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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.)
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.
To banish stubborn belly fat, you have to ramp up your workouts. In a study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, people who completed a high-intensity workout regimen lost more belly fat than those who followed a low-intensity plan. (In fact, the low-intensity exercises experienced no significant changes at all.) "You need to exercise at full intensity because the end goal is to burn more calories, and high intensity exercise does just that," says Natalie Jill, a San Diego, Calif.-based certified personal trainer. High intensity workouts mean you're going all out for as long as you can. If this sounds intimidating, think of it this way: you'll burn more calories in less time.
While you may be tempted to eat as few calories as possible to lose weight more quickly, as mentioned above, it’s important that you don’t cut more than 1,000 calories from your daily diet or eat fewer than 1,200 calories a day — even if that means your energy deficit is smaller than 1,000 calories. Eat too little and you’ll slow down your metabolism and put yourself on track to regain the weight — often with a few extra pounds.
A study from Canada’s McMaster University (partly funded by Dairy Farmers of Canada) put women on several different diets (lower protein, low dairy; lower protein, medium dairy; higher protein, high dairy) and found they all lost the same amount of weight — but that the higher-protein, high-dairy group lost the most belly fat while also gaining and holding onto the most muscle mass. “It seems… increasing calcium and protein in the diet may help to further promote loss of fat from the worst storage area in the body,” said Andrea Josse, lead author of the study.
You already know that a perfect diet doesn't exist, but many of us still can't resist the urge to kick ourselves when we indulge, eat too much, or get thrown off course from restrictive diets. The problem: This only makes it more difficult, stressful, and downright impossible to lose weight. So rather than beating yourself up for eating foods you think you shouldn't, let it go. Treating yourself to about 200 calories worth of deliciousness each day — something that feels indulgent to you — can help you stay on track for the long-haul, so allow yourself to eat, breathe, and indulge. Food should be joyful, not agonizing!
Studies have found that overweight people who ate a moderate-fat diet containing almonds lost more weight than a control group that didn’t eat nuts. Snacking once or twice a day is one of the ways to lose weight that helps stave off hunger and keeps your metabolism stoked. You can also pack up baby carrots or your own trail mix with the healthiest nuts you can eat, plus raisins, seeds, and dried fruit. Here are 30 healthy snacks that can help you lose weight.
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.
6. Party smarter. One of the biggest challenges for women in their twenties is balancing a social life with a healthy lifestyle, Sopov says. “Whether it be dating, nights out with friends, or work happy hours, there is always alcohol involved,” she says. To keep your liquid calorie intake in check, drink a glass of water before and after a cocktail, choose a light beer or a moderate amount of alcohol, and skip drinks mixed with soft drinks, suggests the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
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.
They should help keep you from feeling deprived and bingeing on higher-calorie foods. For instance: honey has just 64 fat-releasing calories in one tablespoon. Eggs have just 70 calories in one hard-boiled egg, loaded with fat-releasing protein. Part-skim ricotta cheese has just 39 calories in one ounce, packed with fat-releasing calcium. Dark chocolate has about 168 calories in a one-ounce square, but it’s packed with fat releasers. And a University of Tennessee study found that people who cut 500 calories a day and ate yogurt three times a day for 12 weeks lost more weight and body fat than a group that only cut the calories. The researchers concluded that the calcium in low-fat dairy foods triggers a hormonal response that inhibits the body’s production of fat cells and boosts the breakdown of fat.
Stop treating your kitchen like an all-night diner and you’ll stop seeing those unwanted pounds piling onto your frame, too. The results of a study published in Cell Metabolism found that mice who only had access to food during an eight-hour period stayed slim over the course of the study, while those who ate the same number of calories over a 16-hour period gained significantly more weight, particularly around their middle. When you’re finished with dinner at night, shut the fridge and don’t look back until morning — your belly will thank you. When you do head back to the kitchen in the A.M., make sure the 40 Things Healthy Cooks Always Have in Their Kitchen are there waiting for you.
“Trans fats don’t occur in nature, so our bodies weren’t designed to metabolize them,” says Schoffro Cook. “That means they can’t be properly digested, throwing off blood-sugar levels and contributing to obesity.” A six-year study found that a high-trans-fat diet that included foods like margarine led to a 33 percent increase in tummy fat. By contrast, she says, “coconut oil speeds fat-burning.”
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.
Try this interval-training trick on the elliptical trainer: Ride for 30 seconds as fast as you can, then immediately reverse your direction and ride for 30 additional seconds just as fast in the opposite direction. Rest 60 seconds, and repeat. The force of stopping your momentum, as well as going from a dead stop to full speed twice in the same interval, will give your fat-burning efforts a massive boost, says Alwyn Cosgrove, C.S.C.S.
If you drink regular, go to 2%. If you already drink 2%, go down another notch to 1% or skim milk. Each step downward cuts the calories by about 20 percent. Once you train your taste buds to enjoy skim milk, you’ll have cut the calories in the whole milk by about half and trimmed the fat by more than 95 percent. One disclaimer: There are times when fat-free dairy isn’t the best option.
So how does this work? A quick run-through: The first tip was to eat low carb. This is because a low-carb diet lowers your levels of the fat-storing hormone insulin, allowing your fat deposits to shrink and release their stored energy. This tends to cause you to want to consume fewer calories than you expend – without hunger – and lose weight. Several of the tips mentioned above are about fine-tuning your diet to better this effect.
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.
Dairy products contain varying amounts of lactose (milk sugar), which slows down weight loss. What’s more, part of the protein in milk generates a significant insulin response, which can have the same effect. Consequently, cutting back on dairy products may accelerate weight loss. This applies especially to dairy products typically lacking in fat, such as regular milk and various yogurts, but be careful with full-fat dairy such as cream and cheese all the same. And don’t forget whey protein powder, which is pure milk protein.
The secret to a slimmer stomach in no time? A whole lot of fiber in your diet. Although many people are loath to add carbs to their diet when they’re trying to lose weight, adding the right, fiber-rich ones can have inches off your belly in a hurry. In fact, researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found that every 10-gram daily increase in soluble fiber was associated with a 3.7 percent decrease in dangerous visceral fat over five years. Those who were active got even leaner, shaving off twice that much fat in the same amount of time. To start ditching that extra belly fat today, add the 30 Best Foods For Fiber to your menu!