OMG it’s so frustrating! Two years after making such a big commitment to get into some sort of reasonable shape and I’ve still got stubborn belly fat around my middle!
Should I care, do I care?
I’m embarrassed that I do care because I spent most of my adult life with a beer gut of varying proportions and I have absolutely no illusions about wanting to look like some sort of ripped muscle model sort of guy! Ha! That’s so funny!
But, there was a glorious moment probably over a year ago now where I looked in the mirror one morning and I started to see the faint outline of my ribs again and my hipbones were nervously peeping out from sleepy-eyed long term hibernation from under their luxurious duvet of fat.
And, over the following few months, it was a bit like painstakingly excavating the long buried bones of an old dinosaur as my frame slowly emerged from being covered in blubber for the last 20 – 30 years and I realised that underneath it all I was actually still there!
It was a glorious feeling! And the more weight I lost and the more definition I got the more I was motivated to continue. I made it my goal to get down to the weight I was when I was a student. No problem – I was cycling more and more and really enjoying it and so the weight literally dropped off almost without trying.
I’m now well under ½ a stone under the my “student” weight and I’m smack bang in the middle of what my healthy weight should be. I feel amazing and I look considerably thinner than I did previously, I also look younger and have more energy.
And, I know I shouldn’t care because it’s shallow and conceited, but I still have some stubborn belly fat around my middle that just won’t shift. You can’t even see the stuff even with a reasonably fitted shirt on, I look completely flat and trim, but I know it’s there and I want to be rid of it!
I have to say at this point that having any desire to improve my personal appearance is fairly much alien to me. I’m a middle aged bloke who wears saggy jeans and baggy tee shirts most of the time and I’m very much of the view that my main motivation for cycling and physical exercise is for my enjoyment and spiritual wellbeing. Yes, I want to keep in shape but how much my beer gut has bothered me has come as a bit of a shock to me!
I’m also very clear that my motivation around my middle now is purely a cosmetic issue. I don’t have any health concerns about my weight anymore and I just want to look thinner.
Anyway, apparently what I’m “suffering” is very common and it’s relatively easy to get rid of the real “hard core” fat from around your middle but people very commonly then hit a bit of a wall when it comes to shifting the subcutaneous fat, or the pinchable fat underneath your skin. The subcutaneous fat is less metabolically active than the deep visceral fat and so is much harder to shift.
However, take heart, as it can be done and here are five compelling reasons why it might be taking a little longer than expected.
1.You’re just too old mate!
Yes, the odds may forever be stacked not in your favour as, the older you get, the slower your metabolism. Basically speaking that means that if you continue to eat and drink like you did in your 20’s into your 30’s and 40’s without balancing it with calorie burning exercise you are going to get a gut.
So the bottom line is the older we get the more we are almost inevitably going to get overweight and the harder we have to work to either prevent or shift excess weight.
Bollocks to being too old to do anything! It’s a challenge to be overcome and with your mature outlook and strength of character, it’s no problem!
2.It’s called a beer gut for a reason.
Yes, it is and, if you’re regularly eating or drinking more calories than you burn, then you will inevitably hold the weight around your waist – particularly as a man. You might even be keeping an eye on your calorie intake but the problem is that, once you get close to your weight goal you inevitably have a bit of a mind shift where you say to yourself that just the odd snack will be OK, the odd biscuit, the odd pint or two of beer, extra glass of wine and extra helping.
This is the sort of mental slippage that makes it really hard to shift those last few pounds. If anything, you need to work as hard or harder than when you first started. They really do take some dedicated effort to shift! (That pint obove though does look lovely and tempting……)
So, go back to calorie counting if need be. I personally have used the My Fitness Pal app on my phone in the past to keep a record of the calories I have consumed in a day and I quite like the graphical representation and the accountability that it provides.
Personally, I find the calories found in drinks the easiest to accumulate without realising that I’m accumulating them. Fizzy drinks are obviously full of sugar and wines and beers particularly have a high calorific content and it’s all too easy to lose track of how many you’ve had!
3.You’re eating the wrong food.
You might be watching your calorie intake and, whilst this will make a big difference, to shift those last stubborn pounds you need to really watch the type of food you are eating as well. Processed foods, fatty foods containing saturated fats eg crisps and snacks and sugary and starchy foods are all harder for your body to process and will make it harder to shed that last bit of wobbly gut!
Instead, you need to be eating more fibre, beans, vegetables and fruit as well as olive oil and omega 3 (fish for example), low-fat proteins and complex carbohydrates.
I think this is really hard! But, until you make the final shift from not only watching the quantity of food you put in your mouth to also looking at the quality of the food you eat you will find it really hard to shift those final pounds.
4.You’re not working out right
Again, you could be just slacking off a little bit now that you are close to your target weight. It’s all too easy to not push quite as hard as you used to or to have the odd session where you don’t feel quite up to it and think it will be OK to stop early as you’re nearly there anyway. It’s a similar mentality to the extra snacking one above because and easy to talk yourself into because you feel you deserve it!
You need to continue to stretch yourself and gradually push yourself physically further within the context of a planned training program. Doing HITT training will help really boost your fitness and burn off those calories rather than just doing moderate cardio and you should also be doing some core strengthening and weight exercises as well.
Cross training is vital and for me, a person of very modest athletic ability, I find that three cycling sessions a week, two core and strengthening sessions and one yoga type flexibility and strengthening session works well. I sometimes mix it up a bit with some swimming or brisk walking as well.
5.You need more sleep and less stress in your life
Yes, you can help reduce your beer belly by laying in bed and sleeping more. Now that’s my kind of fitness routine! When you sleep your body has time to re- adjust itself and if you go short on sleep your body produces an appetite-producing hormone called ghrelin. Similarly, getting a good amount of regular sleep produces leptin which gives a feeling of fullness.
I’m not sure I’ve always experienced this as, especially after a good night’s sleep, I generally wake up desperate for breakfast but that’s the theory at least.
In a similar way, if we are stressed our bodies pump out cortisol which tells us that we need to eat. Often we will eat if we are nervous, under pressure, or feeling down and cortisol also encourages fat cells to collect around the abdomen and internal organs as well as crave fatty, sugary foods.
It’s not an easy thing to do but if you can lead a less stressful life you will probably loose weight. More realistically if you can recognise when you are under stress and realise that your body is reacting by telling you it’s hungry for sugary foods then you have some chance of overriding it and not eating or going for a more healthy snack instead!
From my point of view, I’m reasonably good at the exercise bits although I do realise that sometimes I slack off a bit because “I’m pretty fit already”. I’m definitely guilty of snacking and eating more than I really need to and I’m a bit of a sucker for crisps and snacks – that’s the key for me. I can eat reasonably healthily and exercise and keep my weight down but I now need to really look at the quality of the food I’m eating. I have no problems sleeping and wouldn’t say I’m unduly stressed so focussing my workouts and eating better quality food should hopefully do the trick.
For me at least I know it will take time, I’ve come a very long way in my fitness journey and I’m prepared to work hard for the last bit to get to where I want to be. I think it’s hard not to just go all out and try to do it in a few weeks but I know that, in my heart of hearts, I won’t keep it up.
Slowly, slowly catchy monkey.
We will both get there in the end!