I have a belly and I can't seem to lose it -- what should I do?

All things being equal (ie, you're putting in the effort in the gym and eating a balanced diet) - if you're consistently burning more calories than you're taking in and yet still can't lose that stubborn belly - there's a good chance you aren't getting enough sleep.  Insufficient sleep and stress can both contribute to stubborn fat around the abdominal area.  If stress is the culprit, try meditation, yoga or other breathing exercises to ground yourself.  As for sleep - shoot for that magic 8 hours!
In order to rid yourself of belly fat, a combination of diet, aerobic exercise and various types of abdominal exercises are a must.  You need aerobic exercise to help burn calories and fat.  Additionally, you need to lower your caloric intake so that you are burning more calories than you consume.  You can get the most bang for your buck by performing core exercises such as planks, medicine ball chops, medicine ball oblique lifts, and crunches to name just a few.

If you are a woman who has given birth,  and you have minimal belly fat, but you still have a bit of a belly, it could be that your abdominal muscles have separated to a point during pregnancy where the muscles are not capable of that flat pre-pregnancy look.

My best advice would be to stop overeating and get your rear end in gear.  Yes – I have heard all the excuses that you are “doing everything you can, but you just can’t seem to lose fat on your stomach.” Here are two things you need to know.  First, genetically, your stomach just happens to be the place you carry your weight more than other places.  Thank your Mom, Dad or your old Aunt Claire.  It sucks – but we don’t get to pick our genetics.  At least you didn’t get your Uncle Frank’s cankles.  Second, the idea that working a particular muscle burns fat from specific areas is referred to as spot reducing, and it’s a fitness myth. What’s not a myth is that you need to eat less and move more.  Sorry – those are just the facts!  Start tracking your calories by looking at the labels of the foods you eat and write down what you eat each day.  Watch your portion size because our “portion distortion” may have you eating way more than you need.  Try to keep your daily calories in the 1200-1500 calorie range.  Then you need to start moving.  Get a pedometer to see how many steps you take a day; 10,000 steps are recommended.  Make these changes and you will be amazed at how much better not only that belly looks, but also that scale.

Alan F. Bain, DO
Alan F. Bain, DO on behalf of MDLIVE
Internal Medicine

While excercising can be a must, altering your diet to eating less high glycemic carbs, processed foods and junk food will help reduce your belly fat.  You need to eat more lean meats, nuts, fruits and vegetables. I highly recommend the South Beach Diet. More and more people are becoming insulin resistent in todays fast food culture.

Jack D. Potter

Weight loss and weight gain is nothing more than a mathematical formula. Calories in vs. calories out. If you are having trouble losing weight you might want to start a food journal. Studies have shown that writing down what you eat and how many calories will help you see where all the calories are coming from.  For example: 5 oz. of broccoli = 48 calories, while 5 oz. of ice cream = 375 calories. Big difference! You can't look like a race horse if you eat like a pig.
Also, people in general grossly under estimate how many calories they burn, and under estimate how many calories they eat. So get out there and exercise, and choose foods that come off of a plant, not made in one.

Wendy Warner, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrics & Gynecology)
If you're concerned about belly fat that is stubborn, though you're getting the fat off everywhere else, you need to look at how you handle stress.  High levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, lead to changes in how insulin works and will lead your body to store fat primarily in the belly.  Unfortunately, this fat isn't just sitting there---it's creating inflammatory chemicals that lead to heart disease, Alzheimer's and a number of other chronic illnesses.  Research shows that cortisol can be lowered with a combination of deep rhythmic breathing and actively creating positive emotions at the same time.  Time spent each day imagining those we love or remembering times in our life when we felt wonderful, accompanied with deep breathing, help to balance stress hormones....and lets the fat come off!

Ask yourself the following questions.  Be honest with yourself when answering!

Am I consistently keeping up with my workouts?
Am I monitoring my calorie intake (eating less, burning more)?
Am I getting 7-8 hours of restful sleep every night?
Am I drinking enough water (at least 60oz, preferrably more)?

If you can honestly say YES to all of these questions, you might want to re-assess your eating habits.  Perhaps your salt intake is higher than you realized, leading you to retain more water than normal?  Maybe you are eating processed foods instead of whole foods, causing your body to have difficulty with digestion?  Start assessing what you're putting in your mouth by keeping a daily food log.  Track nutritional content in addition to calories, specifically focusing on fat (saturated vs unsaturated), carbohydrates (including fiber and sugars), protein, cholesterol, and sodium.  Seeing the cold hard facts in print will help you to find areas of your diet that you can improve upon, ultimately resulting in shedding those pounds!

Men and women tend to lose fat differently. In males, the last area to typically show results is the belly. With females, the last places tend to be the hips and thighs. Since there is no such thing as spot reduction, some of the best things you can do are to continue living a healthy lifestyle, reduce your calorie intake, and increase your physical activity. Losing belly fat requires patience and effort.

A mix between working out and diet-they go hand in hand. You have to burn more calories than you take in. Get that cardio in (a minimum of 30 minutes a day)-build the intensity every day. There is also a rubber Velcro belt you can get at any athletic store, wear it taut over your shirt and every time you workout. You have to do the work, but it makes you aware of when you let go of your stomach muscles. Get on that ground and start crunching. Did you drink your water today?
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
More than 50% of women have excess trunkal fat known as a big belly. Fat stored here is the most dangerous because it increases your risk for diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. By trimming inches from your waistline, you can reduce your risk of diseases by 50%.

This muffin is loaded with MUFAS (monounsaturated fats), which reduce inflammation in the body and help decrease fat storage around the stomach. Pair it with the supplement conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which can turn belly fat cells off so you can’t store fat anymore.

Egg & Cheese Muffin
Makes 1 serving.

1 toasted whole-grain English muffin
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 ripe avocado
1 slice tomato
1 slice Swiss cheese
1 egg, poached
Freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions: Drizzle the English muffin with a little olive oil, then spread 1/4 ripe avocado on it. Top it off with the slice of tomato, Swiss cheese, poached egg and the pepper to taste.

1,000 milligrams conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)

Bonus Fat Buster: Tomato is not only low in calories, but also is a natural diuretic and can help you get rid of belly bloat.

The answer might seem simple, "You have to burn more calories per day than you consume." "Great! How do I do that?" Well, that means that if you get your body moving more and eat slightly less calories your body will slowly, but surely begin to start burning off stored fat as energy.

Also, your belly consists of two basic types of body fat. Subcutaneous fat (the stuff you can pinch at your sides) and Visceral fat (deep abdominal fat the sits beneath the muscles of your abdominal wall). Having higher than normal body fat percentages can pose increase health risks. Ask your doctor or a local fitness professional to conduct a body composition screening if you need an assessment.

Research has shown that weight and resistance training on a consistent basis will help to decrease the stuff you can pinch at your sides and arms, but not the visceral fat underneath the belly. No, that doesn't mean that if you do a lot of weight training exercises for your abs that they will, in turn, get ripped. Your body burns fat from all over, slowly, over long periods of time. Research has also shown that cardio interval training is the best method to help decrease visceral body fat, but not subcutaneous fat. Interval training can be described as performing short bursts of vigorous cardio intensity (something that makes your heart beat hard and your breathing escalate) followed by a period of low to moderate intensity (a pace where you can catch your breath). Do this interchangeably for 15 or more minutes and you got yourself an interval workout.

For the best body composition change results, research has shown that participants who incorporate both types of exercise into their weekly routines achieve the best fat loss results. This is compared to participants who only did cardio vs. participants who only weight training vs. those who only modified their diet and performed little to no vigorous exercise.

The research is out there. People who find ways to include modifying their calorie intake and implement cardiovascular and weight training exercise into their daily routines, consistently show the most progress getting rid of their body fat.

Every person is different. I recommend that you meet with your doctor, a certified fitness professional, and possibly a registered dietician to help you figure out the right mix for your body. This way you will have the right combination of health information, exercise, and nutritional recommendations for your body type.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.