How Did it Get Like This?
If we’re going to fix this ‘belly problem’, then perhaps the best place to start is by asking how it got this way in the first place. What series of events led to you gaining the weight and letting yourself go? Perhaps with that knowledge, we can then reverse the process and get back on track.
I’m speculating here, but I’m going to take a stab at how you found yourself with this unwanted flab.
We got older and then we started to get tireder. Hormones don’t help– hormones make our metabolisms slow down as we get past 25 and suddenly it becomes much harder to keep the belly fat off.
Not only that, but we start spending more and more time at work in the office and pouring more and more energy into that work. Then we get married, get a mortgage, have kids …
Suddenly, the amount of free time we have to ourselves dwindles down to almost nothing. If we aren’t changing nappies, answering angry phone calls out of hours, coming home late or doing the dishes, we’re crashed out on the sofa exhausted.
And stress is another thing that can contribute to weight gain. Stress increases cortisol, cortisol makes us hungry and it stimulates ‘lipogenesis’ or fat storage.
Gradually our gym regime takes a back seat and soon after that, our diet takes a back seat too. We start eating what is convenient and affordable and slowly life chips away at our fitness.
And it doesn’t seem like a big deal either. But as we’ve seen it really is, because it starts to have a knock-on effect in every single other aspect of your life. If you can take back control of your gut, you can take back control of your life!
How are you going to get it back?
The Problem is Energy, Not Time
Let’s take a closer look at this issue and see what it really boils down to. Now a lot of people will tell you it comes down to time. They aren’t in shape because they don’t have time to be in shape.
Is this accurate?
I would argue not. Because if you are like most people, then you have somehow still managed to watch an awful lot of TV series. Maybe you recently completed the latest season of Game of Thrones. And then there’s the simple fact that you could wake up earlier.
And there’s the fact that– if we are being completely honest here– eating healthily doesn’t take that long. It’s very quick and easy to eat a salad, or to eat whatever you were going to eat tonight sans chips.
You feel like you need a pick-me-up. Something that can help you to get yourself up and running again– and fish just doesn’t cut it.
Fish after a long day at work just doesn’t cut it.
Now, in the next chapter we’re going to take a look at the most simplistic and efficient way to lose weight. This is straightforward calorie tracking. We’ll see why this can work and why it’s really just very simple math.
But I want you to keep this chapter in the back of your mind because we’re going to be coming back to it. You’re going to see later on that your lifestyle makes it hard to cut calories and that you need to have a rethink if you’re going to win this war on your belly!
The most straightforward way that anyone can fight belly fat, is to simply eat fewer calories than they burn. This is what is called maintaining a ‘caloric deficit’ and it basically means that the body needs to burn fat in order to get the energy it needs.
The body is constantly burning energy, not only to allow it to engage in various activities such as walking, jogging or thinking but also to allow it to simply stay alive. That is to say that you need to burn energy for the most fundamental of human bodily functions such as blinking and breathing.
If you are constantly eating, then you are constantly supplying your body with the sugar that it needs. This will remain in the blood until the body is able to use it to power whichever movements are necessary. Failing that, the body will look to stores of glycogen which is kept in the cells. It’s only once both of these energy supplies runs short that the body then needs to start looking elsewhere. That is when it starts to burn fat.
How to Measure and Maintain a Calorie Deficit
If you want to measure and maintain a calorie deficit, then you need to first calculate how many calories your body burns in a given day. This means looking at the number of calories that you burn while inactive (called your ‘basal metabolic rate’) and then looking at how much exercise you do on top of this– making your AMR or ‘active metabolic rate’. There are plenty of different calculations out there for getting a rough estimate of these numbers
Ultimately though, it is actually more effective in most cases to try and work this out using a fitness tracker. While calculations can be useful, they don’t allow for variations from one day to the next. Most of us will find that our active metabolic rate varies tremendously throughout the week and this of course has a big impact on how much you should be eating.
A good fitness tracker will allow you to enter some personal metrics, such as your height, weight and gender, and will then count your steps and measure other activities throughout the day. A device such as the Fibit Alta HR for instance will not only track steps but also monitor your heart rate throughout the day and automatically detect exercises and activities like walks, runs and sports. Using this data, you can then get a much more accurate picture of how many calories you burn daily.
From there, you can then start calculating how many calories are going in. Again, there is technology out there to help you do this. MyFitnessPal for example is a tool that will let you log the foods you eat by entering the calories and ‘macronutrients’ manually, or by simply scanning a barcode in order to add them from a huge database.
If you scan everything you eat through MyFitnessPal– not forgetting the drinks you consume (including alcoholic!) and any smaller snacks throughout the day– then you now have a total number for all the calories you’ve eaten to measure against the ones you’ve burned.
Let’s say that you’ve burned 2,300 calories and you’ve eaten 2,200. You can either stop there, or you can try and do some more exercise in order to burn more calories. If you can do that, then you will burn fat.
Maintain a constant caloric deficit of around 200-300 and you’ll slowly lose more and more fat. Remember: slow and steady wins the race!
Except it’s not really that simple. For starters, there are the kinds of foods you’re eating– the nutrients.
Maintaining a caloric deficit seems simple and flawless on paper but in practice, it is too simplistic. Over the next few chapters you’ll discover why and you’ll find out how to strike that happy balance that will result in guaranteed fat loss.
A Little About Targeting
Before I go any further though, I should first address a concern you may have. After all, wasn’t this supposed to be a book about burning belly fat specifically? How does maintaining a caloric deficit guarantee you’ll lose your gut? Women reading this might even be worried they’ll lose weight from places that they want it: like their breasts!
As some of you may already know, this does not guarantee you’ll lose your belly. That’s because nothing can guarantee that you’ll lose your belly. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as ‘targeted’ fat loss. That is to say that you can’t choose which part of your body you want to improve the looks of and then conveniently blast fat from there.
The order in which fat is lost from your body is actually genetically predetermined and is impossible to change. Some people will lose weight from their guts first and those people are very lucky.
So the only way you can burn belly fat is to burn all fat and then feel safe in the knowledge that it is going to eventually reach your belly. That said though, we will look at some tips in this book later on that can help you to make your belly flatter and more toned in other ways …
That is when it starts to burn fat.
If you want to measure and maintain a calorie deficit, then you need to first calculate how many calories your body burns in a given day. Using this data, you can then get a much more accurate picture of how many calories you burn daily.
Let’s say that you’ve burned 2,300 calories and you’ve eaten 2,200. Wasn’t this supposed to be a book about burning belly fat specifically?