Dear Dietitian – How do I lose belly fat?

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Published Friday, November 30, 2018
PICT Leanne McCrate Dear Dietitian
by Leanne McCrate, RD, LD, CNSC

Dear Dietitian,

I have recently lost about 20 pounds, but the problem is I cannot seem to lose weight around my midsection. What foods can I eat to lose belly fat?


Dear Maria,

Oh! That stubborn belly fat! I know it all too well. While researching this topic, I found several sites on the internet with claims that certain foods will burn belly fat. The problem is it is a MYTH that any food will burn fat on a specific area on your body. Food is fuel for your body like gasoline is fuel for your car. Studies have been conducted on foods to see if they increase metabolism, and the results showed that some foods minimally raised metabolism, but not enough to affect weight loss. 

Two factors determine body fat. First, if you consume more calories than you burn, your body will eventually store that as fat to be used at a later date when you do not get enough to eat.   Another thing that largely determines where you put on weight is genetics.  If your parents gain extra weight around the midsection, it is more likely that you will, too.

We know that carrying extra weight around your waistline is a risk factor for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. For women, a waist greater than 35 inches determines higher risk; for men, a waist greater than 40 inches.

 Increasing muscle mass through exercise will increase metabolism, but most people will not gain enough muscle to affect weight loss. However, there are many positive benefits of exercising. You will feel better, sleep better, and look better with toned muscles. 

As far as weight loss, there is no magic trick. You simply have to take in fewer calories than you burn.  If you lose weight slowly (one pound per week), you will lose fat instead of muscle, and your skin will tighten. Also, don't be surprised if you don't lose weight for a few weeks, then all of a sudden you drop 3-4 pounds. 

Try to be patient. You should start to see results in 2-4 weeks. Weight loss occurs all over the body, even those stubborn places like the belly. Talk to your doctor or a Registered Dietitian (RD) before beginning a weight loss plan.

Be healthy,

Dear Dietitian

Leanne McCrate, RD, LD, CNSC, is an award-winning dietitian with over fifteen years of experience. Have a question?  Email Leanne at