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"Is Spot Reduction Possible? Targeting Belly Fat"

I help many clients improve their body composition, with many wanting to lose fat from around their tummy. We may see it advertised but can a specific diet or exercise regime really help us target this area?

Firstly, we should reflect that we need body fat for our health and wellbeing.  Depending on age a male will naturally have 19-21% and a female 26-31% body fat, which is essential for our health and wellbeing. We need fat just under our skin, known as subcutaneous fat, to insulate and keep us warm. Some also sits around our organs protecting them as well as acting as a cushion in the palms of our hands, the soles of our feet and, yes, our bottoms. Our bodies like to store excess energy for times when glucose and glycogen stores are depleted and they do this by stockpiling and then using fat. In essence we fast every night whilst sleeping. As an energy guzzling organ our brain needs just as much energy at 3 o’clock in the morning as it does at the same time in the afternoon and it will use ketones metabolised from stored body fat to maintain this energy supply, whilst we, hopefully, are having some sweet dreams. We also store those essential fat-soluble vitamins like the vitamin powerhouses A, D, E and K in our fat cells to draw on as and when our body needs them. Ultimately, without any fat storage in our bodies, we would be unwell and rather uncomfortable.

That said, losing excess belly fat is a good idea. It is likely that if our waist to hip ratio is greater than 0.85 for a female and 1.00 for a male we may be carrying a large amount of internal or visceral fat. Differing from subcutaneous fat that sits under the skin, visceral fat is stored within the abdominal cavity and is therefore around a number of important internal organs such as the liver, pancreas and intestines and increases our risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

Can we target this tummy fat? Well, that's not really up to us because where our body stores (and loses) fat depends on factors largely outside of our control such as biological sex and genetics. So, when it comes to losing belly fat, it's going to be more of a challenge for some people than it is for others, because of where our bodies naturally store fat.

Our only true option is to lose weight overall knowing that over time waist to hip ratio and body fat will decrease all over which includes the tummy and visceral fat.

Though physical activity can help to use energy alas there's no evidence that a certain exercise can specifically target abdominal fat, even when performed at high intensity. I would say though exercising and conditioning our abdominal muscles, when safe to do so, at least ensures there is good muscle tone when the tummy tissue has been reduced or gone as well as being good for supporting our inner core, balance and musculoskeletal health.

So, if we want to change a spare tyre, we can through general weight loss though it is unlikely we can affect where we lose it from first. Rest assured, over time, we will soon feel the difference when we look to zip our clothes up.

If you would help understanding your waist to hip ratio or improving your body composition for good please come and see me at Bridgford & Bingham Nutrition based in East Bridgford.

Happy eating,

Nina Thomas

Registered Nutritionist & Food Scientist

07958 765337


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