Why crunches are not getting rid of your pooch belly


“What can I do about this?” (a young girl pinching into her non existing tummy fat) is one of the most common questions I get after exercise classes I teach in Leeds.

I felt I should share a little bit of education on the reasons for why your belly may not look how you would like it to even though you are training your abs every day.

Read this before you even go in and attempt to do something about the body fat, you may be surprised how many things other than exercise affect your body fat and belly fat.

I want to help you stop wasting time and energy addressing the problem with the wrong tools.


"Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net"

“Image courtesy of imagerymajestic/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net”

Exercise your tummy away?

You have heard this before – you cannot “spot reduce belly fat” with crunches.

I have tried it all with total dedication, crunching doesn’t do it. There are scientifically proven exercises that can help give a flatter appearance and improve posture. I will share my approach to teaching abdominal conditioning in another post.

What about cardio you ask? Yes, initially cardio can slim you down, but your pooch belly might stay. One reason is that cardio exercise is very stressful for the body (see below). Endurance cardio training also causes the body to adapt to the stress which makes you have to do more and more to get the same result. After all training is about the body getting stronger or fitter, which equals the body becoming more energy efficient – using less energy to do the exact same workout. So to keep getting results you need to change your exercise program frequently, keep your body guessing.

Essentially, a flat stomach is made in the kitchen by eating the correct foods for your Metabolic Type to provide you with the right nutritional ratios and keep you satiated and satisfied.

There is a lot of conflicting information on what a healthy diet is, let me help you find your personal health and fat loss promoting way of eating.


Do you have a stress belly?

You may have heard this before, physical and mental stress causes the body to hold on to fat around the middle.

What you may not have considered is that the stress you are posing on the body caused by intensive exercise, over training or an extremely low calorie restricted diet can also trigger a dramatic rise in cortisol. Your body thinks you are trying to kill it, so it tries to be prepared with stored energy just in case you do it again…

Cortisol is a hormone that the adrenal glands secrete in response to stress.

One of the jobs of cortisol is to increase blood sugar levels when the limited stored glycogen in muscles and liver has been used up for example by undertaking extensive exercise. This is done by breaking down muscle protein, converting it in the liver into blood glucose for quick energy.

If you are looking to maintain a lean body easily you want to have as much muscle tissue as possible. Muscles are metabolically active tissue; they use a lot of energy to just sustain them selves.

Incorporate stress management, train less and smart to build your lean tissue with weight lifting and see how your body shape changes



Is it your posture?

Your posture can affect how your abdomen looks.

Do you have a lower back lordosis? It can be the cause of the abdominal contents (your bowels and organs) spilling out forward causing a protruding belly especially below the belly button.

Self test:

You can do a quick check by standing with your heels and your head against a wall, slide your hand into the hollow of your lower back, if the heel of the hand gets stuck you have a normal lumbar curve, if you hand slides through easily you may have an excessive lordosis and forward pelvic tilt. Bearing in mind that prominent glutes can give a faulty reading so if in doubt, get a full assessment with a CHEK trained personal trainer who can help you work on your posture.

The lordosis can be caused by tight hip flexors and long hamstrings from sitting all day, tight low back muscles, excessive visceral fat and obesity, pregnancy and kyphosis – where the upper back is rounded requiring the lower back to compensate which can also cause lower back pain.


How is your digestion?

"Image courtesy of dream designs/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net"

“Image courtesy of dream designs/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net”

If you think about it; it is quite logical that if you are backed up with faecal material your stomach will have to distend outward to accommodate the mass. Not going to the toilet regularly is called constipation and contributes to toxicity and inflammation, which further causes the body to swell. Constipation can also be the cause of back pain.

You should do a number 2 at least once a day and it should make you feel fully evacuated once you are done. If you eat regular meals you also need to get rid of the left overs on a regular basis or you may get ill.

Self test:

1) eat 2 table spoons of sesame seeds with any meal and record the time when you had the meal.

2) Keep an eye on your stool from then onwards and record the time when you see the 1st time and the majority of sesame seeds appear in your stool.

A normal transit time is between 12-24hours. Also consider keeping an eye on total time it take for all the seeds to have come back out, this can take much longer.

If you find you have a suboptimal transit time as well as other digestive symptoms it might be helpful to work with a holistic practitioner to address this before you incur chronic health problems.


Are your ABS working?

Another really interesting point is that inflammation in the organs or gut can shut down the muscles in the abdominal wall letting the stomach wall distend.

The biggest culprits in causing inflammation in the gut are food sensitivities and allergies.

Because the internal organs borrow their pain messaging nerve fibres from the muscular system the body cannot recognise if it is the organ or the muscle being in pain. The brain only knows which spinal segments and relating nerves channels are affected, it then tells all the tissues and organs from that connection to behave like they are in pain.

Pain generally weakens muscles, which will cause loss of tonicity of the abdominal wall as well as poor response to any exercise attempted to flatten the stomach.

If your ABS suffer from some sort of amnesia causing them not to support your movements by contracting at the right time you may experience discomfort or even pain. It is highly advisable to get help from an expert in re awakening the core muscles before you sustain an injury.

Have you ever noticed that you are not as stable during menstruation? The same principle as above applies, the womb shedding the old lining is looks like an inflammation to the brain, and it sends signals to relax the surrounding muscle to take the pressure off the uterus = your ABS are switched off.

Research has shown that females are more prone to lower back and leg injuries when they take part in dynamic stop and start sports or running during this time.

So my tip, adapt your exercise routine to match what your body can support during this time of the month.


"Image courtesy of Toa55/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net"

“Image courtesy of Toa55/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net”

Is your body protecting you from toxicity? 

Your body stores toxic material in fat deposits to protect itself from being poisoned. If environmental toxins overload your detoxification organs such as the liver, kidneys, lymph glands and colon, they will not be able to deal with the stored toxins in the fat.

So to be able to lose fat you need to live a lifestyle that promotes a healthy fully functioning body with healthy organs that are not under stress.

Oh I can hear your thinking…. don’t even think about doing a detox program to promote fat loss, you can make your already weakened body very very ill if you do not address your lifestyle habits first to bring up your vitality.

Detoxing is extremely hard work for the body, it needs to be strong and healthy to cope.


Are unwanted guest stopping your fat loss? 

Consider that parasites, fungal and bacterial infections may be responsible for ill health as well as digestive disturbances and stomach distension.

A very common infection is Candida overgrowth in the gut (a yeast overgrowth), which causes cravings for sugar and bloating from when the bacteria eat the sugars and carbohydrates you provide.

Another reason you cannot get rid of body fat may be that the parasites need to eat too so, they may trigger you to eat more than you would if you were not infected.

You do not have to have been to a foreign country to be infected with parasites. Most parasites in humans are cosmopolitan.

CDC website, Parasites - Toxocariasis (also known as Roundworm Infection)

CDC website, Parasites – Toxocariasis (also known as Roundworm Infection)

Here the most common symptoms:

  • Diarrhoea, Constipation, Irritable Bowel, Cramps, Bloating
  • Malabsorption, Mucus, Fatigue, Nausea
  • Skin Rashes, Dry Coughs, Brain Fog, Dermatitis
  • Lymph blockages, Allergies, Joint Pain, Memory Loss, Headaches

You are still in doubt click here to complete the parasite questionnaire and get instant feedback on whether you may be carrying unwanted guests.


Do you have good or bad body fat?

You should consider that there is a difference between external and internal body fat. Subcutaneous fat is the fat you can “see” externally; it is what gives you your body shape including the size of your boobs. Since we already learned that fat loss happens all over the body you may want to weigh up whether loosing the teeny-weeny bit of fertility fat below the belly button is worth sacrificing your chest size for.

Visceral fat accumulates internally around the glands and organs. Even through most people are desperate to loose their external fat, it is the internal fat that has greater effect on the bodys health. The internal fat can be reduced easily by transitioning to a health promoting, non-inflammatory diet which gives you everything you want from external beauty to energy and strong health.

"Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net"

“Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net”


Do you display natures sign of fertility?

I think it is also important to bear in mind that the “little bit of fat” just below the belly button is actually a sign of fertility; it is there to provide energy for a growing baby during pregnancy.

Most women with a six-pack are infertile, as the body does not feel it has enough energy reserves to help grow another human being.

Of course too much belly fat can also cause infertility as the body feels it is not healthy enough to reproduce.



My tip, love your curves and the world will love them too.

As you can see there is a lot to consider if you are looking to shape your body. Feeling overwhelmed?

Don’t lose hope, others have been in the same situation before they became my holistic personal training clients in Leeds.
I am here to answer your questions and to support you in reaching your goals.

Follow on Bloglovin

Leave a Reply