Who doesn’t want a flat tummy and a svelte figure? Especially in this lockdown where unhealthy snacking at home has led to a few unwanted bulges here and there. Many, in fact, have been looking around for ways to trim the waistline. And for good reason too - those extra inches around your midriff not only stop you from wearing crop tops “but could also pose a serious health risk if you don’t do something about them,” says Jitendra Chouksey, founder of Fittr, a fitness social network and consultation platform.
But if you think sauna belts, endless ab crunches and juice detoxes are going to help you lose weight around your waist, think again! “Far too many people have tried and failed to lose belly fat this way. There’s a very simple reason for this – spot reduction does not work!” Adds Jitendra.
What Is “Belly Fat”?
Visceral fat (the fat that accumulates around the organs in your abdominal region) and subcutaneous fat (the fat that you find rolling around your waistline) together make up what we call “belly fat”.
There are a lot of misconceptions about losing this stubborn fat, we look at the top 5 myths – and what actually works:
Myth #1: You can target and lose fat from your belly
This is common myth. Think about it for a minute: what would happen if you lost weight only from your waist but still had flabby arms and a double chin? Your body simply isn’t built that way.
JItendra, explains, “when you decide to lose weight/fat, you do so by creating a caloric deficit i.e. by consuming fewer calories than you burn. This results in fat loss and it is your overall weight that will reduce. Some body parts may lose faster than others, but you will lose fat from wherever it is in excess.”
Myth #2: Eating rice increases belly fat
“Eat rice, get fat!” Is another common myth. No, you won’t! Rice is a source of carbohydrates. 100 grams of rice contains the same calories as 100 grams of dal or 100 grams of your favourite fruit.
“You will gain weight if you eat too many calories over a period of time, be it from any source of food,” adds Jitendra. As for the claim that rice goes straight to your belly and stays there, that’s not true. It does give you a feeling of fullness but that just means you have a happy belly, not a fat one!
Myth #3: Ab crunches melt belly fat
Try this experiment: Pick up a ball of dough, stretch it in your hands and then fold it in the middle. That’s your body doing ab crunches.
Ab crunches will make your ab muscles stronger but Jitendra explains that if you want to make them pop and get that chiseled look, you will need to lose fat. And that’s only going to happen if you take care of your diet. (Calories in vs Calories Out).
Myth #4: Low calories are the best way to lose belly fat
“Along with endless ab crunches, the other thing I see people do is drastically reduce the amount of food they consume,” says Jitendra. That feeling of emptiness you experience isn’t your belly fat melting, it’s your body telling you that it needs nourishment.
Here’s what works: instead of eating less, try and increase your daily activity levels. “Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis or NEAT are all those physical activities you do apart from exercise,” he adds. For instance, take the stairs instead of the lift, do house work, go for a walk, get a standing desk for your WFH – all these will burn additional calories and help you create a caloric deficit.
Myth #5: Avoiding fatty foods will help you lose your belly fat
Some people think they’ve figured it out – don’t want to get fat? Just avoid all fats! Problem solved. Sadly, this doesn’t work in real life. Truth be told, fats such as butter, ghee, olive oil are satiating foods (i.e. they help you stay full for longer) and also help your hormones function as they should.
The issue is that fats can sneak into your diet and are easy to overeat. That drizzle of olive oil in your healthy salad could be a few tablespoons and high in calories. Sprinkle almonds and walnuts on top and you’ve made yourself a fat bomb! And let’s not forget the “handful” of peanuts that you enjoy eating with your afternoon chai.
Jitendra suggests you consume fats in moderation. They should be a part of a healthy diet. Count how much you’re consuming, stay within your calorie limits and there’s no reason why you’ll pack on the pounds.
Fat loss is not a linear process. You can’t wish away your belly, especially when the rest of you also needs to slim down. Follow a sustainable diet, get exercise daily and remain active. These are the only things that work.