Dear Dietitian: How To Reduce Abdominal (Belly) Fat

“Dear Dietitian: How To Reduce Abdominal (Belly) Fat”

We all know it’s risky to carry weight around your tummy and as Accredited Practising Dietitians, our job is to support clients to overcome their abdominal fat.

In this episode of Dear Dietitian, we answer another Dietitian’s question – How do you help someone with abdominal weight?

We talk the difference between the hard belly or the soft belly and the difference, which is easier to shift and our strategies such as diet quality to how to support clients with weight loss in this area.

Total watch time: < 10 mins.

Full transcript:

Tyson: 00.04: Hi everyone, welcome to another episode of Dear Dietitian, where you ask questions and we answer them. Remember to send your questions here, to Ask at Dietitian Life.com.au and yeah, it’ll be in probably an upcoming episode.

Peta: 00.20: Sweet, so we have one today. The question is, how do you help someone with their abdominal obesity? So, how can you help them reduce their stomach essentially?

Tyson: 00.33: Okay. That’s pretty …

Peta: 00.38: That’s pretty, that’s pretty much the question. So, you know, yes we know it’s risky to carry weight.

Tyson: 00.43: Risky for what, oh to carry weight.

Peta: 00.45: On your belly.

Tyson: 00.45: I thought you meant to reduce it, I’m like what?

Peta: 00.47: No.

Tyson: 00.47: Yeah, okay.

Peta: 00.48: But say for example, you’ve got clients that are generally leaner on their arms and their legs, and they’ve got …

Tyson: 00.56: And they’ve got a beer belly?

Peta: 00.56: Yeah, so you might have a little pot, or they might have those big like big solid, solid things that literally don’t move. You know, what’s the difference between those two?

Tyson: 01.08: Is that another question?

Peta: 01.09: Well, yeah definitely. What’s the difference between those two and how come one’s easier to shift than the other?

Tyson: 01.14: So, which one’s easier to shift?

Peta: 01.16: The lower paunch.

Tyson: 01.18: Yeah, much easier. Soft. Easy.

Peta: 01.21: So, why is it that the hard belly won’t shift that much?

Tyson: 01.28: Well, as much?

Peta: 01.29: Yeah, that much? As much? Because we know that it does come down, but for the most part …

Tyson: 01.34: Is it just because it’s intra-abdominal?

Peta: 01.38: No.

Tyson: 01.39: Round the liver?

Peta: 01.40: No, because it’s not. It’s just inherently a large, like a rotund barrel that’s quite solid. Like, my dad has an extremely solid barrel. He doesn’t have this lower thing and he’s genetically quite muscular. But he’s always had a belly and he you know, he sucks it in, it looks smaller. But yeah, at the end of the day like it’s still a very solid, rotund belly. Whereas, I don’t know, other guys you can definitely see differences in the way in which they carry their belly. And I feel that they don’t tend to be as muscular. So, therefore the you know, genetic component to that is probably how we carry weight. And essentially, how do you get someone to reduce their waist? I have to, I hate to say it, but they just need to lose weight. Though I guess ultimately looking at the research, diet quality has a massive impact on waist and waist reduction. Exercise does help, but not so much to lose belly fat. But essentially help to keep it down. So …

Tyson: 02:48: Well, yeah. To lose. Definitely to lose. It’s just not the only factor.

Peta: 02:53: So, how would it assist with losing weight if you exercise around your middle? Like how does that, how does that help you?

Tyson: 02:59: Not around exercising your middle, but just exercising in general. Increase your energy expenditure, which then would help with decreasing weight because you’d have a calorie deficit.

Peta: 03:08: Yeah, so why is it so difficult for people to lose their belly, compared to other parts? So, like men for example always complain about their pants falling down and you know, their arms are shrinking, their face is getting smaller, but this hasn’t changed.

Tyson: 03:22: That’s just the last thing to move.

Peta: 03:23: Why?

Tyson: 03:24: Genetics.

Peta: 03:25: Okay. That’s it?

Tyson: 03:26: Well, male, female changes based on that’s where we hold our mass, in terms of our fat mass. Hormones, I don’t know. You tell me, is it? Are you testing me?

Peta: 03:39: I’m trying to. A little bit. Males actually have a lot more fat receptor cells around their belly.

Tyson: 03:47: Genetics.

Peta: 03:48: No, that’s sex linked characteristics which essentially is…

Tyson: 03:52: Gene make up, isn’t it?

Peta: 03:53: Yeah, well it can be. But yeah, that’s part of it. But again it’s same thing, it’s obviously weight. The other is diet quality, so if you’re diets excessive in anything, particularly alcohol sometimes and certainly sugars. Generally what you find is because the portal vein, which obviously directly comes from the liver etc goes up to the heart or whatever. It’s more likely to take out the tralycites that the fat from your diet, and then you know in part, but obviously into the system. And so therefore, it tends to be that excessive nature that causes it to kind of go around here. So…

Tyson: 04:29: So, the question is triglycerides.

Peta: 04:31: So, the question would be in terms of reducing and modifying those aspects to diet quality. So, you’d want to be looking …

Tyson: 04:37: So, excess sugar and excess alcohol and trigs in it?

Peta: 04:39: Yeah. And certainly, what we know is that most of the time people aren’t consuming excessive amounts of sugar, unless they’re consuming too much in general. So, for the most part, like I said in the beginning you do need to lose weight. There is also aspects to bloat. So, you know, a lot of people will change their, their waist will change as the day goes on and obviously that’s just eating in general. But also some foods probably promote that more so than others. So …

Tyson: 05:08: You’re going down a rabbit hole. We’ve got to answer this question.

Peta: 05:12: Yeah, but that’s all addressing it …

Tyson: 05:12: What’s the question?

Peta: 05:13: … as well too, so in terms of diet quality. If people are consuming you know, too much fibrous foods and obviously sometimes they’ll have a bit of belly bloat. And that’s certainly quite common in women if they’re eating too much in general. So, that can have an impact on how big their waist is. Because a lot of the time for most people it’s, it’s changing as they lose weight. It’s just not as obvious, particularly for men because that’s obvious where they carry most of their weight. So, they’re not going to see you know, a drastic change there. But in terms of strategies.

Tyson: 05:51: What was the question again?

Peta: 05:52: How do we help people lose belly fat specifically?

Tyson: 05:55: Well you can’t spot reduce weight, in general. You can’t spot reduce fat. So, you exercising and doing abs is not going to decrease or make sure you can see abs through your fat, it’s not going to decrease the fat. You doing a bunch of bicep curls isn’t going to minimise the fat in your biceps. So, that’s just across the board.

Peta: 06:15: Even if your PT tells you that you can do that?

Tyson: 06:17: Idiot. Yeah. Male or female, both idiots if they said that. Like, you just can’t, you can’t spot reduce it. So, if you’re losing fat mass, where it’s lost is based on genetics and where you’re losing it. For some people they might lose it off their back well and truly before they lose it from their front. Some people do waist, some people do legs. Some do arms, like it’s just and you can’t go oh yeah, you’re looking at someone and you can’t, right? Do you think you can? You can’t look at someone and go alright, you’re going to lose it from your back first and you’re going to lose it from your arms first.

Peta: 06:55: No, you generally can have a good idea. If you look at them in terms of …

Tyson: 06:58: Oh, we can based on …

Peta: 06:59: How they carry weight?

Tyson: 07:00: Yeah, where it’s distributed. Distributed.

Peta: 07:03: Like, if you don’t have a lot of space for movement or a park, then obviously you’re not probably going to lose a lot there. And vice versa.

Tyson: 07:08: Yeah, but if you were seeing guys who were going to lose it from their cheek and throat, you’re going to see it there versus, you know, it’s just yeah. You can’t spot reduce, but in terms of decreasing. You just basically make them lose weight and you’re going to decrease it at some point. It might not be immediately, but eventually if you keep doing it, it’s going to work.

Peta: 07:28: Yeah, definitely. And then you know, these parts will obviously look a lot slimmer and you know, most people complain about that and say you know, I’m just fading away. I’ve just got this big belly paunch. But you’ve just got to keep pushing, because at the end of the day, it will actually reduce and I’ve seen it as well in my clients. It does change, but nowhere near as much. Particularly for those barrel guys. They’ll still …

Tyson: 07:50: It also depends on the age.

Peta: 07:52: Yeah. Yip, for sure. So, the older you are, the less likely you are able to reduce yip, your belly weight.

Tyson: 07:58: Just because it’s harder and it takes longer, and you’ve got to change a lot of habitual things that have happened for many, many years.

Peta: 08:05: Yip.

Tyson: 08:06: So, it just becomes harder from that. But anyone at any age can still lose weight. But it’s just …

Peta: 08:12: For me, for me probably other key things I would think about and talk about is stress. You can measure stress in lots of different ways. Whether it’s self-report, or bio-chemically. But the only real way to measure that is like quartersol, probably CRP to some extent.

Tyson: 08:30: Yeah, I was going to say. Like …

Peta: 08:31: Yeah, CRPs and inflammation, and obviously if you’re stressed out …

Tyson: 08:34: You can have a million different things that affect CRP.

Peta: 08:36: But in that state, you know, it’s still an informative marker. But quartersol is a hard one as well, because you have to be taking it over, you know, at different time points over the day. You have to collect say three different measures to be able to get a good idea of what that is. So, you need someone to then interpret that data too. But that’s useful. But even just self-reported from that client, if they haven’t done everything differently with their nutrition and they’ve sort of talked about how stressed their life, stressful their life has been.

Tyson: 09:02: And sleep.

Peta: 09:02: Yeah. Definitely, like I literally got no sleep last night.

Tyson: 09:05: So, it’s food intake.

Peta: 09:06: Starving hungry today.

Tyson: 09:08: Exercise intake. And they are probably the main. And we’re not going to go through weight management strategies, because that’ll take us hours.

Peta: 09:17: Yeah, but key things that we’d look for about all those things and then bio-chemically you would ask them, you know, maybe discuss cortisol  if you’re really worried about that. Because there are things you can do to fix that. I would also query some resistance as well, and that’s certainly something to, a big question mark on. Particularly, you know, belly weight. Which Tyson, even though has nothing there. So. Yeah. But at the end of the day, that’s another reason as well too, because of that uptake around the you know, the central area from, from your diet pretty much. So, it’s a hard one. But it does reduce, with time.

Over to you…

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