Burn Your Belly Fat by Hacking Your Brain

By Mandy Johnson -Originally posted at Renegade Wellness

Gosh I really hope my muffin top is bigger next year said no one ever. Here is a different thought on how to approach getting rid of that extra weight around the middle.

Belly fat. The bane of the modern-day human in the first world. I always think it is interesting to look at how often people are googling a particular term I am researching. Recent top searches for belly fat are: Is ginger oil good for burning belly fat? Is it bad to hold in your belly fat throughout the day? (What is the) Best exercises to lose belly fat for males? (What is the) Best belly fat burner for men? Mississippi, Georgia, and Texas are the three States where people Google belly fat topics the most, which is not exactly surprising given the typical southern diet. So that we are all aware, if any type of oil rubbed on a body part caused your fat to go away, the cost of that oil would be obscene and hard to find everywhere on the planet. I would devote my entire yard to growing ginger roots instead of grass to make such a magical oil.

a man holding his belly fat with his hand
Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

Belly fat sucks, and I wish I could just tell you that ginger root oil is all you need. However, the truth is that you cannot burn fat just from one part of your body. You burn fat from multiple areas at once. Exercise can help build the stomach muscles, but having improved stomach muscles will not mean you burn more fat from that area. There are ways to decrease the amount of belly fat and fat from the rest of the body, but the only way to get rid of belly fat specifically are expensive medical procedures such as Liposuction and CoolSculpting. Even if you have the Benjamin’s to pay for those, there are only a few ways backed by science to keep off fat, because yep the research shows that in a couple of years all those Benjamins were a waste because the fat is right back where you don’t want it.  Here are the research proven ways to get rid of fat in no specific order: 

  • Eat fiber
  • Avoid highly processed foods with high-fat content
  • Don’t drink too much alcohol
  • Reduce stress levels (the stress hormone cortisol can help you store more fat)
  • Eat protein (1 gram per pound of body weight believe it or not)
  • Don’t eat lots of sugar or drink sugar
  • Cardio!
  • Cut back on processed carbs-because you know the sugar and the fat
  • Lift weights
  • Sleep at least seven hours (appetite regulation hormone are thrown off if we don’t sleep seven hours)
  • Support healthy gut bacteria- the reasons for this will probably be a whole post later because it is fascinating….but I digress. 

Bottomline, to burn more fat, change your lifestyle. Adopt a healthy eating plan and exercise. Super easy stuff. So we can all go about our day now because we all know this stuff. It is not new. You probably have tried incorporating exercise and changing how you eat into your goals once a year or more. And yet here you are reading this article because healthy change is anything but easy.

In all my years as a licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy and work in the fitness industry, I can tell you that handing someone a list of “how to be healthy” has caused a change in exactly zero of my patients and clients. But I have had patients and clients change, lose weight and feel better. It just didn’t happen because I got preachy about eating veggies and fruit. 

woman holding sliced watermelon

BJ Fogg notes in his book Tiny Habits that educating someone to change is a common mistake, especially by health professionals. I made that mistake because I just felt that change hadn’t happened yet because something was missing. That missing something was me and my amazing knowhow. After all, they probably didn’t get the ‘how to be healthy’ talk from another super cool nerd who is shockingly down to earth like me. The assumption was that the following scene will play out if I gave someone the correct information. Roll film! 

Entering from stage left someone looking slightly lost and like they just need a health savior. Health savior walks in and dramatically gives information on…wait for it…brussel sprouts. Lost unhealthy soul replies, “Oh my gosh. Do you mean I need to stop eating these highly processed foods that taste AMAZING and eat stuff like raw brussel sprouts to lose weight? Gosh, health savior, you have completely changed my life because I had NO idea I should be eating 4-6 servings of vegetables.” 

The above scene never happens, obviously. So how have I helped people to lose their belly fat? I helped them cast a vision for themselves and create a scene of success. I have helped them hack their brain to create an internal action plan. Lifestyle change happens, and belly fat decreases when people change how they think. Thinking differently steadily changes actions and drives each person towards a different result. 

Creating An Internal Action Plan

Step 1: Tiny Changes

In the book Tiny Habits by B.J. Fogg, he notes that he has only seen three things in his research that will create lasting change: Have an epiphany, change our environment, or change our habits in tiny ways. The idea is to create a tiny change for good. The more often you have success, the more often you want to do that change activity. This will create a feedback loop in your brain that wires in this new habit. Large overhauls of your day-to-day don’t work because they are too mentally taxing day in and day out, so they eventually fail. 

This repeated failure makes us feel that are not enough and never will be enough to create the lasting change we want. I feel that the quote by Lynne Twist in The Soul of Money fantastically captures this:

For me, and for many of us, our first waking thought of the day is “I didn’t get enough sleep.” The next one is “I don’t have enough time.” Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it. We spend most of the hours and the days of our lives hearing, explaining, complaining, or worrying about what we don’t have enough of.… We don’t have enough exercise. We don’t have enough work…We don’t have enough weekends… We’re not thin enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough or fit enough, educated or successful enough… Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor, we’re already inadequate, already behind, already losing, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds race with a litany of what we didn’t get, or didn’t get done that day.

Then we unconsciously hit the repeat button for tomorrow, the day after that, and day after day.

Step 2: Delete the Unconscious Repeat

The latest research suggests that 95% of your brain activity is unconscious, and 40% of your actions are habitual. Your behavior and attention are largely driven by your unconscious mechanisms. The challenge of existing habits and ingrained patterns is that they keep your momentum in one direction. When we’re trying to go in a different direction, that new direction has resistance because it is new and requires continual mental attention. Your disciplined effort isn’t creating change because no one has ever taught you how to adjust your internal programming for success. How do you do that? Well, prepare yourselves for some movie-worthy life change as we discuss step three.

Step 3: Create your Scene of Success

“If you were to live this day over, what would you change?”

If you were able to read last week’s post you know that this is the question that Viktor Frankl would guide his patient’s through. At first glance, it can be a bit of a different way to approach the start of your day. Let’s face it, we are much more about looking back at the end of the day. Typically in those replay thoughts, we are not kind to ourselves. We replay events that can’t change anything and don’t redirect our momentum for change. What can change the momentum is to harness the power of your own story…with science.

We are all lovers of stories. From books to plays and movies, we love to get lost in a story. I bet if you can close your eyes right now and play scenes from different movies in your head. You could probably tell me what the characters are wearing or maybe even quote a few lines. It is time that you used that replay ability to your advantage. Pre-play a scene of success for yourself before you start your day–not just for today but for the next 90 days and the next few years. 

Athletes use a similar concept to prepare for their upcoming race or match. They use it because it allows them to bypass the emotional centers of the brain. Instead they use the part of the brain that helps you to think through and plan for the hard parts before they even happen. Athletes know, just like Viktor Frankl, that we all play against ourselves more than any opponent. The game is between the conscious and the unconscious mind. We can change the game by imagining the ending of our own movie. But to have more than just one good day we need to look where we are going and play out how we are getting there. Check out the next post for your guide to creating specific scenes of success so you can get on the correct path for tomorrow, next week, 90 day from now and the distant future.

DIG (Get Deliberate, Get Inspired, Get Going) Deep Action Steps: 

Get Deliberate:  Check out this article for help on creating realistic goals (scenes of success) from my previous posts so you can start to work on your scene of success.

Get Inspired: Think of someone who has had success with achieving a goal. It does not have to be weight loss. It could be going for more education or winning the battling with a mood disorder like depression. Call them or message them. Ask them how they started working toward their goal. Ask them how what they learned from the weeks that they didn’t succeed.

Get Going: Did you know if a friend of yours gains weight, you yourself are 45 percent more likely than chance to gain weight over the next two to four years. And that if a friend of your friend becomes obese, your likelihood of gaining weight increases by about 20 percent — even if you don’t know that friend of a friend. So start a message group with a few of your friends who want to work on lifestyle change and start everyone writing their scene of success for 5 years from now. Help each other you stay accountable or hire a coach to work with your group.

This is a guest blog by Amanda (Mandy) Johnson of Renegade Wellness. Mandy empowers people to live their lives without physical limitations. This article was originally posted on her Substack.
To enjoy more of this Renegade Wellness goodness, visit https://renegadewellness.substack.com/.
Mandy is an avid Full Focus Planner® user.

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