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1. Ditch fad diets and restrictive eating regimens. If you experimented with extreme calorie cutting and restrictive fad diets in your teenage years, it’s time to leave those unhealthy habits behind. “People turn to fad diets not only out of desperation but because they’re simply uninformed,” says Elise Chassen Sopov, RDN, an Oradell, New Jersey-based registered dietitian nutritionist and exercise physiologist who specializes in weight management. Now that you’re an adult, it’s time to choose a healthy way of eating that you can maintain for the rest of your life. Make fruits and vegetables the stars of your meals, and lean protein and whole-wheat carbs the supporting players.
Routinely squeaking by on five hours or less per night increases visceral fat levels, according to a 2010 Wake Forest University study. What’s more, after analyzing 28 different studies, UK researchers found that people who slept 5.5 hours or less per night ate an extra 385 calories the day after compared to those who snoozed for at least 7 to 12 hours. On top of that, they preferred to munch on fatty foods full of empty calories, like chips.
Belly fat is is different from fat elsewhere in your body. The extra weight some people carry around their waists, arms, and love handles isn’t the same — that’s subcutaneous fat, which sits beneath the skin and is relatively harmless, according to Harvard Medical School. The stuff in your belly, visceral fat, lodges deeper down, around your abdominal organs. It's metabolically active tissue that actually functions like a separate organ, releasing substances into the rest of your body that, in excess, can increase your risk of disease.
Eat more protein. Protein is required by the body to repair damaged cells and plays a vital role in growth and development. But it can also play a role in weight loss. Diets high in protein tend to make people feel fuller, and when paired with a reduction in carbohydrate intake these diets can help with weight loss. However, it's important to remember that not all sources of protein are good for you: red meat and full-fat dairy products, though high in protein, can also increase the risk of heart disease. Good sources of protein include:
“Most people who have been lean their whole lives have a much better understanding of proper portion size than people who are overweight,” says Deborah Riebe, Ph.D., a professor in the department of kinesiology at the University of Rhode Island. “If they go out to eat, they’re much more likely to ask for a doggie bag right away or to leave food on their plate rather than cleaning it up.”
"If your diet consists of lots of sports drinks, sugar-sweetened drinks like fizzy pop and flavoured waters, or sugary foods like chocolate and cakes, it will make losing weight harder. While whole fruits and vegetables are undoubtedly good for you, they can also sometimes cause weight gain if you eat too much, as they have high levels of natural sugars in them. Low-fat food options might have high amounts of added sugar in there too, so make sure to check the food label.
Even if you do meet your goal, it's nearly impossible to keep off the weight over the long term: "The amount of restriction required [to maintain that number] will make you so hungry that you’ll eat everything in sight—it’s survival instinct," Dr. Seltzer says. And since calorie restriction gradually slows your metabolism, your body will be less prepared to burn the foods you binge on, he adds. That could mean gaining more pounds than you lost in the first place.
At a quick glance, that candy bar (or a bottle of juice, bag of crackers, or bag of nuts) appears to contain 220 calories. But a closer look may reveal that it provides two or more servings—which more than doubles those calories. Be sure to take a close look at the nutrition facts before digging in so you know exactly what you're eating and can plan the rest of your meals and snacks accordingly.
Make sure to program your cardio exercise in with your weight training the right way, though — a 2017 study found that performing cardio and weight training workouts on alternate days was far more effective for burning belly fat than stacking the workouts on top of each other in the same session. Put the two together, and watch that unhealthy midsection shrink.
When you exercise on the rowing machine, try this interval workout: Row for 60 seconds, note the distance on the machine, then rest 60 seconds. Repeat, only this time, row for 55 seconds and try to match or better your distance from the first time. Rest 55 seconds, then repeat, reducing the time to 50 seconds. Continue until you can’t beat your original distance.
The meals shown here are "templates" that you can vary any number of ways to please your tastebuds and avoid eating the same old thing every day. Follow them and you'll get between 2,400 and 2,800 calories per day. That should provide plenty of calories for all but the most severely obese, while allowing most guys to lose fat around their middles at a steady pace. (Don't worry about hitting the numbers on the nose every time. If you exceed your fat quota during lunch, for instance, just cut back a little during dinner.)
For even more impressive effects on body composition: aim for exercise forms which elicit a positive hormonal response. This means lifting really heavy things (strength training), or interval training. Such exercise increases levels of the sex hormone testosterone (primarily in men) as well as growth hormone. Not only do greater levels of these hormones increase your muscle mass, but they also decrease your visceral fat (belly fat) in the long term.
"Your specific [weight loss] program may differ from someone else’s based on climate, geography, heredity, the quality of the food you’re buying, the volume in which you’re eating that food, and so much more. A lot people take advice that doesn’t honor themselves. What works for me is not going to work for you. It’s just not. So really, it’s [about] having an honest look at who you are, what your tendencies and triggers are, and how you can build a program that revolves around that.”
Potassium, magnesium, and calcium can help to serve as a counter-balance for sodium. Foods that are rich in potassium include leafy greens, most "orange" foods (oranges, sweet potatoes, carrots, melon) bananas, tomatoes, and cruciferous veggies — especially cauliflower. Low-fat dairy, plus nuts, and seeds can also help give you a bloat-busting boost. They've also been linked to a whole host of additional health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, controlling blood sugar, and reducing risk of chronic disease overall.
The secret to a slimmer stomach in no time? A whole lot of fiber in your diet. Although many people are loath to add carbs to their diet when they’re trying to lose weight, adding the right, fiber-rich ones can have inches off your belly in a hurry. In fact, researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found that every 10-gram daily increase in soluble fiber was associated with a 3.7 percent decrease in dangerous visceral fat over five years. Those who were active got even leaner, shaving off twice that much fat in the same amount of time. To start ditching that extra belly fat today, add the 30 Best Foods For Fiber to your menu!