Ask Jenny: How Do I Banish Belly Fat?

“‘Dear Jenny – the one area I’m really struggling with is losing belly fat. I’ve lost a bunch of weight, and although I’ve absolutely lost some in that area, it seems like it will always be a problem area. I do tons of sit-ups, try to get enough protein, etc. Can you help?’ ”

— Maryann, Boston

Hi Maryann, firstly congratulations on your weight loss!

Fat around the midsection is one of the last places we lose from, especially in women, but it is possible with the following holistic strategies:

Gut Health: quite often I see clients complaining about belly fat, when (at least in part) they are actually suffering from bloating/constipation.  Drinking a ton of water, eating fibrous greens and taking a good quality probiotic will always help. 

Ensure at least 12 hours ‘fast’ between finishing your evening meal and starting breakfast to give your body time to digest and absorb, and for your digestive system to ‘wake up’ in the morning. For example, if you finish dinner at 7pm on a Monday, then don’t start breakfast until 7am on a Tuesday.

Nutrition: low carb is the way to go, and if possible I would try 2 weeks of great proteins (fish, chicken, grass-fed ground beef, pasture raised eggs) unlimited green veggies (kale, spinach, chard, etc), some great fats (coconut oil, avocado, ghee) and just 50g of extra carbs from berries of starchy vegetables.

Training: quit the sit-ups! Ensure you are strength training in the gym at least 3 times a week, and ensure you are utilizing the big three: squats, deadlifts and pull-ups (these are all scaleable depending on your training experience). These will work your core more than any ‘ab’ exercise and optimize EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption) – which means you burn more calories post workout.

Sprints have been clinically proven to reduce body fat as they release the hormones involved in fat burning, and mobilize fat stores from the abdominal region. A 2008 study that found that overweight, sedentary women who did 20 minutes of stationary cycle sprints 3 days a week lost an average 2.5 kg of fat, of which a significant portion was from the abdominal region.

The protocol used in the study: was 8 seconds of sprinting (all out) followed by 12 seconds of active rest (continue pedalling) repeated for a total of 20 minutes. Try this twice a week for best results. If sprints are not your thing try a sweat inducing spin or boxing class as these classes organically use HIIT in their programming.

Stress and Sleep: reducing stress and improving sleep is probably the most under-utilized tool in reducing belly fat. When we are stressed the body releases Cortisol, which (amongst other negative effects) leads us to hold on to and even lay down fat stores, especially around the belly. When we are under stress the body kicks into ‘fight or flight’ mode and acts as if under attack. It will hold on to excess body fat in case of periods of famine, especially around the midsection.

Ensure you are taking steps to manage your stress throughout the day (breathing exercises, walking in daylight, meditation, implementing an early caffeine curfew), and prioritize great sleep (7-9 hours without waking) every night.

Wellbeing: one of the reasons women store fat around the belly area can be excess estrogen in the body. Ensure you are not are not exposing yourself to toxic xenoestrogens (chemical compounds that mimic estrogen in the body), by not eating and drinking out of plastic, and using clean personal care products. Ensure efficient estrogen detoxification by eating a ton of fibrous veggies, add 2 tablespoons of flaxseed to your smoothie everyday and up your water intake to ensure complete bowel movements.

Female Fat Loss is one of my specialities, and is something we address in my Private Coaching packages. For more information on working with me one to one please email