Researchers think belly fat is distinct from other types of fat — like the stuff under your skin or around your arms or thighs, which doesn't necessarily have negative effects on health — because belly fat could be a sign that you have more visceral fat. That's a type of fat that accumulates around internal organs, impairing their functions and raising stress levels.
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.)
Avoid sugary foods and beverages. A thick midsection is commonly referred to as a "beer belly" for good reason! Overconsumption of sugar in the form of alcohol is a primary culprit in developing belly fat. Sugars found in processed foods, sugary sodas, energy drinks, as well as alcoholic beverages, are a common source of belly fat. To lose your belly fat, stay away from these culprits.
You don’t have to be the next Usain Bolt in the making to enjoy some serious belly-slimming results from hitting the track from time to time. Even a moderate-rate jog a few times a week can blast through that belly fat; in fact, a study conducted at Duke University Medical Center found that, over the course of an eight-month study, overweight adult study subjects who jogged 12 miles a week lost the most belly fat and burned 67 percent more calories than participants who did an equivalent amount of resistance exercise, or a combination of cardio and resistance work.
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.
Español: eliminar la grasa abdominal en mujeres, Italiano: Eliminare il Grasso Addominale (per Donne), Português: Perder Gordura Abdominal (Para Mulheres), Deutsch: Als Frau Bauchfett verlieren, Français: perdre de la graisse abdominale si vous êtes une femme, 中文: 减掉腹部脂肪（女性）, Русский: избавиться от округлого живота для женщин, Bahasa Indonesia: Menghilangkan Lemak Perut (untuk Wanita), Nederlands: Afkomen van buikvet (voor vrouwen)
At the same time, wearing clothes you can actually move in (read: not stilettos and a tiny pencil skirt) to work might help keep you active during the day instead of parked at your desk. A study by the American Council on Exercise found that people took an average of eight percent more steps on days that they wore jeans instead of conventional business clothes. You officially have a health excuse to ask for casual Friday every day.
You might feel silly, but it works. When Alan R. Hirsch, MD, neurological director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, tried this with 3,000 volunteers, he found that the more frequently people sniffed, the less hungry they were and the more weight they lost—an average of 30 pounds each. One theory is that sniffing the food tricks the brain into thinking you’re actually eating it.
Here's something else most people probably don't know: Fidgeting is good for you. It's considered a nonexercise physical activity, and it's an important way to burn energy. You get more health benefits if, in addition to exercising, you are a more fidgety, more active person the rest of the day. This means gesturing while you're talking, tapping your foot, just moving around.
Support your weight loss and exercise program by getting between 1.2 and 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram (or 0.55 and 0.73 grams per pound) of your body weight, recommends research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2013. For a 200-pound woman, this would suggest you aim for 110 to 146 grams of protein daily, split up among three to five meals.
Luckily, exercise can help spur things along when it comes to that pesky stomach fat. “Visceral fat responds well when… [you] start exercising and watching your calories and what you eat,” Harris-Pincus says. And while endless crunches aren’t your ticket to a flat stomach, it is still important to train your ab muscles. “Everything radiates from the center of your body – your balance, your posture, your functional movement,” says Joe Ardito, founder of Fit Crush NYC. “You can perform better when you have a strong core.”
Get enough calcium. Adults typically need around 1,000 milligrams of calcium every day to help maintain muscle and nerve function, and it's necessary for healthy bones and teeth. But calcium may also help prevent the body from storing visceral fat in the abdomen. Though studies have not shown a drastic change in weight due to increased calcium intake, researchers suggest that it may have a small effect in some people. Calcium requires vitamin D to be absorbed into the body; therefore, be sure to get enough vitamin D as well. Sources of calcium include:
Dairy products such as cream and cheeses. They work well in cooking as they satisfy. The problem is if you’re munching a lot of cheese in front of the TV in the evening… without being hungry. Be careful with that. Or lots of cream with dessert, when you’re actually already full and just keep eating because it tastes good. Or another common culprit: loads of heavy cream in the coffee, many times per day.
Postmenopausal women who tried yoga for 16 weeks reported significant reductions in visceral fat in one 2012 study. If you're just not that into downward dog, any sort of relaxation exercise (even simple deep breathing) can help. The key is to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is linked to belly fat. (Try these two-minute stress solutions to calm down fast.)
A 2014 Harvard study found that men who did twenty minutes of daily weight training had less of an increase in age-related abdominal fat compared with men who spent the same amount of time doing aerobic activities, and other studies have shown similar levels of success when guys hit the gym to cut down on fat. The implication: Guys can cut belly fat most efficiently with weight training.
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.
Our increasingly slothful lifestyles are partly to blame for skyrocketing obesity rates, so it’s no surprise that being more active is a simple fix for belly fat. In 2003, a first-of-its-kind study from Duke University showed that sedentary adults accumulated abdominal fat surprisingly quickly — and that sedentary women stacked on fat more visceral fat than sedentary men, even though they added less fat overall.
Your body needs a certain amount of essential vitamins and minerals to function properly. What happens when you don’t get enough of them? What happens when you eat too little food, or when the food you eat isn’t sufficiently nutritious? Perhaps our bodies catch on and reply by increasing hunger levels. After all – if we eat more, we increase the chances of consuming enough of whatever nutrient we are lacking.
Eat polyunsaturated fats. While saturated fat leads to the body's retention of visceral fat, causing abdominal girth and excessive weight gain, studies have shown that a diet high in polyunsaturated fat helps promote the production of muscle mass instead of body fat. Polyunsaturated fats can also help reduce cholesterol levels in the body, lowering the risk of stroke and heart disease. Sources of polyunsaturated fats include:
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.)
If you want to work late at night, think again. When your biorhythms are off, you end up eating more. When you're tired you produce more ghrelin, which triggers cravings for sugar and other fat-building foods. Losing sleep can also alter your hormone production, affecting your cortisol levels that cause insulin sensitivity, prime reasons for belly fat! Getting about 7 hours of sleep a night is one of the best things you can do for your body shaping goals.
Lose fat with high-intensity interval training (HIIT). If you're trying to lose weight fast, HIIT training can super-charge your metabolism for upwards of 24 hours after exercising. This means your body will continue burning calories long after you've ended your workout. HIIT burns more calories in less time than steady-state cardio. In one study, researchers looked at two groups, one running for 30 to 60 minutes three times per week, the other doing four to six 30-second treadmill sprints, resting for four to six minutes between each sprint. After six weeks, it was found that the group doing HIIT training lost more weight.
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.)
10. Consider supplements. Although the jury is still out on whether or not supplements speed weight loss, they can still improve your overall health, Bowden says. Start with a multivitamin, and if you want to add in more, try fish oil, vitamin D, vitamin K, and probiotics, he suggests. Before trying supplements, it’s a good idea to consult your healthcare provider.
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.
Science backs these ideas up when it comes shedding belly fat: In one study published in The Journal of Nutrition, researchers had overweight men and women follow a high-protein diet (30 percent protein, 40 percent carbs, and 30 percent fat) or a high-carb diet (15 percent protein, 55 percent carbs, and 30 percent fat). After one year of weight loss and maintenance, they found that the high-protein group experienced a 21 percent greater weight loss and 27 percent greater body fat loss on average than the high-carb group.
You're not supposed to text and drive or Netflix and drive—you shouldn't try to do those things and eat, either. Distracted eating is a huge culprit for that "I'm still hungry" feeling. Physical satiety is closely linked with psychological satisfaction, according to therapist Deborah Beck Busis, Ph.D., the diet program coordinator at the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy and a coauthor of The Diet Trap Solution.
Instead of piling everything on one plate, bring food to the table in individual courses. For the first two courses, bring out soup or veggies such as a green salad or the most filling fruits and vegetables. By the time you get to the more calorie-dense foods, like meat and dessert, you’ll be eating less or may already be full. Nothing wrong with leftovers!
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.
Listen up: Skipping meals will not make you lose weight faster. If a hectic day makes a sit-down meal impossible, stash an energy bar or a piece of fruit in your car or tote, keep snacks in your office desk drawer, and make a point of getting up to grab a nosh — anything that will keep you from going hungry! Going long periods of time without food does double-duty harm on our healthy eating efforts by both slowing down your metabolism, and priming you for another binge later in the day. (Think: You've skipped breakfast and lunch, so you're ready to takedown a whole turkey by dinner!) Make it your mission to eat three meals and two snacks every day, and don't wait longer than three to four hours without eating. Set a "snack alarm" on your phone if needed.
When you drink liquid carbs, like the sugar in soda, your body doesn't register them the same way as, say, a piece of bread, according to a review of studies published in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care. That means, even though you're taking in calories, your fullness cues aren't likely to signal that you're satisfied once you finish off a can. And that can lead to consuming more overall.
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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.