A lot of people have belly fat, so if you're struggling with it, you're certainly not alone. But if you can do something about it and want to get rid of belly fat - there are some foods you simply need to avoid. I've taken a few minutes to highlight the 5 big foods you should cut out to get rid of belly fat.
To understand how some foods can trigger belly fat almost exclusively, you have to understand the role of a couple of really important hormones. For belly fat, those hormones are insulin and cortisol. If you're busy counting calories to lose weight, stop. Instead, think about how the foods you're eating might be throwing off two of the strongest hormones known for storing fat right in the belly area.
Insulin helps to regulate your blood sugar levels, but it also serves as a de facto fat-storage hormone, too! When you eat foods that throw off your blood sugar levels, insulin gets called into action. When insulin gets a mayday alert from your body to help anchor blood sugar levels that are out of control, belly fat gets stored.
is elevated at its highest point in the morning when you wake up. But, thanks to stress, caffeine and sleepless nights, our cortisol levels can get really thrown off. In fact, when you increase your cortisol levels too high (i.e. drinking a large coffee at 3pm when cortisol should be coming down), you not only "stress" your body out, but you also increase the call to action for insulin. As a result, belly fat gets stored.
I broke down the biggest offenders. Try to cut out one, two, or all of these foods. At the same time, stay committed to eating healthy and you'll see and feel a difference.
The 5 Foods People with Belly Fat Need to Avoid
1. Caffeine (for most people - read why)
Technically not a food, per se, but caffeine is still the most consumed stimulant in the world - and in many cases responsible for increasing belly fat (no cream, sugar, or calories needed).
Some people are more sensitive than others. I know giving up caffeine can be really hard or just undesirable for most people, but try giving it a shot. If, after two weeks, you don't notice a bit of difference, introduce it back.
WHY ARE CAFFEINATED DRINKS SO BAD?
There is a strong connection between type 2 diabetes and belly fat. Research has shown that caffeine consumption decreases insulin sensitivity by about 15%, and negatively impacts the metabolism sugars among people with diabetes.
Caffeine is also closely linked to increased cortisol levels (our stress hormone), which, when chronically elevated, can lead to belly fat. If you're a regular coffee drinker, consider cutting it out of your diet.
BOTTOM LINE: Decreased insulin sensitivity and increased cortisol levels put your body on the fast track for gaining belly fat, which is why so many people notice a drop in inches throughout their belly area after they cut out caffeine.
To avoid splintering caffeine withdrawal headaches, step down with green tea - matcha tea, in particular. Green tea contains nutrient-rich polyphenols, but with much, much less caffeine. This is my favorite (and easy) traditional green tea or a special matcha green tea I love.
Note: Green tea contains a nutrient called L-theanine, which makes you feel calm, but alert. It's highest in matcha, but also present in traditional green tea. A good matcha will always cost more and is always powdery green.
2. Refined Carbohydrates
Refined carbs are similar to coffee drinks in that they decrease insulin sensitivity. But refined carbs are also notoriously stripped of most of their nutrients - like vitamins and minerals. Refined carbohydrates, especially for people with belly fat, is a fast way to throw off your blood sugar levels that are responsible for storing belly fat, but your nutrition as well.
WHY ARE REFINED CARBS SO BAD?
When blood sugar levels begin to rise, insulin gets called to action to bring those levels back down to normal again. When insulin goes into overdrive, the way it does when we eat foods that translate to sugar, fat gets stored through the belly area.
Not all carbohydrates are bad! You can still include a lot of healthy carbohydrates in your diet without the unhealthy kickback your body experiences with refined carbs. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are examples of healthier carbohydrates.
Interested in eating healthier carbohydrates? Get the list here.
Back to these low-fat, refined carbs. They really don't do your body any favors, so try to avoid them most of the time.
EXAMPLES OF REFINED CARBOHYDRATES
- pretzels and chips
- most store-bought bread, bagels, wraps, buns, and tortillas
- pasta and pizza dough
- waffles, muffins, and pastries
- store-bought baked desserts
This isn't necessarily a warning for people who enjoy the occasional drink or two with dinner. After all, there has been some really interesting research showing that light to moderate alcohol consumption can be beneficial!
But keep the following information in your back pocket the next time you plan to have a few margaritas or a handful of beers...
HOW DOES ALCOHOL CREATE BELLY FAT?
Alcohol hits the pause button on fat metabolism. Our bodies have to break down alcohol before it can break anything else down. This means anything you eat sits in your gut until your body breaks down and gets rid of the alcohol in every glass of wine, beer, or cocktail you drink.
Let's say you go to dinner and drink two beers and a big slice of cheese pizza. The two beers you drink are going to take priority in terms of metabolism before the slice of pizza. If you're drinking and eating late at night, your metabolism has already slowed down a little bit for the night - which is something that naturally happens with our bodies later in the evening.
Let's say that the two beers you drank were a total of 350 calories, and the pizza was 400 calories. Both are reasonable estimates. If you're eating later at night, it's highly unlikely that your body will burn through 750 calories before bedtime. Those extra calories are likely to get stored as fat.
To be clear, I'm not promoting alcohol consumption and I'm not saying an occasional drink is a bad thing. What I am saying is that heavier alcohol consumption paired with lots of food is a fast trip to belly fat storage.
4. Anything containing non-nutritive sweeteners
The allure of eating something sweet without absorbing calories from sugar is strong, isn't it? I mean, if you're dieting, it makes perfect sense to drink a diet soda or eat candy with no sugar, right?
Except it doesn't work.
WHY ARE NON-NUTRITIVE SWEETENERS BAD?
There is a profound correlation between artificial sweeteners, like those in diet sodas, and weight gain. Research has shown that non-nutritive sweeteners, like aspartame, block a really important enzyme that boosts insulin sensitivity. Remember what I mentioned above? Decreased insulin sensitivity almost always leads to fat storage through the belly area.
The ingredients you're looking for in a label are aspartame, acesulfame-K, and sucralose.
Stevia is a natural no-calorie sweetener and doesn't have the same side effects of artificial sweeteners.
In fact, research has even shown that children who consume artificial sweeteners have a greater body mass index (BMI) than children who don't.
Foods that frequently contain artificial sweeteners include:
- Sugar-free yogurt
- Energy/protein bars
- Diet sodas and juices
- Canned fruits
If you have some sort of sugar addiction, it could be very difficult to cut out these foods. Aim for low-glycemic fruits (berries, green apples, etc)., sparkling water, or dark chocolate to take the edge off.
5. Corn, Canola, and Soybean Oils:
Certainly, something we should all avoid, refined vegetable oils, like soybean, corn and canola oils are found in most processed foods. Just because the word "vegetable" is name of this type of oil, don't be fooled into thinking it's actually good for you. Quite the opposite.
WHY ARE PROCESSED VEGETABLE OILS BAD?
When we consume too much-processed vegetable oil, we increase the amount of omega-6 fatty acids as well. Overconsumption of omega-6 fatty acids promotes inflammation in the body.
If you have inflammation, it is difficult, often impossible, to lose weight.
Processed vegetable oils are cheap. And because the United States has no shortage of the crops needed to produce these oils, they're everywhere. Not just chips and cookies, but bread, protein bars, and hummus, too. It's important to read labels to see what's in the food you're eating. Again, the big offenders are corn, canola, and soybean oil.
Healthier alternative oils and fats include:
- olive oil
- coconut oil
- avocado and avocado oil
- nuts & seeds
- grass-fed butter
- some nut butter (read labels and many contain other unhealthy ingredients)
If you're wondering where you should start to kick the belly fat habit, this is a good place. But first, you need to know what type of fat you have on your body.
Belly Fat: What Kind Do You Have?
First, it's important to understand that belly fat isn't the same as the fat around our thighs or behind our arms. The belly fat that is deep within our body is called visceral fat, and it's dangerous because it's packed closely to our internal organs, including our heart, kidneys, and liver. We all have a little visceral fat, but some of us gain far too much, increasing the risk of stroke, heart attack, some types of cancer, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. In addition to visceral fat, we all have two other types of fat.
1 - The Pinchable Kind of Fat
If you can pinch fat between your fingers - even if it's around your belly, it's called subcutaneous fat. This type of fat is irritating, but not the only type you want to get rid of when you lose belly fat. Subcutaneous fat is super stubborn and commonly found in greater amounts in Pear-shaped women. You can get the scoop on how to lose this type of fat here.
2 - The Healthy Kind of Fat
Believe it or not, you have a healthy kind of fat called brown fat. It helps keep us warm and is found in places you might not expect, like around our neck and various places on or around our spine. The location of brown fat can vary from person to person. You don't need to worry about losing this kind of fat. You need it!
3 - True Belly Fat
Now we're getting down to business. If your midsection is rounded, even a little, with more than just a type of fat you can pinch, then you have more visceral fat (aka belly fat) than you should.
Good news! you can lose belly fat easily by making a few dietary changes.
Yes, it's easy to get rid of belly fat. You may not think so, possibly, because you've been eating the wrong foods, cutting calories too far, or just not eating right for your body type, but trust me...I've had nothing but great experiences with clients on a quest to lose belly fat.
Burning Belly Fat Doesn't Mean Dieting
If you have a significant amount of belly fat, don't panic, and please don't start some crazy diet of cutting calories, counting calories or restricting yourself too much. I've found that my clients have all gained weight after dieting, regardless of how much progress they may have made in their initial endeavor to lose weight.
Counting calories, shaving off points, or eliminating fat from your diet will probably only keep you in the belly fat rut, adding inch after inch along your waistline.
Focus on the quality of food you're eating - not the quantity. The tremendous upside is that you can make a lot of improvement just by eating the right foods (see my list of a few foods that you absolutely should eat to lose belly fat). You can make the same type of improvement by avoiding the wrong foods.
Rather than single out one food, I've grouped them. I hope this list is helpful to you. If you're really serious about losing belly fat, order my book, The Belly Burn Plan. It's really effective and doesn't require a single day of dieting or calorie counting.