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How to Burn Belly Fat (+ Why It Happens in the First Place)

One of the questions I get asked most often is, “JJ, how do I get rid of stubborn belly fat?”

As important as this question is, before you can take steps to banish belly fat and be the best fat burner, the first step is figuring out why you're gaining belly fat in the first place—and there are a few reasons why this could be happening. 

Let's take a look at the big ones…

Stress

Stress raises cortisol levels, which makes you better at storing fat, especially around your waistline. Stress also makes you crave sugar, which only exacerbates the problem. (You can read more about that here.) And if you're not sleeping well? Forget it! Not only does stress keep you from getting restful, healthy sleep at night, but poor-quality sleep then contributes to more stress. It's a vicious cycle!

Insulin resistance

Insulin resistance is when your body doesn't respond properly to insulin, resulting in a spike in blood sugar. Over time, this can lead to more serious problems like type 2 diabetes. How does it affect belly fat? Insulin resistance can make you store belly fat because higher fasting insulin levels turn off fat burning and create inflammation, which is its own risk factor for weight gain

How do you know if you're insulin resistant? There are a couple of clear signs, including elevated cholesterol or triglyceride levels, high fasting blood sugar, and waist circumference—which is really easy to check. If you're a woman and your waist circumference is greater than 34 inches, or if you're a man and it's greater than 40 inches, this puts you at a much higher risk of insulin resistance. To get an accurate measurement, place the measuring tape right around your belly button and don't hold in your stomach!

Menopause

Menopause is an imbalance or lowering of the sex hormones, which in women typically occurs around age 50. A similar thing happens to men after about age 40, and in both cases it can lead to stubborn belly fat. But there is hope, I promise!

Here's what I recommend to burn belly fat. 

The first thing you want to do is lower your Sugar Impact—because even if you're managing stress and have your hormones in balance, a high Sugar Impact diet will create belly fat

Lowering your SI is not about cutting sugar out of your diet cold turkey and eating no sugar at all. It’s about knowing what foods you should choose and what foods you should lose based on how much they raise your blood sugar and insulin levels, along with how much fructose they have. 

When trying to get rid of belly fat, start by figuring out how many medium and high SI foods are sneaking into your diet, then begin to gradually swap them out for lower SI foods and beverages. You'll find plenty of examples and suggested swaps in my Sugar Impact Diet book, but here's a quick example: If you’ve been eating raisins (I call those little candy bombs, by the way), then you'll switch over to grapes… or better yet, switch to blueberries. Over time, smart swaps like this will help you make lower SI choices, which in turn will help you become more insulin sensitive so you can burn off that belly fat! 

But a low Sugar Impact diet is just the first step…

While age-related hormonal changes are beyond our control, there are things we can do to dial down stress in our daily lives… yes, even despite the ongoing pandemic! In addition to fixing your diet, finding and addressing the root cause (or causes) of stress can go a long way toward tackling the problem of stubborn belly fat. While it may not be possible to fix every source of stress in your life, there are so many great strategies out there to help you cope with stress and anxiety so you can keep your fat-burning fires stoked. These include meditation, tapping, working out (especially burst training), spending time with your dog, and the list goes on.

Bottom line: Putting the right strategies in place, including lowering your SI and taking steps to manage everyday stress, will help you get that belly fat gone so you can look and feel your best. 

The views in this blog by JJ Virgin should never be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Please work with a healthcare practitioner concerning any medical problem or concern. The information here is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or condition. Statements contained here have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.

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