Stress wreaks havoc on every part of your body, and can lead to breakouts, joint pain, headaches, and yes, even excess belly fat. That’s because when you’re stressed, your body pumps out extra cortisol, that not-so-great hormone you keep hearing about. Studies show that cortisol not only spikes your appetite, but may also redistribute body fat to your belly area, according to a review published in the journal Obesity.
Noam Tamir, C.S.C.S, founder of TS Fitness, also says that metabolic resistance training and high-intensity interval training is a solid way to reduce fat all over, including belly fat. “These [types of exercise] help to burn calories during the workout, and they also give you that after-burn effect,” he says. “Plus, they help to change your body composition by increasing your muscle mass.”
Go ahead. Pop up a bowl. Sans the butter and salt, popcorn is a real gut whittler. Why? Because popcorn is a whole grain—and a study revealed that people who ate lots of whole grains had smaller middles compared with folks who ate mostly refined grains. So while you're waiting for yours to pop, clear all the white rice, pasta, and bread out of your cupboards. (Related: Give your popcorn some low-guilt flavor with these tips.)
Forget apples (okay, not really) — avocados reign supreme when it comes to weight loss. They're rich in monounsaturated heart-healthy fat, and studies show eating just half of one with lunch can curb your appetite. "Slice one in half, sprinkle a little sea salt, and eat the inside with a spoon," says Alexandra Samit, a Be Well Health Coach at Dr. Frank Lipman's Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in NYC. Or top off your salad with a few pieces, as research found that doing so allows you to absorb three to five times more carotenoids, a disease-fighting compound associated with improved weight and fat loss.
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.
For most, the thought of sitting down for 10 minutes without any kind of stimulation is embarrassingly scary. However, if you’re able to muster up the willpower to do so, meditating for a small period of time each day will boost your fat-burn efforts by reducing stress. By reducing stress, you reduce the stress hormone cortisol, which has been linked to higher amounts of fat in the body. “Definitely find some time to meditate. When we’re stressed it can cause an increase in cortisol which can negatively affect body fat. There are a lot of great apps out there like Headspace which take you through a short meditation to try to decrease stress,” says White. Or, look in to Transcendental Meditiation. Four of our cover guys practice this research-backed type of meditation. Don’t knock it until you try it.
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Lipman suggests sipping it as soon as you wake up and after each meal. "Bitter foods like lemon help stimulate your body's GI juices and aid the start of the digestion process. When digestion is robust, your body breaks down food better and absorbs more of its nutrients, both of which help you maintain a healthy weight and flat belly." Arugula, dandelion root, and apple cider vinegar will also do the trick, so munch on a salad with these greens before your main course — bonus if it's dressed with cider vinaigrette.
Prioritise lean protein like beef, turkey, eggs, fish, chicken, and tofu. In a study published in the International Journal of Obesity, participants were either assigned a 12 per cent or 25 per cent protein diet. While the first group lost 11 pounds on average, the high-protein participants shedded around 20 pounds and ditched twice as much belly fat as the low-protein subjects.
Bring on the heat! "Spicy chili peppers contain capsaicin, a compound known to increase satiety and decrease caloric consumption," says Hever. "It also helps encourage fat burning. Enjoy capsaicin by sprinkling ground cayenne or chili pepper over food or in beverages such as tea or lemon water, or cook hot peppers into stews, chilis, and soups." Or, you know, pop raw ones straight. If you're really brave!
There are different types of HIIT but an easy one to begin with is to simply warm up for 3 minutes on an elliptical machine or by walking. Then work out for 30 seconds so that at the end of the exercise you feel satisfied. Reduce the speed to slow down to a moderate pace. Do this 7 more times or for total 8 intervals. Start with one interval and as your body is ready to take more increase the intervals. Studies show that HIIT to be the absolute premier cardio for weight loss and optimal health as compared to longer, traditional cardio.
Avoid over stuffing yourself at meals; eat small meals throughout the day. Chewing gum and drinking with a straw can cause excess air to gather in the digestive tract. Carbonated beverages, spicy foods, large servings of beans or cruciferous vegetables, dried fruits and fruit juice often induce gas and bloating. If you're lactose intolerant, avoid dairy products to help reduce belly swelling; make sure you obtain important nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D, from milk alternatives or other fortified foods.
By now you know to swap out regular yogurt for the Greek stuff and white bread for whole-wheat. But if you don't look closely, a product labeled "Greek" or "whole-wheat" may not be what it seems. A typical one-cup serving of plain Greek yogurt (like Fage 0%) provides 23 grams of protein and 9 grams of sugar, making it a smart choice. But another version of what looks like the same product can have over 18 grams of sugar. Not good, as the American Heart Association suggests women only eat 30 grams in an entire day. The same trickery goes for whole-wheat bread packages — some companies are loading it with high-fructose corn syrup, an unnatural additive that's 20 times sweeter than sugar and not recognized by the brain. Studies show that eating the stuff confuses your body's hormones so you don't realize when you're full, essentially forcing you to overeat when you thought you were making a healthy choice.
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.
2. Ab Plank is a great exercise to really challenge your entire core and build up your strength and endurance. The Plank works the lower abdomens, the oblique muscles and your lower back. It takes focus and concentration plus some upper body strength. Start with holding the plank position for 30- 40 seconds and build your way up. You will be amazed at how strong your cores will get by doing this exercise regularly.
As you get older, your body changes how it gains and loses weight. Both men and women experience a declining metabolic rate, or the number of calories the body needs to function normally. On top of that, women have to deal with menopause. "If women gain weight after menopause, it's more likely to be in their bellies," says Michael Jensen, MD, professor of medicine in the Mayo Clinic's endocrinology division. In menopause, production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone slows down. Meanwhile, testosterone levels also start to drop, but at a slower rate. This shift in hormones causes women to hold onto weight in their bellies. The good news: you can fight this process. Read on.
If you're one of the 32 percent of Americans who want to lose belly fat for good, but have no idea what actually works anymore, you're not alone. A recent survey found that 76 percent of people didn't follow a diet or workout plan last year because, well, there seems to be a fad diet popping up every day and nobody knows what's what. So let's cut through the clutter — these are the 23 out-of-the-box strategies that are guaranteed to give you results. Pick the ones that work best for your lifestyle and say hello to your skinny jeans once more.