Lesson 1. Introduction
Everyone is looking for a ‘silver bullet’ these days. They’re looking for that ‘one simple trick’ that can change their lives and make everything better – that will make them feel more energetic, more attractive and more successful.
Because let’s ace it: life can be something of a slog for most of us. We wake up in the morning feeling tired and not wanting to haul ourselves out of bed. Then we drag ourselves to work through busy, stressful commutes and then we force our way through a long hard day.
When we get home, we usually feel too tired and depressed after our working week to do anything worthwhile, and so we just crash out in front of the couch.
Many people struggle with feelings of low self-esteem, of depression and of loneliness on top of this. We’re constantly connected but many of us feel that we struggle to make real, worthwhile connections.
Is there really one simple trick that can turn that all around? That can give you a new lease of life and help you feel like a million bucks?
Well, I’m here to tell you that there is. And it’s perfectly obvious when you think about it. The simplest way to turn your life around and to feel the best you’ve ever felt is to get rid of that belly fat. If you’re currently living with a mushroom top, ‘Dad bod’ or just a spare tire around your waist, then it is dragging you down more than you could possibly know.
How Belly Fat Makes Everything Worse
Of course we all know that belly fat can ruin your confidence. Having a gut is simply not attractive whether you’re a male or female and it’s something that is going to make you feel a whole lot worse about yourself as a result.
Having a gut doesn’t just get rid of any chance you might have stood of having a six pack, it also ensures that you look like a stuffed potato whatever clothes you wear. It’s immensely hard to put on a great shirt or dress and to leave the house feeling like a million bucks when you have a massive gut hanging out.
More than that though, a gut signals generally poor health. This suggests that you are less active and what normally goes along with that is a general lack of tone and definition that can be seen everywhere from your arms to your face.
Women: do you remember when you used to feel light, petit and strong? Like a toned and honed Amazonian ready for business and enjoying all the stares coming your way?
Guys: do you remember what it felt to have a dominating presence in the room? To look slightly like an athlete in your clothes and to have the look of a predator? To be an alpha male and to look fantastic in nearly every outfit you wore?
Having a gut changes your posture too. It forces you into a more forward position that slumps your shoulders forward and closes off your chest. This is a submissive stance that sends a loud signal to others that you aren’t confident and that you don’t need to be taken seriously! Women meanwhile can expect to look frumpy and tired.
Having a gut transforms you from the bottom up and brings you screaming into middle age. It suggests that you’ve stopped trying and affects your very body language – which of course has a deep psychological impact.
Then there are the direct results of getting into better shape. Of course your sex life will improve and I’m not just talking about for single people. Obviously picking up women/men becomes much easier when you look healthy and sexy but you’ll also find your relationship improves.
How would you feel about your partner if they become more toned and sexy? Or if they gained lots of weight quickly conversely?
And then there’s the way that a belly can impact on your libido – or lack thereof. If you’re not having sex, then losing the gut might be the answer. And guess what? Getting into lean shape can improve your salary too. Studies show that employers are more likely to employ or promote people who are in better physical shape! On average men and women who are more toned earn higher salaries!
And that’s before we have even touched on the direct psychological consequences of carrying a belly around. Because as soon as you grow that gut, you’re going to start producing significantly more stress hormones such as cortisol which will increase depression and rob you of energy.
Of course, that gut drastically increases your likelihood of developing a number of different conditions as well. This also creates something of a vicious circle – the increase in cortisol and in stress increases your likelihood of gaining more weight and encourages stress eating. Not only that, but it also makes you significantly less energetic and makes it harder for you to engage in healthy activities such as exercise. In other words, having a belly makes it much harder to get rid of a belly. And that’s before you take into account the fact that you’re now moving around with a large tub of lard attached to your gut. Let’s face it – you are not in your prime and athletic activities probably aren’t your strong suit right now. But imagine if they were...
And that’s what we’re going to start fixing in this book. I haven’t even touched on all the ways that belly fat can lead to depression, further weight gain, low self-esteem and even serious health conditions. If none of these other reasons is going to provide enough motivation then simply consider that a belly will increase your likelihood of cancer, diabetes, stroke, heart disease and more.
So yes, this really is the one thing that you can do to change your entire life. If you look after your body, it looks after you. And now we’re going to see how you can make that positive change happen.
Lesson 2. How Did it Get Like This?
If we’re going to fix this ‘belly problem’, then perhaps the best place to start is by asking how it got this way in the first place. What series of events led to you gaining the weight and letting yourself go? Perhaps with that knowledge, we can then reverse the process and get back on track.
I’m speculating here, but I’m going to take a stab at how you found yourself with this unwanted flab.
Because for most of us, we weren’t always that way. Most of us were fairly toned and fit when we were in our younger years but then things changed. We got older and then we started to get tired. Hormones don’t help – hormones make our metabolisms slow down as we get past 25 and suddenly it becomes much harder to keep the belly fat off.
Not only that, but we start spending more and more time at work in the office and pouring more and more energy into that work. Then we get married, get a mortgage, have kids...
Suddenly, the amount of free time we have to ourselves dwindles down to almost nothing. If we aren’t changing nappies, answering angry phone calls out of hours, coming home late or doing the dishes, we’re crashed out on the sofa exhausted.
And stress is another thing that can contribute to weight gain. Stress increases cortisol, cortisol makes us hungry and it stimulates ‘lipogenesis’ or fat storage.
Gradually our gym regime takes a back seat and soon after that, our diet takes a back seat too. We start eating what is convenient and affordable and slowly life chips away at our fitness.
And it doesn’t seem like a big deal either. But as we’ve seen it really is, because it starts to have a knock-on effect in every single other aspect of your life. If you can take back control of your gut, you can take back control of your life!
So how are you going to get it back?
The Problem is Energy, Not Time
Let’s take a closer look at this issue and see what it really boils down to. Now a lot of people will tell you it comes down to time. They aren’t in shape because they don’t have time to be in shape.
Is this accurate though?
I would argue not. Because if you are like most people, then you have somehow still managed to watch an awful lot of TV series. Maybe you recently completed the latest season of Game of Thrones. And then there’s the simple fact that you could wake up earlier.
And there’s the fact that – if we are being completely honest here – eating healthily doesn’t take that long. In fact it’s very quick and easy to eat a salad, or to eat whatever you were going to eat tonight sans chips.
The problem isn’t that you don’t have time to work out, it’s that you don’t have the energy or the inclination. And it’s not that you don’t have time to cook, it’s that you don’t have energy. Furthermore, you feel like you need a pick-me-up. Something that can help you to get yourself up and running again – and fish just doesn’t cut it.
Fish after a long day at work just doesn’t cut it.
Now, in the next chapter we’re going to take a look at the most simplistic and efficient way to lose weight. This is straightforward calorie tracking. We’ll see why this can work and why it’s really just very simple math.
But I want you to keep this chapter in the back of your mind because we’re going to be coming back to it. You’re going to see later on that your lifestyle makes it hard to cut calories and that you need to have a rethink if you’re going to win this war on your belly!
Lesson 3. The Simplest Diet for Fighting Belly Fat: Cutting Calories
The most straightforward way that anyone can fight belly fat, is to simply eat fewer calories than they burn. This is what is called maintaining a ‘caloric deficit’ and it basically means that the body needs to burn fat in order to get the energy it needs.
The body is constantly burning energy, not only to allow it to engage in various activities such as walking, jogging or thinking but also to allow it to simply stay alive. That is to say that you need to burn energy for the most fundamental of human bodily functions such as blinking and breathing.
If you are constantly eating, then you are constantly supplying your body with the sugar that it needs. This will remain in the blood until the body is able to use it to power whichever movements are necessary. Failing that, the body will look to stores of glycogen which is kept in the cells. It’s only once both of these energy supplies runs short that the body then needs to start looking elsewhere. That is when it starts to burn fat.
How to Measure and Maintain a Calorie Deficit
If you want to measure and maintain a calorie deficit, then you need to first calculate how many calories your body burns in a given day. This means looking at the number of calories that you burn while inactive (called your ‘basal metabolic rate’) and then looking at how much exercise you do on top of this – making your AMR or ‘active metabolic rate’. There are plenty of different calculations out there for getting a rough estimate of these numbers
Ultimately though, it is actually more effective in most cases to try and work this out using a fitness tracker. While calculations can be useful, they don’t allow for variations from one day to the next. Most of us will find that our active metabolic rate varies tremendously throughout the week and this of course has a big impact on how much you should be eating.
A good fitness tracker will allow you to enter some personal metrics, such as your height, weight and gender, and will then count your steps and measure other activities throughout the day. A device such as the Fibit Alta HR for instance will not only track steps but also monitor your heart rate throughout the day and automatically detect exercises and activities like walks, runs and sports. Using this data, you can then get a much more accurate picture of how many calories you burn daily.
From there, you can then start calculating how many calories are going in. Again, there is technology out there to help you do this. MyFitnessPal for example is a tool that will let you log the foods you eat by entering the calories and ‘macronutrients’ manually, or by simply scanning a barcode in order to add them from a huge database.
If you scan everything you eat through MyFitnessPal – not forgetting the drinks you consume (including alcoholic!) and any smaller snacks throughout the day – then you now have a total number for all the calories you’ve eaten to measure against the ones you’ve burned.
Now all you need to do is to plan your day so that the number of calories coming in stays lower than those going out. Let’s say that you’ve burned 2,300 calories and you’ve eaten 2,200. You can either stop there, or you can try and do some more exercise in order to burn more calories. Either way, you need to keep the first number higher than the second one. If you can do that, then you will burn fat. It’s that simple and it has to work – because there’s no other source of energy for your body to get fuel from.
Maintain a constant caloric deficit of around 200-300 and you’ll slowly lose more and more fat. Remember: slow and steady wins the race!
Except it’s not really that simple. Is it? For starters, there are the kinds of foods you’re eating – the nutrients. Then there is the matter of your metabolism and, you know, life.
Maintaining a caloric deficit seems simple and flawless on paper but in practice, it is too simplistic. Over the next few chapters you’ll discover why and you’ll find out how to strike that happy balance that will result in guaranteed fat loss.
A Little About Targeting
Before I go any further though, I should first address a concern you may have. After all, wasn’t this supposed to be a book about burning belly fat specifically? How does maintaining a caloric deficit guarantee you’ll lose your gut? Women reading this might even be worried they’ll lose weight from places that they want it: like their breasts!
As some of you may already know, this does not guarantee you’ll lose your belly. That’s because nothing can guarantee that you’ll lose your belly. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as ‘targeted’ fat loss. That is to say that you can’t choose which part of your body you want to improve the looks of and then conveniently blast fat from there.
The order in which fat is lost from your body is actually genetically predetermined and is impossible to change. Some people will lose weight from their guts first and those people are very lucky indeed. Other people might lose it from their arms first. As of right now, science has no way of helping you choose which order things happen in for you.
So the only way you can burn belly fat is to burn all fat and then feel safe in the knowledge that it is going to eventually reach your belly. That said though, we will look at some tips in this book later on that can help you to make your belly flatter and more toned in other ways...
Lesson 4. The Role of Hormones in Weight Loss
If you look around the web for advice on how to lose weight, you’ll find that people fall into two broad camps. There are those that believe weight loss is entirely dictated by that caloric deficit we just discussed and there are others that feel there are other, more important factors at play.
Let’s take a look at some criticisms of the ‘calorie deficit’ approach to dieting...
Problems With the Deficit
It is certainly true that your body needs to burn fat for energy once it has run out of other sources. It is certainly true that if you have no other means of getting that energy, you will lose fat stores and eventually you lose weight. This really is simple math – cause and effect.
But the problem comes with calculating that magic ‘AMR’ – active metabolic rate. These calculations are rough guesses at best and they are based on nothing more than your physical features. The best calculations take into account your muscle mass (which is metabolically active) but even these don’t take into account underlying issues such as the balance of your hormones.
Simply put, some hormones help you to burn fat faster and some help you to burn fat faster. These are directly responsible for how many of those processes that require energy are going on in your body at any given time and how capable your body is of utilizing the various stores of energy available to it.
Just a few of these hormones include:
- Thyroid hormones (T3 and T4)
- Human growth hormone
- And many more
The problem is that we all have different balances of these hormones. These hormones are in constant flux and are affected by everything from what we are eating at the time and how stressed we are, to how much sleep we’ve had and how sunny it is.
Some people have imbalances in these hormones that are permanent, while others will use medications that can alter them.
Those fitness ‘gurus’ that ignore the role of hormones in weight loss can’t explain why hypothyroidism or polycystic ovaries leads to weight gain. They also can’t explain why using steroids builds muscle and burns fat.
You may not have a condition like hypothyroidism but the point to recognize is that these conditions are not really binary. You do not have to ‘have’ or ‘not have’ a condition – but rather you can view everyone as existing somewhere along the spectrum. You might have a slightly lower production of thyroid hormones than someone else, or you might be higher in testosterone.
This is why some people lose fat very easily and it is why some people struggle to lose it. It’s also why things tend to get harder for us as we get older and it’s why things get harder for us as we become more stressed and more tired. All of this upsets our hormone balance and puts our bodies into ‘fat storage’ modes.
The issue is not with the calorie deficit but rather our ability to accurately calculate our own AMR. Not only that, but these hormones also play a very big role in why we struggle to lose weight (they make us hungry, low in energy and depressed) and they contribute directly to fat storage around the midriff.
This is before we take into account the fact that it is essentially impossible to calculate the precise number of calories burned (heart rate alone is not a perfect correlate for calories burned) or the number of calories in any given item of food. You really think that every single apple has the precise same number of calories in it? Are you sure you are really adding precisely the same amount of sauce to your meals?
Then there’s another fallacy of the calories in/out diet, which is the notion that our calories somehow magically reset at the end of the day: that we can make sure we’re in a calorie deficit on Monday and then start again on Tuesday. In reality, the build up of calories is cumulative and can be ‘carried over’.
And then there is the way that eating in itself can affect your hormonal balance and process the foods that are coming in...
The Cycles of the Body
Not only does everyone have different balances of hormones in the long term, but we all also go through cycles where different hormones pique.
This is useful information to know if you want to try and make it as easy as possible to encourage weight loss because it means you can time your consumption of food to coincide with points when your metabolism is fastest and you can try to diet the hardest at points when you’re less likely to be hungry.
For example, when you wake up first thing in the morning, your body is in a ‘fasted state’. This is simply because you have just gone the last eight hours without eating anything, thereby meaning you have very low blood sugar.
How does the body interpret this? It interprets it as danger! In other words, your body will now react by telling you you need to eat and need to eat fast. If you don’t get food into your system quickly, then you might starve! Remember: as far as your body is concerned you’re still surviving out in the wild!
Thus, your low blood sugar will trigger a release of cortisol the stress hormone that will motivate you to go and find food. This is also what makes us grumpy in the morning. You’ll release sugar from stores into the blood and you’ll produce ghrelin the hunger hormone. This also triggers the release of myostatin – a chemical that tells the body to burn muscle and to use it as fuel.
In other words, you’re now in a ‘catabolic state’. This is further enhanced by the light coming in through the window, which wakes us by triggering the release of cortisol and nitric oxide in the brain.
Once you’ve eaten though, things change. Now sugar is released immediately into your body which the body responds as good news. This triggers the release of serotonin – a feel good hormone – followed by melatonin which is the sleep hormone. This is why we often feel sleepy after a large meal!
Now your brain becomes slower and groggier and you feel happier... but countless other activities can similarly alter your hormone balance. As it gets darker for instance, we release more of the sleep hormone melatonin. Likewise, if we’re in a good mood and having fun with friends, we release more serotonin. Likewise, when we work out, this triggers the release of stress hormones followed by anabolic hormones like growth hormone and testosterone to trigger growth.
Ultimately, the body is constantly swinging between an ‘on state’ called ‘catabolic’ or ‘fight and flight’ and an ‘off state’ called ‘anabolic’ or ‘rest and digest’. When the body is hungry, harmed or threatened, you become more alert and produce more stress hormones. At this point, you burn your energy stores because you need to keep going. But when the body is relaxed or you’ve eaten a satiating meal, that’s when you are more likely to store fat and build muscle.
The issue is that countless things we do skew this system all the time and that’s one of the reasons it’s so hard for us to stick to a diet...
This is where the next huge factor comes in: lifestyle! We’ll look at that in the next chapter, but first...
The Roles of Carbs and Fats
As mentioned, the timing of your food and the way you eat can have a big impact on your hormonal balance. Likeise, the hormonal balance can have a big impact on the way that you’re eating!
For example, if you eat first thing in the morning, you ‘break’ your fast. That is to say that you take yourself out of a catabolic state where the body is desperate for food and is burning fat. Some people will then try to extent this catabolic state for as long as possible as a trick to burn more fat. They might even engage in something called ‘fasted cardio’ which means that they’ll work out first thing in the morning before breakfast so that the only thing available to burn is stored fat.
Another trick is something called ‘carb backloading’. Here, you engage in intensive exercise designed to deplete the glycogen stores. Then you consume carbs and as a result, they will be more likely to be stored in the muscle cells rather than being stored as fat.
But the technique that most people are interested in is to avoid ‘simple carbohydrates’ altogether. Simple carbohydrates are any carbs that release their energy immediately into the blood. These tend to be the sweetest carbs like sugar, cake and white bread. By eating these, you cause a sudden spike in blood sugar which triggers the release of insulin and puts your body into a ‘fat storage’ mode.
If you avoid these simple carbs however, then you can maintain more of an equilibrium and thereby prevent your body from storing the energy. Instead, you’ll simply be replenishing your blood sugar as it is being used up. This is the objective of many low carb dieters who will instead rely on complex carbohydrates and fats which digest much more slowly and therefore release sugar into the blood at a slower rate as well.
Some low carb dieters and fasters will go even further to try and reduce blood sugar to the point that the body beings producing an alternative energy source ketones.
Do you need to worry about this? Is any of it relevant for losing your belly? Don’t worry – everything will be explained into a simple to follow programme very shortly.
Lesson 5. Fitting a Diet Into Your Lifestyle
Here is the other issue with eating a diet designed simply to help you reduce your caloric intake: it’s miserable!
I always say that there is no point in starting any new diet or any new training regime unless you intend to stick with it permanently. If you’re going to diet for a month and then go back to your old shape... then what’s the point?
So whatever diet you’re coming up with right now, the first thing you need to ask yourself is whether you can feasibly see yourself following it forever.
This is the problem with intermittent fasting diets and it’s the problem with calorie counting. Sure, you can stomach the idea of scanning all your food for a few days, weeks or even months. But are you really going to be doing this when you’re eighty? If not, then it is not sustainable.
And what’s the point of going to such effort to count everything you eat, when we’ve already seen that the numbers are really just a guess at best?
For most people, this will be an effective tool until it becomes dull and they give up because they’re too tired and stressed to stick with it. For others, it might never work owing to other biological factors that prevent them from getting the most from it.
Cast your mind back to the notion of your body going through cycles between anabolic and catabolic. Now ask yourself: what have you been doing all day at work? You’ve been stressed, likely getting into arguments, working to deadlines and struggling with difficult clients. At the same time, you’ve been staring into a screen which is a very bright source of artificial light.
What does all this mean? It means you’re very much in fight or flight. You’re very much catabolic. And so when you get home, of course your body is going to revert to anabolic. Not only that, but your blood sugar is likely incredible low and you need something to cheer you up – something that will release some serotonin. You need to swing that pendulum back to the anabolic, rest and digest state.
And now you’re telling me that you’re going to eat fish because it has the right number of calories?
The good news is that there is a better way...
The Other Factors Overlooked by Diets
There are many more important factors that often get overlooked by diets too. One of these is the fact that we tend to eat socially. That is to say that will we often eat something because we’re with our partners, our families or our friends. We like inviting people round for meals, we like going out for fancy dinners and we like surprising our partners with chocolates.
If you don’t join in with this, then it’s actually quite unsocial and we miss out. Again, with all those hormones screaming at you to get some sugar and now the social pressure of eating out... are you really ordering that salad? Forever?
And yes, there is the simple matter of time and energy. Tracking all your calories takes time and energy and as we’ve discussed, those are both factors that are already at a premium. Can you really motivate yourself to count all the calories in that home cooked meal... every day?
But Most Important of All: Nutrients
And there’s something else that gets not a lot of attention when it comes to diet and that absolutely deserves it: that’s nutrition.
Too many of us view our food as fuel. This is something that the calorie counting approach is very guilty of doing. We look at food as something that we use in order to enable ourselves to keep going and to keep us productive at work. We think of it in terms of something that our body burns in much the same way that a car uses petrol.
But food is MUCH more than that. Not only should food be enjoyable and social as we have already discussed but it should also be thought of as being the very substance that we are made of. You’ve heard the expression ‘you are what you eat’ and well... it’s true.
When you consume amino acids from proteins, your body actually reconstitutes those in order to build your muscle and skin. You are literally recycling the parts of dead animals and plants in order to rebuild your own tissue. Likewise, the micronutrients found in your food help to build your bones and connective tissues, your brain chemicals and even the hormones that help to drive you.
Micronutrients are the tiny nutrients that come from all our food and they are absolutely essential to helping us to perform and feel our very best. These make us feel more awake, more alert, more happy and they even help to elevate our metabolism so that we burn more fat!
If you are feeling depressed, weak, sluggish and slow, then there’s a good chance that it is actually because you have a deficiency in some kind of essential nutrient. These are nature’s sports supplements and they can be instrumental in helping you to get out of the funk you’re in.
Why Modern Diets Are the Worst
And here’s another thing to keep in mind: modern diets are the worst.
The big issue is with modern diets is that they have essentially hacked the very system our body evolved in order to survive with. Remember the way that simple sugars cause a rush of blood sugar, insulin and serotonin to make us feel great but then cause us to gain weight?
Well, all food manufacturers care about is that first bit: making you feel good. They want to sell more of their crisps, their chocolate bars and their cakes and so they have made foods that are practically just sugar. These are constantly and immediately spiking the blood sugar and can single handled raise your chances of developing diabetes and other health conditions.
What’s worse is that these overly processed foods have removed all of the nutrients that made them so healthy. If you eat a piece of fruit, you’ll probably find that it’s packed with vitamin C, vitamin A, resveratrol and a host of antioxidants which will help you to look and feel more awesome. But if you eat a shop-bought sausage role then you’re barely eating meat. You just get sugar, trans fat and salt! Likewise, if you eat a chocolate bar, you spike your sugar but without getting any useful nutrients.
Remember: this is the stuff that your feel good hormones are made out of. This is the stuff that helps to drive your metabolism forward. This is the stuff that rebuilds your wounds.
So is it any wonder that so many of us are burned out, dried up and exhausted?
Lesson 6. Finally: The Lose Your Belly Diet
So there has been a lot of preamble thus far but it’s important that you understand the logic behind the lose your belly diet so that you can understand why it is working so well.
Remember: our objective is still to eat fewer calories than we burn but along the way we want to take into account the role of hormones and meal timing and we want to actually enjoy eating in a way that is practical.
The Simple Way to Lose Weight
If you were to boil weight loss down into its simplest possible parts, then the main take home point would still be to eat less and to specifically eat less of the bad stuff. What counts as bad stuff? Simple carbs, which just so happens to be most of the empty calories as well.
In other words, if you eliminated processed foods like sausage rolls and pork scratching, along with all the sweets and treats like crisps, chips, chocolate, cake and candy... then you would be able to enjoy a diet with far fewer calories immediately and you would at the same time not be losing anything important from your food intake. This is not rocket science, it’s pretty straightforward!
While you’re at it, make sure you get rid of any excessive sauces – so that means squirting large amounts of mayonnaise onto your food – and certainly sugary drinks. Did you know that a glass of Coke has as much sugar as eating two Carburise Cream Eggs!
So remove the bad stuff and where possible, just replace with a vegetable like a carrot or a fruit like a banana.
In fact, make a conscious effort to make sure that you are getting more nutrients. That guideline about fruit and vegetable? Follow it! This doesn’t have to be complicated or a slow process – it can be as simple as ordering a smoothie from Starbucks in the morning instead of a cappuccino (which is also filled with sugar FYI!).
Even if it just means taking a vitamin tablet, this is one of the most important points I want to ram home. Once you start getting more nutrients in your diet, you will start to feel more energetic, more lively and much more positive.
We’re in a vicious cycle right now where stress and a modern diet has made it increasingly difficult to get out of our rut and take back control. You can’t force your way out of this kind of lifestyle with sheer force, you need a quick and easy win. Getting more nutrients is that win. Trust me, you start getting more vitamin C and D in your diet and you’ll regain that spring in your step that will then help to motivate you toward all the other things you need to do.
This has immediately improved your health so that you feel more energetic and will be consuming fewer calories. But if you’re in the process of swapping out unhealthy foods for healthy ones, it’s still possible that you might be consuming too many calories.
Just because something is healthy, that doesn’t mean it can’t also be calorific! And just because something is healthy, that doesn’t mean it can’t make you fat.
The perfect example is the avocado. This is absolutely packed with goodness and is a great healthy fat that will slowly release sugar throughout the day. This is the ideal breakfast food instead of a sugary cereal that will spike your blood and destroy your fasted state.
The problem? Avocados are also quite high in calories. This is why it can still be a good idea to track your calories a little to get an idea of what is going in and out. But we’re going to do it in a way that is much more easy going and something you’re more likely to stick with.
The idea is simple: you will calculate the amount of calories you consume over a few average days and the amount you burn over a few average days. Now you know a rough target and you will have an idea of what some of the ‘staples’ in your diet do to your calorie total.
This is when my wife and I stopped buying a tasty shop-bought pizza after realizing it was well in excess of 1K calories each!
Now you’ll have more of a ‘feeling’ for when you’re getting close to your threshold and you’ll know which healthy alternatives you can snack on to tide you over.
Ride the Tide
Better yet? Make your meals consistent.
If you make your meals consistent, then you can know precisely how many calories are in it (as near as possible at least) and you won’t need to constantly scan and calculate.
Didn’t I just say how a program that’s too rigid is folly though? Well yes, but you see this is where the clever part of this diet comes in.
The idea is that for the first two meals of the day you are going to eat in a manner that is entirely predictable. If you do switch your lunch-time dessert, then it will be something that is pre-approved, which won’t spike your blood sugar and which isn’t too high in calories. The aim is to keep these meals very clean, very nutritious and very low in calories. They should also be things that satisfy you though and things that you can easily acquire and prepare. If that means buying from a salad bar or similar... then so be it!
This might seem miserable – eating the same two meals every single day – but actually it is the precise opposite.
The purpose of these two meals you see is to allow you to eat whatever you want in the evenings. If you know that you have only consumed 500-700 calories by dinner, then that means that you can go all out without worrying much at all and still remain under your target!
Most people do not view lunch and breakfast as social in the same way. These meals tend to be eaten quickly and viewed as something of an inconvenience. Breakfast for many is stuffed down on the way out the kitchen in the morning, while lunch is often a samey lunch box eaten alone.
So why not just redesign your breakfast and lunch to make sure you aren’t getting too many calories and to ensure that you’re filling up on important nutrients.
Now, when it’s time for date night or a meal with a friend, you’ll be able to eat whatever you want and cut loose and you can rest assured that it will probably still be keeping you in a calorie deficit.
There are also good biological reasons to stick to this diet and to keep it ordered like this. Remember, first thing in the morning you are fasted. Thus, the last thing you want to do is to spike your blood with a massive dose of sugar. Instead, if you make your first meal a complex carbohydrate or healthy fat, then you are slowly providing enough energy to keep moving but without triggering it being stored as fat.
The same goes for lunch and by avoiding a massive intake of sugary food, you’ll also help to avoid creating that four PM slump that normally causes us to crash and become less productive after we’ve eaten.
You’re staying catabolic and you’re staying focussed at the point in the day when you’re focussed and driven anyway. And then, at the point when you’re getting home feeling shattered and just waning to chill out with good food... you can!
Now, some healthy experts will recommend that you fast the other way around and avoid eating a large meal before bed which can have negative impacts on your sleep. Actually though, as long as you leave enough time before bed after your last meal, this shouldn’t be an issue.
What’s more, is that there are some experts who now believe that we evolved to eat sweet things before bed – which might even be what triggered the entire notion of dessert. The idea is that it makes sense to stock up on sugar before bed when we’ll be fasted and to trigger the release of serotonin and melatonin to put us in a deep restful state.
So try this diet: workout your target and then remove all the unhealthy foods (adding back in good ones) to your first two meals. Get to the point where you’re now full of nutrients and very far from your calorie target by evening and then allow yourself to eat normally. Don’t go crazy of course but just allow yourself to eat as you normally would.
You’re no longer fighting the natural cycles of your body and your hormones – you’re riding the wave. What’s more, is that you’re essentially ‘training’ your insulin response and encouraging your hormones to work for you. And on top of all that, you’re maintaining a calorie deficit without having to do any calculating.
If you can stick to this, then you should start to find your belly fat starts to slip away. But don’t go away just yet because in the next chapters we’ll look at how you can make this easier on yourself and how you can enhance the look of that stomach and your overall appearance.
Lesson 7. It’s Not Just About the Food
Losing belly fat is not just about the food. And it’s not just about exercise either.
What I’m talking about is your entire lifestyle and everything that you are doing around your diet. Remember, your lifestyle is likely what got you into this state in the first place. And it’s probably what’s making it so hard to get out.
We’ve already seen how coming home stressed from work makes you more likely to binge eat and then store fat more rapidly. This is a combination of factors but even comes down to the direct and precise action of cortisol on the body.
So it stands to reason then that if you want to reduce belly fat, you should look at combating any workplace stress (or other stress for that matter!). This is easier said than done perhaps but it’s important to recognize just what a profound impact stress has on us. If you can remove stress from your life, then you’ll have far more energy for working out and eating right.
There are a few things you can do to this end. One is to take up meditation or another form of practice that will help you to combat stress generally. Meditation can significantly improve your mood, help you to cope with stress better and even make you smarter! This is a great tool to help fortify you and defend you against things going wrong that can prevent you from continuing your new healthy lifestyle.
Another tip is to look for ways to make your life a little easier. One obvious culprit may be the commute. Could you make this easier in any way? Perhaps with a car share? You might even decide that the job you’re doing is not for you.
If it’s not leaving you with the energy or the willpower you need to look after your own health then guess what: this job is not good for you and you should probably quit!
Prioritize your health!
More Ways to Get Your Body on Your Side
Of course it should go without saying that you should also avoid any toxins that might damage your metabolism. This particularly applies to smoking and to alcohol – both of which can really stand in your way of successful and healthy weight loss (not to mention ruining your energy levels).
Another tip though is to make sure that you are getting enough sleep. We actually burn a lot of sleep during the night but what’s even more important is the fact that sleep is what sets your rhythms and begins the cycle between catabolic and anabolic. Sleep is the ‘ultimate anabolic state’.
If you are skimping out then, you’re not going to be performing at your best and you won’t have the energy or the willpower to stick to the new regime. Try to get 7-8 hours every night and keep it systematic so that you have the same bedtime schedule at the same time. The body likes routine! Another tip is to consider investing in a daylight lamp.
These are alarms that wake you up with a wavelength similar to that of the sun and which get brighter slowly like a sunrise. This is great for combating ‘SAD’ (seasonal affective disorder) and helping us to feel more awake and alert first thing in the morning.
Want one more trick for getting yourself firmly into a catabolic/focussed state in the morning? Take a cold shower! This also happens to be great for stimulating the production of testosterone.
Lesson 8. Training for Six Pack Abs and the Perfect Body
If you follow the diet outlined in chapter 7, then you should find that you start to lose weight from all over your body and that this eventually reaches the gut.
But here’s the unwanted surprise: you won’t instantly get the amazing stomach you always wanted. Apart from anything else, there’s probably still flabby skin here and perhaps even stretch marks!
That’s because the real magic happens in the gym. Not only is muscle metabolically active, meaning that you’ll burn more calories even when you’re sleeping once you’re strong; but it is also what makes a person look toned and honed – far more than low body fat can. If you have low body fat alone, then you will look skinny and malnourished. If you have low body fat and great muscles, then you’ll look like celebrity.
The problem is that many people don’t know how to go about training their bodies for the maximum aesthetic benefit. So let’s see what you need to know...
Let’s start by focussing on the part that everyone is interested in: the abs. How do you take your now fat-less belly and turn it into something that Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie would be proud of?
It starts with anatomy. Too many people will want to focus purely on the sheet of muscle on the front of the stomach that is divided into six parts. This is the rectus abdominus but it is only one piece of the puzzle.
What’s actually more important for many ways for people looking to get rid of belly fat is the transverse abdominus. This is the band of muscle that wraps around the stomach and lower spine and works to support the back and act like a girdle.
The good news is that if you train this part of the stomach, then it will work to actually hold in the gut. Now, even if you haven’t managed to get rid of all of the excess flab around your belly, it will look instantly less noticeable.
So how do you train the transverse abdominus? It comes down to anything that involved holding your body like a plank (so plank is a good one then!) or breathing in and brining your belly button up to your spine.
This is the idea behind stomach vacuums or what is sometimes lovingly referred to as the ‘cat puke exercise’. Essentially, you need to get on all fours and then practice pulling your belly in toward your spine. Hold for ten seconds, rinse and repeat.
Another important part of your mid section are the obliques. These are muscles on either side of the abs which run and point downward in toward the center. Getting a great set of obliques is a surefire way to add a lot more detail around the area that results in a much more ripped final impression.
To train the obliques, you simply need to perform sit-ups with some kind of twist on the end. That might mean literally twisting backward and forward, or it might be punching a bag.
All this is not to say that the rectus abominis isn’t important too. It is and this is what will give you the vaunted six pack look after all. To train this sheet of muscle, it’s useful to first have a good idea of how it operates. Essentially, the role of this muscle is to prevent you from snapping backwards and to hold your body upright by tugging against the erector spinae. It’s also used when you bend forward of course.
What all this might tell you is that the rectus abominus is often trained without going through the full range of motion. This is why performing sit ups over a bosu ball can be a good way to stretch it out and to challenge the muscle fibers that often get missed.
Another powerful tip if you want abs is to try and add resistance to your training. That might mean doing sit ups while holding a weight plate, or it might mean using machines that providing more challenge while crunching in the gym. Either way, lifting heavier will help you to grow bigger and more defined and this definition is what you need for your abs to stand out.
Some people might contest that last point and say that strengthening the abs will do nothing for the appearance. The easy way to contest this statement is to try contracting your abs right now while looking in a mirror. What you’ll find is that they instantly become much more visible which is simply because they’re now bigger and firmer. Train with some resistance and this is what your abs will always look like.
Of course you can also use exercise in order to encourage more weight loss and this will indirectly lead to better looking abs. There are plenty of exercise programs that you can use in conjunction with the diet in this book but ultimately the right one will depend on your specific goals and your training style.
One more rumour that you need to dismiss though is the idea that you need sub 10% body fat in order to see abs. I know this to be true seeing as I’m sitting here at around 15% and you can see my abs. The same goes for an actor such as Chris Evans (Captain America). He is not insanely shredded and probably has a body fat percentage of around 10-12 percent. He still looks amazing which is thanks to the large, thick muscle that he has built up.
But what is the best option for weight loss? One popular choice is to walk. This is a form of exercise that won’t trigger a fight or flight response, meaning you can do it often and without feeling tired still at the end of a long day.
Running is great but you can only run so many times a week and it’s not highly practical (you arrive everywhere sweaty!). Walking though is something you can fit into your daily routine and that you can do highly often in order to keep burning large amounts of fat.
Another good option is HIIT. This is high intensity interval training and it essentially involves switching from training that uses slow, easy-going cardio, to training that involves going nearly all-out for short bursts.
This is ideal for using up glycogen, which as we’ve seen can help to prevent sugar from ending up as fat or travelling around the blood. What’s more, is that this then means you actually burn more fat for the rest of the day as you don’t have the glycogen stores to fall back on!
And lastly, consider concurrent training. This simply means that you are combining cardio with resistance training – doing some kind of repetitive task quickly with added weights. A good example might be using a stationary bike on the highest resistance settings, or using the battle ropes. This uses a lot more energy than simply doing cardio and has the added bonus of toning muscle at the same time.
Lesson 9. How to Get the Hollywood Look for Men
Okay, so this section is just for the men but it’s something I think a lot of you readers will be very interested in: how to get the shape of an Adonis.
While there are plenty of excellent training programs out there, the big problem is that they tend to focus on building strength or performance without giving much thought to aesthetics. Even those workouts aimed at helping you to look and feel better about yourself will almost always take the approach that ‘any fitness looks better’.
But a smarter approach might be to try and train more like a Hollywood celebrity. If you take a close look, you’ll find that they very often have similar features and traits and specifically physically. They almost always have a great upside-down triangle shape made up of large fats and shoulders and a narrow waist. This is combined with great arms and flat abs which together creates the ‘Hollywood look’.
The good news is that once you’ve identified this look, you can devise a training program specifically to reach it.
The best place to start is by performing weighted pull ups. This is a great test of strength that utilizes the fats in a very compound and functional manner. It’s ideal for stimulating growth and widening up your upper half.
Another good exercise to add to your routine is the overhead press with heavy weights. Combine this with incline bench press to try and build up a big, flat upper chest. You can also try using L-raises to build the smaller supporting muscles in the shoulders. In particular, building up the medial deltoids will help to add padding to the sides and make your shoulders wider.
Finally, make sure that you also focus on the triceps. Many people think that training just their biceps will give them bigger arms but the reality is that your upper arm should actually be 2/3rds triceps. And again, if you take a look at any of those Hollywood celebs, you’ll see that they have great triceps that give their arms size without making them look bulky.
Of course you need to train the rest of your body too for a balanced and well-rounded physique but if you want to quickly ‘hack’ your way to a great looking good that turns heads and builds on the success of our gut removal... then focus on these exercises.
Dressing the Part
Remember that getting rid of that belly is not just about health and fitness – it’s about how you feel about yourself and how others react to you.
That’s why you also need to consider the last part of the equation: what you’re wearing. This can be a great way to enhance your new lean look and to really become that highly effective, toned and masculine individual that you have dreamed of being.
The fist tip to dressing for your new great shape is to show it off. Many people pick clothes that are overly baggy but this is never a good look and will make you appear shapeless and frumpy. Instead, choose clothes that are a size smaller than what you’d normally pick or try and get your clothes taken in.
This is a great trick if you want to go easy on your bank account. Wearing tailored clothes is very expensive but if you buy something cheap and take it to your local dry cleaners, they’ll normally be able to bring it in for you and it will look just as good!
While you’re at it, you also need to adorn your new physique in clothes that are high quality. This is something that makes a strong psychological impression, even if you don’t realize it at the time. Can you tell the difference between a cheap jumper and an expensive one up close? Perhaps not. But when you’re wearing a whole outfit, people can pick up on the quality and it changes the way they perceive you.
The good news is that you can buy luxury without breaking the bank. First, just make sure that you choose quality over quantity. Don’t aim to redux your wardrobe overnight because it will cost too much!
Another tip is to find great stores that sell great clothes at a low price. H&M is a great option for example and will provide high quality fabrics and designs at a low cost. Finally, shop around the sale time and always look through the items that are reduced. This way you can find great deals that will have all that same luxury appeal but without the ‘luxury’ price tag.
Think as well about the other aspects of your presentation. That means investing in a good hair cut, the right shades and definitely good accessories like shoes and watches. All this says something important: it says that you care about yourself and that you care about the way you present yourself. That makes you more trustworthy and it tells other people that they need to care about you too.
This is the antithesis of the message that you send with a belly hanging out. That is the sign of someone who has given up and who just doesn’t care anymore. It’s time to start fighting again and once you have that flat stomach, you should embrace the new you!
Lesson 10. Conclusion
You may be wondering why I went off on that last tangent talking about clothing and getting the ‘Hollywood body’. The answer is that it all comes down to the same thing: getting rid of your gut is a great opportunity to change the way you look and feel and to change the way that others see you. This impacts on countless other aspects of your life but to do it correctly, you need to understand the myriad different factors currently impacted on you.
Hopefully, you understand why the best way to diet is to reduce your intake of sugars (though not entirely) and to reduce overall calories – all while trying to get enough vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables. A particularly effective way to do this is to make two ‘boring’ fixed meals that meet all of the guidelines and to then be more relaxed in the evening.
But if you try all this and it doesn’t work for you, then consider that it might come down to factors other than precisely what you’re eating. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, if you’re overtired or if you’re stressed at work... then you will damage your hormonal balance and you will have no energy or willpower left to eat and train right.
I hope in that case you will consider making some changes to that lifestyle that is leaving you so burned out. Even if that means quitting your job! After all, nothing is worth sacrificing your health and happiness. And as we’ve already seen, agreeing to accept this kind of lifestyle will only result in your mood and your health being beaten down further and further over time. It’s time to stand up and take back control over your own body.
From there, you will then be able to start transforming your entire look. Hopefully, if nothing else, getting rid of your belly will help you to fix your posture and to stand up taller and prouder. This instantly changes the energy that you send into the room and it tells the world that you are successful, important and proud.
Losing your belly really is that one thing that changes everything. But to achieve it, everything must change...