The Truth About Why Your Belly Fat Won’t Budge

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You already know how to lose belly fat.

You’ve been able to do it. For short periods of time at least.

So to help you get rid of that stubborn belly fat I’m going to share some of the most common misconceptions I hear from my clients.

“Mama, can you tell me a story?”

“Of course Grogu. One day I did a magical abs exercise and all my belly fat melted away!”

“That’s silly Mama I know Grogu. Go to sleep!”

Abs Exercises Fads

You might have tried crunching or pulling in your abs to try to flatten your stomach.

This is probably why my stomach vacuum video has been viewed over a million times.

While you might feel some tightness in your midsection from doing that exercise or other TVA exercises and you will strengthen your core for your daily life or for physical activities that you like to do. But it’s not going to help you get rid of that belly fat.


The only way to lose fat is through a calorie deficit.

Belly fat is just excess energy that your body is storing for that long walk in the desert where you’re looking for a mysterious figure.

Spot Reducing And Spot Building Your Abs

You cannot spot reduce a particular area. Your body will determine where it wants to take the extra fat.

Does that mean that abs exercises are useless?


You can slightly spot build your abs. They are a muscle. But they are smaller segmented muscles so they can only get a certain amount of growth. And what you’re going to see is primarily determined by your genetics. There’s nothing that you can do about that. Except maybe choosing different parents.

In any case if you don’t take that excess fat off that area then you’ll just have a bigger belly and maybe some bumpy bits there if you’ve got the right genetics.

How To Get Rid Of Stubborn Belly Fat

Let’s talk about how you can get rid of that stubborn belly fat and keep it off.

Maybe you’ve heard that abs are made in the kitchen and that’s partially true.

Technically, belly fat could be made at the dining table, on the couch, and sometimes even in the car.

Carbs And Belly Fat

“I’m eating too many carbs, right? That’s why I’m not losing my belly fat.”

It’s a myth that specific foods will prevent you from having visible abs. And that includes carbs.

A lower carb diet can be helpful for some people because it helps them manage their appetite. And cravings are the reason that a lot of people over consume food.

A lower carb diet is actually what helped me get in control of my overeating, which was pretty bad for many years. And it helped me change my relationship with food to the point where I can have treats in moderation. I’m going to talk about that in an upcoming video so make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss it.

Low Carb Diets And Belly Fat

Low carb diets also tend to restrict or almost completely eliminate some of our favourite high calorie density treat foods.

That’ll help naturally bring down your calorie intake.

But lots of carbs like fruits vegetables and the starchy ones like potatoes, sweet potatoes, and grains provide a lot of micronutrients and fiber for digestion and energy for your muscles and your brain. And they don’t interfere with belly fat loss as long as you’re within the right calorie intake for the day.

“Clean Eating” And Belly Fat

Eating “clean” doesn’t guarantee that you’ll lose all your belly fat.

You can eat too many calories with healthy foods and still not burn off those extra energy stores.

Olive oil, for instance, is full of healthy monounsaturated fat. But it’s also 120 calories per tablespoon. So that’s very calorie dense.

If you’re free pouring it over your vegetables you might want to stop and measure a normal serving size.

The same goes for other healthy calorie dense foods, like nuts or peanut butter, which is a favourite for most of my clients. And for myself as well, I’ll be honest. But you can take in so many calories very easily.

That’s not to say that you should eliminate those foods. You just need to make sure that you’re consuming the right amount of calories so that you’re in an energy deficit.

Does Cardio Help With Belly Fat?

Many people also think that doing a lot of cardio is going to help them get rid of their belly fat.

And while any physical activity increases your calorie expenditure you don’t want to to rely on cardio too much.

I actually think sometimes it’s best to start off a weight loss plan with no cardio.

Now I know a lot of you are over here going, “Sign me up!”

That doesn’t mean that I think you should just lie around on the couch. You do want to expend as many calories as you possibly can.

Focus on standing more than sitting. I know a lot of us are bound to our desks from morning until the end of the day, but it’s helpful to get up and move around as much as you can.

Walking For Fat Loss

Outdoor walking can be particularly beneficial for your mental health. Unless it’s winter and it’s really miserable out. That’s just depressing.

But you don’t necessarily want to start off with a heavy cardio routine right when you start to try to lose your belly fat.

Because it’s normally most effective to focus on your nutrition you need to follow a diet that gets you into an energy deficit so you start to burn that belly fat away.

Exercise And Its Effect On Belly Fat

Exercise doesn’t burn off as many calories as most people think. Don’t trust those numbers on your trackers or on the machines in the gym. They really over inflate the number of calories that you’re burning.

You still want to be active and moving around as much as you can. That’s your NEAT. Your non-exercise activity thermogenesis and that’s going to be a component of your total daily energy expenditure. That’s the number of calories that your body burns off over the course of the day.

While you can find a lot of calculators online that will give you these approximate numbers, they do vary a bit from person to person. So what you see in those calculators might not be accurate for you.

Lowering Your Body Fat Percentage

Reducing belly fat means that you need to get leaner. Lowering your body fat percentage and that’s the ratio of fat to muscle and other lean tissue. So fluids and organs.

You really want to get that muscle up as high as possible because that’s going to give you a better ratio.

The danger of relying on cardio too much and not doing any sort of strength training is that you will lose fat but you may also lose muscle.

So you can really screw up those numbers for yourself in the long term. This is most relevant and to those of you who are relatively lean already but you have a little bit of that belly going on. If you’re carrying 40 or 50 extra pounds then it’s less of a concern. You’re going to be losing that body fat but there’s less chance that you’ll lose the muscle.

Building Muscle To Reduce Belly Fat

Muscle is actually really hard to build. Naturally anyway.

You’re going to have to push yourself for a long period of time. Months, years. For some of us, decades. To try to get the maximum amount of growth.

You need to strength train consistently and progressively while also taking in enough protein and calories and micronutrients for muscle development, which is going to help you reduce your belly fat.

And we want to maintain that muscle mass as much as possible especially as we get older because again it’s going to screw up your ratios.

Genetics And Your Abs

There are a lot of genetic differences, but in general if you want your abs to show women generally tend to see them around 20 percent. And a man will generally need to get below 15 percent. Some people can have abs at a higher body fat percentage. There’s also not a lot you can do about it.

Hormones And Belly Fat

I want to talk a bit about hormones because that’s also something that people always ask me about.

Of course your gender and your hormonal makeup is going to be part of that. Men tend to store their excess fat in their stomach area. Women tend to store it in their hips and thighs. Women have more fat overall so it’s not like we get a big advantage here.

Post-menopausal women tend to shift their storage of fat upwards so from their hips and thighs up to their bellies in more of a male pattern.

Subcutaneous And Visceral Fat In The Belly Area

Now when we talk about the belly area there is your subcutaneous fat which is just the fat underneath the skin. We also have visceral fat in that area.

So that’s the fat that’s around the organs.

Maybe 15 years ago when I was still working in gyms, measuring my clients’ body fats with calipers. Some of the men particularly the ones in their 40s and above who had larger bellies, when I went to pinch that area there wasn’t necessarily that much of the subcutaneous fat around the belly but I could feel that there was something hard like a basketball underneath.

And that is the feeling of that visceral fat. So if you push on your belly area and you feel that hard sensation that’s the visceral fat. And that’s the one that’s most dangerous for your health.

You can’t really isolate that fat specifically.

Cortisol And Belly Fat

You might have heard people talk about cortisol and fat storage but it’s not quite as simple as you might have heard.

Cortisol has many important benefits. If your cortisol levels were chronically too low you wouldn’t want to get up off the couch.

Cortisol levels should be higher in the morning and then lower themselves over the course of the day. But chronically elevated cortisol levels may lead to food cravings and that means you’re consuming more calories. You’re more likely to put on fat.

Acute stress can actually decrease your appetite. If you’ve ever had a really stressful experience and had no desire to eat then you’ve experienced that.

Worrying too much about your stress levels and believing them to be harmful can also be a problem.

Chronic Stress And Cravings

What is true is that if you’re stressed you start to create gave your favourite comfort foods. And most of the time these are calorie dense foods they’re really easy to overeat.

This is more psychological than it is physiological so it’s a process that you want to work through.

How Have You Lost Belly Fat Before?

I want you to think back to a time when you had less belly fat than you have now.

What was different then?

For some of you it might have been recent for others it might have been a decade or two away.

Maybe you were exercising more. That’s more energy that your body is expending because you had more time or maybe it was a time when you actively decided you wanted to have less belly fat and what did you think you needed to do but you probably reduced your intake of highly processed refined foods.

Junk foods, as some people call them.

Alcohol And Calorie Intake

Maybe you gave up drinking. Alcohol contributes to calories but it also produces disinhibition.

Which means that you’re more likely to eat more of those highly processed calorie dense foods.

So you probably got to the point where you lost some of that belly fat you could start to see it shrinking. What you were doing was digging into those energy stores by increasing your physical activity and reducing the number of calories that you are consuming.

Getting Rid Of Stubborn Belly Fat

But if you never got rid of that stubborn belly fat…what happened?

You probably stopped too soon.

Your body’s going to determine where it wants to take its fat from. And for most of us the last place it takes it from is the belly for many people it’s just not worth it to go those extra body fat percentage points down in order to achieve the result they’re looking for in the belly area.

As you lose fat it gets harder to get leaner. So if you start off at 200 pounds and now you’re at 170 pounds your body doesn’t need as many calories to maintain that smaller body. So you need to reduce it further. You either need to reduce your caloric intake again or you need to increase your physical activity at that point.

The Challenges Of Dieting

Getting into a calorie deficit becomes harder and the absolute amount of food that you get to eat is less. And that’s when most people get stuck.

There’s also something called adaptive thermogenesis so your body is burning fewer calories calories if you’re in a calorie deficit for a certain period of time.

There are benefits to taking diet breaks which can help burn off more calories and get that metabolism up a little bit, but then you’ll have to make sure that you’re back in a calorie deficit again to get that next bump down in body fat.

You need to lose fat from other parts of your body before your body starts to prioritize the belly fat.

That’s why you’ll see physique competitors with very low body fat percentages and they look quite gaunt because they’re getting to that really extreme level of leanness.

My natural look is gauntness.

If you’re in the process of losing body fat you need to keep losing body fat until it comes off your belly. There’s nothing you can do to focus on that area or to target it specifically.

That’s what everyone hates hearing.

Keep Going To Achieve Belly Fat Loss OR…

Whatever calorie deficit process you’re going through you need to keep going.

Or you may decide that losing that belly fat isn’t that important for you. Maybe you want to have more food. Or maybe you don’t want to exercise so much.

You might decide it’s just not worth it for me anymore. I don’t need to be any leaner.

While I try to maintain a decent level of leanness, I’m not caught up in having a six-pack. The dedication and commitment to being extremely lean is not something that I have anymore.

You might find yourself in a similar position at some point.

The other possibility is that you want to lose that belly fat but you’re not quite sure how to do it. And the way you’ve been eating hasn’t been getting you the results that you want. That’s usually because you haven’t been doing the right diet. I explain how you can choose the right one in THIS VIDEO HERE.

Ivana Chapman

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Ivana Chapman

Ivana Chapman

Ivana Chapman BSc BA CSCS is a Canadian fitness and nutrition coach, happy wife, and mom to an energetic 9-year-old boy. She is a YouTuber, writer, published fitness model, speaker, 3rd Dan black belt in Shotokan Karate, former World Cup Karate Champion, one-time marathoner, and CBBF National level Natural Bikini competitor. She loves weight training, chocolate, mountain biking, and ice cream...not always in that order of preference.
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