How to Burn Belly Fat

When people ask how to burn belly fat, the answer they expect usually has to do with diet and exercise. Not this one...

I was sifting through questions the other day, looking for a few good ones to tackle next (which reminds me - send in your questions!). I had my 8 month old on my lap as I read, and then I came across ( yet another ) question on belly fat reduction.

I usually answer those questions with the “you can’t spot reduce” answer (which is still true). This time, though, I decided to look at it from a different perspective...

All because of my 8 month old. Yeah, my ideas and thoughts come from weird places, I know.


I am really struggling here. I can lose fat pretty much everywhere but my stomach. Can you tell me how to burn belly fat once and for all?

Thanks again, keep up the great work!

Jonathan H.

Hey Jonathan, this is definitely a common question, and one I think I (and many other experts) either gloss over or just don’t get. ( I fall into the gloss over group, I’ve weighed more than an 1/8 of a ton before, so I know how that struggle goes).

I bet you are expecting some sort of diet and exercise answer... but I want to give you something more.

So let me answer it in a different way this time...


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As I was looking at this question, I noticed the “meat sleeves” of baby fat on my little boy - you know where the roll ends at his wrist, making it look like a sleeve.

“Hmm, that’s interesting,” I thought.

Babies don't have to worry about how to burn belly fat...
How to Burn Belly Fat: Baby

Just to make sure, I picked him up and spun him around. Yep. Just what I thought. He doesn’t have a “fat belly.” His baby fat is pretty uniformly distributed over his arms, legs, belly, etc.

Mine was not evenly distributed, and I am betting that yours isn’t either.

As we grow older, particularly as we get into adulthood, we tend to accumulate fat in certain areas faster than others.

And one of those places, particularly for men, is in our stomachs.

And, while part of the answer to how to burn belly fat is still that you can’t spot reduce, it is also doesn’t sufficiently answered by the corollary to that, which is you lose weight all over your body at the same rate.

As with anything, when you want to know how to lose belly fat, there is bad news and there is good news.

First, the bad news...

The Bad News About Belly Fat Reduction

Yes, when you burn fat, you do lose it from all over. That is, doing crunches doesn’t burn more fat from your belly just like doing curls doesn’t burn more fat from your arms.

So, why the obsession with belly fat (other than the 6-pack abs thing, of course)?

Well, we don’t have a uniform layer of fat. What do I mean? My 8 month old son has roughly the same thickness of fat all over his body. His forearms are just a fat as everything else. He doesn't have to worry about how to burn belly fat (which is a good thing, since he is pretty preoccupied with making messes).

So, if I were crazy (I’m not) and put him on a diet and exercise plan (I am not going to), then he probably wouldn’t be asking me questions about belly fat. He would lose it about the same time as he lost his forearm fat (I’m not going to lie, it’s weird typing “forearm fat”).

Like the sands in an hourglass... you pile on fat in the middle.
How to Burn Belly Fat: Hourglass

As adults, though, we don’t put it on uniformly. In fact, men like me accumulate it first in our bellies and then other places. That’s because evolution has determined that is the optimal place to carry the excess, stored energy.

And while your belly is the first place you put it on, it’s the last place it comes off. Because of that evolution thing, we tend to spend a lot of time worrying about belly fat reduction.

Imagine a pile of sand that has flowed through an hourglass. It’s piled up in the middle. Now if you remove a slice from the bottom of the hour glass, you lower the total level of sand, but you still have the pile in the middle.

You don’t lose it from one area and then another. You lose it all over. The pile gets smaller.

In the same way, your belly shrinks. But your layers of fat are thicker there (just like the pile of sand) so it takes longer to get rid of the pile in the middle.

The Good News About How to Burn Belly Fat

But there is good news! There are some steps that you can take to “encourage” belly fat reduction. Even outside of just diet and exercise.

You see, there are hormonal and chemical triggers that can destroy even the best laid diet and exercise plans.

In several places, I talk about the three pillars of burning fat and building muscle.

  • Eating right
  • Exercising
  • Energizing

Most people, for some odd reason, only talk about first two.

How to Burn Belly Fat by Sleeping More

When you don’t get enough sleep, you produce less leptin. Leptin is an appetite suppressing protein. It also sends a message up to your brain that your belly is full.

Therefore, when you don’t sleep, you feel hungry. Now you know why it’s so hard to beat back those cravings when you are watching those late night infomercials (ironically - well, now that I thing about it, maybe not - for the latest, greatest, won’t work in a million years but will probably make a million dollars, piece of junk, get abs contraption).

One of the I use to get more sleep and work on my belly fat reduction is by making a list. My brain tends to go into overdrive when I get in bed, thinking about all of the things I need to do the next day. If I simply write them down, it moves those things from my head to the paper. And then it’s much easier for me to relax and drift off to sleep.

Speaking of relaxing...

Belly Fat Reduction with Less Stress

This is an easy one for me. As you all are probably aware by now, I am low maintenance and laid back. Flip flops and Buffett every chance I get.

It turns out that if you want to learn how to burn belly fat, you have to learn how to relax a bit. When you stress, you body releases all kinds of fancy hormones. In particular, you produce insulin, cortisol and adrenaline.

Spikes in insulin can trigger your body to store fat. That’s bad enough, but when you combine it with spikes in cortisol, you really have a belly fat building double whammy (whammy is a technical term :-) ).

You see, cortisol seems to cause your body to store not just fat, but specifically belly fat. That’s right. The more stressed you are, the more cortisol you produce, and the more belly fat you store.

In order to manage my stress, particularly during the day, is to pop in my ear buds, crank some Jimmy Buffett, and get outside for a 5 or 10 minute walk. Plus it has the added benefit of being, well, you know, exercise!

So, to put is simply, if you want to know how to burn belly fat, relax. Literally. And get a good night’s sleep.

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