Thanks to the hormone estrogen, the female body likes to hold on to fat, too. A study in Obesity Reviews shows that women store fat more efficiently than men in an effort to prepare the body for pregnancy. But while it seems like women may have drawn the short-end of the stick, the stereotypical pear-shape is actually considered healthier than boasting a beer gut, because belly fat is a red flag when it comes to your health. “Visceral fat is associated with increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome,” says Harris-Pincus.
“Under normal conditions, humans absorb only about 80% of the nutrients from the food they eat,” says A. Roberto Frisancho, Ph.D., a weight-loss researcher at the University of Michigan. But, he says, when the body is deprived of nourishment, it becomes a super-efficient machine, pulling what nutrients it can from whatever food is consumed. Start eating again normally and your body may not catch up; instead it will continue to store food as fat.
The key to losing weight is eating fewer calories than you expend. That creates an energy deficit, so your body taps into other sources of fuel — namely, your fat stores — to make up the difference. You’ll be able to lose weight safely by creating an energy deficit of up to 1,000 calories a day, which will allow you to lose up to two pounds per week.
Still not convinced to make sleep a priority? A lack of sleep doesn't only affect how much and which food you eat, but also how it metabolizes that food. Insufficient sleep messes with your metabolism by making your body more insulin resistant—a condition that usually leads to diabetes and weight gain—according to a 2012 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. (And, get this, it even changes your fat cells.)
If you want to lose weight, you’d better avoid special “low-carb” products that are full of carbs. This should be obvious, but creative marketers are doing all they can to fool you (and get your money). They will tell you that you can eat cookies, pasta, ice cream, bread and plenty of chocolate on a low-carb diet, as long as you buy their brand. They’re full of carbohydrates. Don’t be fooled.
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.
Belly fat is, in fact, the colloquial term for abdominal fat. According to medical experts, belly fat can be potentially dangerous. Excess of it can lead to a number of health problems including heart diseases, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, a decrease in the level of HDL or good cholesterol, and can even lead to strokes or sleep apnea. You need to combat this problem before it gets too late.
Research also shows that workouts involving high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can help reduce excess fat around your middle. Besides working your core, try incorporating a day or two of more vigorous exercise into your weekly schedule. (You can start with these three beginner routines.) Keep in mind that you can lower your total body fat percentage even by moving around more at work, according to another study.
Work your core. When many people think of core strengthening, they think of stomach crunches. Crunches are helpful for building abdominal muscles, but contrary to popular belief, crunches won't do much to lose the layer of fat stored in your belly, and can actually cause significant damage to the spine. Instead, try a workout routine that strengthens your whole core, like yoga, or try abdominal presses and planking.
Skimp on fluids, and your body will release an antidiuretic hormone that leads to water retention that could affect the scale, Dr. Setlzer says. While this sneaky effect is one reason why the scale is a poor measure of body mass loss, you can outsmart it by drinking more—particularly if you fill your glass with water or non-calorie alternatives like unsweetened coffee and tea.
And maybe a new mattress, because it’s not just the amount of time you spend sleeping that keeps you lean, it’s also the quality of your sleep. Fat cells in your body produce a hormone called leptin that helps the body keep track of how much potential energy (i.e. fat) it has stored. But leptin is only produced during certain stages of sleep. Miss out on those stages because you’re not resting soundly enough, and you’ll disturb levels of the hormone, leaving your body with no real idea of its energy reserves. Consequently, you’ll end up storing calories rather than burning them.
If just the thought of heading to the gym makes you nervous sweat, don't worry; you can find other ways to move that may result in big weight loss. If you regularly fidget while at your desk or lounging at home (getting up frequently, tapping your feet, wiggling your leg), you might be burning a substantial amount of calories just from these little movements—enough to be considered a way to lose weight or prevent weight gain, according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The only bad news; your genes may play a role in whether you're a "born fidgeter," so if it's not in your nature to keep your body moving, you'll have to remind yourself to do it with an alarm or fitness tracker.
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."
Women who wake up and go to bed at the same time each day have lower levels of body fat, according to a study of more than 300 women from Brigham Young University in Utah. Chaotic sleep habits cause your internal clock to go haywire, which in turn causes your body to secrete fat-storing hormones like cortisol. The sweet spot? Try not to stray an hour from your usual sleep pattern, the study authors say. More than a 90-minute difference in sleep and wake times were linked to more body fat. (Tossing and turning? Check out these 100 tips to sleep better every night.)
People with chronically high levels of the stress hormone cortisol tend to carry excess visceral fat. Foods that are high on the glycemic index (GI), which uses a ranking system of 0 to 100, cause more rapid spikes in your blood sugar, in turn triggering the release of cortisol when glucose levels crash. The constant up and down of your blood sugar levels can also lead to insulin resistance — the first step on the road to type 2 diabetes. To help keep cortisol levels stable, choose low-GI foods (with a rating of 55 or less) like beans, lentils, and chickpeas, instead of high-GI options like white rice and potatoes. To find the GI rating of your foods, use the University of Sydney’s database at glycemicindex.com.
It turns out the easiest trick to lose belly fat can be done in seconds. The expert advice? Stand up straight and adjust your posture. This simple trick to lose belly fat works because the abdominal muscles use energy to keep us upright. When you slouch, you put these muscles to sleep, meaning they can't burn belly fat. "Correcting poor posture can make you look 5 pounds slimmer instantly," strength and conditioning specialist Deborah L. Mullen told Prevention.
You don’t have to go low-carb to ditch those extra pounds around your waist in a short period of time. In fact, opting for more whole grains might just get you there faster. Researchers at Tufts University have linked eating three or more daily servings of whole grains to as much as a 10 percent reduction in visceral body fat, the kind that ups your risk for chronic diseases, like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.