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We live in a world that cares passionately about appearances. It is the norm for people in America to ruin their health in pursuit of appearances, whether by under-eating, over-exercising, or a general hyper-attention to it. So when I was contemplating doing a series specifically on “how to lose belly fat”, I decided that I wanted to make it clear upfront that this series is not aimed at making anyone feel “inferior” because they have extra weight around their middle.
Because the truth is? Your weight and appearance have nothing to do with your worth as a person. Although our media and social climate can push that value on us, it is a lie. You deserve the same amount of love and respect regardless of the inches around your middle.
I want to also make clear that this series is in no way implying that to be healthy you must have a perfectly flat stomach. While the “ideal” of today is to have a perfectly flat stomach, historically it was not only considered normal for women (in particular) to have a stomach that wasn’t flat, it was considered beautiful.
If you have legitimate, health reasons to lose weight in general, or around your stomach, or legitimate reasons you need to address muscular reasons your stomach sticks out, or some of the other reasons we will be discussing why our stomachs can protrude, then this series is for you. If you are healthy and maintain a healthy weight, but have an “imperfectly” flat stomach, don’t let this series become a reason to obsess about your middle. That is not the point of it.
With that said, here is why I am addressing this issue in a series.
Belly fat can be a sign of disrupted health
There are plenty of studies that point out that belly fat can be a precursor to a higher chance of getting diabetes 2 and certain cancers. Addressing belly fat cannot only achieve a thinner middle, but if done right, can help you maintain better health.
Belly fat can lead to back issues
Many deal with back issues because of abdominal weight. And those that have dealt with back pain know how terrible and life changing back issues are to deal with. By addressing belly fat, you can also have the added bonus of protecting your back.
Mother’s middle can be stretched out during pregnancy
The truth is that our bodies are amazing as they stretch outwards during pregnancy. Being the amazing things that they are, they deserve tender care and consideration before, during, and after a pregnancy.
Stress and belly fat are related
Did you know that studies (such as this Yale University one) show that stress and abdominal fat distribution are related? Once again, belly fat can be a sign of something else. Our society in general can think of weight gain as simply a lack of self-control, but weight around the middle can actually be caused by stress.
Bloating is a common problem
And finally, perpetual bloating is a common problem for many in America. While this can led to a protruded stomach, which can be annoying, bloating can also be a sign that your body is unhappy. And we want our bodies to be happy.
But here’s the deal. These are all important considerations, but we consider them not because we despise our bodies (or stomachs) just how they are now. We consider them because our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made, and deserve to be cared for. We don’t need to fit into size 2 jeans, have a perfectly flat stomach, or ____, you fill in the blank to be wonderful and worthy. But because our bodies are so incredible, this series will just address some different ways to take care of it.
I know this is a sensitive topic, so I’d especially love to hear your feedback on this series! Any thoughts as we embark on it?
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Christina Grace @ The Evangelista
I think you hit the nail on the head! The tone is spot on, and you address all of the important issues regarding belly fat. Standards of feminine beauty in the industrialized West are crazy, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be able to talk about the real health benefits of keeping (excess) belly fat at bay. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I don’t work out to be thin, but to feel good and to be healthy–that is, to take care of myself, since I am created and loved and want to give honor to my Creator. But simply because I might sometimes have a distorted understanding of the purpose of exercise doesn’t mean that I should just stop exercising altogether; it simply means that I always need to be on the watch for negative sources of motivation to be healthy. Looking forward to the series!
As someone diagnosed with fatty liver and prediabetic I think it’s a great series to have. I have always had a ring of fat around the middle since puberty. (I have my mother’s and my maternal mother’s bellies.)
Belly fat is almost impossible to lose for some people. I am in an ongoing battle against it, having toned and tightened most everywhere else. (Got some great abs underneath!)But I still look like I have that dreaded “mom” belly even though I have had no kids!
I found that giving up gluten has really helped with the perpetual bloating (think inches that fluctuate daily), but I am still looking for help on getting those last few stubborn inches to a healthier place.
Gluten is a huge reason for bloating! Thanks for being that up, and sharing some of your story too. 🙂
Kimi, I’m really looking forward to this series! I believe you have opened this topic with much grace and wisdom. It’s a great reminder for me that historically, women did not have perfectly flat stomachs. I can’t wait to read more!
Me too April!
Thanks, April! If felt a little like taking a plunge to start this series, but I am so thankful for the positive feedback thus far.
I just learned that sometimes belly fat can be caused by an over abundance of intestinal parasites. This happened to my husbands aunt. She went to see a naturopath & found out through some sort of blood test. She was put supplements and asked to refrain from eating certain foods. She started to see results pretty quickly. It made me wonder how many people out there have the same problem that goes undiagnosed because mainstream medicine doesn’t check for this on a routine basis when someone has a large belly. They automatically assume its just fat.
Wow, Tracy! That’s really interesting. Thanks for sharing!
I am so totally with you on this! As a 30-year fitness professional, one of my HUGE pet peeves is the industry-wide emphasis on “sculpting” a physique to fit some media-hyped image of perfection – which keeps changing, btw. If one truly does have excess belly fat, it is an indicator of something metabolically amiss. And – OH YES to how fearfully and wonderfully we are made! I honestly believe it would be beneficial for Christians to take a few steps back and ask ourselves if we might be somewhat sucked into a modern form of idolatry.
I look forward to the rest of this series. Posting to Facebook!
Thank you so much, Jacque, for the comment! It is really interesting hearing your perspective as a fitness professional. Thanks!
I agree, you have opened this subject beautifully! I look forward to hearing and learning more! Part of my “belly” is due to having many children, carrying #9 right now, each one is so worth this stretched out belly and while I try to eat well and exercise, in the end if my belly doesn’t go back to where I would like it I chalk it up to many blessings(children) and wear it as a badge of honor!
Congrats, first of all! I love your attitude, and I think it’s so healthy. Of course pregnancy is going to change our body! And certain things can be a “badge of honor”. 🙂
I too look forward to this. Thank you for addressing another important subject.
I agree. You are presenting this beautifully. I have always had the metabolism from hell. I can out eat anyone. I also out exercise most. When I hit about 35, the desk job and other demands started to put a belly on me. It is amazing how hard it is to get rid of, with the amount of time available to work on it. I am six foot six. When I weighed 120 lbs at that height, I was teased for being so skinny. I am now 220 and am described as mildly overweight. Somewhere in this process I must have been perfect, but that is never mentioned.
I also am interested in following this, as my wife has had three kids, birth control hormones before them, and now lots of cortisol issues from dealing with the stress caused by kids, finances, life. (Women seem to get the worst of it). Looking forward to your insights…
Thanks so much for sharing! The demands of life are certainly hard on our bodies! At least, I’ve found it so. I hope that some of the stuff I am researching right now and will be sharing, is helpful for you. 🙂
Looking forward to what you have to say! You did an amazing job introducing it 🙂
I think it’s a great topic to address and your intro post was well written and friendly.
I am now on tamoxifen and got the normal side effect of a pronounced belly after a couple of months on the drug. In my case I found that I have to be careful not to eat anything that I react to, because the reactions are more severe and longer lasting. We started eating organic a few weeks ago and that seems to be helping me start to lose the few pounds that I gained with the chemo and tamoxifen.
My best advice is to pay attention to what your body reacts to- foods, supplements or whatever, and avoid those things.
I love that you also addressed a mom belly. I found out that my stomach muscles didn’t come back together properly after my second baby, and I did some physical therapy after talking with some friends. We did it as a group, and I lost 1 inch off my waist in 6 weeks with no weight loss (and eliminated my back pain), and a girlfriend lost 4 inches with no weight loss. Just knowing how to use my muscles properly and activate my “core” made a huge difference.
I’m also interested in hearing your other topics about belly fat, and love that the goal is to be healthy, not necessarily “attractive.”
It really is such a common problem! It’s wonderful that you addressed it and had such great results. 🙂
I love the way you presented this information. Flat Abs is such a hot topic, intact I just did a post a few weeks ago on the same thing because I wanted to get the message across that no matter how much you want it or try to have a flat belly, there are other considerations.
But the bottom line is, we are all built different and some people will just never have it, so embrace your body and just make sure you feel good and take care if the bloating, the rest may follow. (Of course getting rid of the bloat is just scratching the surface, I don’t want to take up too much writing here but feel free to check out my blog in the article that is very similar to this one)
Thanks for your presentation:)
Can anyone point me to additional info on bloating? My bloat varies by inches throughout the day. I have tried to pinpoint the cause (if food) with no luck. I have been on an all natural diet for years, as well as being gluten-free and refined sugar free. I do have PTSD (which has caused Fibromyalgia-like symptoms as well as high inflammation in my body.) I do eat and treat my body for inflammation (like turmeric, cherries, um, aloe vera juice..) Any advice is appreciated! I am getting treated for the PTSD – it cause havoc in the body.
(and thank you for this post!)
Good for you for taking care of yourself and getting treatment for PTSD! Blessings to you on your healing journey.
I am all for this series. Your blog and recipes are an integral part of my “get me and my family healthier” goals…I am depending on you to do the research! So please continue on this series…I believe we (my family) can become healthier and stay healthy following natural ways and without exercising to the nth degree… Even these comments have been helpful!
I’ve just recently been learning how crunches and planks are detrimental to trimming the belly (and not effective) when you are post-baby, due to issues with the the transverse abdominal muscle. I’ll be interested to hear all the coming things you will address, and maybe this is one you’ll cover. Thanks.
Crunches, yes. Planks, maybe. However, planks are a great core strengthener which is excellent for overall health. I think strength and not image is what we should be after.
How do you dill with stress, I was a single mother of 5, Stress is all I have know. Now my kids are grown. But this Stress is now from my Job, how do I dill with that kind of Stress.
Thank you Kimi for bringing this up! I would love to see information for us moms about sleep deprivation and belly fat. I haven’t slept more than 2 hours straight in ten years. I just started sleeping more now that my youngest doesn’t nurse all night. I am dying to see if the belly fat (and pounds in general) will finally go away. Lots of exercise and great nutrition don’t seem to help!
Hi Kimi! I look forward to reading what you write concerning this topic. I’m not considered overweight and never have been. I have had five children (in 7 years) – including one set of twins at age 35. I also was on strict (and hospitalized) bedrest for 13 weeks during my twin pregnancy. Five years later, I consider myself healthier but I do have a bit of a belly. Some of this belly is just loose skin from a very stretched out tummy from having twins. I checked myself for diastasis, and I had it two years out from giving birth to my twins. It has improved some. I do some running (no more than 2 to 5 miles four times a week) and stairclimbing, strength training at least twice a week. . . but I haven’t been so motivated to rebuild my core muscles which suffered while I was on bedrest and just from having babies. I’ve tried to make a commitment to Pilates, but I find it hard to keep with my crazy-busy schedule. Somehow floor work exercises don’t feel as “productive” as cardio and weightlifting! But the longer I go ignoring the need to address my subtle core issues, the more I am beginning to think using my time that way might actually preserve my body longer than pounding my feet and joints by running. I feel attention to my core would make a difference and increase my energy levels in general (which is my main goal for exercising – not to maintain weight, but instead to increase my energy levels and make me feel better each day).
I’m sure there are others like me out there looking for some motivation and more info. Looking forward to your posts on the subject of belly fat!
Brigid de Jong
Looking forward to reading this. I gained a lot of weight due to stress and illness, all around my middle. Last year I started working on the nutrient dense diet, and healed my acid reflux disease (2 medications a day). I’m not willing to go hard line low fat to lose this weight, and I’m interested in a healthier approach.
Can’t wait to hear your information on this subject. I myself have been struggling with this problem. It has been a down hill problem ever since I fell and broke my leg 12 yrs ago. Deteriorating joints can’t exercise weight gain weakness, viscous circle. Very depressing and a lot of in my back from the large belly. Please some advise.
Can’t wait to hear your information on this subject. I myself have been struggling with this problem. It has been a down hill problem ever since I fell and broke my leg 12 yrs ago. Deteriorating joints can’t exercise weight gain weakness, viscous circle. Very depressing and a lot pain in my back from the large belly. Please some advise.
I’m a life-long ‘fitness’ aficionado, to the extent that I’ve trained people towards getting the body they craved having.
But I’ve also been overweight. I know what ’emotional eating’ is all about.
I’m also more than a little conversant in the conversation about ‘extenuating health circumstances’.
The first is how disappointing some of the responses (here and elsewhere) tend to be. How we’ve slowly and inexorably (d)evolved into a society not just of entitlement, but also abrogation of our responsibilities to be good stewards of our bodies and world-class excuse-makers and blamers.
The second has to do with the book ‘Wheat Belly’.
Which is a) definitely one of the most important books I’ve ever read in my life, and b) something that should be one of the foundations of this discussion.
Have I ever had ‘belly fat’?
Did I have it even during some of my most ‘fit’ interludes, despite ‘eating right’?
Did I see a marked decrease in it when I went on a moderated ‘no wheat’ diet?
I used to believe that there were three primary ’causes’ of far more people being overweight now as opposed sixty years ago: the convenient availability of high-dose calories, eating habits that became more and more predicated on processed foods, and a decided decrease in activity. I still believe these to be important to consider when looking at ‘solving the belly fat’ problem. (For those who choose to try to solve it.) But if I had to suggest just *one* thing that someone could do to rid themselves of this insidious malady (known within the medical community and ‘visceral fat’, something I was definitely afflicted by), I’d tell them ‘Get all wheat products out of your diet, whether or not you have a gluten issue.
Read the book. It’ll leave you constantly wide-eyed and drop-jawed.
First of all, I know that Wheat Belly has been really helpful for many. Thanks for sharing your success using his advice. And thanks for the comment!
Secondly, you said: “The first is how disappointing some of the responses (here and elsewhere) tend to be. How we’ve slowly and inexorably (d)evolved into a society not just of entitlement, but also abrogation of our responsibilities to be good stewards of our bodies and world-class excuse-makers and blamers.”
I am sorry, but I don’t see any of the comments here being said in that attitude. However, what I do want to make clear is that this series will in no shape or form be about heaping guilt on anyone.
So everyone, let’s keep up the encouraging, positive comments! We have no need to heap guilt or be negative to each other to find real change. 🙂
Thank you so much for addressing this issue. I believe we, as women, are chided for the way our bodies appear while, at the same time, find it incredibly difficult to change. In my particular instance, I have found that western medicine has been unable to offer anything more than well-intentioned but feckless advice on diet and exercise. I once had an internist tell me my thyroid issues (which turned out to be Hashimoto’s) was simply because I was tired. He suggested I see a psychologist. I found a new doctor instead.
I have been under the care of a functional medicine physician. She has been able to pinpoint via a lot of testing a leaky gut due initially to gluten sensitivity. The leaky gut has created a mess with my thyroid, adrenals, blood sugar and immune system in general. My gut health has deteriorated to the point I now have high fungus (Candida) and bacterial counts. I find the inflammation created by this unhealthy situation makes me bloated in the belly. My doc has suggested specific supplements as well as a candida diet. It’s pretty tough with combined with all the foods I have developed allergies to as a result of the leaky gut. (I’ve developed allergies to dairy, egg, beans, and cane sugar, among other things) It means I eat limited carbs or grains and very little fruit. It is similar to a paleo diet without egg or beans or soy. Even though it is tough, I am determined to stick with it to regain my health and vigor.
What does all this have to do with you? Well, for one thing, I find many people who are gluten sensitive or intolerant carry a lot of weight in the belly. They may not even realize they have issues with gluten. My husband recently excluded gluten from his diet and lost 25 lbs over 4 months. He doesn’t know about sensitivity, but he also doesn’t care now. He said he feels so much better physically and emotionally and plans to continue eating this way.
Also, a lot of borderline diabetics like myself carry very stubborn belly fat. Dr. Mark Hyman has written a lot about this subject and coined a term, “diabesity.” You can look him up and read more. It’s very informative.
I look forward to reading more here. I love the recipes. They’re tasty and they work. I can easily swap out ingredients and,importantly, my family still finds dishes palatable.
So hooray for us! Let join together in support of each other, sisters, and keep reading the nourishing gourmet!
For some people going on a one month Paleo no-grain diet can help smooth out the stomach. For me, after the month, maybe I will add one grain-type at a time to see the effects on my stomach. I would not like to eliminate all grains, only the ones that bother. It’s not easy, but might help reduce odd problems.
As pointed out here, there are a few reasons behind belly fat. Wheat being the most obvious culprit, parasites which need WAY more attention, yeast overgrowth… Kimi, always love your conscientious approach, look forward to what you uncover and what your community has to add…
Thanks : )
So glad you are addressing this topic. I think you have a great overall perspective on this issue in particular, and body image in general. I wish my mindset was just as healthy on this topic. I’m afraid that although I agree with your take on it-my mind has been completely poisoned. I still have this ridiculous ideal in my mind. Probably made worse by the fact that I was ‘naturally shapely’ as a young person. My mind needs to be re-trained! Please help! I’m 33, I have 3 kids and I’m perpetually about 30 pounds overweight. The ‘belly fat’ has grown over the past year. Fake food is low-calorie-but I won’t eat it. Does that mean I’ll spend the rest of my life eating tiny bits of ‘real’ food? Help!
Thank you Kimi, I’m looking forward to this series. Kids, surgeries (cesarean, gall bladder…) single Mom, stress and bad eating all contributed to my poor belly health. Now, post menopausal, eat a grain free diet, low amount of sugars (honey, coconut crystals), run two miles 1-2 x/week and go to the gym 2-3x/week doing elliptical and weights including abs; can’t lose these last 30 lbs., my belly flab just sits there. I refuse to go on a low fat diet, I actually refuse to go on any kind of diet other than to try to eat the foods that are good for me, nutrient dense and that I can tolerate. This has been weighing heavily on my mind lately as I am frustrated. I work so hard and yet I can’t lose weight while those around me just start exercising or cut out sugar… that’s all it seems to take for them. I am not wanting to win a bathing suit contest, just be healthy and this tummy/weight is all part of gaining better health.
Well Said Kimi! Very gracefully done. Looking forward to the rest of the series!
you opened quite the hornet’s nest here and i agree with all of the comments that you did it beautifully. i’ve been reading “eat fat, lose fat” and following the additional coconut oil regimen in the hopes of slimming some of this round buddha belly of mine. but you know what? i’m also sitting with the realization that as i’ve been slowly slowly healing, my body’s slow weight gain might actually be a SIGN of its increasing health, and not some failing on my part (duh). still, our image conscious culture makes it hard. i *almost* bought a dress recently that was too small to have as a “motivation” in the closet. then i realized, “spend money on clothes that fit NOW and that make you feel good in your skin as it is.” i cannot wait for this series! thanks kimi!
Looking forward to this Kimi! 🙂
I found that bloating goes way down (as in an inch in one or two days) when I leave off the the gluten and sugars.
And I have found that working on my diastasis recti using momsintofitness.com has really helped too 🙂
Bring it on!
While looking at the beauty within is important and being stress free is super important, finding out why there are so many bigger bellies is still important. Read up on the Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis. He discusses the wheat we are eating in not what our ancestors ate. We are eating a dna modified wheat that has been modified to increase the output ten fold. It isn’t the wheat God made or nature made. It isn’t the GMO stuff out now but this wheat has been fed to us since the 60’s. The altered protein in it has an opiate like effect on our bodies. It is also the precursor to all the adults who are having gluten issues and poor gut flora.