How to get rid of Belly fat?
June 28, 2011 5:21 PM   Subscribe

How do I lose this belly? I am small framed 5' 4" 115 lb female with a tummy. Everyone is always making comments about how small I am, they don't see my problem spot because I hide it with pleats or under a shirt. I have been doing pilates for 7 months 5 days a week targeting my belly and thighs. I really can't tell a difference, maybe it is a little smaller. My waist is trim, it is below my belly button I have the problem. I am currently taking probiotic supplement but can not tell a difference. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
posted by sandyp to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
1. Some belly is normal.
2. You cannot spot reduce fat. In fact, 'targeting' an area like that is likely to make the perception of the area worse, because you'll build muscle instead.
3. Some belly is normal.
4. Given your weight, this is probably the last fat you'll lose, so you might get unacceptably skinny if you lose fat down to the point where this goes away.

If you want to burn fat, do intense aerobic exercise and cut back on bad parts of your diet (refined carbs, etc). There are a million threads/books/etc out there.
posted by 0xFCAF at 5:28 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Yep, there are exactly two ways to lose fat in a specific area.

1) Liposuction.
2) Lose weight overall.

But if you are 5'4" and 115lb it doesn't sound like losing weight is a great idea. This may just be the way you are. Are you sure you are accurately judging whether you have a "problem spot"?
posted by Justinian at 5:31 PM on June 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

You can't target specific areas of fat with specific exercises—human physiology just doesn't work that way. You can strengthen specific muscles with specific exercises, of course—and increased muscle tone can give the appearance of decreased fat. (That's probably the "maybe it's a little smaller" that you're seeing.)

But the only way to actually eliminate fat is to burn more calories than you ingest. Period. It doesn't matter how you burn it. To put it unpleasantly (but accurately): you just have to starve it off.

So: are you restricting calories, in addition to exercising? That's the only way this is gonna happen.

And, yeah, some belly is normal. And not as hideous as the peddlers of diet books and exercise videos want to think (if that's your concern).
posted by ixohoxi at 5:33 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Might you need to tighten the stomach muscles and somehow pilates isn't doing it? Situps or leg lifts, while classic, are good exercises for that.
posted by minx at 5:35 PM on June 28, 2011

Response by poster: One thing the pilates has helped me do is keep my tummy pulled in, it is almost second nature now to keep my tummy tight. I don't want a model's flat stomach, but it would be nice to wear flat waisted pants and not have the round ball below my waist. My size 6 pants fit fine at the waist and hips, it is below my belly button area that they are tight.
posted by sandyp at 5:45 PM on June 28, 2011

Well, I think a lot of the above answers are correct, but the other thing to keep in mind is that the perspective from which you're looking at your stomach--essentially atop it--skews your perspective and makes it appear larger than it does to an outside observer. There is a name for this effect, which I don't recall.
posted by dfriedman at 5:51 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

How old are you? Have you always had a tummy? Because fibroids can give you that poochy tummy.
posted by kimdog at 5:51 PM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

It may be better to have your pants tailored to your body type. A good tailor makes clothes look much better than ill-fitting clothes on the best of bodies.
posted by xingcat at 5:51 PM on June 28, 2011

Knowing your entire diet would help too.
posted by carlh at 5:52 PM on June 28, 2011

they don't see my problem spot because...

...because you don't have a "problem spot" to anybody else. Speaking as somebody who is 5'4" and who once thought she had a 'tummy' and who now feels rather foolish about having thought as much. It''re 5'4" and 115lbs, there is only so much fat on you, and it is not a great deal, and even if you do have a for-real poochy paunch that is quite unusual for your weight, nobody is looking at it, nobody cares. But, again, one can only be so paunchy at that height and weight. People are not noticing because there's so little to notice.

(Height/weight reference for other posters)

Let me throw out that maybe new pants might be the way to roll here. A low-slung waist is more forgiving of this sort of thing; where are you buying your pants from? And are you sure you don't want a smaller size?
posted by kmennie at 5:59 PM on June 28, 2011 [10 favorites]

Having a tummy is totally normal.

But if you really want to change it, you might find it gets flatter if you aim to avoid water retention/gas, which can bloat up that area. I think avoiding salty foods and farty foods, and drinking lots of water, are supposed to be the best ways to do that. Avoiding alcohol is probably good too. Also, if you find your tummy bloats up after a meal, you can try eating smaller meals of (perversely) higher calories, so the amount of food in your stomach is less. E.g. fatty ("good fats") and proteiny foods, which tend to be denser for their calorie amounts than high carb foods are. But that probably isn't very healthy when taken to extremes either.
posted by lollusc at 6:07 PM on June 28, 2011

One thing to consider. Given that, as I understand it, you are at a healthy weight, even if you did have some belly fat, your overall shape might be more attractive with a little belly fat and the correlated amount of breast fat than if you lost weight and shrank in both areas.
posted by ThisIsNotMe at 6:21 PM on June 28, 2011

Do you know your body fat percentage, by any chance? I ask only because I'm in your exact boat (same stats, same belly roll), and in my case, I'm fairly sure it's just a matter of being skinnyfat. I've definitely looked more shapely, with a firmer stomach, at periods when I've had more muscle mass elsewhere, too.

My understanding is that pilates are mostly aerobic exercise, so I doubt they'd help much with your overall fat/muscle balance-- maybe try integrating some weights or other muscle-building activities into your routine?
posted by Bardolph at 6:22 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm small framed at 5'0" and 100-105 lbs. The only time I didn't have a tummy was when I was underweight. Sorry. I know how you feel, this crept up on me in the last year, but really, no one cares.

Also see this extremely similar thread, which I'll cop to posting. I have been to the doctor, and nothing was wrong with me other than being 35.
posted by desjardins at 6:23 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

In addition to all of the above, are you wearing high-waisted pants or skirts by chance? It's nearly impossible to look flat-bellied in anything high-waisted, and if you've been wearing lower-rise pants for years, the difference can be startling. But everyone shows a little "round ball" in a pencil skirt.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:27 PM on June 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm in between your size and desjardins and have exactly the same problem. I am also (just?!) over 35 and have the same distribution of weight/fat. I have started doing yoga but am unsure if that's going to help. I think I eat too much dairy and salty foods though, I might try to decrease them this summer...but again, I'm not getting any younger and being pretty small with a hideable 'problem area' isn't really the worst thing...(and I love cheese! and salt!). So basically I am nthing all of the people saying don't worry about it so much and I'm sure that no one else will notice it as much as you do.
posted by bquarters at 6:34 PM on June 28, 2011

Lift heavy weights. I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that your body fat percentage is pretty high (and likewise your lean muscle mass is very low). This book is a great introduction to heavy weight training for women. You are already pretty light for your height, so "losing weight" in any substantial quantity in the typical way (starve yourself! "low fat"! whole grains! etc) is just going to make you sick, give you a flat chest (probably long before a flat stomach), and most likely make your friends and family worry.

You want to have less body fat while maintaining or increasing your weight. The way to do that is to gain muscle.

I would also recommend trying an elimination diet like the Whole 30... it's possible that some or all of your problem is due to chronic gut irritation/bloating.
posted by telegraph at 7:06 PM on June 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Different people store fat differently, but from your weight and height (I'm very similar, although an inch shorter), it sounds that you have a very normal amount of belly fat that helps us females support our babies when we get pregnant. In modern depictions of women, stomachs are artificially flattened (some ladies naturally are flat in that area, but from what I've seen, the majority of women possess fat there). To understand how normal it is, look at old paintings and pictures of naked women before photoshop. Google 'Venus of Urbino' to see an example of art.
posted by avagoyle at 7:08 PM on June 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

It sounds like we are similar body types. I'm in my 30s, 5'5" and about 150. Unless I am freakishly thin, I always have a belly (and a rather flat ass, and a rather large chest). It's just the body I came with. I do manage to find flattering pants without pleats (express) and pencil skirts work really well for me. And sheath dresses. The men haven't complained.
posted by bunderful at 7:31 PM on June 28, 2011

This is a normal part of getting older.

Reproductive history also has an impact. I now have a classic c-section apron on my belly. Although four and a half years have passed and I am currently 50 lb under my pre-pregnancy weight, this apron persists stubbornly. Fat everywhere else has gone first. I have accepted that this is a normal part of the aging process and a scar of motherhood.

If you are menopausal or pre-menopausal then you have another strike against you for fat storage in the mid-section. Fat in the belly area is a well known side effect of the menopause process.

Sorry for the bad news. Focus on fitness and health, any favourable body shape changes should be seen as a bonus.
posted by crazycanuck at 12:55 AM on June 29, 2011

When I don't eat grains or dairy for a week or more, my stomach looks and feels quite different from when I do.
posted by so_gracefully at 1:59 AM on June 29, 2011

agree that you may just be this shape and losing more weight overall, which looks pretty inadvisable, is likely just going to make you smaller all around with vaguely the same shape. just like pear shaped women. it's just you, and it's pretty common. that said, if you smoke or drink, those supposedly tend to add weight to your midsection, as well as overabundance of sugar or other carbs. and i am a broken record in mefi, but i too dig pilates but noticed combining them with my weight training (compound lifts please--squats, deadlifts, etc. with free weights, ie a barbell) seems to super effective at making my entire form stronger and sleeker due to all the muscle tone. so if you wanted, you could try a limited carb/low glycemic index type approach combined with added weight training and see if it helps any.
posted by ifjuly at 7:53 AM on June 29, 2011

Hey, I like the plank (similar to the yoga plank but on your elbows) a lot and I think perhaps it had a lot to do with my belly vanishing. It's a great exercise anyway. Also patience.
posted by fuq at 11:13 AM on June 29, 2011

Everybody has that-totally normal. However, pleats are NEVER a good thing! on anybody! ever! I'm picturing a terrible pair of mom fact wearing pleats will make ANYbody look like they have a belly. Throw those pants away-right now

Also you might try one of those after-pregnancy-belly-holders
posted by Frosted Cactus at 12:42 PM on June 29, 2011

Liposuction or long-term corseting.
posted by anaelith at 1:02 PM on June 29, 2011

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