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5 proven hacks for losing stubborn belly fat

Muffin top. Love handles. Spare tyre. That excess weight hanging over your pants can be mighty hard to shift.

Up until recently, I didn’t have to worry too much about keeping the weight off. But after becoming a father nine months ago and finding that I needed a larger pair of trousers, I conceded that this was no longer the case.

The sugary foods increased, I sat around more, I wasn’t sleeping and found myself about 10 kilograms heavier than my usual 75kg. Being a bloke, I signed up to my local Fitness First and shelled out for a personal trainer determined to become Mr Olympia (I’m an all or nothing kind of guy).

The first few months of 2019 were an admirable attempt at sticking to a three-day-a-week weight training regime and getting my head around diet and supplements. I must confess I did go a little overboard on the supplements… that’s a whole other blog post.

I gained muscle but didn’t really lose any fat. I was just a stronger version of my swollen self and the 32-inch pants still didn’t fit.

Then about a month ago, my trainer suggested I shift my workouts from “bulking” mode to “cutting” mode – all of this was completely new to me. My weight at this stage was hovering around 89kg.

Essentially, I’d need to keep up the weights three times a week but gradually increase cardio, which I hadn’t really been doing.

A month later and I’ve dropped 5 kilograms and feel sprightly and energised, with greater strength and muscle mass than I did at the start of this whole fitness kick.

But the biggest thing has been reducing the fat I hold in my lower belly and back. That’s right – the love handles that every good sedentary officer worker should be familiar with. Here are the five things I’ve found to be effective in shedding fat and retaining muscle mass:

1. Light consistent cardio

When my trainer suggested starting some cardiovascular exercise, I immediately envisioned hours on the treadmill, spin classes every morning and perhaps even entering a half-marathon for good measure. All or nothing.

Once I got over myself, I did what was practical for a busy officer worker with a nocturnal nine-month-old baby at home: morning walks.

Whenever I can, I wake up an hour earlier than usual, say 6am, and stroll to our local park. If I’m feeling particularly energetic, I may even break into a run (to be honest, this only happened once when I overslept and had to get home). It’s stress-free exercise that doesn’t feel like a workout and gets you outdoors in the cold winter air. It’s invigorating.

On weekends, we try to walk everywhere we can rather than taking the car to clock up some extra steps. Easy.

2. Lay off the post-dinner sweets

I’m a sucker for ice cream, biscuits, cake and anything else I can find in the kitchen at around 9pm when I’m deep into a Netflix binge. Peanut butter straight out of the jar. Midnight cereal. Alas, this hasn’t helped my cause or my physique.

Recently I’ve chosen to go for a green tea or water after meals. If I’m desperate, I’ll have some Greek yoghurt with organic honey.

3. Postpone breakfast

Every other day, I’ll head to work on an empty stomach or a black coffee to give my digestive system a longer rest. Doing a morning walk in a fasted state is also a great way of burning calories at the start of the day.

When I get to the office, I’ll make some oats with water and a splash of milk around 10am. Sees me through to lunch.

4. Hot and cold exposure

Another thing my trainer suggested was the sauna. There’s one at my local gym, so on non-training days or when I can’t be bothered to exercise, I’ll duck in for a 20-minute sauna, followed by an ice-cold shower.

Over the years, I’ve found cold water to be hugely beneficial for keeping lean and trim. Whether it’s a cold shower in the morning or a swim in the ocean before work, immersing yourself in cold water is a well-proven health hack and fat buster. Don’t ask me how it works. It just does.

5. Sleep

This is the one that rarely gets talked about. Becoming a father sent my sleep into complete disarray, which in turn left me lethargic and tired and searching for sugar and caffeine to get through the day.

While my baby boy still occasionally likes to party into the wee hours, he has settled down a lot and I’ve been getting some regular shut-eye. This has been a game changer for my overall wellbeing, energy levels and fat loss.

The bottom line is that after a month of trying out these hacks, I have lost a decent amount of belly fat. I feel lighter, look leaner and mentally feel encouraged to continue seeking out healthier lifestyle choices.

James Mitchell is the editor of Wellness Daily.

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