How to Lose That Stubborn Lower Belly Fat

One of the most common questions I get asked by people (usually other mamas) is how do I lose the little pooch on my lower stomach area?  What exercises will work best to get rid of it?

2012 Arnold Sports Festival with Wheelchair Bodybuilder Nick Scott “The Beast” taken when my son was 2 years old

Unfortunately, the answer usually isn’t a new fancy exercise technique, or thousands of crunches.  The answer comes down to your nutrition.  If you would have told me this a few years ago, I might not have believed you, or rather, I might not have understood what you meant, so I wanted to write a post trying to explain.  Please note, I am not a nutritionist or a personal trainer, these are just my thoughts from my own experiences and research.

I have been a long distance runner for most of my life.  Training for marathons, I was always able to get skinny with a ton of running but was never really able to get that nice toned look I always wanted.  I ate what I considered to be healthy, but never really paid that much attention to the types of food I was eating.  I was more concerned about number of calories burned in my workouts.

When I did Jamie Eason’s LiveFit trainer in 2011 I learned so much about proper training, but more importantly, proper nutrition.  It taught me the fundamentals of the way I structure my nutrition (and our family’s nutrition) now.  Once I started being consistent with my meals on a daily basis I started to notice my stomach getting a lot flatter and that lower pooch area started to go away because I was losing body fat overall.  Have you ever heard the phrase, “Abs are made in the kitchen”?  For me, this was very true!  Once I changed the way I ate, and was consistent with my nutrition (including weekends), my abs started to pop out.


Due to genetics, some of us are more prone to gain in certain areas of our bodies.  Unfortunately, there isn’t a way we can spot reduce and just focus on one particular area to lose fat.  I wish we could!  I would wave that magic wand right at the fat on my thighs and bum :)  For me, that is always the first place I gain and the last place I lose.  A lot of women tend to gain from the “outside in” (arms and legs first) and a lot of men tend to gain from the “inside out” (belly area first).  Instead we just need to focus on losing body weight overall and the best way to do that is to be consistent with your diet.

Here are my top five tips for structuring your nutrition for weight loss:

1: Eat 4-6 smaller meals each day.  The are no evidence based studies showing that your body burns fat faster when you do this, but for me, when I eat every 3-4 hours it keeps my blood sugar levels consistent and then I don’t have the big sugar cravings and fall off track.  Click HERE to see some sample meal plans of a typical day’s worth of meals for me.  Keeping pre-packaged and processed foods out of the house really helps me stay on track too plus it saves us money.  You want to focus on eating whole foods in all your meals.

2: Include lean protein in each of your meals.  Tosca Reno (author of the Eat Clean Diet books which I highly recommend!) has a great shopping list that you can use as a guide for the types of lean protein sources to look for.  You don’t have to eat chicken breast and egg whites for all your meals!  I mix things up all the time so I don’t get bored with the food I am eating.  Click HERE to print a copy of Tosca’s awesome grocery list.

3: Drink a lot of water and eat a lot of green veggies.  You might read this and think, “well duh!” but I can’t emphasize enough how important this is.  Water helps your body flush extra toxins from your body and I can tell a big difference each morning in my abs if I drank enough water the day before or if I didn’t.  If you have a hard time getting your green veggies in, try my Frozen Spinach Cup tip.  This is how I get my 3-year old to eat spinach and he doesn’t even know he’s eating it!  I do this with all my protein shakes.

4. Watch your daily grams of sugar.  This is a huge one for me.  Before I started paying attention to this my sugar intake was upwards of 120g per day!  When my daily sugar intake is low, I really start to notice a lot of changes in my stomach.  When I am really trying to lean down or lose weight I will aim to keep my grams of sugar at 35g per day or no more than 6-7g per meal.  This can be kind of hard to do when you are eating fruit, so if I end up around 40-45g I don’t stress too bad but I try to keep 35g my goal when trying to lean down.

5: Track your food. When I first changed my eating habits I started tracking everything in the Myfitnesspal app on my iPhone.  It was a huge eye opener for me and made me realize I wasn’t getting near enough protein, was eating way too much sugar, and actually wasn’t eating enough calories.  I don’t think it’s realistic to track 100% of your food all the time because that will drive you crazy and make you obsessed with the numbers.  But, when you are first starting I think it’s a good idea to track for 5-7 days and then once you feel like you have a good feel for the types of foods you regularly eat, just occasionally track your food to make sure you are still on track.  I typically aim to do a 40/40/20 split meaning I try to get about 40% of my calories from carbs, 40% of my calories from protein, and 20% of my calories from healthy fats.

Keep in mind that it doesn’t happen overnight.  For me, after 4 weeks of changing my nutrition I could tell a difference but I don’t think others really could tell.  After about 8 weeks all my clothes were starting to fit better, and after 12 weeks I started getting comments from other people.   I want to point this out because you will have a lot of times where you might wonder if what you are doing really makes a difference or is really working.  You may not see changes on the scale right away (tip: ditch the scale. Go by how your clothes fit instead).  You may feel a little bloated when you first start eating more vegetables.  But, what I always try to tell myself when I start to get discouraged is that it’s a combination of all the small decisions that make a big difference in the end.


I hope that is helpful! If you have any questions leave them as a comment and I will try to answer as many as I can!

Your Friend,
Natalie

Comments

  1. I love reading your blog. Thank you for the great advice!!!

  2. cindyck99 says:

    thanks for this! i just updated myfitnesspal settings to incude 40/40/20 and 35g sugar. i struggle with a veggie at each meal like jamie talks about. on day 9 of live fit.

  3. Great stuff, very honest and transparent. Thanks for not telling people “you have to buy this thing” or “you have to employ these three tricks.” Keep it up, you’ve got another reader!

  4. WOW….I try to eat a really clean diet but I know I am too heavy on the fruit. Just put my food in myfitnesspal and today I will probably end up with around 75 grams of sugar! YIKES! No wonder I am not losing the belly fat like I would like to! Such great info!! Great post!

    • Natalie says:

      Hey Ashley! I was the exact same way! It’s not the fruit is bad, there are so many health benefits in different fruits, it’s just that I was eating so much that the sugar in the fruit was converting to fat. Once I cut it down I saw some noticeable changes.

  5. Thank you so much for this! I have a trainer, and knew a lot of this – but the grocery list is fantastic! And I love seeing your meals :) Gives me ideas to try rather than just chicken and broccoli every day!

    • Natalie says:

      Amy I agree! I love that Tosca puts that out there for free for people to use. Thanks I need to start putting some more sample meal plans up, I always forget to take pictures before I eat my meals! :)

  6. How many calories are you aiming for a day? I am thinking I am possibly not eating enough? I have followed you since you first started… have used your recipes and appreciate your straightforward, honest style… keep up the great work!

    • Natalie says:

      Thanks Shanna! Usually I am for 1,750-2,150 per day depending on my workout. On days I workout harder I get to eat more :) Right now I am aiming for around 2,000-2,350 calories a day because I am exclusively nursing my two-month old and cutting calories can mess with your milk supply which I don’t want to do. I am also 5’8″ though. Here is a good rule of thumb formula for calories. Take your current weight x 10 and add 500 calories. That is the base amount of calories you should aim for. If you are trying to lose weight then take off 250-500 calories and if you are trying to gain weight/add muscle then add 250-500 calories. I hope that helps!

      • So if you trying to lose weight do you take 250-500 off your current weight times 10? That seems like I would be low in calories.

      • Kyah Vaughn says:

        Does this have any variance for height? I’m only 5’1″…I would need less calories than you right?

  7. Does rice is considered as sugar?

  8. Bridget says:

    Love your blog Natalie. You give me that extra motivation when I need it. I find you very genuine. Thanks

  9. This is probably not the best place to contact you, but I am new to the website. I have checked your fb page daily but have never posted anything to it. I absolutely love reading your fitness tips and recipes. I just saw that you are moving to Beaumont and got all excited!! I live about 5 miles north of Beaumont but do just about everything in Beaumont including the gym! If you would like some information about gyms or things in the area, I would be glad to help. It would be awesome to be able to get a lift in with you :)

    • Natalie says:

      Kelli that is awesome what a small world! Are you in Lumberton? We are actually closing on a house in Lumberton next week! It would be fun to get a workout in together when we move there in July :)

  10. I do live in Lumberton!! Small world indeed!!

  11. Wow!! This is great wish I had come across your blog sooner! I’m on week 7 of Jamie Easons live fit trainer. I used to be a runner and then started lifting about a year and a half ago. Makes such a huge difference! So excited to see my final results. I was like you when it came to nutrition, I thought I was eating healthy but I was so wrong. Can’t wait to look at all your recipes and make some!

  12. This is a dumb question and I know the answer but I still have to ask. What are your thought on diet drinks? I eat pretty healthy and try eating as clean as possible but I do drink A LOT of diet coke to get me through my day. I have 4 kids and my forth baby I am really struggling getting off the weight especially that baby pooch. Would Simply cutting out my diet soda help with that? Thanks Natalie for your blog I love your honesty and look forward to continue to follow you:-)

  13. Andrea O'Donnell says:

    thank you so much! I am 6 months postpartum and I am having a hard time losing the last 10 lbs, and its ALL in my mid section. I already eat 5-6 meals/day, but I will try doing your meal plans.

  14. Thank you! I love that you are not afraid to share your “secrets” for free. I know it will come back to you two fold. Personally, you are a huge inspiration to me. I follow a lot of fitness blogs/ advice, but yours is my favorite. Keep going!

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