The Secret To Losing Stomach Fat


It’s no secret that the overwhelming majority of people have excess belly fat. And I don’t think I’m going to be breaking news by stating that – in most cases –  it’s a situation that is at the very least unwanted and unplanned. Which makes it all the more unfair that stubborn stomach fat seems to be the hardest stuff to part with. Just like an uninvited guest at your birthday party it always seems to be first to arrive, and last to leave. And never an apology for its rudeness!

So how to get rid of it? Well this is one area of health and fitness that really does involve a bit of a secret. As you’ve no doubt already experienced, shedding those last (and sometimes even those first) layers of stomach fat is really not as easy as ‘eat less, exercise more’. Don’t despair – you’re definitely not the only one struggling with this. I’ve known even the healthiest and fittest types to still battle the midriff bulge long after their new good habits became a way of life.

But before I give you the good stuff, a few points you really need to know (just in case you’re not overly motivated to do what it takes!)

  • There are two types of belly fat – subcutaneous, and visceral.
  • Subcutaneous fat stops your 6-pack from showing (that’s right, you do have one – it’s just insulated at the moment!), and sits directly beneath your skin.
  • Visceral fat is what gives that delightful ‘beer belly’ look, often accompanied by a very hard feel. It is situated deep below your muscles, and surrounds your organs.
  • Both types of belly fat are not only unappealing from an aesthetic point of view, but they are both extremely dangerous to your health – although visceral fat to a greater extent.
  • Excess belly fat has been linked to a greater risk of heart disease, increased danger of diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, colorectal and other forms of cancer, sleep disorders and overall risk of mortality. In fact, abdominal obesity is considered a more accurate indicator of cardiovascular disease than overall obesity.
  • This is in great part due to its inflammatory effects on your body as a whole.
  • While both exercise and diet are useful in reducing belly fat, diet has been shown to be more effective. Sorry, but unfortunately those gym sessions don’t really allow you to let loose at dinner-time.

Okay, okay, enough doom and gloom – what’s the big secret I’m talking about?

Well, it all has to do with your hormonal system, in particular the hormone cortisol. Did you know that most stubborn belly fat is a direct result of excess cortisol? There are varied reasons for the release of this hormone (poor diet and lifestyle choices, stress, too much or too little exercise, lack of sleep), but at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter what set it off, does it? It’s there, and you want it gone.

Here’s what you need to do to detoxify your body of cortisol, get rid of that belly blubber once and for all, and make darn sure it doesn’t come flying right back again.

1. First off, it’s important that you’re doing the right type of exercise. While traditionalists will tell you that low-intensity cardio with a moderate amount of weight training is the way to go, it just ain’t true.  Studies have shown that high-intensity exercise has a significant effect on abdominal fat as compared to low-intensity exercise. This is because the lasting metabolic effects (up to 48 hours increased metabolism) far outweigh those very brief ‘fat-burning zone’ benefits. High-intensity exercise includes functional circuit training, heavy strength or power training (make sure you know what you’re doing), and interval-based cardio.

2. Cut out cortisol-enhancing stimulants. Sorry folks, but yes this does include a lot of the stuff I know you love. Coffee? Out. Energy drinks? Don’t even think about it. Sugar? I think you know the answer. Anything that gives you that gotta-have-it boost just has to go. At least for 4 weeks, in order to give your body a break and your hormonal system the opportunity to detoxify existing cortisol stores. If poor energy is your thing try relying instead on a good breaky and some decent sleep to keep you going. Speaking of which –

3. Pay off that sleep debt. Nothing jacks your cortisol up more like bad sleep habits or a long-term lack of sleep. And you know it makes it pretty tough to eat well and avoid excess stimulants. When you don’t sleep properly and you can’t get-up-and-go first thing your nervous system reacts by producing excess cortisol at night. This has the effect of leaving you tired but wired, and creates a vicious cycles of ever-worse sleep. The smartest thing to do is start going to bed at regular times and getting up at regular times. Avoid the TV, computer, alcohol, and sugar 2 hours before bed, and be sure to sleep in total darkness. Use an eye mask if necessary.

4. Stress less. I know it’s easier said than done, but every little bit of unnecessary work or activity you can eliminate from your life is another opportunity to reduce total body stress. Even the smallest changes in your work or home habits can make a powerful difference. Do you really need to check emails and facebook every hour? Do you have to update your twitter account daily? All these little things stop you from achieving the big things, and that alone can be a major source of stress. Relationship stress, exercise stress (injuries you haven’t dealt with, for example), and food stress (poor choices or eating foods you are intolerant to) are also prime offenders.

Of course it goes without saying that you need to eat well (see the recipe section for ideas – I’m adding more weekly), include good fats, and exercise regularly, but here are a few other quick pointers you may not be aware of:

  • Liquid meals first thing can elevate cortisol
  • Dehydration is a major reason for excess cortisol
  • Skipping meals will definitely cause problems
  • Having a good quality protein shake right after training will lower cortisol
  • Green tea also gets rid of the stuff
  • Taking even 10 minutes completely for yourself each day can help you to handle the stress of your busy life and thus reduce cortisol
  • You may require a personalized supplement protocol to support and re-balance your hormonal system. This is one of the most powerful ways to reduce any excess hormone and create massive physical transformation

Shedding fat off your stomach is likely to be one of the toughest things you’ll ever attempt to do. And most people don’t get there. It takes too long, or it’s too darn frustrating, or they just don’t know where to start. The good news is that you’ve just learned more in the past 15 or so minutes than most people will ever know in a lifetime. Diet and exercise are a great starting point, but education and understanding are what will truly make a change. Now it’s just up to you to put it into place and be consistent.


44 responses to “The Secret To Losing Stomach Fat”

  1. Carla says:

    I definitely have to stop starving myself and not sleeping. Those are my biggest downfalls. Belly fat is in my genes and unfortunately I have to be hyper aware of my lifestyle to keep it down.

  2. Kat Eden says:

    It’s definitely an ongoing battle, isn’t it? But well worth the effort, and – over time – we can re-program our bodies.

  3. Kaizan says:

    Some great tips there.

    Losing belly fat is a pretty intense goal. Not for the faint hearted. I think the key with a big goal like this, is to not get overwhelmed with what you need to do. When I see a long list of all the things I need to do to get a flat tummy,it can be overwhelming. But if I change one habit every month, at the end of 12 months, I’m probably well on my way.

  4. Usma says:

    Great Post!!! Had a few questions!!

    Are there different workout methods for the two different kinds of fats?
    In your view, what is the better method for belly fat loss;
    – Day 1 Full body workout, Day 2 HIIT
    – Day 1 Double body part + HIIT, Day 2 20 – 30 minute cardio
    – 3 day workout week, cardio after each set of strength training

    There are other methods as well…but I have found that these are the best for fat loss…which one would you support and why?

    • Kat says:

      HI there … In my opinion the best workout structure to burn belly fat is one that is based on strength/power training. This may include weights circuits (full body), as well as a more traditional approach. Obviously the appropriate foundations need to be laid first (exercise knowledge, movement awareness, stability, posture etc). The only form of cardio I recommend is interval-based, max 15-20 minutes after weights, 1-2x p/week. I’m a big believer in excess or endurance based cardio stimulating a stress response which causes greater fat storage. In fact, in a really stressed person, I would recommend zero cardio!

  5. Usman says:

    Great response!! thanks for that. If you ever get some spare time, please do drop by my blog 🙂

  6. Elyse says:

    Could break down what a weekly routine should look like if you are doing mostly circuit training with just a day or two of cardio like you suggested? Like…should you do weights only 3 days a week giving a day of rest in between, and cardio on some of those same days, or cardio on the days that you do not lift weights?

  7. Napoleon says:

    Definitley quitting on the coffee. Going more green tea. Good article, thank you.

  8. Hayley Williams says:

    Hey Kat,
    Love the site, I’ve digested all your posts and totally changed my regime. I faced a classic 6 week plateau on cardio and and wimpy weights. Now working on the cortisol reduction and totally agree with you on the cardio causing more belly fat storage! So thank you, will implement all that I can and so far the HIIT is making an immediate difference. It also means as a busy mum I don’t have to sacrifce another 6 hours a week on family time to work out as I’m working smarter and harder.
    Appreciate all your work on the research. 🙂

  9. Kat Eden says:

    Hi Hayley
    That’s great, I am SO glad to hear it’s working for you. You definitely hit the nail on the head in saying ‘work smarter, not harder’. If you get a chance, check out my other blog I don’t write on it as often but it’s definitely very Mum-focused. WOuld be great to catch up sometime, maybe I could do a day trip down your way??

  10. Kathleen says:

    Hi Kat:
    For many years, I not only had tons of mental and emotional stress, I also overtrained in a serious way (typically 5-6 days a week in the gym, usually 45 minutes heavy weight-training plus 40 minutes steady-state cardio). I dieted super strictly (a VERY low-fat diet) and was chronically sleep-deprived. Despite all that, I was never quite happy with the way my body looked (I had muscle, but was “thick”–although no belly bulge, despite the high cortisol). Now I am pushing 55 and have recently been diagnosed with adrenal fatigue. I am taking natural hydrocortisone to let my adrenal glands “rest” for a spell. My thyroid gland is also shot, so I take natural thyroid. Even small stresses rattle me and a single weight workout will wipe me out! I struggle horribly with energy and motivation. And that’s from having chronic stress and chronically elevated levels of cortisol years ago. I am “rehabbing” now, but I know this will take time, and I’ve found that an episode of stress can easily set me back! Every day I have to force myself to “take it easy” and go to bed early. In fact, I am forcing myself to take a week off the gym, only permitting myself “stress relief” walks through the park. I would like younger women to be cautious! We tend to overdo it and keep pushing, but I am proof that can backfire!

    • Kat says:

      Hi Kathleen,
      Wow it certainly sounds like you took things to the nth degree. Stress plays such a large part in health and weight management, and I think many people seriously underestimate that. Also – a low fat diet is a surefire way to feel awful and end up gaining weight if anything!

  11. Kathleen says:

    Hi Kat:
    Yes, I’m eating a diet with considerably higher fat now. Things I would not have touched 10 years ago are now on the menu, lol. That lowfat diet worked in the very beginning (11.5 % BF), as long as I wasn’t bingeing and as long as I maintained my rigorous workout. I was a personal trainer and competed a little, so I lived a bodybuilder-style life, eating high protein (only very lean stuff), vegies and a serving of oatmeal for breakfast, maybe half a yam for lunch. That’s it. No fruit, even! But because I ate NO fat, my levels of blood sugar and insulin were erratic. I was ALWAYS ravenous! I started seeing the light not long ago, when I read The Truth About Beauty by Kat James. It opened my eyes. I have since read other books about fat and hormones and am happy to find your site, which mirrors my new (much saner and healthier) approach to both diet and exercise. I’ll be a regular reader! Thanks!

  12. Kat Eden says:

    Thanks Kathleen. I haven’t heard of that book; sounds interesting

  13. Aaron Rinder says:

    Hi Kat,

    Brilliant suggestions for losing belly fat. My question is I have a few old injuries, shoulder probs and Tennis elbow in my opposite arm, the other one kind of healed. Doing strength training is perhaps not the best thing for me, so what else can I do ? I have been taining mostly about 5 days per week ea. day for 50 mins. 30 mins cardio, some hamstring strething, bike for 5 mins to warm up, and reasonably light weights ie. 20 – 30 kig Bench press. My belly fat is pretty stubborn. Any ideas ? Aaron..

  14. Caroline McLaren says:

    I’m so glad I found your website Kat. I can just tell it’s going to change my entire approach to eating and exercising (and I’ve already started in little ways).

    Thank you for taking the time to share with us all your insights and knowledge. It’s greatly appreciated!!!


  15. Alice says:

    So far i’m loving this site and feeling really inspired.. I have a couple of questions Kat, I’m trying to lose belly fat that i still have since giving birth last year. With the recent death of my father and other stresses i think my hormones and therefore cortisol production is a big factor in me holding onto the weight, i also get terrible pms, are their any supplements that would help me? Als0 sounds a silly question but i’ve always been told exercising in the morning is best as it keeps your metabolism high for the day yet for me after 7pm is the best time to lift some weights as my daughter is asleep, will this not be as effective?

    • Kat says:

      Hi Alice,
      That’s not a silly question at all … morning workouts are definitely great for a healthy cortisol curve (body clock), but you also have to work with your lifestyle. If you can only train in the evening go with that, but I’d suggest taking a quality magnesium supplement post workout to help you get the best quality sleep. Post pregnancy some of the main supps I took (and still do) are probiotics, certain fiber blends, carnitine, fish oil, selenium, and a post natal multi. There are other things but those were the base ones I chose to help get my body back on track and deal with lack-of-sleep related cortisol. The other thing I would say to you though is not to put a lot of pressure on yourself to lose weight quickly after having a baby, it’s very important to give yourself a break now and then. I hope that helps and let me know if you have any more questions 🙂


  16. Alice says:

    i mean are there? not are their? doh!!

  17. Alice says:

    Thanks Kat for replying so quick. I had my baby 18 months ago last june so should i still take supplements even now? I read on one of your blogs on that you had lamb and almonds for breakfast. That’s what i find hard, breakfast! I ate toast and a coffee for so long it’s hard to programme myself to find different things to eat that are healthy and i can share with my daughter. We’ve started to have eggs and salmon, fruit and yogurt and i make fruit and veg smoothies a lot. Does this sound good or any other ideas would be great. Cheers kat

    • Kat says:

      All of those breakies sound okay … definitely better than nothing or than the typical so-called healthy carb based breakfast. The best breakfast for energy and metabolism is some form of meat with nuts. When I say meat I mean any red meat, but also eggs, chicken, fish etc. Any protein! But no peanuts.

  18. Alice says:

    Incase that sounds like 18 months as of last june, i mean i gave birth June 09 and so she’s 18 months!

  19. Alice says:

    I’m starting to wonder how i’m going to follow the lifestyle you advocate for weight loss as red meat in the morning sounds disgusting to me, ( no offence kat), and i’ve had it drummed into me for years that red meat is no good for you regularly and sticks to the lining of your colon for years! Still not sure how often to eat either, my old friend who’s a personal trainer said every two hours or at least six times a day? I can’t eat chicken every two hours i’d feel sick and when i went to my local health food shop to check out the supplements including whey powder they all contained sulphites, anti-caking agents etc etc etc! Could i be putting more crap in my body this way? I mean in nature animals don’t take supplements they just eat what they can get hold of that’s healthy????????

    • Kat says:

      HI Alice. I don’t really get your logic at all. There are so many issues with what you just wrote that I could give an opinion or research on, but to be honest I don’t know if it’s worth my time … you asked for my advice and I told you honestly (based on my knowledge as a practitioner, but also on constant research along with both personal and client results), but now you’re looking for ways out of it. If you’d rather not change the way you’re currently doing things, then fair enough, but all I can say is don’t expect your body to change either!

      Oh – I definitely do not advocate supplements loaded with anything artificial or synthetic. As for animals – they are themselves mostly loaded with antibiotics and other crap these days and definitely do NOT eat healthily. If you’re talking about wild animals, that’s another story, but I don’t think you can compare yourself to a wild animal unless you go and live on the land and eat what’s available to you. In which case you’d probably end up forced to eat that ‘disgusting’ meat for breakfast at some point!

      • Alice says:

        I meant animals in the wild don’t eat whey powder to build strength but there’s so much we could both say on that subject that we’ll leave that at that. I’ve been telling my friends about this website and think you have some great info on here so i’m suprised to now get such a negative email to be honest. If you start up a site where people are free to express their views and ask questions then people will do this. I question all new regimes i start and do my own research which i’m sure you did to get to where you are today! I’m not trying to get out of improving my body but i’m a realist and i can’t see myself sitting down with my family in the morning and serving up lamb sorry! I want to add i think you seem someone i could learn from but at the same time i’m pretty well informed on nutrition too, just i think it’s good to keep an open mind.. don’t you think?

      • Kat says:

        HI Alice … I definitely think it’s good to keep an open mind, and you’re right; I do encourage questions. I’m sorry I offended you – possibly I was more aggressive in my answer than what I intended. To be honest I felt that your comment came across as very negative, but perhaps I misunderstood your intent! Either way, it’s great to hear that you’re doing your own research and at the end of the day everybody has to make their own decision about what they believe to be true for their health. The main point I was trying to make with my last comment was basically about being a realist as well – but in my mind I view that as doing what I believe is best for my health and my family’s health and I really couldn’t care less if people think I am weird or eating ‘disgusting’ or wrong food for advice. Also I do find it funny how (in real life, not on this blog) people so often ask me how I stay in the shape I am, or even how I get so much done and have so much energy, and yet when I tell them they’re simply not prepared to do what it takes. The most ridiculous thing I ever heard was a client tell me that the sole reason she wouldn’t eat meat for breakfast was because she was worried what her colleagues would think. To me this just makes no sense, but I guess it comes back to what’s more important. Personally I care more about my health and that of my family then ‘what people might think’ or accept as ‘normal’. I’m not saying that as an attack at you, more in reference to the arguments I often hear from clients. The reality, however, is that once people try it they never go back! So – as you say – I guess none of us can truly knock anything we haven’t tried.

        Re protein – I agree that solid food is preferable. However I still keep protein (although not whey) around for back ups and for instances where I am rushed between clients/appointment etc. I don’t use it everyday, but on many occasions it’s helped me avoid giving in to something sugar/starch based, so for this reason it works well as part of my toolbox.

        Re supplements in general – my thoughts are that in a perfect world we should not need anything but real food. The problem is this isn’t a perfect world, none of us eat perfectly, and even if we did that wouldn’t combat the nutrition-sucking effects of modern day living.

        My apologies again for the abrupt tone of my previous comment 🙂

  20. Alice says:

    No need for apology and the original message i sent was in no way supposed to sound negative and when i said the bit about lamb at brekkie being disgusting it was more said in a jokey sense because it’s so far from what i’m used to but i actually love lamb (not generally that early) but i wasn’t saying i wouldn’t give it a bash! It’s so hard to get the nature of someone’s words through email or text and i can’t work out how to add a smiley face haha! Anyway if you get the chance i’m still not sure how often i’m supposed to eat, every 2 hours? I think i have a serious carb, caffeine and sugar addiction as when i wake up i feel moody and exhausted until i’ve had bread, coffee etc.. it’s like the equivalent of a morning cigarette to me and i just feel such a failure that i succumbed to it today despite having started off so well this week. How much lamb shall i eat for brekkie? or is chicken just as good. Anything has to be better than this rollercoaster i’m on regarding carbs etc. I know it’s my own lack of will power but when i get to “that time of the month” i just want to eat crap!! ahh!! i understand if you don’t have time to reply. Thanks Kat x

    • Kat says:

      HI Alice. I’d recommend eating every 3 hours … if you’re hungry every 2 hours then you may not be eating enough protein. I’d suggest including some protein of animal base plus some good fat with each meal. That plus green veg will really knock cravings on the head! Just avoid starch in the mornings to minimise cravings later. Good luck!

  21. Alice says:

    Oh by the way i don’t think you’re regime is weird or i wouldn’t be so interested in your blogs. People think i’m weird sometimes but what’s right for your health etc is paramount i agree x

    • Kat says:

      Fair enough – and thanks 🙂

      • Alice says:

        Hi Kat, looks like i wont be shifting the stubborn belly fat for quite some time now as i’m pregnant!!!!! Had no idea and have been lifting weights and taking supplements that aren’t suitable during pregnancy, woops! Any advice on diet and supplements during would be great so it’s easier when the time comes to get back to the belly mission. Thank kat

      • Kat says:

        Congrats Alice, that’s great. Feel free to get in touch via contact email if you’d like to arrange a coaching session- that’s definitely beyond the scope of commenting tips! Hopefully everything we’ve talked about so far is starting to pay off in the way you feel.

  22. alice says:

    Am I right in thinking bacon and sausages are off the menu? So lamb chicken and beef only? How about beef stew? I make that a lot in the winter but I guess to lose weight it’s just plain meat, no marinades on the steak? I need to check out your recipes after this. Had eggs yesterday morn and steak for lunch, felt full all day and bursting with energy!

  23. Kaia says:

    Hi Kat,

    again I must praise your blog. I think it’s the best source of information for me. I started to lift weights in May (before that I was a cardio queen as well), I’ve been following food plan and the results are great. Although my weight hasn’t decreased that much (61 at the beginning, 58 on better days and normally around 60), i love that my body has actually started to change. I can see my abs and my butt is smaller. I have 3 weight lifting sessions during a week and 2 HIIT sessions as well. I also try to run 20 minutes on my weight lifting days and I’d like to know whether it’s more effective from fat burning point of view to run before or after lifting weights. Also I measure myself on weekly basis. The size of my waist hasn’t decreased for some reason although it looks better than before. Could you explain why?
    I’d also like to add that it’s a pity that I cannot follow the food plan you’ve suggested because we don’t have the products needed here (Estonia, Europe)

    Still highly motivated and excited about my “new” body,


    • Kat says:

      Hi Kaia, great to hear from you! And congratulations on all those wonderful changes.

      I’m not sure why your stomach size would not have decreased. It may be that you’ve shed fluid, hence the ‘tighter’ look. It’s unlikely you’ve built a lot of muscle on your abs, but it’s possible.

      I would definitely advise cardio AFTER weights, or even separately. I hope that helps!


  24. Helen says:

    Hey Kat! So glad I came across your website – very interesting to read about the link between high cortisol levels and belly fat. Makes a lot of sense now that I look back over my situation over the past 18months – have gone through a tumultuous and emotional family breakup and am now a single mum of 2 gorgeous kids. I have always been physically strong, active and very fit, I teach Body Pump and Pilates and for the first time in my life I have belly fat that I cannot shift. I comfort ate my way through most of last year with sugary treats every night, add high levels of stress and very little sleep to that equation and there you have an extra 4kgs of stubborn belly fat that is really getting me down!! Am now focusing on what I’m putting into my body food wise, and am trying to fit in 2 interval cardio sessions a week. Could you give me some advice on what I should be specifically eating to help kickstart my metabolism and lower those cortisol levels?
    Thanks for your time!

    • Kat says:

      Hi Helen,

      It sounds like you are on the right track! The most powerful thing you can do is work on getting enough sleep and rest, and also start the day with a protein and good fat type breaky, i.e. leftover meat, or eggs, and some avocado or nuts. No carbs at breaky 🙂

      If you go through the nutrition pages on this blog and also on you will find a LOT on how to eat for fat loss. On Woman Incredible I’m about to release a new free book ‘The Truth About Female Fat Loss’.