intense exercise, go for an evening stroll or do some yoga. Anything is still better than nothing.
And one more bonus tip: make sure that, whatever diet or exercise regime you embark on, you're doing it because you want to. Otherwise, you'll find it difficult to keep up your motivation levels, and any achievements you make won't feel as sweet as they should.