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.
Manage the stress at home or at work as best as you can. When confronted with a stressful “fight or flight” situation, our brain releases a stress hormone called cortisol that jolts your insulin Reduce stress through stress management techniques such as yoga and meditation to avoid these drops in blood sugar that can bring on the cravings for sugary or fatty foods.
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.
Sometimes, to whip your body into shape, you have to get a little nutty. While nuts are high in fat, it’s that very fat that makes them such powerful weapons in the war against a ballooning belly. In fact, research from Reina Sofia University Hospital reveals that study participants who consumed a diet rich in monounsaturated fats, like those in nuts, over a 28-day period gained less belly fat than their saturated fat-consuming counterparts while improving their insulin sensitivity.
In addition to helping maintain heart health and keep inflammation levels under control, monounsaturated fatty acids, or MUFAs, may stop belly fat before it starts. Research in the journal Diabetes Care found that people who got roughly 25 percent of their total daily calories from MUFAs gained no visceral fat over the course of the study, while those who ate less MUFAs and more carbs added fat to their midsections. My favorite MUFA-rich food is olive oil because you can use it in so many meals (check out the belly-blasting breakfast I recommend), but avocados and nuts are other excellent sources. Pine nuts are particularly great because they also contain high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids. These acids increase levels of two hormones that signal your brain when you’re full. Try snacking on one ounce of pine nuts (about the amount you can fit in a shot glass) 20 minutes before mealtime to avoid overeating.
Men and women squirrel away fat differently, according to Harris-Pincus. On average, women have six to 11 percent more body fat than men. That extra fat typically gathers lower on the body (especially before they hit menopause) around the hips and thighs, creating a pear-shape. Men, on the other hand, tend to accumulate fat around the belly (hence, the beer gut).
“Under normal conditions, humans absorb only about 80% of the nutrients from the food they eat,” says A. Roberto Frisancho, Ph.D., a weight-loss researcher at the University of Michigan. But, he says, when the body is deprived of nourishment, it becomes a super-efficient machine, pulling what nutrients it can from whatever food is consumed. Start eating again normally and your body may not catch up; instead it will continue to store food as 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.
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.