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Dear Dietitian – How to lose stubborn belly fat?

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PICT Leanne McCrate Dear Dietitian
Leanne McCrate, RDN, LD

Dear Dietitian,

I have recently lost about 20 pounds, but the problem is that 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 that it is a MYTH that any food will burn fat on a specific area of 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 later 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.

While some studies have shown that certain weight-loss diets reduce intraabdominal fat, this is fat around the stomach and other organs, not around the waist. 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 a higher risk; for men, a waist greater than 40 inches.

Increasing muscle mass by exercising will increase metabolism, but most people will not gain enough muscle to affect weight loss. However, exercising has many positive benefits; 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. Try to be patient. You should start seeing 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 Nutritionist (RDN) before beginning a weight loss plan.

Until next time, be healthy!

Dear Dietitian

Leanne McCrate, RDN, LD, is an award-winning dietitian based in Missouri. Her mission is to educate consumers on sound, scientifically-based nutrition. Do you have a nutrition question? Email her today at Dear Dietitian does not endorse any products, health programs, or diet plans.