By Kim Duke

NETA & AAFA Certified Trainer

While I enjoy training a variety of people with various fitness goals, one issue stands out between both my female and male clients— how to reduce and/or get rid of belly fat.  To be clear, these clients are not “fat”; however, they do tend to store their extra weight around their middle.  So, what gives? How can you be seemingly fit, but still struggle with belly fat?

Dr. Sara Gottfried, Harvard-trained MD, and one of the leading experts on hormones, says, “When you gain weight particularly at the waist, your body’s biochemistry plummets downward. You create more inflammation and oxidative stress and promote even more fat storage. The result is a vicious cycle of hormonal misfires, symptoms, and disease that will drag you down unless you flip the switch.”

First let us differentiate between the two types of fat you will find around your belly: subcutaneous and visceral. I know, I know— that’s a mouth full. Let’s break it down a little bit.

Subcutaneous is external. It’s the typical type of fat that you can grab with your hands or pinch between your fingers. Visceral fat is internal and you can find it stored around the inside of some of your organs like your liver, kidneys, intestines, and pancreas.

Bodily Amount:

Measuring the amount of fat you have in your body will make you feel one of the following three things: surprise, delight, or disgust.

Doctors suggest that our bodies are designed to store belly fat in response to eating sugar, which allowed the body to survive the winter…back in the day. But in times of abundant food, this ancient make-up of fat stores misfires and stores fat despite the lack of famine. The key is to reverse the hormonal misfires, and eliminate cravings and resting fat.

Research shows the following will help you reduce or rid your body of belly-fat.

1. Lay Off the Alcohol

I know it’s sad, but in reality liquid calories from beer, wine, mixed-drinks and basically any alcohol contribute to belly fat percentages.

2. Cortisol Levels

I while back, I experienced an extremely stressful time in my life.  I developed a “life preserver” around my waist.  I soon discovered my cortisol levels where way out of whack.  I immediately looked for a miracle pill and discovered, there was no such thing.

An increase in stress means an increase in your cortisol levels. If you’re stressed, your cortisol levels will break down muscle and store fat. What works best is a daily practice of 30 minutes to reset stress levels in the body. Try listening to a guided meditation, a hike in nature, getting a massage or walking your dog around the block. Figure out what works for you and do it as often as you can!

3. Get Your Beauty Sleep

Your body needs 7-8.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep to burn visceral fat. Sleep keeps cortisol levels and insulin levels in check. It couldn’t be easier to burn fat! Get yourself tucked under those covers.

4. Remove Gluten and Dairy

You probably already know someone who follows a gluten-free or dairy-free diet. Well, it’s not just a fad. And they’re not doing it just to be more hipster and trendy. Research suggests that going gluten-free can reduce fatness, inflammation, and insulin resistance. Food intolerances tend to raise stress hormones, such as cortisol, trigger inflammation, and over-activate the immune system.

6. Interval Training

Many of my clients are long distance runners. They are of the mindset that frequent long distance running was the best way to burn fat. Running actually raises cortisol levels to almost three times the normal amount. Burst training or interval training is highly recommended by many athletic trainers as the most effective way to lose weight and burn fat. Try exercising at high intensity for 30-75 second bursts, separated by 2-3 minutes of recovery time.

7. Protein

Be aware of how much protein you are consuming, and make sure it is anti-inflammatory. Try not to supplement healthy proteins with carbs. Over-eating carbs is one of the main contributors to weight gain in today’s society.

Try drinking more cold water, and eating more dark, leafy greens, organic chicken, grass fed beef, wild caught seafood and wild meats like venison and buffalo.

8. Limit Fructose

Fructose is a harmful sugar. To be more specific it hurts your metabolic system. It goes straight to your liver, makes fat, and triggers insulin and leptin resistance. Fructose doesn’t tell your brain you are satisfied, so you still feel hungry and keep eating. The result is inflammation, a stressed out liver, and more visceral fat. The Department of Agriculture estimates that Americans consumed an average of about 27 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup in 2014.

So, what do you have to lose?  Hopefully, that annoying belly fat.  What do you have to gain?  An overall healthier and happier body.