You eat well and exercise regularly, yet you still have belly fat. Here’s why.
I call it the roll that has no right to be there. Yes I’m victim to it too. Even as a natural fitness competitor and nutrition expert, I sometimes find myself feeling a little fluffy and not comfortable with the roll hanging over my waistband. As someone who should “know better”, I usually get highly irritated and bitter about the extra body fat that has taken up residence around my middle. Then I wake up to the facts, and accept that I let the door open and invited it. And that’s okay. Even as a physique athlete, I realize that an indefinite chiseled 6 pack is usually not realistic. A small layer of healthy body fat most always accompanies optimal physical and emotional wellness.
But if you’re like me and sometimes find yourself a little too fluffy around the middle, before you resent the world for your body’s betrayal, first take a look at your own habits. Despite eating pretty good and exercising regularly, there may be a few things you can tweak to achieve a midsection you’re more comfortable with.
You’re eating (or drinking) too much.
Simply put, you are consuming more total calories than what your body requires for your daily energy expenditure, and this excess is being stored as body fat – which often accumulates around the mid-section first. It is true that quality matters very much where diet is concerned, but it doesn’t negate quantity. Numbers still play an important role, and if more energy (calories) is being regularly taken in than are utilized in the body, the excess has to go somewhere. Here’s how we fall victim to this:
- You only count your meals, while ignoring the snacks and nibbles in between. I see it all the time. Are you one of those people who order a salad with dressing on the side and a grilled plain chicken breast for lunch and dinner, proud of your conscience good decisions? But then in between you’re having chocolate covered “protein bars”, high calorie meal-replacement cookies, or cheese and crackers – all of which total more calories, fat and/or carbohydrate grams than your actual meals.
- Your serving sizes are too big. Easy to do in North America; our society has glorified over-indulgence. Biggie-sized fast food, all you can eat buffets, etc. The average meal is more than double what is physiologically needed for most people. A healthy and adequate serving of rice or pasta for example, for an adult man is about 1 cup – far less than the 2+ cup serving you often see on someone’s dinner plate. Even a healthy snack like raw nuts or seeds can quickly become exceedingly high in calories. About 10 almonds is 70 calories, but often when we snack on nuts, we’re consuming several times more than that. You can see how munching on nuts could quickly equate to a thousand calories or more! Even the best-intentioned clean eaters can fall victim to excessive serving sizes and therefore still struggle with unwanted body fat.
- Drinking calories. If you’re trying to lean out, cut the liquid calories. Even healthy drinks such as natural fruit juice can add up quickly. Calories count – a lot. In fact, even during most of pregnancy, it’s only an additional 300 calories per day that is recommended to support a growing baby. That’s only 2-3 glasses of orange or apple juice –additional calories that could be putting you in excess of what you’re body needs. Here’s the math: 3500 calories makes one pound. Reduce by 500 calories per day (about 2 large glasses of orange juice and 1 less cup of pasta) and you could lose a pound in a week – likely around the mid-section.
You’re not eating enough.
Believe it or not, this is really common. And super frustrating if you’re intentionally “dieting” to try to trim down, only to have it backfire on you! When you consistently consume too far below your body’s energy requirements, you will in fact slow your metabolic rate, disrupt blood sugar balance, and increase cortisol levels – all of which will directly contribute to subcutaneous belly fat accumulation.
You have sporadic eating patterns.
Maybe you don’t eat often, but when you do, you eat like a king. Sadly, this is an all too common and completely avoidable issue. Rather than consuming all your calories from 6-11pm (as many people, especially busy executives, often do), spreading the same volume of food out throughout the day would make a tremendous difference to the waistline. Numerous studies have proven this to be true, and is attributed to the many physiological consequences of regularly fasting for several hours while binging during others.
You eat crap.
Sorry not sorry! Maybe you don’t eat very much at all, but what you do eat provides very little nourishment to your organs and vital body systems – systems like your metabolism. Furthermore, high fat, refined sugars, and chemical preservative food-ingredients further disrupt normal cellular functions in the body and increase cortisol levels and inflammation – all of which directly disrupt metabolism and contribute to weight gain. I’m sure you’ve heard of the 80/20 idea, right? Take an honest inventory of your habits and determine what your ratio is.
You have underlying imbalances or deficiencies in the body.
Blood sugar instability, poor sleep quality, digestive impairment, hormone imbalance, poor stress management, unaddressed medication or illness side effects… just to name a few. The body is an amazing machine that works synergistically as a unit. Any of several issues in the body, even seemingly minor, can have a direct impact on how our bodies store and hold onto excess body fat.
Your idea of balance is a little off.
Another blunt and honest statement, I know. But I say it with conviction because I know it firsthand, I’ve been there. It took me a long time to accept the blow to my ego and realize that “dieting” Monday to Thursday, while binging Friday to Sunday was not a good balance, nor would it even mildly support my long term fitness or health goals.
For guidance in determining your unique calorie and serving size needs, or address underlying imbalances or concerns, to reach your fitness or wellness goals, feel free to contact us to chat about a customized nutrition program.