Real talk: It could take weeks or months to see the metabolic effects of exercise on the scale, and even then, building muscle, which is denser than body fat, could lead to weight gain. "Do what you like because it’s good for you," Dr. Seltzer says, noting the way exercise is awesome for your heart, mental health, and more—and that not all measure of progress can be seen on the scale.
Awesome news: Turns out marathoning for an hour on the treadmill isn't only boring as hell, but it doesn't even give you that great of a workout. Experts say if you're trying to flatten your abs, one of the most effective methods is actually interval training, which means incorporating short bursts of high-intensity burnouts into whatever you're doing, whether that's running, squats, whatever. And bonus — it'll keep you burning calories for up to 16 hours post-exercise. Um, we'll take it.
Having a larger waist circumference is a better indicator of health problems than commonly used measurements like body-mass index (BMI), according to a growing body of research. Specifically, having a waist size higher than 40 inches around for men or 34.5 inches for women is correlated with a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes and heart attack. There's even evidence that having more belly fat is correlated with lower cognitive performance.
Doing crunches until the cows come home? Stop it! When you're down to your final inches of belly fat, the dreaded crunch won't be the exercise that finally reveals your six-pack. "You can't spot reduce," Jill says. Instead, she suggests doing functional exercises that use the muscles in your core—abdominals, back, pelvic, obliques—as well as other body parts. "These exercises use more muscles, so there is a higher rate of calorie burn while you are doing them," she says. Planks are her favorite functional exercise—they activate not just your core muscles but also your arm, leg, and butt muscles.
Your parents weren’t kidding about how important veggies are for a healthy body. What they probably didn’t tell you, however, was that snacking on veggies is also one of the easiest ways to shed unwanted belly fat, too. According to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, opting for non-starchy veggies, like cauliflower, broccoli, and cucumber, as snacks helped overweight kids shed 17 percent of their visceral fat while improving their insulin sensitivity over a five-year period. Think snacking on veggies will leave you hungry? The 20 Most Filling Fruits and Veggies will have your belly satisfied in no time.
Reduce your stress through yoga or meditation. Stress triggers release of the hormone cortisol, and cortisol both reduces muscle mass and increases the accumulation of belly fat. You'll likely decrease your belly fat by engaging in meditation, because you'll lower your stress level. Doing guided meditations, mindfulness meditations, or yoga serve to decrease your stress levels.
5. Start with one small change. "I realized that a lot of sugar and calories that I consumed came from drinks, so I challenged myself to drink only water—no sugary drinks!—for 30 days. After just one successful week, I decided to add another challenge: to cut back on the carbs I was eating. When I did eat bread, I switched to wheat bread and when I wanted rice, I used brown rice."
When Tufts University researchers studied the waistlines and diets of 459 people, they found that even in men of similar age and activity level, those who ate white bread frequently weighed more than those who didn’t. “The calories from white bread and refined grains just seem to settle at the waistline more than calories from other foods,” says Katherine Tucker, Ph.D., the study author.
You know not to crush half a pizza before jumping in bed, but even munching on something healthy-ish at night can throw off your calorie-burning momentum. Ideally, while you're sleeping, you want your body to burn its current fat storages (read: that pesky middle-jiggle) for fuel as opposed to whatever you ate as a midnight snack. Make sure to fill up at dinner every night, and then banish yourself from the kitchen at least two hours before bed.
While the Duke study found no added benefit to resistance training (aka weight or strength training) when it comes to belly fat, a 2014 study from a Harvard University team found otherwise. Twenty minutes of weights a day was linked to less of an increase in belly fat (particularly for older men). “Engaging in resistance training or, ideally, combining it with aerobic exercise could help older adults lessen abdominal fat while increasing or preserving muscle mass," said the paper’s lead author Rania Mekary.
Stay motivated. Often times, people lose motivation to stick with a diet or an exercise routine. Finding a reason to stay motivated beyond belly fat goals, like overcoming a genetic predisposition to excess body weight or working toward fitting into your favorite article of clothing again, can help you stay motivated to meet your fitness and lifestyle goals.
Those trans fats on your menu are hiding out in plain sight and sabotaging your lean belly plans every time you eat them. If a food product says it contains partially hydrogenated oils, you’re eating trans fat, which can increase your risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, and obesity with every bite. In fact, research conducted at Wake Forest University reveals that monkeys whose diets contained eight percent trans fat upped their body fat by 7.2 percent over a six-year study, while those who ate monounsaturated fat gained just a fraction of that amount. Instead of letting harmful trans fat take up space on your menu, fill up with the 20 Healthy Fats to Make You Thin.