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.
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.
"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."
Folks with fluctuating blood sugar levels are more likely to have belly fat than folks whose sugar levels are relatively steady. Try taking daily supplements of 750 mg to 1,500 mg of glucomannan, a Japanese root extract that can help you shed up to six pounds of belly fat in two months, Columbia University scientists say. (Important: Be sure to check with your doctor first.)
At breakfast, go ahead and drink orange juice. But throughout the rest of the day, focus on water instead of juice or soda. The average American consumes an extra 245 calories a day from soft drinks. That’s nearly 90,000 calories a year—or 25 pounds! And research shows that despite the calories, sugary drinks don’t trigger a sense of fullness the way that food does.
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."
The upshot of all these chemicals floating around is big trouble for big-bellied guys. In a study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, researchers took 137 men of all ages and sizes and used seven different measurements to determine their risks of cardiovascular disease. The single best sign of multiple heart-disease risks? No, it wasn't the guys' family histories or their cholesterol profiles. It was the amount of abdominal fat they carried.
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.”
As women age, weight creeps up too, with the average women gaining about one pound per year in their 40s and 50s, resulting in an added 10 to 15 pounds. The drop in estrogen levels during this time of perimenopause (the years leading up to menopause) contributes to weight gain and can change the way you distribute fat. You may gain weight in your belly more readily than you did in younger years.
Eating dessert every day can be good for you, as long as you don’t overdo it. Make a spoonful of ice cream the jewel and a bowl of fruit the crown. Cut down on the chips by pairing each bite with lots of chunky, filling fresh salsa, suggests Jeff Novick, director of nutrition at the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa in Florida. Balance a little cheese with a lot of fruit or salad.
2. Eat five times a day. Yes, you heard that right. Dr. Ziltzer recommends eating three meals and two snacks a day, with the snacks limited to fewer than 200 calories each. Choose high-protein bites that will leave you satisfied for two to three hours, such as yogurt, beef jerky, boiled eggs, protein shakes, deli meats, and snack bars low in sugar. And don't forget to eat breakfast, which has been shown to help boost weight loss .
Cut back on calories. The most important part of losing weight is not working out until you collapse — it's your diet. If you burn 500 to 750 more calories than what you eat every day, you will lose 1–2 pounds every week (any more than that is considered unsafe weight loss). There are tons of little changes you can make to cut calories from your diet, from replacing high-calorie dressings with vinaigrette and asking for all dressings/sauces served on the side, eating at the table instead of in front of the tv, skipping cheese and other fatty additions to your salads and meals, using smaller plates, leave off the whipped cream on your coffee drink, and on and on.
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.
Routinely squeaking by on five hours or less per night increases visceral fat levels, according to a 2010 Wake Forest University study. What’s more, after analyzing 28 different studies, UK researchers found that people who slept 5.5 hours or less per night ate an extra 385 calories the day after compared to those who snoozed for at least 7 to 12 hours. On top of that, they preferred to munch on fatty foods full of empty calories, like chips.
… that lists sugar, fructose, or corn syrup among the first four ingredients on the label. You should be able to find a lower-sugar version of the same type of food. If you can’t, grab a piece of fruit instead, especially if you show signs you’re eating too much sugar. Look for sugar-free varieties of foods such as ketchup, mayonnaise, and salad dressing. Also, avoid partially hydrogenated foods, and look for more than two grams of fiber per 100 calories in all grain products. Finally, a short ingredient list means fewer flavor enhancers and empty calories. Sounds impossible, but you can actually learn how to give up sugar without missing it.
And as people get older they tend to become less active, which means you burn fewer calories all day long. Plus, you naturally lose muscle mass due to hormonal changes, which further drops your daily calorie-burn rate. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue, so a body with less lean tissue has a lower metabolism and is prone to weight gain.
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.
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.
Nuts. It’s very easy to eat until the nuts are gone, regardless of how full you are. A tip: According to science, salted nuts are harder to stop eating than unsalted nuts. Salted nuts tempt you to more overeating. Good to know. Another tip: Avoid bringing the entire bag to the couch, preferably choose a small bowl instead. I often eat all the nuts in front of me, whether I’m hungry or not.
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.
Simply take a good hard look at your diet, make a few modifications you can stick with and get your body moving. Not sure where you stand on diet? Write down everything you eat this week, then compare it to the list above and see where you could have made better choices. Don’t beat yourself up though, learning how to lose stomach fat fast is a process. Simply find areas to improve and work on them next week.