If you're skinny but have belly fat that you'd like to get rid of, your weight loss strategy will need to be a little different than if you are simply overweight. But the first thing you should do is take heart! If you're already skinny and just trying to lose some tummy fat, it's likely that you're going to have a far easier time of it than if you were trying to lose weight everywhere. It's also important to understand that losing weight is not something that we have direct control over. Burning off excess fat is something that our bodies do on their own in response to certain behavioral changes. So it's those behavioral changes that we'll want to focus on.
How to Exercise if You're Skinny but Have Belly Fat
First, the bad news. As you're already probably aware, even if you haven't fully accepted it, you can't do spot exercises to reduce fat from one particular area of the body. There are a lot of conflicting opinions out there on this subject, but most of the confusion likely comes from the fact that intuitively, it seems like we should be able to spot reduce fat. It just makes so much sense. You exercise a certain part of your body, the flab burns off and is replaced by taut, toned muscle. But scientific studies have proven over and over that you can't spot reduce fat. Oh that we could! Getting rid of tummy fat would be as simple as throwing a bunch of sit-ups into your daily routine and calling it a day. But alas, our bodies don't work that way. When our bodies burn fat, they burn it from wherever they have been genetically programmed to burn it (i.e. pretty much everywhere), not just our bellies. So if you're skinny but have belly fat, the best way to get rid of it is to focus on general fat burning exercises, i.e. cardio.
There are many different types of cardio exercises. You should choose the ones that you enjoy the most. Or if you don't enjoy any of them, choose the ones you dislike the least. Cardio exercise is something that only really works if you stick to it over time, so choose a routine that you're more likely to stick to. Here are some suggestions:
- Walk at least 30 minutes a day
- Jog at least three times a week
- Elliptical machine
- Rowing machine
If you're skinny but have a fat belly, cardio exercise is really what you want to focus on.
Once you burn off that fat belly, it'll look even better if your abdominal muscles have some tone to them. If you only focus on abdominal exercises, you might build some muscle down there, but with the fat still in place those muscles can actually work against you - the muscle and fat together can make you seem to have even more belly fat. Think of abdominal exercises (sit-ups, crunches, planks, etc.) as the shaping exercises you'll do after you burn off that belly fat.
How to Adjust Your Diet if You're Skinny but Have Belly Fat
If you're already skinny, a standard weight-loss diet isn't exactly what you need. What you'll want to do is not necessarily eat less, but eat differently.
Fortunately, food is an area where our intuition actually serves us well. Unlike spot exercises, which seem like they should work but don't, foods that seem fatty usually are. Eggs, butter, cheese, french fries - fatty foods are easy to recognize. They tend to be delicious.
Our bodies evolved in an age when calories were a good deal harder to come by. Back in the forests where our species developed, the more calories we could get our hands on, the better our chances for survival. Since fatty foods such as meat were the best source of calories, we learned to love them the most. But in the modern world, where fatty foods are readily available everywhere, this love of fatty foods actually works against us. And it's one of the reasons a lot of us are skinny but have belly fat. Therefore, adjusting your diet to cut fat is usually not a matter of learning more about what types of foods we need to eat. For the most part, we know what kinds of foods are low-fat (vegetables, fruits, fish, etc.) and what kinds aren't. The challenge is finding the willpower to go against our evolutionary programming and to consistently choose foods that don't taste as good.
Since this type of willpower is much more difficult to come by when we're hungry, I suggest making your food choices at the grocery store. Never go grocery shopping on an empty stomach - your food choices will tend towards fattier items. Instead, make sure you have a solid meal and then go shopping. Then, try to buy nothing but low-fat items. That way, when you're home and hungry, and willpower is at a premium, the only foods available will be lower fat foods, and you'll eat better by default.
A Final Note About Alcohol and Belly Fat
If you're skinny but have belly fat, remember that alcohol is the wild card. The calories contained in alcohol have much in common with the calories contained in other foods, but alcoholic beverages can present some unique problems for those who are skinny but trying to lose belly fat. The main problem being that the calories in alcoholic beverages are sneaky.
Unlike french fries, donuts, and other high calorie foods, alcoholic beverages do not taste like high calorie foods. They are liquids, for one thing, and even though our bodies convert liquid calories into solid fat all the time, it's still not intuitively obvious that a liquid can make us fatter. And unlike even soda, alcoholic beverages generally aren't very sweet, making the calories in alcohol seem even more abstract. And yet, two bottles of beer can contain as many calories as a big basket of french fries.
And so - beware of alcohol. Like fatty foods, this one often comes down to a matter of willpower, so choose your battles carefully. Remember that, just like fatty foods, it is far easier to exercise willpower by not buying alcohol at the store than it is to resist the alcohol that you already have in the house.
If you're skinny but have belly fat, I really hope this article helps you!