Ask A Trainer: Why Do I Still Have Belly Fat?

zzzzzzzz lift and bitch 033Dear Fitbabe: Why am I gaining belly fat when I am adhering to my diet and workout plan? Everything I have done in the past to lose fat is not working anymore. HELP! Margaret

Hello Margaret, I know how you feel. Here is a little blog I wrote up that may help you!


I never really paid much attention to hormones or the importance of hormones until the last 2-3 years. This is when I noticed the majority of my female clients suddenly seemed to be peri- or menopausal!  Suddenly, overnight I was catering to many women who would complain several times during our sessions of whooshes of mind blowing heat that almost made them pass out. This concerned me as I wasn’t sure how to adapt my training style to them. They were gaining body fat rapidly and had extreme hunger and cravings they did not have before. I started reading everything I could get my hands on. I took online courses on hormone optimization, and then recently I attended the Women’s Fitness Summit in Kansas City, where the top female fitness and exercise physiologists where presenting only on women and women’s issues when it came to health, fitness and lifestyle. 

Lately my body has been changing as well. I have done figure competitions since I was 26, I am now 37 and it is much more difficult for me to get lean and show ready then it used to be. I have fat deposits in places I never did before ( back of my arms, my hamstrings and glutes). I know you are thinking “oh she just stopped dieting and training as hard). NO! I stay pretty close to an 8-week-out meal plan and I train harder than I have ever trained before (dead-lifts, squats and sprints for the win). My body is saying F**k you. My body has a mind of its own and is being stubborn. My hormones when not in check do not care that I want to stay lean and tight. What used to work doesn’t work anymore, so I now have to step back and figure out why.

Today I want to talk briefly about cortisol. Cortisol is the stress hormones that rises when you are stressed or doing things to stress the body, including long hard workouts. YES..too much exercise can actually be detrimental to your body. When your cortisol is high, your body finds it very hard to burn fat and will do what it can to hold on to it. Fat loss is likely to stall and body fat can start to accumulate. This in return will cause you to stress out, hold more water, which then makes you feel like you should start to cut even more calories and increase your cardio! Do you see the vicious cycle??? It is madness! 

Worrying about NOT losing weight and thinking about it NON-STOP will make it harder to lose weight. Instead focus on getting in 3-4 hard workouts a week, getting stronger, eating most of your meals on plan and getting in 8-9 hours of sleep. Then watch the body thrive! Consistency and moderation works every damn time. Consistently doing the above ( training, eating well, and getting enough sleep) are the true keys to success. It may take longer to get there, but you will get there and then staying there will be much easier. Trust the process and be patient. Not worrying about numbers on the scale or having to lose weight by a certain date will allow you to relax and enjoy the journey.  You will be much happier along the way! Your hormones will harmonize and you will see the body start to change for the good. Create a lifestyle that is sustainable with foods you enjoy, exercise you look forward to, and watch what happens. Could relaxing more and training less be the cure? 

I hope you found this information helpful! Perhaps you need to step back and let your body rest, recover and heal. Like I have said before, the body responds much better if you coax it instead of FORCING it to lose fat.


Deanna Harder: Fitness Leadership Diploma, CSEP-CPT (Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology-Certified Personal Trainer), and Figure Competitor

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About fitbabe

Deanna Harder is a college-certified, highly knowledgeable personal trainer, with over 20 years of experience. In addition to running her own business in Edmonton, she has competed in 6 figure competitions, and is always ready for a new challenge. Fitness Leadership Diploma, CSEP-CPT (Canadian Society of Exercise Physiology-Certified Personal Trainer)

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