How I Lost Belly Fat and got my Abs back

I made a lot of mistakes and it took me a year and a half to get my abs back

I made a lot of mistakes and it took me a year and a half to get my abs back


I’ve made a lot of mistakes this past year and a half. I am an imperfect human with many flaws and I know it.  I hope that explaining the mistakes I have made might help someone.

Most of us know that words are only a small part of communication so you probably would not realize how afraid I was to post this picture (yet at the same time how proud I am of it), or how vulnerable I feel when I post a video of myself in my own backyard.

Someone in the online community said the picture was pretty cool and likened me to a tough Janet Jackson type chick.  Little would anyone know that I am far from anything like a tough chick.  As Randy said about me recently, I’m like the tin man with a soft squishy marshmallow inside.

Part of the story I’m going to tell here involves the fact that I’m a 53-year-old female who has been going through menopause for several years.  There I said it; it’s an icky topic that is TMI for many.  But it’s a reality for women my age and that includes many new members of the Venus community.

Just this morning I showed this picture to my husband Randy.  He was the one who took the short video, but I am the one who freeze framed two frames from the video and superimposed them together.  I told Randy I was really happy with this picture because I felt like it showed the real me (no makeup, in gym clothes, in my own back yard, in natural movement that was not “posing”).  As my friends in the gym would say, it’s me in my “element”.

I am also very happy with the picture because it shows I finally I got my abs back!  I have been struggling for a year and a half to get to exactly this point.

This morning as I showed the picture to Randy I said “Don’t you like it?”  He groaned.  Of course he likes it, what else would he say?  Certainly nothing that would cause me to repeat another recent episode of “Nobody likes me, every body hates me!”  READ: Wild female menopause hormone episodes increased by hot flashes, insomnia, and hypersensitivity.  Oh yeah.  Crazy stuff.


Was it hormones or calorie counting?

Menopause hormones. That’s a big part of what I struggled with last year and the issues are still not resolved.  I attributed most of my problems to that but I was wrong.  Yes there’s a problem with them, but they did not cause me to gain fat or to have trouble losing fat.

I caused many of my own health issues.

Looking back I’ve noticed some strange behavior once I started counting calories.

When I started the fat loss process back in 2009 I did not count calories.

I was at the peak of my obesity eating 100% organic food.  I soaked, dried, and milled all of my own grain.  I made homemade sauerkraut and kombucha.  I soaked and cooked organic legumes and chickpeas (and still do as I love the improved taste and could never go back to anything else). I ate only free-range grass fed meat and dairy, with no added hormones.  I used raw organic cream and butter.  I ate full fat organic live cultured yogurt.  I followed Weston Price Wise Traditions style of eating and relied heavily “Nourishing Traditions” which I still consider one of the best cookbooks in existence.

I also lost 85 pounds eating the same way, I just cut my portion sizes way down, ate my food on desert plates, and practiced some prolonged nightly fasting as well as some Eat Stop Eat intermittent fasting.  I got all the way down to 10% body fat eating all organic and not counting a single calorie.  Portion control was key.

Then I floundered at how to eat normal (maintenance) as most of us do once we reach our fat loss goal.  You see, we know how to diet (eat less), and we know how to over eat (that’s how we became overweight in the first place), but we have a hard time learning how to just eat normal.

That’s when I started counting calories.  There is nothing wrong with counting calories.  I intend to keep counting because I do like having the data and it helps with troubleshooting health issues.  I also think it’s important because most of us females are so small that we have very little margin for error if we want to remain lean athletes.  We can’t eat too low when we are lean, and we can’t eat too much if we want to remain lean.  The margin of error for me is only about 200 calories.  It’s very hard to walk that fine of a line without tracking calories.


Here’s the problem I created for myself when I started counting calories

I was so focused on calories that I unintentionally started cutting out healthy fat and started adding in “short cut” foods; artificial sweeteners, artificial butter flavor, miracle noodles, Glucomannan powder, sugar free Jell-O and pudding, and artificial creamer.  I had even cut out the fish oil that my doctor recommended because I thought it was too many calories.

I started getting a clue last year when I wrote “Successful Weight Loss; There Are No Shortcuts”.

But it didn’t totally sink in yet.  I cut out all of those foods and then reverted back to artificial butter and creamer, and still used sugar free pudding on occasion, as well as a few other products with Splenda.

I continued to have problems with inflammation and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t seem to lose the little bit of extra fat around my belly.  I know it wasn’t much and I certainly was not fat, but it just wasn’t where I felt my best.

I also experimented with Carb Back-Loading, which had some disastrous affects along with some very good take away points, which I have kept.  I will talk more about that later.

I continued to get thicker around the waist and had a little emotional breakdown. I began to focus more on getting my peak calorie days back in control but I was still having sleep issues due to hot flashes and insomnia.  I had a lot of strange food cravings that were hard to control.


The research project that got me back on the healthy track

After the New Year John and Brad had me work on a research project for them.  During the research I relearned much of what I used to practice with the Weston Price foundation and Nourishing Traditions.

The research lead me to science that backed the fact that Splenda and many food chemicals harm your gut flora.  I was also reminded of how important fermented foods, prebiotic, and probiotic foods are to keeping your gut flora healthy.  I also learned that unhealthy gut flora can hinder fat loss.

The light bulb flashed in my mind.  I gathered up all of the containers of creamer, Splenda products, and sugar free pudding mixes and tossed them in the trash.  My husband was quite happy because he never liked that I was using those products.  I’ve started making sure I eat something fermented everyday again and my husband started drinking kombucha with me, which was a pleasant surprise.


Still, those hormones again

Even with the hormone problems that still exist for me I’ve dropped all the belly fat and got my abs back just by making the few healthy changes to my diet.  At my already extreme low body fat I could not lower my calories very much, but what I found over the last two months is that my strange food cravings went away and I’m able to keep my peak calorie days under control.

I’ve started seeing a new doctor and got my hormones checked.  Some of my friends in the Venus online community already know that I’m pretty tired of waking up every day feeling like I’ve been run over by a truck.  It turns out that many of my hormones are low; TSH, DHEA, Progesterone, Estradiol, and my free testosterone is almost zero.  Dr. Campbell is starting me on some Bio-identical hormone replacement and I’m still waiting patiently to see how it will affect me.  I’m hoping it will help me feel better soon.

I asked the doctor how on earth do I have so much muscle with no testosterone?  He said “I don’t know, but I would have loved to see a baseline when you were younger!”  And “Girl, you got some guns on you!”  That made me feel pretty good; I do work hard.  I’m far from perfect but I put a lot of effort into all I do.

In the meantime I really am happy that I got my Abs back!


Carb Back-Loading take away points and caveats

I mentioned that I found some caveats with John Kiefer’s Carb Back-Loading protocol.

First problem, it was designed for men.  Not counting calories works fine for men because they are bigger, have a bigger metabolism, and have more room for error with calorie intake.  For women who want to maintain a lean athletic physique that includes “having abs” (which Kiefer likes to show his program gives you), most likely it’s too fine a line to not count those calories.

Second problem, eating white sugar and white flour is like heroin to a female on a calorie deficit at the end of the day when she is most ego depleted. This scenario is a disaster waiting to happen.  I prefer corn grits, corn tortillas, potato, sweet potato, sourdough bread, or popcorn, and I usually only have room for one serving at night, if that.

I did like the science and research and found it well worth the read for the timing of protein and carbs in relation to how fat is stored and how it effects muscle.

I also follow Kiefer’s advice on skipping breakfast when I’m not hungry, working out fasted (although I prefer mid day with my schedule as opposed to evening), and saving my carbs for later in the day after I’ve worked out.

The last benefit that I took away from Kiefer’s protocol was ending my long distance cardio.  I now only do HIIT and low intensity cardio for not longer than 50 minutes (unless I’m out hiking which isn’t all that often).  This is working out really well for me.  I’m less fatigued, less stressed, less hungry, and better able to keep my eating habits under control.



Interesting tip for capturing photos

The picture I posted here today were two superimposed freeze frames from this short video taken last weekend.  I had Randy take the video just to see how I looked with my newly found long lost abs.  It was a cool trick John told me about in order to capture muscle tone, striations, etc. that you sometimes see in the mirror but have a hard time capturing in pictures.  I hadn’t thought of it until after we viewed the video.  I thought it worked pretty well.

It might come in handy for some of you taking pictures this weekend!

I’m looking forward to viewing the VT-10 contests results next week.  If you are in the contest make sure to enter your photo’s into the tracker contest dashboard tool.  The contest deadline is April 14, 2014.

Have a great weekend!


 You can find me in the Venus online community as RobertaSaum.

About Roberta Saum

Roberta is a 56 year young Elite Trainer at 1st Phorm. She achieved her fitness dream at age 50 here at The Venus Factor. She is a Fitness Consultant/Motivator for Hopelessly Romantic Media Productions, Venus Factor Coach, Product Developer, Brand Ambassador, Contest Administrator, Author, Editor in Chief for the Venus Factor, and 1st Phorm Ambassador.

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