“Stubborn fat” is really a misnomer. It’s also a self-limiting belief that turns into self-fulfilling prophecy. The truth is, each person inherits a unique pattern of fat storage. When you lose fat, you lose it all over your body and the first place you’re genetically prone to deposit it will be the last place it comes off. Spot reduction IS a myth. Most people simply set themselves up to hit a plateau before the last bit of localized body fat is gone. This is due to negative thinking, faulty dieting, and lack of exercise (especially weight training, which is essential to optimize your lean body mass and metabolic rate).
In this second installment, you will learn exactly how to get rid of the last bit of localized fat. It’s NOT complicated! It’s more like common sense than anything. All it takes is a hard work ethic and a little patience. (If you have neither of these qualities, then sorry, this article isn’t for you).
SIX FLAB BUSTING STRATEGIES THAT NO FAT CELLS CAN RESIST
There are six strategies you must use to lose every bit of flab – the natural way – without plateaus, metabolic slowdown or lingering fat pockets:
1.) LOSE FAT VERY SLOWLY
Here’s where most of the problems begin: Most people have no patience. How many times have you been told to lose no more than two pounds per week? How many times have you ignored that advice? All the time, right? The American College of Sports Medicine told you this, your trainer told you this, your dietician told you this, your doctor told you this, etc. Almost everyone agrees – 1.0 to 2.0 pounds per week is usually the maximum rate for safe, permanent weight (fat) loss. But few people want to listen – they’re ecstatic when the scale registers a 5 or 7 pound weekly weight loss.
I advise my clients to lose 1-2 lbs per week. Naturally, most go for the two pounds (and often ask if three is okay). Personally I go for 1 lb per week before competitions. If I lose more than one pound per week, I eat more. Losing too much weight too quickly always causes muscle loss, which in turn causes metabolic slowdown. Don’t ever confuse weight loss with fat loss. You can lose weight quickly, but you can’t lose fat quickly. If you think you can outwit Mother Nature and you’re dead set on losing 4, 5, 10 pounds a week, you’re going to lose fat in the beginning, but not all of it – you will plateau and rebound before the last “fat pockets” are gone. Set your goal to lose one or two pounds per week, but also set your goal to lose this fat weight consistently every week. When there aren’t any plateaus, this really adds up over time.
2.) REFEED REGULARLY – DON’T STAY ON LOW CALORIES ALL THE TIME
I GUARANTEE you are going to hear a LOT more about the refeeding concept in the near future. It’s not a new idea, however. Fred “Dr. Squat” Hatfield was writing about this in the late 1980’s! He called it “Zig Zag” Dieting.
“Carbing up”, “Cyclical Dieting,” “zig-zag” dieting, “re-feeding”, call it whatever you want; to me, it’s so obvious that increasing calories for a short periods while you’re dieting is the best way to avoid metabolic downgrade, that I can’t see how anyone would dispute it. But of course, die hard academics often demand concrete undisputable scientific evidence before anything is deemed true.
I would suggest you do not wait for such “evidence” and you begin using this technique immediately! All you really need to understand is this basic principle:
If staying on very low calories for a long time is what causes your metabolism to slow down… and if the slowdown in metabolism is the reason you have a difficult time losing that last bit of “stubborn” localized fat, then it’s only logical that the way to lose the “stubborn fat” is to avoid metabolic slowdown by not staying on low calories all the time!
The re-feeding concept can all be boiled down to this simple advice; just raise your calories every few days instead of staying on low calories all the time. This is the method smart bodybuilders use to diet all the way down to low single digit body fat and lose the last fat pocket without hitting a single plateau.
3.) DIET IN “CYCLES” OR “SEASONS” USING “NUTRITIONAL PERIODIZATION” – CHRONIC DIETING IS DANGEROUS
Everyone knows someone who is ALWAYS on a strict diet. Maybe you’re one of them. As paradoxical as it seems, chronic dieting is a great way to get fatter! You see, everything in life has a certain rhythm or seasonality to it: Winter- Summer. Tide comes in – tide goes out. Sun goes up – sun goes down. To lose fat for good, you have to diet in seasons. “All sunshine makes a desert.”
In sports training, a big buzzword is “periodization.” This refers to a cyclical approach to training an athlete, so the athlete peaks at his or her best performance level on the day of an event, or maintains optimal performance for the duration of a season.
In periodization training, there is an off-season and an in-season. Training continues year-round, but the programs are quite different during these two cycles. The long major cycles are called macrocycles. Smaller weekly and monthly cycles within the larger cycles are called mesocycles. There are even tiny day-to-day variations in sets, reps, poundage, intensity, duration and tempo called microcycles.
Nutrition can be periodized too, and this is another topic I predict will become very hot in the near future. Re-feeds are like nutritional mesocycles while the annual seasons are like nutritional macrocycles (the muscle building phase versus fat burning phase).
I’ve always claimed that the bodybuilder’s method to fat loss is the superior one, and isn’t cyclical dieting exactly what bodybuilders do? Don’t they diet strictly in a deficit for a period of months, then train for muscle growth for a period of months? Doesn’t a really astute “physique artist” cycle the calorie levels throughout the year? Of course. That’s why bodybuilders who use this strategy are the supreme examples of effective permanent fat loss.
Bulk too long, you gain too much fat and get completely out of fat burning mode. Diet too long, you lose muscle and downgrade your metabolism. Cycle the two every year in a seasonal fashion, whether you compete or not, and you have the perfect balance.
Three time Mr. Olympia Frank Zane continued to diet once a year after he retired, exactly as if he were still going to compete. As a personal challenge to himself, each year he continued to attempt to beat his previous best – or at least he strived to be the best he could be at any given time of his life. Smart guy. And now in his 60’s, he has a body that would make men half his age green with envy.
Cycle your nutrition and your training. Diet strictly at times and relax your diet at times. Train with everything you’ve got at times, and train to maintain at other times. Don’t listen to “experts” who constantly warn of overtraining and say things like “daily cardio is catabolic and unnecessary.” Daily cardio, as part of a short term fat loss cycle, supported with the proper nutrition and weight training, is the best way in the world to lose body fat. Of course you can do cardio daily! What you can’t do is continue with a high volume of daily training all year round.
There’s no such thing as a “double winter,” so why put your body through severe dieting “weather” two seasons in a row? Diet strictly for a while, then slowly ease back for a while… eat more… relax… then go back at it even harder, pushing this time for an even higher peak. Be like the athlete trying to beat last year’s record. And continue with this approach for the rest of your life.
4.) DEVELOP A LONG TERM TIME PERSPECTIVE AND SET LONG TERM GOALS
You need patience and the right mental attitude to lose body fat. If you have a lot of fat to lose and you want to lose it permanently, you need to set up some long-term goals for your nutritional “seasons.” Otherwise, your body is going to fight back.
I know dozens of people who did phenomenally well on before and after “transformation programs,” only to quickly gain back all of the fat they lost. Do YOU want to diet for 12 weeks, look great for a week or two then slip right back where you started from, or do you want to get lean and stay lean?
Here are the reasons why so many people re-gain the weight: They only had a 12-week goal… Short-term time perspective… No long-term goals… Failure to develop goal setting as a lifelong continuous discipline… Failure to develop nutrition and training disciplines as habits… All fatal errors.
Every season or “nutritional macrocycle”, you must strive to improve on your previous best by setting new goals. Goal setting is not an event; it’s a never-ending process. Isn’t this what any world-class athlete does? Doesn’t the Olympian strive to beat his record at the last Olympics? Run faster, throw farther, jump higher? Doesn’t that require a very long-term time perspective? Can’t you apply this concept in your own training – even if its just for health, fitness and recreation? Wouldn’t this keep you motivated for years at a time instead of just doing ONE “12 week program” and then slipping backwards to square one? Couldn’t this mindset for constant and never ending improvement in a seasonal fashion keep you motivated for LIFE? Of course.
5.) RE-SET YOUR SET POINT (AKA, TURN DOWN YOUR “FAT THERMOSTAT”)
When I was in college, my body fat usually hovered around 15-16%. (Yes, I confess… I DID drink my share of beer in college). I lost the “beer belly,” of course, dropping my fat all the way down to the mid single digits. However, I always seemed to slide back where I started (16% or so). It seemed like that was a natural “set point” for me…kind of like my fat thermostat had the dial locked in at 16%.
One day, I finally got wise and I decided to set a LONG TERM GOAL to get better every year and MAINTAIN a lower off-season body fat every year. First 14%, then 12%, then 10%, and finally, today, I don’t allow myself over 9.9% at any time. I refuse to go to double digits and I’ll tighten up my diet or add cardio the second I notice myself slip.
In contest season, I decided that 6-7% wasn’t lean enough, and I strived to beat that, which I did, hitting 6%, 5%, 4% and eventually as low as 3.4% body fat.
Basically, I raised my standards of what body fat level was acceptable to me during the off season and for competitions. I vowed to improve both.
I disciplined myself and stopped “bulking up.” After I made this commitment, then each year it got easier to lose the fat because I wasn’t putting myself under prolonged periods of dieting stress to get there; I was already close, and starting closer every year because what I had done, unbeknownst to me at the time, was to re-set my set point.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the “set point” theory before. This is the genetically pre-determined body fat level towards which you tend to gravitate. The good news is, you can lower your set point (your “fat thermostat”) through nutritional discipline, increasing your lean body mass, dieting in seasons/cycles, setting long term goals, and raising your standards in terms of how much body fat you are willing to carry.
A lowered set point won’t happen over night. It doesn’t happen by the day or week, it happens by the month and year and is achieved by setting higher standards for how lean you stay over prolonged periods of time.
6.) WATCH YOUR INTERNAL DIALOGUE: YOU BECOME YOUR “I AM’S”
Be careful what you call yourself and what you say to yourself. It’s a psychological truth that you become your labels – you become your “I am’s.”
If you want to lose body fat, then why on Earth do you walk around all day long saying over and over again, “I cant, I cant, I cant, I can’t lose this stubborn fat?” Why say, “I’m fat?” Why affirm the negative?Why would you do that to yourself? Over and over the tape plays in your head… programming your subconscious… building your belief systems… forging your paradigms… directing your behavior… creating your own reality.
Why not visualize your ideal and affirm the positive?: “I am getting leaner and leaner every day!” Do not dwell on your present condition. Dwell on your future vision. Refuse to use the term “stubborn fat” again. Never say, “I can’t lose this fat.” Do not look at localized fat as any different than other fat on your body. Understand that it was the first place on, and will be the last place to come off – but it WILL come off – IF you do it the right way.
Usually articles on “stubborn fat” discuss “breakthroughs” in transdermal delivery systems, adrenergic agonists, alpha-2 receptors and lots of other scientific stuff. I’ve read papers on this subject that were so scientific, you’d need a medical dictionary to translate them. The so-called experts list dozens of references and write overly technical articles for an audience they know damn well has only a seventh grade reading level and couldn’t give a whiff about anything except seeing their abs. However, they do it anyways to make themselves look like almighty, all-knowing “gurus” and to sell worthless products. The reality is, these really aren’t even articles – they’re advertisements for “spot reducing” gimmicks
Listen; there is nothing complicated or overly scientific about the process of fat loss – even the last 10 pounds. Sure, there are proven products such as thermogenic supplements, but they don’t work miracles, nor are they spot reducers. There’s no such thing as spot reduction. There’s no such thing as stubborn fat – it only appears that way for lack of understanding about the way the human body and mind work.
You can do this naturally with nothing more than exercise, proper nutrition and the right attitude. To lose fat steadily without plateaus – right down to the very last fat cell – all you have to do is work with your body’s inherent nature, not against it. It may not be easy, but it’s incredibly simple and 100% predictable. Embrace the challenge, expect success, use what you’ve just learned, and in the long run, you’ll agree that the rewards were well worth the effort.
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Tom Venuto is a lifetime natural bodybuilder, personal trainer, gym owner, freelance writer and author of Burn the Fat, Feed The Muscle (BFFM): Fat Burning Secrets of the World’s Best Bodybuilders and Fitness Models. Tom has written over 140 articles and has been featured in IRONMAN magazine, Natural Bodybuilding, Muscular Development, Muscle-Zine, Exercise for Men and Men’s Exercise. Tom is the Fat Loss Expert for Global-Fitness.com and the nutrition editor for Femalemuscle.com and his articles are featured regularly on literally dozens of other websites.