The number one rule to lose belly fat is that spot reduction doesn't work. If you're trying to lose belly fat and wondering why it takes so long to get rid of it, it's because "when someone loses weight, we cannot dictate where the fat comes from," Jason Machowsky, RD, CSSD, CSCS, a board-certified sports dietitian and exercise physiologist at the Hospital For Special Surgery's Tisch Sports Performance Center, told POPSUGAR.
How to Lose Belly Fat
There isn't one perfect way to lose belly fat or body fat in general. "From a simplistic perspective, I would say consistently move more than you are doing now and eat a bit better: more veggies, lean protein, and lower-calorie carbs like fruits and starchy vegetables (potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, peas, and squash)," Jason said. You should enjoy but be mindful of healthy portions of fats and whole grains, he added.
"Try to limit, but not necessarily eliminate, refined flours and sugars, high-calorie treats, desserts, and alcohol," Jason said. At the end of the day, any nutritional changes you make should be sustainable, "so if cutting out something is a dealbreaker for long-term compliance, then it's not worth it," he said. It's all about finding balance.
How Exercise Can Help You Lose Belly Fat
Once you've implemented nutritional changes you actually enjoy following, it's time to look at your exercise routine. Doing hundreds of crunches isn't the best way to utilize your time, especially if you want to lose belly fat. Instead, Jason said to try to follow the ACSM-recommended guidelines for activity.
These guidelines say adults should do 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week or 75 to 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity. Muscle-strengthening activities that work all muscle groups (here are some total-body workouts and a four-week workout plan) should be done at least two days a week for added health benefits, according to the guidelines.
To lose body fat, you should incorporate strength training into your workout routine. Strength training can help you lose weight and burn fat, especially when you do compound exercises and high-intensity workouts, and it will help you preserve and build lean muscle. You can also do cardio, such as going on a four-mile run or doing quick and intense intervals. If you do choose to add cardio into your routine, be sure not to overdo it, as cardio can potentially be catabolic, which means it burns both fat and muscle. Aside from exercise and nutrition, Jason said to focus on having good posture because "having poor posture can lead to a less-flattering midline."
In general, it is possible to start seeing fat-loss results within a few weeks, but whether or not the fat reduction is specifically from your belly will vary person to person, Jason explained. If you've adopted better eating habits and been exercising consistently and still aren't seeing results, your hormones or a metabolic condition could be behind your inability to lose belly fat. If you aren't having success with losing fat, consider speaking to a specialist such as an endocrinologist who can help determine what may be inhibiting fat loss.