How To Lose Belly Fat

How to lose belly fat is based on the following book: Glenville, Marilyn: Fat Around the Middle: How to Lose That Bulge - for Good.

The above book helped me lose my stomach fat without relying on exercise. In fact a gym instructor told me that exercise would not get rid of belly fat but that what I ate was key. And I could easily agree as I had already tried doing a very tough pilates DVD every day for more than half a year with good improvement in my posture but no reduction in belly size.

To lose belly fat, the book gives the following advice, which I will explain further in this article:

  1. Dietary advice: no starchy or processed carbohydrates, no bread, no wheat, no alcohol, no sugar 80% of the time. Always eat protein or fibre with carbohydrates and prefer complex carbohydrates, such as brown rice.
  2. Stress reduction, meditation, to help the body's hormones balance out and the sugar-metabolism to work properly.
  3. Supplements.
  4. Exercise.

Pilates, for example, works the muscles of your stomach but quite often the muscles sit either on top of layers of fat or on top of bloatedness! And reading on celebrity trainers' websites, too many crunches can actually make your waist become less defined because of the growing muscles. So at least for women, moderate amount of core strength exercise is brilliant for toning the muscles, however, this book concentrates on the secrets of how to lose the belly fat that lies under the muscles.

Despite the very cheesy name of this book, its advice works for reducing and eliminating belly fat - which is very different from fat elsewhere on the body.

From the back cover:

"Are you apple shaped? [...]
"This ground-breaking book reveals - for the very first time - the secret of why fat builds up around your middle and gives you a practical action plan showing how you can get rid of that bulge once and for all.

"Inside you will discover:
  • a simple, easy-to-follow, 3-months 'lose-your-belly' plan
  • why you are fat around the middle (and no it's not just down to diet)
  • how to stop the stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, from storing fat around your waist
  • foods to eat - and foods to avoid - for a trim tummy
  • vitamins and minerals you can take to change your body shape faster
  • a tailor-made exercise programme to get rid of that bulge
  • breakthrough genetic tests that can tell you which foods and supplements work best for you
  • how changing your body shape can lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, high blood pressure and high cholesterol
"Dr Marilyn Glenville, the UK's leading nutritional therapist, specialising in women's health, gives you all the tools you need to lose that Fat Around the Middle - for good."

Stress Hormone Cortisol and Stomach Fat

The key realisation of this book is how stress gives you belly fat. Apart from stress reduction, the book concentrates to a large part on how to use diet to send a different message to your body, causing the stress hormones to behave differently. One of the key pieces of advice is: eat often. Also, one of the main things to avoid are white, processed carbohydrates, which cause your blood sugar levels to go out of whack.

How to Lose Belly Fat
Thanks to 'Desktop Nexus' for the image.
"Shifting the fat around your middle has far less to do with your diet or lack of motivation in the aerobics class and much, much more to do with the action of stress hormones in your body.
"The main reason why some people gather more fat around their middle than others is very specifically because of the action of the stress hormone cortisol."
- Fat in the Middle, p. 11
"Stress is not even necessarily bad for you; it is also the spice of life, for any emotion, any activity, causes stress. But, of course, your system must be prepared to take it. [...]
"Stress makes some people want to eat more, whilst others will eat very little. Some people lose their appetite and even lose weight under stress, whilst others gain it at an alarming rate. And this is crucially important for this book. The key factor in terms of weight control is to think about how your body reacts to and copes with stress."
- Marilyn Glenville, Fat Around the Middle, p. 17

Marilyn Glenville explains that cortisol, one of the stress hormones, gets released when our body goes into so-called 'fight-or-flight' -mode. This is an instictive reaction our body has when it gets an impulse of danger. Apart from the better-known adrenaline being pumped into the body at such moments, cortisol also gets released. And as part of this emergency call, your body prepares for a long battle, starting to store its energy reserves: fat. And, for whatever reason, in a fight-or-flight situation the fat always gets stored in the middle!

"It is quite clear that cortisol is responsible for telling your body to store fat, for increasing your appetite and for locking fat around your middle. But cortisol is nevertheless an important hormone for the body so, as always, it is a question of balance.

"Cortisol levels only rise too high (and stay raised) if your life is one of ongoing stress. High levels of the hormone mean that your body will think it needs to be continuously refuelling and storing fat around your middle ready to be called upon for energy to fight more stress. Under constant stress, the high cortisol level signals the liver to release its stores of glucose (fuel for energy) to cope with imminent 'attack'. Cortisol also tells the fat cells around the middle of your body to release fat for fuel - straight into the bloodstream. The result is that glucose (sugar) and fat are released ready for fight or flight, but if you remain seated at your desk or behind your steering wheel, silently fuming, the fat and sugar are not used up.

"After a while, the high levels of blood sugar will trigger the pancreas to release the hormone insulin. This tells your body to store fat and triggers a craving for something sweet and fatty like chocolate. So rest assured it is not just weakness that draws you towards the fridge - it is an unassailable physical urge!

"Unfortunately, abdominal fat cells have many receptors for cortisol (four times more than anywhere else in your body), so if you're too stressed and have high levels of cortisol, your abdominal fat cells will be calling out for it, encouraging your body to store more fat there. Which explains why fat accumulates so readily in that part of the body."

- Fat Around the Middle, p. 18

So stress reduction is clearly the first thing Marilyn Glenville recommends. Later she goes onto explain how there are foods which cause a stress-response in your body, even when you think you are relaxing! And she also points out that to get results, you have to work for long-term stress release.

"You may find that you go to great lengths to relieve all this stress, making significant life changes, but that you still keep the fat around your middle. Why? This is because it takes time for your body to get the message that it is safe for it to let go of that weight and that the perceived threat is no longer there. Your body has been running on survival mode for so long that it will, for some time, continue to operate that way.

"That's the bad news.

"The good news is that your body is very adaptable and once the weight does start to shift, your middle is the first place it comes off. Your body has to be given a new set of messages so that it can heal itself and learn to operate in a different way.

"Give yourself three months following the recommendations in this book and you will see the difference. Once you have got rid of that weight around your middle, you won't gain it back because when life seems to be getting too much or if you go though stress events you will see the signs quickly and know what to do."
- Fat Around the Middle, p. 23

And when you lose belly fat, you will also slow down the aging process:

"Cortisol increases oxidative stress which damages neurons, basic cells in the nervous system which transmit electrical impulses and carry information from one part of the body to another. Cortisol also reduces antioxidant enzymes which help to protect cells from damage. [...]

"By reducing your stress response and therefore cortisol you can reduce oxidation in the body and the damage to and premature ageing of of our cells."

- Fat Around the Middle, p. 45

This problem with belly fat is also closely connected to the adrenal glands. In fact, I just got diagnosed with slow adrenal gland function (adrenal insufficiency) by a nutritionist (based on a hair tissue mineral analysis) and am currently reading the book: 'Adrenal Fatigue: the 21st Century Stress Syndrome' by James L. Wilson. The book claims that approximately 60% of the people in the United States suffer from a reduced adrenal gland activity. This is a problem closely connected to belly fat, since it is the adrenal glands which have to keep producing cortisol and other hormones. Once the adrenal glands get sluggish, the result very often is not only fatigue and inability to handle stress but also belly fat.

"Whenever you eat your body can either burn your food as energy or store it as fat. But if your cortisol levels are high, the message from your adrenal glands will be to store that food as fat for energy in readiness for fight or flight. So instead of using your food for fuel, your body packs it away in fat stores. This condition is called TATT - Tired All The Time.

"One of the most debilitating aspects of this problem is that you feel not only physically but also mentally tired. Stressed-out people typically get a real slump around three or four o'clock in the afternoon and feel that if they don't have a bar of chocolate or a cup of tea or coffee they'll never get through the afternoon. That is the point at which your blood sugar drops too low and your body asks for a quick fix."

- Fat Around the Middle, p. 46

This is how James L. Wilson puts it:

"The temporary increase in cortisol levels produced by driving the adrenals with too much fast food and caffeine causes people with chronically low cortisol to put on weight because even a temporary excess of cortisol causes fat to be deposited around the middle (the spare tire or swallowed-a-beach-ball look). The added weight adds to their lethargy, making them eat more and more of the wrong food to get through the day. If only they knew when and how to eat, they would be able to keep their energy steady without resorting to this destructive pattern."

- 'Adrenal Fatigue: the 21st Century Stress Syndrome'

So what is at stake here is not only the belly fat, but an opportunity to increase the health of the whole body, resulting not only in a defined waistline but also improved energy levels and a more balanced, healthier hormonal system.

Belly Fat Is Toxic Fat

"Fat, also known as adipose tissue, manufactures an array of chemical messengers including blood-clotting agents, substances which contract blood vessels and raise blood pressure (vasoconstrictors), inflammatory agents, hormones and molecules which control hunger. Fat cells are also able to produce an immune response in the body, which causes inflammation. [...]

"Unfortunately, not all fat in the body behaves in the same way and it is the fat around the middle of the body (or visceral fat [...]) that has a mind of its own. This fat is far more metabolically active than fat elsewhere and has been called 'toxic fat' because it increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer and diabetes. The pear-shaped fat around the hips and thighs does not appear to operate in the same way and is relatively inactive and inert. [...]

"Abdominal fat cells can quickly break down stored fats, in case extra is needed when you are 'under attack' [...]. It then dumps the resulting fatty acids into the blood stream which can cause high levels of fat and sugar in the blood. [...]

"Subcutaneous or peripheral fat is stored beneath the skin and acts as an insulator to protect you against extremes of weather and to cushion your body so that you can sit comfortably in a chair. This kind of fat, which tends to sit around the hips and thighs, is relatively harmless.

"Visceral or central fat serves as a shock absorber and protective shield to the vital organs of the body such as heart, liver, kidneys, brain and spinal cord. We all need some visceral fat to protect our organs but it is this central fat (some of which we can't see because it is deep inside our bodies) that can cause problems if there is too much of it. It is this kind of fat that makes up the apple shape."

- Fat Around the Middle, p. 28-29

Separate health issues that are connected to belly fat, as Marilyn Glenville explains:

  • heart disease and stroke
  • diabetes
  • alzheimer's disease
  • cancer
  • irregular periods (menstruation)
  • no periods (amenorrhea)
  • premenstrual symptoms
  • polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • weakened immune system
  • aging
  • tiredness
  • mood swings
  • inflammation
  • impaired digestion
  • underactive thyroid
  • impaired memory and concentration

Stress Hormones, Blood Sugar Imbalance and Belly Fat

In a chapter entitled "What and How to Eat: Simple dietary tricks to teach your body to burn fat rather than store it", Marilyn Glenville explains:

"... your body has been holding onto that fat around your middle because it thinks it is under attack, so to correct that pattern you will have to change the fundamental message that your body is receiving.

"Altering your eating patterns in order to shift the weight is an important start. Your eating habits may be telling your body that it is under stress. If you restrict your diet or cut calories your body inevitably thinks there is famine out there and that causes stress. It will slow down your metabolism to hold on to your precious fat stores and if your blood sugar levels fluctuate your body will also be releasing adrenaline [...] the same hormone it releases when you are under stress. This also encourages your body to store fat.

"The solution is to find a way of eating that tells your body that all is well, reassuring that there is no 'threat'. You need to change your body's underlying biochemistry, not embark on a weight-loss diet. [...]"

- Fat in the Middle, p. 51

"You are currently stuck in a vicious cycle of stress hormones and blood sugar swings. The two important points to remember are:

  • Adrenaline and cortisol are released when you are under stress
  • Adrenaline and cortisol are released when your blood sugar drops" (p. 51)
"Your body is trying in both cases to release your sugar stores. It does this when you are stressed to give you instant energy to fight or run. And it does this when your blood sugar drops because it needs to correct the level. Although your body does not care why the adrenaline and cortisol are being released, the damaging effect on your health is the same." - p. 51
"At the drop [of blood sugar] your body will register a low sugar level - hypoglycaemia - and do two things. It will give you a physical craving for a cup of coffee or a bar of chocolate - a quick fix to bring the blood sugar up again. It will also trigger the adrenal glands to produce more adrenaline and cortisol to help it release stores of sugar to correct the low level."

"Hypoglycaemia can leave you with: irritability, aggressive outbursts, palpitations, lack of sex drive, crying spells, dizziness, anxiety, confusion, forgetfulness, inability to concentrate, fatigue, insomnia, headaches, and muscle cramps.

"I have seen women in my clinic who were diagnosed with panic attacks because they were experiencing these symptoms. A severe episode of hypoglycaemia can look like a panic attack because the body literally thinks it is under attack...

- p. 52, Fat Around the Middle

How to Lose Belly Fat

  1. Eat some of the following every day:
    • Oily fish, linseeds (flax seeds), walnuts, green leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds, avocado, nuts, seeds for essential fatty acids.
    • Protein, for example: organic soya, tempeh, tamari soy sauce (wheat free), nuts, seeds, eggs. [My addition: keep in mind that many people are allergic to soy, however. There are also protein powders, and organic meat or fish may also be an option for you. Quinoa, also contains plenty of protein and can be eaten sprouted or cooked.]
    • Good carbohydrates (release energy slowly), for example: whole wheat, rye, oats, brown rice, barley, maize, quinoa, millet, lentils, kidney beans, soya, buckwheat, spelt, citrus, other fruits, spelt pasta or spelt bread. Do not eat bananas, dried fruit, grapes, potatoes, sugar, honey, maple syrup or refined grains, however. [My addition: wheat disagrees with many people, and in my opinion fruits are the best source of carbohydrates, at least after you have got your blood sugar in balance]
  2. Stop dieting and don't count calories
  3. Eat little and often. Eat every three hours to stabilise your blood sugar.
  4. Don't skip breakfast
  5. Eliminate all sugar and refined carbohydrates from your life. These cause your blood sugar to rise too fast, which causes a counter-reaction of too low blood sugar.
  6. Add protein to each meal
  7. Eat essential fats
  8. Don't eat on the run
  9. Watch what you drink
  10. Change the way in which you think about food. Aim to eat well 80 percent of the time and give yourself 20 percent leeway.
  11. Reduce milk. High temperature used to pasteurise milk convert the fats in milk into trans fats.
  12. Avoid caffeine. Tea and coffee are fattening and cause you especially to deposit fat around your middle. Caffeine is a stimulant which prompts your body to release insulin.
  13. Give your liver a rest for at least four weeks from alcohol. After that, drink only on special occasions, with a meal, and prefer wine and sprits over beer.
  14. Reduce stress in your life. The book offers many suggestions to help achieve this.
  15. Sleep more to lose weight. The body releases a chemical called Leptin during sleep which helps to curb appetite and to control feelings of fullness. When sleep is restricted leptin levels are reduced.
  16. Avoid eating starchy carbohydrates, such as rice, potatoes and pasta, after 6pm.
  17. Have a cheat day once a week when you will allow yourself to eat whatever and whenever you want. This makes it easier to stick to the diet the rest of the time.
"Whilst many believe that 'fat makes you fat', you should by now understand that the real culprits are sugar and refined carbohydrates in foods and drink." (p. 70)

And here are a couple of dietary quotes from the book, which will be very interesting especially for those who study or practice the raw food diet:

"Interestingly, whole grains also contain 'enzyme inhibitors' - substances which delay the digestion of starch and sugar, stop the increase in blood glucose levels and so effectively reduce the glycaemic response. They have a similar action to the drugs given to help control Type 2 diabetes (alpha glucosidase inhibiting medications), slowing the release of glucose into the blood through the delayed digestion of carbohydrates." (p. 60)
"Beware of Bran. Don't think you can eat white bread instead of wholemeal and simply compensate by adding bran to other meals. Bran is technically a refined food because it is stripped away from the whole grain and sold on its own. Bran contains substances called 'phytates' which, once consumed, bind valuable minerals, attracting calcium, zinc, magnesium, amongst others like magnet. These minerals, essential for your general health, are then excreted with the bran from the digestive tract.

"Ironically, although bran is often use to overcome constipation, it can irritate the digestive system causing bloating and irritable bowel-like symptoms. It is far better to eat bran in the form nature intended, as part of the wholegrain - as in wholemeal bread."

- Fat Around the Middle, p. 60
Marilyn Glenville also explains that fibre can help you control blood sugar swings. There are two types of fibre: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre is found mainly in fruits, oats, vegetables and beans and it is better for managing blood sugar swings. Insoluble fibre is known as roughage and helps to move food through your intestines.
"If you really want to get rid of that weight around the middle you need to cut out all the sugars completely, except for the odd bit on special occasions. ... any food that has been refined will be fast [energy] releasing (white bread, white rice, biscuits and cakes). And some fast-releasing foods like biscuits and cakes have a double effect because they combine sugar and white flour."
- Fat Around the Middle, p. 62
"... although wholemeal bread is better for you than white bread, if you want to remove the weight more quickly it is better to avoid wheat most of the time and go for breads and pasta made with other grains such as rye or corn." (p. 63)
"The bottom line is that your body does need carbohydrates - it is, after all, the most preferred source of fuel - but it is the quality of the carbohydrates you eat and their balance with protein in any meal that is so important.

"Your brain runs on carbohydrates and that is why you can feel depressed, moody and unable to think straight (brain fog) if you are not eating enough of them. So I would never recommend a low-carbohydrate diet
. It is just that in Western society we have become used to eating a lot of carbohydrates and unfortunately the wrong type."

- Marilyn Glenville, Fat Around the Middle, p. 64
"We could talk about slow- and fast-releasing carbohydrates as being 'good' and 'bad' carbohydrates but I would like to suggest that we think of them as healthy and unhealthy carbohydrates which is basically what they are. The unhealthy carbohydrates will make you fat around the middle together with the associated health risks [...] Healthy carbs will not." (p. 64)
"As soon as you add protein (be it animal or vegetable) to a carbohydrate you change it into a slow-releasing carbohydrate, which is a very good thing. Adding protein can be as simple as sprinkling nuts and seeds on your porridge for breakfast in the morning. [...]
Protein helps in the control of insulin because it slows the rate of digestion. It also encourages the production of glucagon, the fat-burning hormone." (p. 66)

Too low or too high blood sugar can also have a huge impact on the quality of your sleep:

"If you regularly wake up in the middle of the night - especially if you wake abruptly and with palpitations - have a small snack of complex carbohydrates, such as oatcake or half a slice of rye bread, about an hour before bed. This will prevent your blood sugar from dropping during the night, and prevent adrenaline from being released into the blood stream to try to correct the imbalance (known as nocturnal hypoglycaemia)." (p. 121)
"If you suffer from restless legs or cramps, ensure that you are taking both magnesium and vitamin E as part of your supplementation programme." (p. 122)

Bloated Belly

This book discusses mostly fat - not bloatedness - around the belly. But I thought it worth mentioning here that if your belly bloats up after eating certain foods, the cause of the bloated belly is probably an intolerance. For example, many people find relief from quitting wheat products or all gluten products altogether from their diet. Just a note to keep in mind that there is a difference between 'love handles' type, actual belly fat and bloatedness.

In fact, Marilyn Glenville mentions food allergy but also parasites and yeasts (e.g. candida) as a possible cause of a bloated belly.

Supplements to Help Lose Belly Fat

Marilyn Glenville recommends the following supplements to help your body to lose belly fat:

  • Chromium. It's needed in the metabolism of sugar. Few people have enough chromium in their diet. It plays a major role in weight control and it helps to control cravings and reduces hunger. It also helps to break down fat and cholesterol in blood.
  • Magnesium. It calms the adrenal glands and helps to balance blood sugar.
  • Zinc. It is needed for the production of stress hormones, insulin and sex hormones, and it is crucial for maintaining healthy liver and immune function. Zinc is essential for the creation of muscles, and for the pancreas, liver, bones, skin and kidneys. If you are deficient in zinc, insulin cannot do its job of controlling blood sugar properly.
  • Manganese. Helps the liver to maintain a healthy blood sugar balance. It is also important for healthy thyroid function, and helps the body utilise vitamin C and B vitamins.
  • Vitamin C. It helps the body burn fat faster and is crucial for your adrenal gland function.
  • B vitamins. They are known as the 'stress vitamins' and they help to nourish and calm the adrenal function. Vitamin B5 (panthothenic acid) is the most important for the adrenals as it is used to make the stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. Vitamin B3 is also important for the adrenal glands and it helps to release energy from carbohydrates. It works with chromium to balance blood sugar. Biotin is also needed for the syntesis of glucose. Vitamin B6 is important for energy production. Vitamins B1, B12 and folic acid are also needed to release energy from food.
  • Vitamin E. It is a fat-soluble antioxidant and important in keeping your adrenal glands healthy, also. It mops up free radicals that are produced inside the adrenal glands.
  • Essential fatty acids (EFA's) can be taken in supplement form also. Especially Omega 3, EPA and DHA have been shown to help with correct functioning of insulin.
  • Co-enzyme Q10. Vitamin-like substance and contained in nearly every cell of your body. It is important for energy production and normal carbohydrate metabolism. It helps the body burn fat quicker.
  • Alpha-lipoic acid is a powerful antioxidant and helps to release energy by burning glucose.
  • Amino acids. Some of them (branched-chain amino acids) help to counteract the high levels of cortisol released when we are under stress. They also help to balance blood sugar.
  • Green tea extract. If you take it in supplement form you can avoid the harmful effects of caffeine. It can help with burning fat and increase alpha brainwaves, thus making you more relaxed. Alpha brainwaves reduce cortisol. Relaxation techniques and meditation can also help your body produce more alpha waves.
  • Beneficial bacteria (probiotics). To counteract the bacteria balance in the gut which would have been impaired by the consumption of refined carbohydrates.
  • Siberian ginseng. It is an adaptogen and very nourishing for the adrenal glands. Panax ginseng is stronger than siberian ginseng but may be too strong for some people, especially women.
  • Rhodiola is also an adaptogen. It helps to combat stress and reduces mental fatigue.
  • Valerian can be very helpful if stress is affecting your sleep.

Best Exercises to Help Lose Belly Fat

Exercise alone will not enable you to lose belly fat for the reasons explained above. The diet you eat is much more important.

But Marilyn Glenville also recommends doing a combination of aerobic and anaerobic (weight training) exercise to burn fat and tone your belly.

She also provides examples of good exercises to do in her book.

Update: Magnesium

I hadn't realized earlier how important magnesium is for blood sugar control, metabolic syndrome (syndrome x, prediabetes) and eliminating stomach fat. Read more here: Magnesium Benefits.

How to Lose Belly Fat - Books

You can follow the image link below to preview the book, to read customer reviews or to purchase from Amazon.

Update: New Book from Marilyn Glenville: Mastering Cortisol

Clinic, Websites, Further References

The Dr. Marilyn Glenville Clinic, Kent, UK:

The Natural Health Practice - supplements for losing belly fat:

Recommended, related reading if you also suffer from tiredness or find it hard to handle stress:

'Adrenal Fatigue: the 21st Century Stress Syndrome' by James L. Wilson

You can preview or purchase the book at the image link below:

James Wilson's book explains the adrenal glands' role in the production of stress hormones and how to strengthen your adrenal glands and balance blood sugar, thereby increasing energy levels, reducing stress and reaping many other health benefits.

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Ulla is the Editor of Cheap Health Revolution, covering natural remedies and health solutions. Read more about Ulla and this website here: "About CHR"


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