I recently sent out a short survey to my awesome email subscribers to find out their current health issues and to see how I could help them the most. (Are you subscribed yet? Click HERE to subscribe to my free weekly newsletter!) I got back thousands of responses and read each and every one. Thank you so much to those who participated in the survey. Your input was extremely valuable to me. Mostly, I loved getting to know you better. Many of your words had me sobbing like a baby – many happy tears from your kindness, encouragement and support. And there were some sad tears reading about the struggles you or your family are facing right now. I sent up a lot of prayers for you that day.
In the survey, the overwhelming majority of you told me that you were having trouble losing weight, especially that stubborn belly fat despite tremendous efforts. If you find yourself unable to shed belly fat, it usually means that something in your body or mind needs a little extra love and attention.
So today I want to help guide you on how to lose belly fat. This advice is based on my own success and from the success of many different holistic doctors and practitioners. It pertains to all ages – there is no age that’s too old for this to work at helping you shed that stubborn fat!
How To Lose Belly Fat
This weight loss and how to lose belly fat advice is not gimmicky, it’s not in a shake, a bottle or a pill (although I do have a few natural supplement suggestions below that can help you on your journey).
“Eat less, exercise more” is what we always hear, right? That’s what the mainstream media tells us. Many of our own doctors still give us this advice.
What if I told you that the method of eating less and exercising more actually makes the problem worse and signals your body to store more fat from the foods you eat, especially belly fat?
Calories In, Calories Out Is Not The Whole Story!
The calories in, calories out mentality is out of date with the current research and has been disproven. That mentality doesn’t take in the whole picture and ignores the important role that hormones and nutrients play in the body. The fact is “what our bodies do with food depends on whether we are in a mode of surviving or thriving.” (source).
Let me give you an example of what that means. Studies have been done on twins, who eat the same exact amount of calories. One gains weight and has greater amounts of visceral (belly) fat. The other does not. When they measured each of the twins total body stress load, they found that the one who gained weight and had more belly fat had a greater total body stress load. Same calories, same genes, same environment. One is burning fat with those calories and the other is storing fat with those calories. One is in a survival mode, one is in a thriving mode.
What Does It Mean To Be In A Mode Of Surviving Or Thriving?
If your body is in a thriving mode it means the food you eat gets used as energy. It’s not easily stored as fat. When you are in the thriving mode you’ll have less belly fat, more energy, less anxiety, better sleep and a healthier immune system. Sounds great, right? It is! Weight loss comes easily, with little effort. You’ll feel energized all day and sleep deeply at night. You’ll even handle the stresses of life better.
But let’s say your body is in a survival mode, which sadly, most of us are in these days. When your body is in survival mode, the food you eat gets stored as fat. Hormones are out of whack, hunger increases, energy decreases and we start to crave the foods that make us gain weight quickly. The body holds onto calories and converts them to belly fat. It’s close to impossible to shed belly fat when your body is in a mode of survival.
How Do You Get In Survival Mode?
To understand how we get in survival mode, you’ve got to understand the adrenals. Our adrenals are tiny glands that sit above the kidneys. And they are the master controller of these two modes. Adrenals are like a light switch that tell your body whether you are thriving, meaning you burn fat and feel energized or surviving, meaning you store fat and feel tired.
When your adrenals get too stressed because of the demands placed on them, they flip on the switch to tell your body it’s in survival mode. That signals your body to start storing fat.
Think of it like this — if you lost your job, you wouldn’t go on a luxurious, super expensive vacation, right? You would probably cut your spending and save your money. It’s the same thing when your body is in survival mode. It tries to preserve energy. It stores up fat. And metabolism starts to shut down. Instead of sending foods to nourish the muscles and brain, it sends them to your belly fat where they get stored. And because your brain isn’t getting the necessary nutrients, you are very apt to experience anxiety, depression, irritability, bad moods and feeling easily overwhelmed. Yikes! Survival mode is not a good place to be. Yet that’s where many of us are because of the large demands placed on the adrenals.
What Stresses The Adrenals?
If the adrenals are the master controller of telling you’re body if you’re going to store fat or not, you’ve got to take good care of them! Because when your adrenals are too stressed, they turn the switch to survival mode that signals your body to store up that belly fat.
The term stress is often misunderstood. Stress is considered any event that triggers the adrenal glands to release stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Your body doesn’t distinguish between different kinds of stress. It responds to every stress the same way. So let’s learn what stresses the adrenals.
Here are the 6 things that stress the adrenals:
- Food stresses from processed foods, synthetic chemical flavors, artificial colors and undiagnosed food intolerances or allergies
- Environmental stresses from toxins like synthetic chemicals, pollution, pesticides, etc.
- Excessive exercise
- Not getting enough deep, restorative sleep.
- Stresses of life like financial, family, relationships, work, deadlines, etc.
- Negative thought patterns and beliefs, lack of joy and happiness
Identifying your body’s top sources of stress is a really important key for helping your health and waistline. It’s important to note that stress itself doesn’t cause weight gain unless our switch is turned to survival mode. The body is designed to handle small amounts of these stresses. The problem arises when your body is under a constant source of one or more of these stresses. Because of the fast, demanding pace of modern life and the onslaught of toxic chemicals in our world, many of our bodies are in a state of constant stress. Is yours?
The Good News About How To Lose Belly Fat
Here’s some great news: YOU have the power to flip the switch to thriving mode!
That’s pretty amazing, right? That means you’re not doomed to be fat because of your genetics and it’s certainly not your lack of willpower. The reason you are holding onto that belly fat is because your switch is turned on to survival mode, which makes you store fat, increases hunger and makes you crave the foods that make you fat.
So let’s turn off that switch, shall we? Here’s 30 ways to lessen your stress load and turn your switch to thriving…….
30 Habits To Flip The Switch To Thriving Mode
You have habits that you do every single day. We all do. Switching to thriving mode is no more than adjusting a few of those habits that aren’t serving you. Most people are surprised at the improvement in their weight after making just a few of these changes so please don’t stress out about this list. It’s meant to educate, empower and inspire you. I suggest aiming for no more than 3 new changes a month – that’s it! And if that seems like too much at this point in your life, just pick 1 or 2 that seem doable for you. Once those things become habit, add 1 or 2 more. You can do that, right? Of course you can! 🙂
Please note that you certainly don’t have to do all of these perfectly to flip the switch to thriving mode. For most people, just a small handful of these changes may be all it takes to flip the switch. Of course, the more you do, the less burden for your adrenals so I would aim for as many that are doable for you.
Ready? Let’s start to flip the switch!
- Eat breakfast every single day, no exceptions, even if you’re not hungry. But here’s the important part: you must get at least 25-30 grams of protein. Morning is not the time for many carbs so ditch those cereals, muffins and bagels. Your body’s response to insulin is not good in the morning and morning calories from carbs will likely get stored as fat. Stick with mostly protein and healthy fats in the morning. (This is #1 on the list for a reason — you’ll start to see the quickest changes once you incorporate this habit in your life. Even if you only do this one thing, you’ll start to feel better within a few days. By the way, I saved the very best tip for last so make sure you read to the end 😉 )
- Aim for a balanced lunch of healthy carbs, protein and healthy fat from unprocessed food. Too many carbs can make you feel sluggish, but including about 1/2 cup of healthy carbs will keep your energy production and metal focus sharp for several more hours.
- Limit coffee to before 9am and then switch to tea after that if you must. Tea has caffeine like coffee, but it also includes theanine, a calming compound that assists with good mental energy. I am a huge fan of matcha and drink it every single day (try my green tea frappuccino recipe <HERE) – it’s wonderful for boosting metabolism and assisting in weight loss. Herbal teas are great options after 3 pm.
- Chose organic or chemical free when possible. Many obesogens are pesticides, so choose organic food to cut back on chemical consumption. Obesogens are chemicals that make a human or animal fat. When we consume foods that contain pesticide residue, those toxins often end up in belly fat, where they get stored and cause fat cells to get larger or multiply. There’s also evidence that obesogens slow the metabolism and increase appetite.
- Make sure your dinner includes a balance of protein, healthy fat and healthy carbs from real food. Healthy carbs are especially important at this time because your insulin response is at it’s peak. If you don’t get enough carbs in your system now, your body will actually produce cortisol that will raise your blood sugar which can prevent you from getting the critical deep, restorative sleep that is key to losing belly fat. Fat, protein, and carbohydrates all work together in the body to promote a nourished metabolism. (Fun fact — Did you know that those who eat less than 50 grams of carbs actually end up with MORE glucose in the blood than those who eat more carbs? I fully embrace and recommend a balanced diet, including plenty of healthy carbs for optimal adrenal, thyroid and hormone function and of course, to turn the body into thriving mode!)
- Ditch the processed food and just eat real food the majority of the time. And most of all, listen to your body! No one knows your body like you do – not doctors, not experts, no one. Your body is an amazing creation and will tell you when something isn’t working for you (bloating, gas, acne, headaches, etc). Any unknown or undiagnosed food intolerances trigger a stress response in the body every time you eat that food. Pay attention to yourself and what your body is telling you and adjust your nutrition accordingly to get the best response.
- Incorporate ginger in your diet. It’s been shown to lower the response to stress from the adrenal glands. 1-2 teaspoons of fresh ginger or 1/2-1 teaspoon of dried ginger daily is enough to be effective. If you don’t like the taste of ginger, ginger capsules are available. HERE is an excellent supplement that also includes turmeric, another fantastic herb that is excellent for adrenal health.
- Keep your blood sugar stable. If your blood sugar drops off suddenly, your adrenal glands have to work harder to make extra cortisol. This happens when you miss a meal, eat too few good carbs or too high of bad carbs. A drop in blood sugar triggers the same fight or flight response that fear does! The more stable your blood sugar is, the healthier your adrenal glands. Berberine (I recommend THIS one) is an excellent supplement that is able to control blood sugar and lipid metabolism as effectively as the type 2 diabetes prescription drug, metformin (source). Adding 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon daily has also been shown to help control blood sugar (source).
- Eat 1 tablespoon of ground flax seeds daily (best in shakes!). This does wonders at helping you eliminate toxins easier. Toxins play a huge role in belly fat storage. Helping your body eliminate toxins will go a long way at losing that stubborn fat.
- Add the medicinal mushroom, reishi to your diet. Take 400-600 mg twice daily with food. It’s a powerful adaptogen that keeps your energy high without being a stimulant. It also strengthens the immune system and protects it from toxins. I use THIS reishi supplement and take 1 capsule with breakfast and lunch.
- Take ashwaganda. It helps correct cortisol levels, eases anxiety and protects brain cells from the damages of stress. It also helps insomnia, memory, stabilizes blood sugar and improves hormone, thyroid and immune function. I brew THIS ashwaganda herbal tea each evening after dinner. If you aren’t a fan of the tea or just want an easy button, ashwaganda capsules are available. THIS is what I recommend. Read the amazon reviews to see the results of this. It’s an amazing herb that I swear by!
- Make sure your diet includes plenty of Vitamin C. It’s critical for good adrenal functions. On the days that my diet is lacking in vitamin C, I take THIS whole food based Vitamin C supplement.
- Ditch your toxic cleaning products that have known harmful ingredients that the body can’t process. I found one natural, non-toxic product that I love!
- Leave your shoes at the door. This greatly reduces the amount of pesticide reside and other outdoor chemicals from entering your home.
- Switch out your plastic storage containers with glass or stainless steel. One chemical that is known to cause weight gain and stress on the body is BPA. Most BPA plastic alternatives aren’t much better. When you have the choice, pick glass or stainless steel.
- Switch out your non-stick cookware with stainless steel, cast iron, or enamel. Within a few minutes of being heated on a stove, a nonstick pan begins offgassing harmful chemicals. As you cook with these pots and pans, you are breathing in the same chemicals. Those toxins are difficult for the body to process and most often get stored in your belly fat where they can wreck havoc on your hormones and health.
- Start to switch out some of your personal care and beauty products to more natural, non-toxic options. Synthetic chemicals get absorbed through our skin and go directly into the bloodstream. They are hard for the body to process and add stress on the body and adrenals. THIS is the makeup, skin and hair company I love. If you need help finding good natural alternatives to your favorite products, let me know – I’ve tried so many things over the years and would love to help point you in the right direction!
- Invest in a water filter to filter out common contaminants like arsenic, lead, fluoride, chlorine, pesticides, pharmaceutical residues, etc. THIS is the one I have and I highly recommend that brand. It’s able to filter out contaminants while still keeping minerals.
- When you are stressed and in a survival mode, don’t do prolonged and frequent high-intensity aerobic exercise. Anything above half your maximum effort will cause big elevations in cortisol levels. This will block fat loss, even though you may be burning calories. Instead focus on gentle exercise for the body. When I went through my stressed, survival mode period, I discovered a 15 minute gentle workout, designed to aid in lymphatic flow, help digestion, posture and weight loss. It’s called T-Tapp and I can’t say enough things about it. Because of my results from it, I still do it to this day and swear by it. It’s especially great for seniors, those with autoimmune conditions, those with knee, shoulder or back issues and of course, those in survival mode seeking to flip the switch. Plus it’s only 15 minutes! The video production quality is not great and it’s very outdated, but the results make up for it. Find out more about T-Tapp HERE.
- Try to get 1 day of strength training in per week consisting of moves that work the entire body. No more than 2 days a week! Strength training can do wonders for boosting the metabolism. It doesn’t need to take a lot of time (20 minutes or less!) or done with much frequency to get excellent results. You don’t even need weights – lunges, squats, and pushups (wall or knee pushups) are great! HERE is an excellent, quick and simple routine to get you started.
- Walk at a leisurely pace for 15 minutes after dinner. It’s a great way to help prepare your body for sleep (and great for your furry friends, too!)
- Get to bed by 10pm. Those who go to bed later and get up later and get the same amount of sleep will get less deep, restorative sleep than those who get to bed by 10 pm. Getting that restorative sleep is key for losing belly fat and helping the body clear toxins.
- Take Epsom Salt baths before bed a few times a week. If that isn’t realistic for you, an epsom salt foot soak works just as well. Epsom salt relaxes muscles, provides magnesium, an important mineral and helps you get into the deep, restorative sleep easier. It also helps release toxins from the body.
- Try soothing stretching or gentle yoga poses before bed if you are having trouble falling asleep. Doing these for just three minutes an hour before bed will reduce the evening’s cortisol levels. Yoga poses that invert your body and get your legs above your head are most helpful. Try the shoulder stand or legs up a wall pose. Hold the position and breathe deeply.
- Practice deep breathing from the diaphragm. It reverses the effects of stress and stimulates the flow of lymphatic fluid through the body which helps the body clear toxins better. Put your hand on your belly right above the bellybutton. Breathe in deeply through your nose. You are doing it right if you hand moves a few inches. Slowly exhale through your mouth. Try 3 of these long breaths for a quick refresh or 10 to thoroughly reset.
- Learn to say no! Overextending yourself and trying to please everyone else can quickly lead to burnout and stress. Write down your top priorities in life right now and say no to everything else.
- Practice Positivity. A positive day starts with a positive mindset. When you wake up, take a few seconds to think about what a privilege it is to be alive. The moment you start acting like your life is a blessing, I can assure you that it will start to feel like one. This simple switch of mindset can turn your day from a gloomy one into a wonderful one. Also, set very clear boundaries with the negative people in your life. Doing so makes room for the positive relationships in your life.
- Start a gratitude journal. It sure is hard to stay negative for long when you stop and think about all your blessings, isn’t it? Several studies show that it’s impossible to be thankful and stressed at the same time (I think that’s SO cool!). Every night jot down at least 3 things you are grateful for that day.
- Volunteer to help someone in need. A study of over 10,000 participants found that those who regularly assist others are 10 times more likely to be healthy. They were also found to have more happiness, life-satisfaction, self-esteem, mastery, better physical fitness and less depression. Only 40 hours per year (that’s less than 45 minutes a week) is all it takes to get you all those health benefits!
- Find your passion and purpose and make steps to pursue it (or figure out what it is!). We were all designed with a purpose. Figuring out your passion and purpose is the most amazing, beautiful journey of self discovery. No matter how old you are or what stage of life you are in, find that thing, get out there and do it! You’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll feel and how much more energy you’ll have to give and serve those around you when you do. Please don’t underestimate the power of this tip. It’s so important to overall health and I’ve found in many cases, it is THE missing link. I know this post is long enough as it is, but I’ve just got to share a little story about the importance of finding your passion and purpose and how it relates to losing that stubborn belly fat. I ran into my friend Marlene last year and she told me that over the previous year she had put on about 15 pounds, mostly in the belly area and she could NOT get it off no matter what she tried. Marlene is very health conscious. I knew she already ate a mostly non-processed, organic diet. She even went to the gym and did yoga a few times a week. She also didn’t have much stress to deal with. She couldn’t figure out why she couldn’t shed this belly fat and decided to blame it on just getting older. I asked her if she felt fulfilled in life. She paused for a few moments and looked down. When she looked back up at me, there were tears in her eyes. She said no. Her youngest daughter moved out last year and she’s been struggling to find out where she belonged in this new empty nest stage of her life. She felt like she didn’t have a purpose. I encouraged her to explore those feelings and to go on a passion and purpose finding journey. Just a few months ago, I’m so happy to report that I got a call from Marlene. She wanted to take me to lunch. When we met, I couldn’t believe how amazing she looked. Not only did she lose the belly fat, but she had life in her eyes again. Her face glowed with passion and excitement. She went on to tell me that ever since she was a child, she loved playing with hair. She never pursued it as a career, but she always loved it and she especially loved how it made others feel special and pretty. She also said she had a soft spot for senior citizens ever since she volunteered at a senior center while in college. Marlene, at age 52, decided to pursue her passion of doing hair. She started off visiting a local senior home and volunteered to style hair for some of the ladies. The ladies and the staff loved Marlene so much that word got around. Two other senior home locations in the area offered her a job to come style their ladies hair each week! How amazing is that?!!! It makes me tear up to hear how blessed those ladies are by Marlene and how much they are blessing Marlene for allowing her to live out her passion and purpose. When passion and purpose collide with serving others, I call that the mega sweet spot – the spot of incredible blessings for all parties involved. I want you to find that spot for yourself. Finding it is a journey and it can take time, but I promise you, your life will change one thousand fold when you find it. And in Marlene’s case, within a few weeks of pursuing her passion, her 15 pounds of belly fat that she could not shed previously just melted away.
Also See: Turmeric Tea – wonderful tea that helps boost liver and digestive health.
Some Encouragement If You Are Feeling Overwhelmed
I know what some of you are thinking…..But you don’t understand, I am so stressed and exhausted that I don’t have any motivation to do any of these things.
I do understand! I’ve been there and felt the same way. When I was in my survival mode period, I had no motivation to cook, I certainly didn’t want to work out and I was really grumpy from not getting good sleep. The last thing I felt like doing was anything on this list. So you know where I started? Number 28, the gratitude journal. And I would encourage you to start there if you are feeling the same way. That’s what changed everything for me and got the ball rolling in the right direction.
Also, I don’t know anyone who manages to do all of these things all of the time. Progress is what we’re aiming for here. Just do something .01% better than the day before and over time you’ll look back and be amazed at all your progress. Remember, small changes done consistently lead to big results. That’s why I suggest aiming for no more than 3 changes a month. If that seems to much, just do 1 or 2. Once they become second nature, add a few more. It took me years to incorporate these changes in my life and I have yet to get it perfect!
Coming from someone who spent a few years in a stressed, survival mode, it’s really amazing once that switch is flipped and you are in the thriving mode. You’ll definitely know when you are! You’ll actually have so much energy that your body will want to move and you’ll want to exercise. You’ll be able to lose weight so much easier, your moods will be more stable, you’ll be able to sleep better and your immune system will be healthier.
If you can relate to being stuck in survival mode and are having a really hard time losing belly fat, pick 1 or 2 steps from the list today. Let’s get you into thriving mode!
Please let me know if you have any questions or comments. This post is near and dear to my heart and I will do my best to help you the best I can. No questions are stupid questions – questions are how we all learn. I would also love to hear any tips from those of you who were able to switch from surviving to thriving mode – let us know what worked for you!
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