Many people struggle with weight loss issues. Losing belly fat in particular is about more than just aesthetics: visceral fat, the kind of fat that tends to settle around the midsection, can cause an increase in your body's production of stress hormones that can affect your body's insulin production. As a result, excess belly fat can lead to serious complications like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. There is no way to target belly fat, but diet and exercise will eventually burn off belly fat. Knowing how to take the first step can help you feel better and get you on the road to a healthier, more active lifestyle.
The notion that abdominal obesity is the most dangerous kind isn't new. Back in the 1940s, the French physician Jean Vague observed that some obese patients had normal blood chemistry, while some moderately overweight patients showed serious abnormalities that predisposed them to heart disease or diabetes. Almost always, the latter patients carried their fat around their middles. And, almost always, they were men.
What’s more, your body digests protein more slowly than carbs, so it keeps you feeling fuller longer and zaps your need to needlessly snack. “During weight loss, you want more protein—to prevent hunger, enhance satiety, and minimize muscle loss, as long as there’s some degree of physical activity,” Tom Rifai, MD, regional medical director of metabolic health and weight management for the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit told Prevention.
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.
Tight deadlines, bills, your kids—whatever your source of stress, having too much of it may make it harder for you to drop unwanted pounds, especially from your middle. And it's not just because you tend to reach for high-fat, high-calorie fare when you're stressed, though that's part of it. It's also due to the stress hormone cortisol, which may increase the amount of fat your body clings to and enlarge your fat cells. Higher levels of cortisol have been linked to more visceral fat.
Limit your use of saturated fats. Saturated fats to avoid are found in meats and high-fat dairy products such as cheese, milk (and cream), and butter. Some plant-based oils, such as palm oil, palm kernel oil and coconut oil, also contain high levels of saturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats are a better alternative. Polyunsaturated fats are found in many nuts, seeds, avocados, and some fish.
Physics works, and I lost weight. By August, I was down to 175 pounds, a 30-pound drop. My belt went from 42 inches to 36 inches. My Zen-like approach to hunger also worked; I found myself declining offers of chocolate cake because I didn't want to lose the sensation of evaporation. I didn't change my level of activity, and managed to maintain my diet while taking trips to Cuba and Alaska -- and during a week-long backpacking excursion in the Sierra Nevada. A key innovation: I kept up the social aspects of lunch, without eating. I watched others gobbling cheeseburgers, while I sipped diet cola. It really wasn't that hard to do. And the mild afternoon discomfort was compensated by several positive developments. Dinner became truly wonderful. I hadn't had pre-dinner hunger for decades. A sharp appetite turns a meal into a feast. No more cheese 'appetizers' for me.
If you eat your dinner restaurant style on your plate rather than family style, helping yourself from bowls and platters on the table, you’ll lose weight. Most of us tend to eat an average of 150 percent more calories in the evening than in the morning. You’ll avoid that now because when your plate is empty, you’re finished; there’s no reaching for seconds.
This estrogen belly trick is ideal for those who are fighting the post-menopause estrogen dip. Avoid eating or drinking anything (except water) for 40 minutes after any intense physical activity. Exercise encourages pancreatic cells to release lipase, increasing your belly fat burn as much as 51 percent and helping you shed 14 pounds in one year if done daily.
The researchers hypothesize that participants who abstained from animal products dropped significantly more pounds since plant-based foods include loads of filling fiber and slow-to-digest complex carbs. Though more research is needed to confirm these results, the study authors write, "Vegetarian diets appeared to have significant benefits on weight reduction compared to non-vegetarian diets."
We also love yoga, hula-hooping (yep, great for the abs) and the good standby “Abs of Steel” videos, and trust me the outfits in the 1990’s video will increase the cardio aspect just from laughter alone! There are also a slew of videos online, find one you love and can stick to every few days and you’ll be toning as you shed the unwanted belly fat.
6. Party smarter. One of the biggest challenges for women in their twenties is balancing a social life with a healthy lifestyle, Sopov says. “Whether it be dating, nights out with friends, or work happy hours, there is always alcohol involved,” she says. To keep your liquid calorie intake in check, drink a glass of water before and after a cocktail, choose a light beer or a moderate amount of alcohol, and skip drinks mixed with soft drinks, suggests the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Want to lose that belly fat? In your dreams! Seriously, though: a good night’s sleep is one of the best ways to get rid of that extra fat around your waist for good. Among the 60,000 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study, those who snoozed for fewer than five hours a night were at the greatest risk of becoming obese and gaining 30 or more pounds over the course of the 16-year study period when compared to those who slept for seven or more hours.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge looked at 72 studies and found that people consistently consume more food and drink when they are offered larger-sized portions, packages, or tableware than when offered smaller-sized versions. The data suggested that if larger portions and tableware were eliminated throughout the diet, Americans could save about 527 calories per day—that adds up to more than 3,500 calories a week or one pound. Translation: this could be undermining your weight loss or actually causing you to gain weight.
The body doesn't react to all fats in the same way. Research correlates high intake of saturated fat (the kind in meat and dairy) to increased visceral fat, says Patton. On the other hand, monounsaturated fats (the kind in olive oil and avocados) and specific types of polyunsaturated fats (mainly omega-3s, found in walnuts, sunflower seeds, and fatty fish like salmon) have anti-inflammatory effects in the body, and if eaten in proper portions may do your body good. But Patton warns that eating too much fat of any kind increases your calorie intake and could lead to weight gain, so enjoy healthy fats in moderation.
Women’s challenge with weight loss also comes down to nature. Nature wants to preserve a woman’s ability to bear children. When you’re in a calorie deficit, it can interfere with your fertility, so your body fights weight loss to prevent jeopardizing your reproductive capacity. So don’t cut more than 1,000 calories a day or eat fewer than 1,200 calories daily.
There’s one thing to like about visceral fat: It yields fairly easily to aerobic exercise. Vaporizing calories via running, biking, swimming—anything that gets your heart rate up—is an effective way to whittle your middle. In fact, one 2011 study from Duke University Medical Center, published in the American Journal of Physiology, found the sweet spot: Jogging the equivalent of 12 miles a week was even more effective in reducing visceral fat than resistance training three times per week. However, both types of exercise were beneficial when it came to belly fat, the researchers say. (Don’t have time to hit the gym? Try these fun at-home cardio workouts if you’re in a pinch.)
It should come as no surprise that the more strength training you do, the more muscle mass you'll acquire — a good thing, considering all the metabolism-boosting benefits of muscle mass. Here's the catch: While muscles take up less room than fat, they weigh more than fat by volume. In other words, when you amp up your workouts, you might notice your pants fitting better without any change in your weight. It's why you'll feel much better if you step away from the scale and toward the mirror, where you'll really see your efforts paying off. 💪
"It’s easy to become impatient and frustrated when you’re trying to lose weight and haven’t seen the results yet. But be realistic – you won’t see the affect overnight. Your brain’s wiring plays a huge part in resisting changes in lifestyle, and it takes time to establish new habits – up to 12 weeks. Stick with it for at least eight weeks and you should notice a change."
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:
1. Get clear on what motivates you. “Try to connect with the real reason you want to lose weight,” says Jonny Bowden, PhD, a Los Angeles-based board-certified nutritionist. “Beyond a slimmer waist, what do you really want? Is it more energy? Better sleep? More mental clarity? The ability to run a block without getting winded?” Once you've identified your goals, write them down. Seeing the bigger picture might help you make better day-to-day decisions, Bowden says.
Thinking about your clothes might seem more like a post-weight loss celebration than a weight loss strategy, but research and experts actually suggest otherwise. "Ample room and elastic waistbands are not your friends, because they let you get away with ignoring your body, along with the warning signs that you may be eating too much," says weight loss and fitness expert Jenna Wolfe in her book Thinner In 30. "Instead, stick with non-stretch jeans and clothes with enough room to spare but snug enough to remind you of your goals."
We know, you've probably heard these a thousand times. But if you can make these small swaps day-to-day, you'll spare enough calories for the treat foods you really want or to go into a calorie deficit (a.k.a. the key to weight loss). (And this is just the tip of the iceberg. We have 50 more easy ways to cut calories.) Making these simple swaps is the way to health-ify your eating style and lose weight without actually dieting.
1. Bicycle Crunches are a great ab exercise and work the abs from every angle. It’s a combination of the regular crunch, a side-to-side motion that hits the oblique muscles and a reverse crunch that targets the lower abs. You can change the difficulty level by increasing or decreasing the range of motion used and the speed of movement as well as the intensity of the crunch by holding and squeezing.
There is some scientific legitimacy to today’s lower-carb diets: Large amounts of simple carbohydrates from white flour and added sugar can wreak havoc on your blood sugar and lead to weight gain. While avoiding sugar, white rice, and white flour, however, you should eat plenty of whole-grain breads and brown rice. One Harvard study of 74,000 women found that those who ate more than two daily servings of whole grains were 49 percent less likely to be overweight than those who ate the white stuff. Eating whole grains is not only one of many great ways to lose weight; it can also make you smarter.
Keeping a toothbrush handy can do more than polish up that smile (and counter the effects of all that belly-slimming garlic); brushing your teeth throughout the day can also help you ditch that belly fat fast. A study conducted a sample of over 14,000 participants found that brushing after every meal was linked to lower weight. That minty toothpaste flavor not only clashes with virtually every food, brushing may also trigger a Pavlovian response that tells your brain the kitchen’s closed.