Fat Loss for Mums: Five Enemies of Your Waistline and How to Crush Them!

04/12/2012 16:39 GMT | Updated 03/02/2013 10:12 GMT

"No pain, no gain" is quite misleading when it comes to the goal of fat-busting around your middle. There can be quite a lot of pain, in some instances, with precious little gain...

You could be all but starving yourself, as well as spending hours doing cardio workouts, and still that persistent layer of flab around your tummy refuses to budge. What's that all about? Well, basically, it's about ignoring how your body works.

Armed with a bit of biology and some nutritional guidance, you can turn this sorry state of affairs into successful fat-busting - and you can trim down your waistline effectively and permanently. This is what you need to know about the fat-loss hurdles you're facing and how to overcome them...

1. Empty calories: 'Calories in, calories out' is the basic principle of most weight loss programmes, but it's a bit too simple. All calories are not created equal, especially when it comes to creating a stubborn layer of fat that clings to your waistline and belly! By far the worst culprit for this is sugar (see number 2)!

Problem solved: Stop watching calories and start eating good, clean food. On your plate, the biggest portion should be veggies, then protein, then carbs. Your consumption of carbs should be in the form of whole-grains, fruits and vegetables. If there is no alternative sometimes but to use white pasta or rice, make it the smallest portion on your plate and combine with a good level of protein and vegetables to help balance your blood sugar level.

Instead of going fat-free, increase your intake of essential fats. Oily fish -- salmon, mackerel, sardines, and tuna - are great sources of Omega 3. It's hard to eat enough of them sometimes, so take a quality fish oil supplement too. Grind up seeds containing healthy oils like flax, hemp and pumpkin and add them to your breakfast. High quality cold-pressed olive oil over salads (don't heat olive oil - it ruins it), and coconut oil for cooking are also 'good fats' you want to eat more of, not less!

The fats you want to avoid at all costs are trans-fats or hydrogenated fats, found in most processed food, fast foods and commercially baked goods. Stay away, and if you see those words on the label, don't eat the food!

2. Sugar and insulin: When you eat sugar (refined white carbohydrates like bread, pasta and processed foods, as well as more obvious sweet indulgences), the level of insulin in your body increases. The hormone insulin regulates our blood sugar levels and inhibits the breakdown of fat, makings us good at storing it, rather than burning it.

Problem solved: Cut-out as much sugar (including the hidden stuff) as possible. Watch food labels: dextrose, fructose, glucose - in fact anything ending 'ose' - is sugar. The only sugar-with-benefits is the type you find in fresh fruit, which has so many good things going for it that it would be foolish to avoid it.

Stay away from 'diet' foods and drinks too. Diet drinks obviously contain artificial sweeteners in place of sugar or fructose, but very often those additives can have a similar effect on your insulin levels, producing the same fat storing effects as real sugar. Sweeteners (artificial or otherwise) stimulate appetite and place strain on your kidneys and liver that have to process them. The psychological effect of consuming large amounts of diet drinks often seems to be that we 'make up' the calories elsewhere! Your food doesn't need to be 'diet', 'lo' or 'fat-free' - it just has to be real!

3. Stress and cortisol: Being strung-out, stressed and tired (AKA being a mum!) kick-starts production of the hormone cortisol, which decreases muscle mass and encourages belly fat storage. Emotional stress can also have us skipping meals or reaching out for crutches like coffee, alcohol and sugary and processed foods. This causes physical stress on our bodies. And guess what? That also triggers cortisol production.

Problem solved: This is often the hardest nut to crack for sleep-deprived, time-pressed mums. But the way forward is to take time out just for yourself every day -- to read, have a bath, do yoga, have a run, paint your nails, whatever! With a bit of me-time, it's easier to relax, unwind and sleep well... Don't forget exercise is a great stress-buster and helps you to enjoy a better sleep!

4. Ineffective exercise: You know those long, punishing cardio sessions at the gym and the endless pootling on the treadmill that you hate? Well, guess what? It's pretty pointless in fat-loss terms - and it will do nothing to shift your spare tyre.

Problem solved: High intensity metabolic resistance training is the most effective way to burn fat. 'Resistance training' means using weights, whether that's kettle-bells or your own body weight. Squats, press-ups and pull-ups are part of the artillery that will help you increase lean muscle mass (read 'tone and shape', not 'bulk') and decrease fat storage around your waistline.

5. Lazy living: Drive to the gym? Use a treadmill when you get there? In what world does that make sense? Cars, escalators, lifts... they all prevent your legs from doing what they were meant to do: walking! They are making many of us lazy and inactive for much of the time, despite a few orchestrated bits of exercise each week.

Problem solved: Lead an active life every day: walk when you can, with good posture and full breathing; use stairs; carry things; lift things; stretch. Keep your body moving at all times, rather than for just the odd hour at the gym.

Mums are busy, often tired and stressed. Do what you can and don't feel you should follow strict, restrictive, unrealistic or expensive diets or regimes. Your food rules do not have to be complicated: 'Keep It Real' - that's all you need!

Unprocessed, unrefined, natural, real fresh foods will not stress your body or confuse your hormones. Eat more good fats and less sugar. Eat more fresh vegetables and cut out processed, packaged or take- away foods. Move more, sleep more and take some time out. Remember that being active and eating real food will do more for your hormone balance and fat storage levels than any restrictive diet... AND they are changes you can sustain!