12

votes

Why is belly fat so stubborn?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created August 07, 2011 at 2:38 AM

I am a formerly skinny person. I gained belly fat in my mid-twenties so I have a small "beer gut" and a hint of moobage. I'm 40 now and look about 3 months pregnant when I'm not wearing a shirt! I've tried various permutations of low-carb over the past couple of years but I've had little success reducing my belly fat. I really don't eat a huge amount. I've come to the conclusion that belly fat is extremely resistant to my attempts to get rid of it. It's almost as if the fat cells themselves "want" to maintain their size and quantity, telling the brain, "Psst, go get us some carbs, will ya? We're dying down here!"

So my questions are:

  1. Why is it so damn hard to get rid of belly fat?
  2. Has anyone ever gone from being skinny to having belly fat, then back to skinny, i.e., zero belly fat? I don't know anyone who has ever achieved this.

75b3b900d09e555fc57b74ca24f7a76a

on January 28, 2012
at 11:21 PM

I would like to hear more about persistent swollen gut after being on a strict gluten-free diet for years. I don't have much fat on my belly, but it looks swollen like I still have wheat belly.

6371f0ae0c075ded1b8cd30aafd4bf16

on September 24, 2011
at 08:51 PM

BAMBAM I'm 5'7 and weight 135. Do you feel that this is a little underweight. I get tired of all the people asking me if I'm sick. I'm about 12-14% body fat, so I'm trying to add muscle and still burn off the 5 or so pounds of belly button fat left. Any pointers on the last 5 lbs?

11838116de44ae449df0563f09bd3d73

(655)

on August 12, 2011
at 04:54 PM

Actually low dose metformin probably wouldn't get rid of your belly fat, but it would probably reduce some of the long term damage caused by higher insulin levels. I know several fat physicians who are not diabetic but take it. That isn't necessarily smart, but it is treating diabetes in the pre-diabetes stage. A smart physician told me that the condition of your body in your forties largely predicts your health from 50 on.

B0454de6d4f4cdd9ca2e59021dc105bf

(606)

on August 11, 2011
at 02:45 AM

I agree with much of what you're saying, Don, especially the part about me not being a post-menopausal woman! No way I'm taking a drug to get rid of my belly fat though.

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on August 11, 2011
at 12:47 AM

I like Sprints, because it makes me stronger at my sports, namely Ultimate Frisbee. But I do it with any workout I do. Weighted Pullups, Weighted Pushups, Squats etc.

11838116de44ae449df0563f09bd3d73

(655)

on August 10, 2011
at 03:37 PM

I don't believe the answer to this question is any different than "How do I lose weight". You are not a post menopausal woman. Fat will come off in reverse order it went on. Fat around the middle is about a metabolic syndrome. Get if off now or pay the price as you get older. If you simply can't lose the weight look into low dose metformin to reduce long term damage.

B0454de6d4f4cdd9ca2e59021dc105bf

(606)

on August 08, 2011
at 01:10 PM

Good for you, man! So it can be done. No doubt resistance training helped you out a lot.

B0454de6d4f4cdd9ca2e59021dc105bf

(606)

on August 08, 2011
at 01:07 PM

I know all about Dr. Davis. I've been following his blog posts for the past few years and he really knows his stuff!

B0454de6d4f4cdd9ca2e59021dc105bf

(606)

on August 08, 2011
at 01:05 PM

Great answer, Stephen. Thank you. I am trying to get my sleep in order. I sleep OK, but like many people, I am often quite late to bed and up early. Can you tell me what you do for high intensity intervals?

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on August 07, 2011
at 08:37 PM

are we talking 8+ hrs all at once, or does napping count? i can't seem to sleep long enough lately, and am wondering if napping is beneficial in this fat-loss context, or even in general. i posted a question if you want to elaborate publicly. :) http://paleohacks.com/questions/56491/naps-not-an-acronym#axzz1UNSypiWp

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on August 07, 2011
at 03:10 PM

I agree, but it still begs the question of why.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on August 07, 2011
at 03:10 AM

I managed to lose my belly fat several times--the key word is several because I also managed to eat it back on. I've lost fat all over so far on Primal/paleo, including my belly. If there's a place I haven't noticed definite fat loss it's my midriff.

226b10cbb6b1d3530b00d2d84a2dc86e

(3313)

on August 07, 2011
at 02:57 AM

I'm 5'7" now and weigh about 130. I bench press 210 and climbing.

87c6cb9485da8d27ae29eab38eefeb84

(60)

on August 07, 2011
at 02:55 AM

Fat around the umbilicus doesn't lie, as Robb Wolf puts it. In other words, this can definitely be figured out. If you're sure that diet is in line, what about stress/cortisol issues or sleep?

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6 Answers

13
4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

on August 07, 2011
at 02:24 PM

Sleep - the most important part. MORE than 8 hours, unless you lead an almost perfect stress free life. the more stress in your life, the more sleep you need.

Stress - linked heavily to sleep, but need to eliminate as much as possible, Dietary, Mentally, and Environmentally.

High Intensity Intervals. I cant stress enough, how awesome this is for ripping that last bit of fat off.

Only eat when hungry... dont eat cause its "mealtime" and dont eat a fullplate portion, eat what you need to not be hungry and stop. then eat again when you are hungry again. Eating for sport is a major epidemic, where food is unlimited.

But I can guarantee you, without the first 2 in order, You'll keep that bellyfat, even starving yourself.

559aa134ff5e6c8bcd608ba8dc505628

(3631)

on August 07, 2011
at 08:37 PM

are we talking 8+ hrs all at once, or does napping count? i can't seem to sleep long enough lately, and am wondering if napping is beneficial in this fat-loss context, or even in general. i posted a question if you want to elaborate publicly. :) http://paleohacks.com/questions/56491/naps-not-an-acronym#axzz1UNSypiWp

B0454de6d4f4cdd9ca2e59021dc105bf

(606)

on August 08, 2011
at 01:05 PM

Great answer, Stephen. Thank you. I am trying to get my sleep in order. I sleep OK, but like many people, I am often quite late to bed and up early. Can you tell me what you do for high intensity intervals?

4b97e3bb2ee4a9588783f5d56d687da1

(22923)

on August 11, 2011
at 12:47 AM

I like Sprints, because it makes me stronger at my sports, namely Ultimate Frisbee. But I do it with any workout I do. Weighted Pullups, Weighted Pushups, Squats etc.

6
1f96ce108240f19345c05704c7709dad

(1061)

on August 07, 2011
at 02:48 AM

Check out Dr William Davis' blogg about his new book "Wheat Belly" http://www.wheatbellyblog.com/

Do not eat ANY wheat or ANY wheat products.

Somewhere, Dr Davis (I think) said that some people can take a long time to lose their belly fat (it may have taken a long time to put it there).

Doc's other web site is http://www.trackyourplaque.com/blog/

B0454de6d4f4cdd9ca2e59021dc105bf

(606)

on August 08, 2011
at 01:07 PM

I know all about Dr. Davis. I've been following his blog posts for the past few years and he really knows his stuff!

75b3b900d09e555fc57b74ca24f7a76a

on January 28, 2012
at 11:21 PM

I would like to hear more about persistent swollen gut after being on a strict gluten-free diet for years. I don't have much fat on my belly, but it looks swollen like I still have wheat belly.

3
226b10cbb6b1d3530b00d2d84a2dc86e

(3313)

on August 07, 2011
at 02:55 AM

I weighed 105 senior year in high school and 115-125 throughout college. In my mid-twenties, I wanted to put on bulk so I started consuming 7 meals per day. I'd finish every day with a beer. I washed down all my food with whole milk. I ate candy and made my smoothies with ice cream, often Sherbet. I ballooned up to 170 in one summer flat. I did gain muscle and strength because I was counting protein grams by design and trying to eat 1.5 grams/lb body weight. Throughout my late 20's and early thirties I started eliminating saturated fat and refined sugar but I still couldn't get back my college abs. There was a stubborn lip of fat just around my navel and it wouldn't go away no matter how many days I spun on a cycle for one hour, drenching myself in my own sweat.

Now I eat 10x my USDA daily recommendation of saturated fat. I also eat plenty of carbs. My body weight is back down to what I weighed at age 24 and I can bench press more weight now than I could back then. My abs are back.

So I went from skinny, to having man boobs and a gut, back to average then I finished off that belly with Paleo.

226b10cbb6b1d3530b00d2d84a2dc86e

(3313)

on August 07, 2011
at 02:57 AM

I'm 5'7" now and weigh about 130. I bench press 210 and climbing.

B0454de6d4f4cdd9ca2e59021dc105bf

(606)

on August 08, 2011
at 01:10 PM

Good for you, man! So it can be done. No doubt resistance training helped you out a lot.

6371f0ae0c075ded1b8cd30aafd4bf16

on September 24, 2011
at 08:51 PM

BAMBAM I'm 5'7 and weight 135. Do you feel that this is a little underweight. I get tired of all the people asking me if I'm sick. I'm about 12-14% body fat, so I'm trying to add muscle and still burn off the 5 or so pounds of belly button fat left. Any pointers on the last 5 lbs?

2
40449b985898b088a64660b40f329f0f

(951)

on September 24, 2011
at 05:49 PM

This is the explanation from the Leangains site:

Stubborn body fat refers to areas of the body that hold on to fat the longest. Generally speaking, these areas include the lower abs and lower back in men, and the lower body in women. These areas are damn hard to get lean.

How come these areas are stubborn in the first place? To understand this, let's look at how fat is mobilized (the very short version).

After you eat, insulin and fatty acids are elevated. You are in the fed state and there's zero fat burning going on. Your body is relying completely on glucose oxidation during the hours following the meal.

One way of measuring this is via the respiratory quotient (RQ). An RQ of 1.0 denotes pure carbohydrate metabolism ("storage mode"), while 0.7 denotes pure fat metabolism. To put this into perspective, consider that RQ is 0.95-1.0 for about 1.5-2 hours after a meal, 0.82-0.85 after overnight fasting and 0.72-0.8 after 16 hours of fasting.

As the hours go by and the nutrients from the meal are done being absorbed, RQ drops in conjunction with insulin. There's a shift towards fat burning and mobilization of stored fat. This process is mediated by insulin and blood-borne fatty acids; when levels drop, an energy deficit is "sensed" and catecholamines (adrenaline and nordrenaline) increase.

The catecholamines travel through the blood and bind to receptors on fat cells. A receptor can be thought of as a "lock." Hormones and neurotransmitters are keys that fit into that lock and make something happen. In this case catecholamines trigger fat mobilization by activating hormone sensitive lipase (HSL), which then shuttles the fat out of the cell to be burned off.

Now here's the critical difference between regular fat and stubborn fat: regular fat have a lot of beta-2 receptors in proportion to alpha-2 receptors.

In The Stubborn Fat Solution Lyle McDonald used the analogy of b2-receptors being "accelerators" for fat loss and a2-receptors acting as "breaks" for fat loss. That's the easiest way to think of them without getting too deep into the physiology.

The ratio between b2-receptors and a2-receptors determines how easy it is to facilitate fat loss from one region of the body. "Easy" fat has a high ratio of b2-receptors to a2-receptors, while stubborn fat has a high ratio of a2-receptors to b2-receptors.

One notorious example that Lyle brings up in his book is that women have up to nine times (!) as many a2-receptors as b2-receptors in their hip and thigh fat. Though I can't recall if similar numbers are available for lower ab and lower back fat for men, you can be sure that the a2-receptors outnumber the b2-receptors in these areas as well.

2
9a5e2da94ad63ea3186dfa494e16a8d1

on August 07, 2011
at 02:47 PM

For me at least, the explanation is that the belly is the first place that gains fat and is the last place to lose it. So it isn't that the belly fat is particularly stubborn or different, but that I probably have to get my body fat percentage to a lifetime low to get rid of that fat.

I recently lost 20 pounds and went down 4 notches on my belt, but I still have a little bit of jiggle in the middle. The fat around the hips (love handles) is mostly gone, but the area just over the belt buckle has still probably a few pounds of fat.

I am not sure I'm willing to do what it takes to lose this fat though... we'll see.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on August 07, 2011
at 03:10 PM

I agree, but it still begs the question of why.

0
25b139cc1954456d9ea469e40f984cd3

on September 25, 2011
at 03:36 AM

What are your testosterone, free testosterone, TSH and E2 numbers?

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