Written By: Leigh Gardner, The Four Body Types Research Participant
It’s taken me years to figure out the best exercise to lose belly fat for me. I never took my weight seriously until I tipped the scale at 260 pounds. Before that, I never gave exercise a second thought. I hated gym class, I couldn’t be caught dead going outside, and I never thought exercise could be fun. Once I became serious about my weight, and how it was affecting my health, I learned what the best exercise to lose belly fat is for me.
High Hopes – Best Diet & Exercise to Lose Belly Fat
When I found out I weighed 260 pounds, I didn’t know what the best diet and exercise to lose belly fat was for me. The first diet I followed was Atkins. I thought it was amazing at the beginning when the weight just fell off and I didn’t even incorporate exercise into my routine. If I was losing weight through diet alone, I didn’t need to worry about being active. I thought I would just become slim and toned and look like Jennifer Lawrence!
Within six months, my weight went down to 180 pounds! Unfortunately, staying motivated was hard for me. My patience was wearing thin and I had trouble remaining disciplined and finding consistency in my daily routines. And let’s be honest, at 180 pounds I still had copious amounts of fat on my body. All initial evidence pointed to the fact that I was probably a weak Body Type Three rather than a Body Type One like J-Law. My body didn’t look anything like Jennifer Lawrence’s body.
As I gained more confidence in my diet and food choices and became more acutely aware of my health, I was determined to continue with my weight loss efforts. I just had to figure out a more long-lasting, sustainable approach. My body was still so obese with skinny fat (cellulite, thin fat, loose skin, saggy skin, normal weight obesity). The idea of going outside and being active was embarrassing. Forget about stepping foot in a gym!
Figuring Out the Best Exercise for Me to Lose Belly Fat
After a year, I finally got a new job with affordable healthcare insurance. I was able to see a doctor who diagnosed me with hypothyroidism and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). I learned that roughly between 10% and 60% of people with hypothyroidism and 20% up to 80% of people with PCOS struggle with weight loss and obesity. It’s not absolute that these conditions were the only cause for why I had such issues with my weight loss and gain efforts. However, they were not helping.
At the same time, I admit that my life choices weren’t making it any easier for me. And how much body type, posture, and muscle mass plays into things I did not know. The same is true for hypothyroidism. Diet and lifestyle are still one of the biggest culprits so it wouldn’t be fair to blame these conditions entirely on how sedentary I’ve been (all too often it is too easy to blame something else). With the right medications, however, and encouraging words from a dietician and coworkers, my newfound enthusiasm led to my eating habits and lifestyle gradually changing for the better. Soon enough I found myself in the employee gym at lunchtime.
I thought the best exercise for belly fat would be cardio exercises like running or jogging. That is when I discovered the elliptical. With it being low-impact, working out didn’t seem as exhausting or painful. I use an elliptical to this day. With my confidence increasing, I started more outdoor activities, including hiking. After three years of hard work, my weight lowered to a healthy 120 pounds.
When Cardio Exercise Isn’t Enough
Yet, even with all of this physical activity and exercise now incorporated into my life and the obvious improvement to my health, I noticed that my body still had (and has) a lot of fat on it. I was skinny fat even at 120 pounds. I became more convinced that I was a Body Type Four, not a weak Body Type Three – but I am not totally certain to this day. At 120 pounds my body may have resembled something close to Jennifer Lawrence’s Body Type One (her weight in the pictures shown is roughly 132 pounds according to Google), but the truth is my Body Type Four was missing so much default muscle/mass and tone.
For whatever reasons (at that time I had no idea what those reasons were), there was more cellulite and thin fat with loose and saggy skin all over my body. Even at 120 pounds! It was the first time I realized how seriously my body was missing muscle mass and tone throughout, and specifically in places like my lower thoracic vertebrae. Those vertebrae were simply undeveloped, or at best underdeveloped.
Even at 120 pounds, my arms had no muscle, just skinny fat flab. Why? I could see my rib cage, but no abs, no definable muscle or mass. Why? There was only the faintest arch in my lower back, but no clear extension or definition. Most of it was some type of skinny fat when I was within safe BMI, and included excess fat when I was not. Why?
No Body Type One dimples either. Why? My posture was not good at all. No discernable shoulder blades. Why? My body looked nothing like a Body Type One. Nothing like Jennifer Lawrence’s. Ever. Why? I didn’t get it! Unfortunately, with my frustration mounting and feeling stuck in my “skinny fat” dilemma, my motivation began to wane.
Best Exercise to Lose Weight – Battling Belly Fat
I began to wonder just how much my genetics were affecting all the variables involved. Was there anything that could help me reasonably lose, manage, and maintain my weight and health in the long-term? That would make my efforts genuinely worthwhile? After reading the Over Privileged White Guy (OPWG) book and learning more about The Four Body Types and my Body Type Four, reality hit me as to how difficult the road ahead was that I was facing.
It was not just about how to lose belly fat or fat anywhere in my body. I had to learn how to gain proper muscle mass throughout my entire body while at the same time losing the fat. More proper muscle mass means a healthier metabolism to help keep obesity at bay.
The more knowledge I acquired, the more I understood how my body type, genetics, and hormones played into things. I became more motivated than ever. I was well aware that I still have a responsibility to myself to stay disciplined to improve my health every day. Now I know what the consequences are if I don’t stay consistent; healthcare is expensive and I, like most people, cannot afford to be unhealthy. Thus, I had to learn how to balance my body type. Could I fix my Body Type Four and become a Body Type One?
The Best Way to Burn Fat – Resistance Exercise
Four years ago, I met my husband. For a while, I maintained my best healthy weight of 120 pounds. I was still just skinny fat and not as toned as I wanted to be. My husband and I enjoyed outdoor activities together like riding bikes and hiking. On the other hand, we were known foodies with strong tendencies to overeat and drink (we like beer). I noticed my weight starting to increase again. The cardio was no longer doing its job alone, so after some research, I incorporated more isometrics resistance (gravity) and bodyweight exercises into my routine. But still no weightlifting.
I started doing planks and wall-sits to help improve my strength and posture. This did help some as I was able to add minimal muscle mass. As mentioned previously with my Body Type Four, all of the lumbar vertebrae and thoracic vertebrae in my spine are at least underdeveloped and unextended, if developed at all, so it was amazing to feel the difference as I slowly added more muscle mass.
Over time, I started to feel stronger and my posture was also improving! Even some of the more obvious belly fat was starting to dissipate, but I still experienced too much skinny fat! There were days where I just couldn’t get motivated to exercise, even though I knew I had to. I began to realize that I needed to incorporate other resistance exercises like weightlifting to my exercise routine. Simply, there was no motivation for me. Reducing body fat, properly increasing muscle mass, and metabolism go hand-in-hand. I just didn’t know how to really do any of it properly yet.
Upping the Ante
I increased resistance training in my workouts by adding lunges and squats, and later on, I started using my new baby as an object for weightlifting (considering I gained 50 pounds while being pregnant with her). It started becoming painfully obvious to me; realistically, even if I did work out 24/7, my body was probably never going to resemble Jennifer Lawrence’s body. I had too much skinny fat. Why? Genetics! And because each vertebra and corresponding muscle (and muscle mass) in my spine needs a lot of attention and work that will take a long time to develop and balance — is it even possible? I didn’t have the confidence that I had the discipline or will to give the attention and work needed to fix my Body Type Four.
Continuing My Journey – Best Exercise to Lose Belly Fat
Six months ago, things reached a climax in my life. I had this overwhelming gut feeling (enteric brain) that if I didn’t make a change — for myself and my family — that something bad was going to happen with my health, for real. I was starting to feel lost again with how I should approach weight loss. My weight had already staggered back up to 200 pounds. With all I know now, I realize that I have to be more diligent in my life choices, in general. I have no choice but to incorporate more resistance and muscle mass building exercises into my routine. That means the dreaded weightlifting option. The nuclear option for me. But what choice do I have? My health depends on it.
While I know now that I may never achieve the body type of an A-list celebrity like Jennifer Lawrence (Body Type One – BT1), I am confident that I have a clearer understanding of how to maintain a more balanced exercise routine and lifestyle for my genetic Body Type Four. I’m inspired now because I believe that I am genuinely capable of successfully continuing with my weight loss journey to manage my body type as best I can. I will continue to utilize all that I have learned about the best exercises for me to lose belly fat.
And who knows, maybe in time, with all the knowledge I have gained, and with better discipline, choices, and overall proper effort in relation to my posture, vertebrae, muscle mass, and skinny fat, I may even witness my body become more permanently like a Body Type One. Though I would gladly take a Body Type Two. But genetics, exercise, and lifestyle choices are only a part of the equation. I need to clean-up and balance my diet as well.