There’s one thing to like about visceral fat: It yields fairly easily to aerobic exercise. Vaporizing calories via running, biking, swimming—anything that gets your heart rate up—is an effective way to whittle your middle. In fact, one 2011 study from Duke University Medical Center, published in the American Journal of Physiology, found the sweet spot: Jogging the equivalent of 12 miles a week was even more effective in reducing visceral fat than resistance training three times per week. However, both types of exercise were beneficial when it came to belly fat, the researchers say. (Don’t have time to hit the gym? Try these fun at-home cardio workouts if you’re in a pinch.)
If you haven’t picked up on the importance of preparation, then we haven’t done our job. It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in your busy schedule and forget to put a priority on health and what actions contribute to it. “People don’t plan for the week as far as writing their workout times in the calendar. If you write them down you’re 30% more likely to stay adherent to your workout. Write them down as you would any doctor’s appointment and try to shoot for sticking with it,” says White. The more workouts you check off, the faster you’re going to see results. Do yourself a favor and book that bike ahead of time—you’ll eliminate the opportunity for lame excuses by making a real commitment to your sweat sessions.
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.
Fat may have once been villainized as making us pack on the pounds, but the Mediterranean Diet, nutritionist guidelines, and a wide body of research (like this study!) are working to banish fat's former rep. Such is the case bolstered by coconut oil: "Research shows that coconut oil doesn't negatively impact blood lipid levels like once believed and that it may even help to promote a reduction in stomach fat. The belly fat-fighting properties of coconut oil stem from the amount of medium chain triglycerides contained which are metabolized quickly and therefore stand less of a chance to be stored as adipose," says St. John. Simply put: The kind of fats coconut oil contains won't turn into fatty deposits stored in your body.
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.
Limit foods high in refined carbohydrates and refined sugar (white bread, white pasta, white rice), and replace them with high fibre ‘complex carbs’ – think: whole grains, brown rice, sweet potato, oats, beans and pulses. Fill your boots with as many vegetables as possible – they’re low calorie, high in micronutrients, and the fibre in them will keep you full.
Having a hearty bowl of oatmeal for breakfast isn't just delicious, it's great for your waistline. "The whole grains not only absorb water to make you feel more full, but they're also high in soluble fiber to keep you feeling satisfied for long periods of time," says Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It. To really prevent any trips to the vending machine between meals, Taub-Dix recommends adding a spoonful of nut butter to your oats.
Which means, sadly, the more glasses of rose and chocolate-coated pretzels you eat, the longer it will take to reach your flatter belly goals. “When you digest large amounts of calories, your body allocates some of these to functional systems which work to keep you alive (think the brain, muscles and organs),” says Belalij. “It also uses it to fill up energy stores. Any excess is then stored in fat cells around the body – typically being those of the belly.”