Don't get me wrong — exercising at any time is good for you. But evening activity may be particularly beneficial because many people's metabolism slows down toward the end of the day. Thirty minutes of aerobic activity before dinner increases your metabolic rate and may keep it elevated for another two or three hours, even after you've stopped moving. What that means for you: You're less likely to go back for seconds or thirds. Plus, it'll help you relax post meal so you won't be tempted by stress-induced grazing that can rack up calories, quickly.
You know that protein's essential for a slimmer you. But here's why protein really needs to play a prime roll on your plate: "Your body starts to produce more insulin as you age, since your muscle and fat cells aren't responding to it properly," explains Louis Aronne, M.D., director of the obesity clinic at Cornell University. Insulin promotes fat storage—especially around your belly—and a diet high in protein may protect you against insulin resistance, says Aronne. In one study, obese women who followed a diet for eight weeks that was roughly 30 perecent protein, 40 percent carbs, and 30 percent fat lost significantly more fat—including visceral pudge—than women who stuck to a plan that was 16 percent protein, 55 percent carbs, and 26 percent fat.
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.)
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.
Women who wake up and go to bed at the same time each evening have lower levels of body fat, according to a recent Brigham Young University study. Chaotic sleep habits cause your internal clock to go haywire, which in turn causes your body to secrete fat-storing hormones like cortisol. (Avoid these 10 more unhealthy weekend habits that set you up for a less-than-stellar week.)
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:
Saturated fats in food will pack on more visceral fat than polyunsaturated ones, according to a 2014 Swedish study. When subjects ate 750 more calories daily for seven weeks, either in the form of palm oil (saturated) or sunflower oil (polyunsaturated), the former gained more visceral fat while the latter gained more muscle mass and less body fat. The study authors believe different fat types can impact both the way your body forms fat and stores it. What’s more, including healthy fats in your meals can make them more satiating and keeps hunger at bay.
But don’t lose hope just yet. You can still incorporate strategies that help you lose total body fat, which will benefit your belly. At the end of the day, nothing sheds belly fat like diet, exercise, and everyday changes to your lifestyle. The slimmer stomach of your dreams is always within reach, but it takes time and dedication. Commit to these habits, and you’ll start dropping pounds before you know it.
Make sure that everything you're eating is whole — as in nothing processed or packaged. Since salt is a preservative, these are the foods that are highest in sodium — something to keep in mind when planning your meals. Plan on making sure that all items you choose are fresh. That means filling up on fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean protein.
Don’t let extra hours lounging in bed stand between you and a flatter belly. While getting enough sleep can help boost your metabolic rate, sleeping in may undo any benefit you’d enjoy from catching a few extra winks. One study reveals that late sleepers who snoozed past 10:45 in the morning ate nearly 250 more calories over the course of the day, despite eating half as many fruits and vegetables as their early bird counterparts. Even worse, they chowed down on more salty, sugary, and trans fat-laden fast food than those who woke up earlier. If you happen to head out of the house early, you’re in for an additional metabolic boost; researchers at Northwestern University have found that people exposed to just a short period of early morning sunlight had lower BMIs than their late-waking counterparts.