Losing weight is difficult enough, and many people find that focusing on a specific ‘problem’ area of their body for fat loss can be overwhelming. We spoke with personal trainers and health professionals to get advice, suggestions, and reasons why you may not be losing weight in your midsection despite your best efforts. Read on for some great tips and guidance from certified personal trainer and nutritionist Christine VanDoren, CN, CPT, and online performance and nutrition coach Seamus Sullivan, B.S., CSCS, PN1, who have both lent their extensive knowledge and experience to this article.
First and foremost, how and why does mid-section weight gain occur?
As a Host, BodyRock Coach & Trainer Edith has been working to help people transform their bodies with us for the last 7 years.
Before we look into the reasons why you may not be shedding weight on your belly and waist, let’s consider why it may have gathered there in the first place. "Most individuals gain weight in their midsection initially, and it can be pretty frustrating when it won't budge despite your best efforts," VanDoren admits. She emphasises, however, that it is critical to remember that you cannot direct your body where to shed fat first. "It truly depends on your genetics whether you lose fat in specific spots before others or whether you lose fat progressively across your entire body as you are in a caloric deficit," she adds. So, she advises, don't be disheartened if you see others "dropping weight effortlessly on their abdominals" while you may have to work a little harder for it.
Another thing to keep in mind, according to VanDoren, is that many women experiencing their period may mistake water weight or bloating for fat gain. "You could also be bloated, especially if you're in the middle of your menstrual cycle." "Many women retain a lot more water during their periods, which can make it appear as though they have gained weight in their midsections, when it will go away in a week or so," she explains. "You may also appear bloated if you are retaining water or have digestive difficulties." Aside from that, we've compiled a list of four major reasons why you might not be losing weight in your midsection/midriff area, as well as some important strategies to follow in order to do so successfully.
1. There Is No Such Thing As Spot Reduction
BodyRock Coach & Trainer Edith practices a side plank exercise.
As much as programmes, advertisements, or certain workout influencers may promote things that flush out or produce weight loss in a specific area, Sullivan believes it is more logical (and attainable) to aim for overall weight loss and optimal health. "There is no such thing as spot reduction," he explains, "which means that someone wanting to drop body weight and fat cannot simply choose the place they wish to decrease from." "No matter how many core exercises or ab routines they perform, that area will not diminish as precisely as they wish," he adds, cautioning individuals to be "wary of waist trainers," as they do not "remove belly fat either." In fact, he believes you may be endangering your organs. VanDoren concurs, stating that "you need to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight in general," and that incorporating "progressive overload" into your programme helps "guarantee you are burning fat efficiently."
2. You Are Not Actually in a Calorie Deficit
Coach Edith shopping for her weekly Meal Plan grocery list.
Even if you exercise and eat well, Sullivan believes it all comes down to "math" with calories. "To stimulate weight reduction and lower body fat, a person must be in a calorie deficit," he explains. "However, one must be cautious because most people can actually mess up their metabolism if they do not do this properly." Sullivan says that in his experience, "many of people over-train and under-eat," leaving no room for recovery, which is a "disaster waiting to happen." He advocates following a Meal Plan having adequate calories and balanced macronutrients, since once this is established, a person can then go into a "deficit to start shedding weight and body fat." VanDoren adds that combining both weight training and cardio, in a program like the ‘Beginner Bootcamp’ (check out workout #1 in this 30 day program free here). as well as drinking a gallon of water every day, can help with this by "providing the body with a consistent and ample source" while you work out and go about your day.
3. You're Not Keeping Track of Your Progress
Even if you don't see immediate results, writing down your accomplishments (both big and small) will help you in the long run, according to Sullivan. He adds that after a person knows the fallacy of ‘spot reduction’ and how to be in a calorie deficit by following a Meal Plan optimized for fat loss, they must still track their progress. "Some people may only see the scale once in a while or only look in the mirror at their stomach on occasion— a person needs to make it a habit to get on the scale every day, ideally after the restroom in the morning, snap some transformation images every 2 weeks in the mirror, and measure," he advises. He goes on to say that this is an objective measurement because people can observe the patterns of their weight reduction, "because some days will be completely different owing to food, hydration, or even time of month."
Coach Edith’s 6lbs weighted vest in Pink. Adds hands free resistance training to any movement. Perfect for walking, hiking, HIIT, cycling - even turns lawn work and household chores into strength training - just snap it on and go.
This is where pictures come in, he says. "Taking images every few weeks helps a person visualise the difference in their physique even if the scale isn't where they want it to be," Sullivan adds. "Even though this is about abdominal fat loss, a person should enjoy little victories if they see their shoulders, arms, and legs looking better, even if the midsection may appear the same." Finally, people must be able to see the numbers with a measuring tape." He emphasises that if a person has not done this, "how would they genuinely know they are not losing in that area?" Getting out the measuring tape and checking in every two weeks is "great," he says, as these "objective measurements will be ideal habits" to truly see the results in the body and waist.
4. You’re not moving enough.
Coach Edith leads our 30 day Beginner Bootcamp, which combines HIIT & Strength / Resistance training in just 10-15 minutes per day. Click the image to checkout workout #1 for free.
Most of us significantly overestimate the amount we move each day. While exercises can’t help you spot reduce, they can help you build lean muscle mass, which will boost your metabolisms ability to burn down your fat stores. Exercise will also make you stronger, more mobile, more capable, and generally more pleasant to be around (its great for your mood). If it’s been a minute, years or even decades since you last purposefully tried an exercise program, it can be difficult to get started again. Thats why we suggest the 30 day ‘Beginner Bootcamp’ as the perfect on ramp for getting back on your fitness journey. The exercises are specifically designed for Beginners, the workouts combine HIIT and Strength Training (the best method of exercise for fat loss). Best part - these workouts are just 10-15 minutes per day. Multiple studies have shown that 10-15 minutes of HIIT mixed with Resistance Training is enough to get you in the best shape of your life. You can read more about why 10 minutes a day is enough here. If you want to try the first class in this program for free you can check it out here. Get moving - give it 10 minutes a day.
5. You need to be patient
Edith leading our workout series - she is wearing our 6lbs weighted vest (now in Pink) and using additional water bottles as weights.
We understand how difficult this is. Most of us want a body transformation now - especially if there is an important event coming up or you are experiencing pressure to make a change. "You have to be patient," Sullivan adds, adding that "some people are simply predisposed to have more body fat on their midsection than others (which is fine)”. "If someone lined up 100 people of the same height, weight, and body fat percentage, they would each have a distinct genetic make-up," he says. Some people store fat in their arms, stomach, buttocks, or even legs. "When it comes to weight loss, people just need to recognise that everyone has a unique story and journey," he says.
Sullivan concludes, "You may just need to have a slightly longer timeline with your fitness goals and not expect it to happen overnight." VanDoren agrees, adding that if you get into deficit by following a Meal Plan, or Intermittent Fasting and getting into a daily workout program like this one that combines HIIT and Resistance training.