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Why You Can’t Lose Stubborn Fat: 4 Habits To Break To Lose That Belly

by Jeremy Ethier - September 19, 2020

Can't lose stubborn belly fat no matter how hard you try? This article is for you. Here, I cover the 4 habits you need to break that'll help you lose stubborn fat everywhere - be it your belly or back. 

Ever attempted a diet in the past? If yes, you’ve probably noticed that some areas on your body lose fat quickly, while others just don’t seem to budge. The stubborn fat areas tend to be the lower belly, love handles, and lower back fat for most of us. It can almost seem like they're impossible to get rid of. And that's regardless of what we do and how hard we work.

And as I’ve explained in the past, there is a scientific explanation to this. These stuboorn fat areas receive less blood flow. Not to mention, also contain fat cells that are more stubborn to burn off compared to other areas of our body. In fact, our glutes are known as the toughest place to lose fat. And have been shown to be 10-20 times more stubborn to get rid of than belly fat. So... Think you have it hard? Well, just imagine what pro bodybuilders have to go through to get striations in their glutes to start showing!

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Getting Rid Of Stubborn Fat Areas Requires Patience And Perseverance

Now, I’m just going to assume that you’re not after the “shredded glutes” level of leanness. Nonetheless, getting rid of stubborn fat in the belly and lower back will still require a great deal of patience and perseverance. These areas are generally the last to go.

Take Trevor here, for example. He's one of our Built With Science members who recently lost an incredible 80 plus lbs. This incredible feat was accomplished over the course of 9 months on his program.
Stubborn fat loss journey
Now, I want you to take a look at his pictures a little more closely. You’ll notice that throughout the course of his journey, despite losing almost 60 lbs, his stubborn areas were still hanging on. That includes his lower belly fat and love handles.  It wasn’t until he broke past this point did he start to see more and more progress in those problem areas. Eventually, though, he managed to lose those problem areas altogether. How? By simply being patient and sticking to his calorie deficit.

However, there's a problem. And that is: staying patient and adhering to your calorie deficit will get increasingly difficult as you get leaner. Our body fights back. And as a result, most of us get stuck. Thus, explaining why so few actually end up successfully burning off those stubborn areas. In fact, this is where Trevor mentioned that he had the most difficult time to breakthrough.

And that is exactly what this article is about. I'll show you how to lose stubborn belly fat and love handles by covering 4 habits you need to break. These are the exact 4 habits preventing you from breaking through that sticking point. Fix these, and you’ll have unlocked the secret to the solution to stubborn fat. You'll be able to finally burn off those stubborn areas. Just like Trevor did.

Habit 1: Being Too Aggressive With Your Approach

The first thing preventing you from losing that stubborn fat is you’re too aggressive and impatient with your approach. Here's something most people don’t realize. Your rate of weight loss throughout the weeks will, and SHOULD slow down. Because when you’re at a higher body fat percentage, research shows that you’re able to lose fat at a faster rate with less risk of muscle loss. But this ability diminishes as you get leaner and leaner.

Yet the second people stop losing 1-2 lbs a week and their weight loss begins to slow down, they get worried. And try to speed it up by using unsustainable approaches. Like drastically cutting down their calories. This can then lead to rebounding altogether. Or even too much weight being lost too quickly, which then comes at the cost of muscle loss.

This is something we want to avoid at all costs. Since, as covered in my past interview with Dr. Eric Trexler, muscle loss seems to be highly correlated with increased hunger levels. Which doesn’t seem to recover back to normal until that muscle mass is restored. This then makes dieting that much harder. In fact, it can be challenging to the point where you just can’t stick to it for long enough. And that means fat loss cannot reach those stubborn areas-like your lower belly fat.

Stick To A Sustainable Weight Loss Rate Instead To Lose Stubborn Fat

So instead, stick to a rate of weight loss of around 0.5-1% of your body weight per week. Starting out, if you’re at a higher body fat percentage, you can stick to the higher end of the range. That's because you can afford to lose more weight per week (e.g. 1%).

But as you get leaner and your body fat lowers, you want to then slow this rate down. This helps minimize the risk of muscle loss as long as you’re not completely stalling (e.g. 0.5%). For example, you might initially be losing 2-3lbs a week. And then proceed to only losing half a pound a week once you get pretty lean.
Rate of fat loss to lose stubborn belly fat
Take a look at Trevor’s weight loss graph here. He applied this concept and slowed his weight loss down. This is especially as he got considerably leaner towards the end.
Stay consistent to lose stubborn belly fat
So just like Trevor did, don’t get discouraged, stay patient, and trust the process.

Habit 2: Guess-timating Your Calories

The next habit you need to break is poor calorie tracking. To achieve the levels of leanness needed for stubborn fat to come off, you’re going to want to track your daily calorie intake. And perhaps more importantly, ensuring that you're tracking accurately. This helps make sure that you’re actually eating at a calorie deficit.

Because most of us are horrible at just estimating our food intake. In fact, the data shows us that people tend to underreport their daily calorie intake by anywhere from 300 to even over 1,000 calories per day! Even dieticians have been shown to underreport their calories by an average of 223 calories per day!

The Little Things Add Up

I mean, take for example people who eat “a serving” of peanut butter. If you actually weighed it out, it can easily double or triple the calories you thought you were consuming.

But even if you are tracking, you may not be doing so accurately. Many people overlook the little things. That includes condiments, creamers, and sauces that you use throughout the day. You may fail to realize how small the serving sizes are for these. And how easily these can rack up hundreds of additional calories throughout the day.
And when you then throw in the dinners out, the social events, or the weekends... These are where most people end up just letting loose or just loosely tracking their calories.

And that can easily rack up to thousands of additional calories. This calorie excess will completely offset the hard work you put in all week. In fact, one study actually showed that subjects who were monitored on their diet tended to lose weight during the weekdays. But would end up plateauing or even gaining weight back during the weekends due to overeating.

Track Your Calories Diligently 

So, again, realize that sacrifices will have to be made. Be diligent with your tracking. Try to prioritize cooking more meals at home. This allows you to know exactly what’s going into your meals. And when you do go out for dinners or social events on the weekends, for example, plan ahead.

Doing so enables you to actually have a good time and enjoy yourself without sabotaging your progress. For example, have a big social event on Saturday? Then simply cut down your calorie intake by another 100 calories or so during the week in preparation. Then on the day leading up to the event, stick to mainly protein and veggies. This way, you'll save more calories for that meal. You can easily save an additional 2,000 calories to spend at that event. Yes - just from planning ahead.

Habit 3: Poor Calorie Management

The third habit you need to break is poor calorie management. In the beginning of your diet you can get away with:

  • Being more flexible with your food choices
  • Skipping meals, and
  • Fitting in more treats

... As long as by the end of the day, you’re still eating at a calorie deficit.

However, as you get deeper into your diet and you get leaner and are now also likely eating fewer calories than you were at the beginning of your diet, you have much less wiggle room.
Diet flexibility decreases as you lean down
At this point, your body is going to be doing everything it can to fight back. It wants to prevent you from continuing to lose fat. You’ll be hungrier and more fatigued. And will, as a result, have a much harder time adhering to your calorie deficit.

Struggling to stay within your calorie deficit? Or, don't even know how many calories you should eat per day? Don't worry. Our 3-on-1 coaching program can help. You will not only have a dietitian to customize your nutrition plan, but also a coach to focus on your training plans - plus, there's me to answer your questions every month! You'll achieve your dream physique in record-breaking time. Sounds good? Let's get started then:

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Opt For Satiating, Nutritious Foods In Your Diet

So - want to break past this point? Then you need to now start managing your daily calories better. Yes, your daily calorie intake is what matters most for weight loss. But the way you spend these calories every day has a major impact on your hunger levels and recovery.

So don't "save" or "spend" your daily calories to fit in convenient, less nutritious, high-calorie foods. These won’t do much in terms of your hunger. Instead, you’re going to have to make some sacrifices. And opt for high volume, nutrient-dense, low calorie foods. These will provide the best bang for your buck in terms of suppressing your hunger, boosting your daily energy levels, and speeding up your recovery.

As you get leaner, you’re going to have to accept that you will be hungrier than you were when you were carrying around more body fat. And managing that hunger with the right foods really is going to be key for you to continue making progress.

Yes, you can still fit in “treats” here and there. You can also use an “if it fits your macros” approach. But the frequency at which you do so will have to decrease as you get leaner and adhering to your calorie deficit becomes more difficult.

Habit 4: Get Lazier

The last thing that is preventing you from losing that stubborn belly fat is that you’ve gotten lazier. You’ve been dieting for a while. Things are getting tough. And the initial excitement of starting your diet is gone. This is when people start to overlook the little things. They start to be less active, they’ll skip out on walks, and they’ll just move less throughout the day than they used to. In fact, research has consistently found this to be true when dieting since your body tries to preserve its energy in response.

Which is detrimental for fat loss since these subtle movements actually do burn a significant amount of calories everyday.

This, in combination with the fact that you just weigh less now than you did at the start of your diet, can result in you now unknowingly burning hundreds of calories less than you did before. Which can easily put fat loss at a halt.

Keep Your NEAT Levels Consistent 

So, to account for this drop in calories burned, you have a couple options. You can bump up your overall activity levels a little more. And/or slightly reduce your calorie intake.

But to minimize the extent to which you have to do those two things, just make it a habit to move more throughout the day. Keep track of your daily step count. Aim to hit a target. And be consistent with that target throughout your diet. This helps ensure that you don’t end up unknowingly burning significantly fewer calories especially as you get leaner.

All in all, when it comes to how to burn stubborn fat (e.g. your lower belly, love handles, and back), the more variables you can control and keep track of the better. As it’s often an oversight on any one of these variables I mentioned that cause people to stall and prevents fat loss from ever reaching their stubborn areas.

That’s exactly why within our Built with Science programs, we not only guide you week after week with your workouts and nutrition, but we’ve also included tracking software that’ll enable you to see how your weight and the daily calories you burn change throughout the weeks. This is how our members like Trevor were finally able to get rid of that stubborn fat after countless unsuccessful attempts. To get started today:

Click the button below to take my analysis quiz to discover the best program for you:

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By the way, here’s the article summed up into a YouTube video:

Why You Can't Lose Stubborn Fat (4 Things Stopping You)

Why You Can’t Lose Stubborn Fat: 4 Habits To Break To Lose That Belly