Belly fat may be dangerous, but it's also responsive to traditional weight-loss strategies of diet and exercise. One pound of fat equals 3,500 calories; thus, to lose a pound, you must consume 3,500 calories fewer than you burn. In a week, you can't afford much more than a 3,500- or 7,000-calorie deficit without severely depriving yourself of nutrients and solid food. This deficit means you'll lose 1 or 2 pounds per week.
When your body is low on calcium, it produces a hormone that signals the body to store visceral fat. Meeting your recommended daily calcium needs (that’s 1,000 milligrams for adults) can help reduce levels of this hormone. And a recent study published in Obesity Research found that calcium from dairy has a stronger effect than calcium from other sources. I recommend eating low-fat Greek yogurt as a daily snack (just six ounces contain about 20 percent of your recommended dietary allowance for calcium), though any low-fat dairy will do.
“If there’s one thing that comes up over and over with the thousands of patients enrolled in the National Weight Control Registry, it’s weighing yourself every day on a scale,” says Rena Wing, Ph.D., founder of the registry, which tracks more than 4,500 men and women who have lost an average of 20lbs or more and kept it off for at least six years. “Don’t obsess over the number,” she says, “but at least keep track of the general range of what you weigh so you can catch small changes as they occur and take corrective measures immediately.”
Some people can lose more than 2 pounds in a week with a dedicated fitness program and serious dietary restrictions.The time and effort required to lose weight that quickly is grueling and usually unsustainable, though. Even if you can lose a notable amount of weight in a week, a lot of it will be water weight -- not true belly fat. Weight you lose quickly is likely to be regained quickly too.
Thanks to the hormone estrogen, the female body likes to hold on to fat, too. A study in Obesity Reviews shows that women store fat more efficiently than men in an effort to prepare the body for pregnancy. But while it seems like women may have drawn the short-end of the stick, the stereotypical pear-shape is actually considered healthier than boasting a beer gut, because belly fat is a red flag when it comes to your health. “Visceral fat is associated with increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome,” says Harris-Pincus.
No belly-busting diet is complete without a super-charged arsenal of healthy, satiating snacks. By planning ahead for those times you get stuck—think traffic jams and long days at the office—you’ll be equipped to fight against any unhealthy temptations or poor food choices. “I would definitely have snacks planned throughout the day. It’s very important to eat throughout the day to make sure you’re not famished at some of the bigger meals. I would definitely have snack jars with things like granola bars, protein bars, almonds, dehydrated fruits, turkey jerky, and a lot of high-protein snacks stashed at work, in the car, or at home,” says White.
A little garlic in your meals could mean a lot less weight around your middle. The results of a Korean study found that mice given a high-fat diet supplemented with garlic lost significantly more weight and abdominal fat than those who just ate fatty foods. Even better, they also improved their liver health, making it easier to stay healthy and burn off that excess fat in the long term. For more flavorful ways to make your food more enjoyable, turn to the 20 Spicy Recipes That Fire Up Your Metabolism and watch those pounds melt away.
Keep a food diary. Write down everything you eat and drink to keep track of how many calories you're taking in and figure out what bad habits you need to correct. You'll be much less likely to go overboard if you know you have to write it down. You can also use a food tracking app if you prefer, which may make the process a bit easier since most apps calculate the nutrition values for you.
Putting aside time on Sundays to prep for the week ahead will not only save you countless dollars in last-minute takeout meals, but it will also save you a tremendous amount of excess calories in the long run. When we make decisions based on emotions and convenience we often find ourselves tied to less-healthy fare. White suggests getting in the kitchen, throwing on some good music, and preparing your meals for the days ahead. This way you can control ingredients, portions, and also free up time during the week to tend to your usual obligations. If you stick with it in the long-term, this will translate to less overall body fat as a result.
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There's a reason poop is being talked about so much these days — when there's problems with it, it's an easy tip-off that something's not quite right with your insides. But most people don't realize that constipation leads to weight gain, so they never consider it to be the culprit behind those tighter-fitting jeans. "If you're constantly constipated, then it likely means you're on a poor diet that can also make you overweight, or you lack important nutrients that help keep things moving," explains Vincent Pedre, M.D., author of Happy Gut. Besides drinking plenty of water throughout the day (don't guzzle it down in one meal, as that can slow down digestion), Pedre says to eat plenty of fiber-rich legumes like yellow beans and lentils to keep your stool moving. And don't worry about bloat or gas — soaking beans overnight nixes that problem.
The traditional hot-dog topping can do serious wonders for your waistline. "Fermented foods like sauerkraut, pickled veggies, and kimchi are some of the best sources of probiotics — a form of good bacteria that support healthy digestion and decrease bloat," says Frank Lipman, M.D., founder of Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City. "That's important, since diets low in probiotics can cause bad bacteria to overtake the good ones, leading to health problems ranging from autoimmune diseases to weight gain."
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.
Almonds, peanuts, walnuts, pistachios — at GH, we're nuts about nuts! People who snack on nuts may have lower abdominal fat than those who munch on carb-based treats, according to a 2015 study in the Journal of the American Heart Association. Nuts are rich in monounsaturated fats, a heart-healthy (and more satisfying) pick than their grain-based counterparts.
Everybody loves their quinoa, but it's time to elevate this less-popular grain to superfood status. "While processed grains and sugar are the main culprits for promoting abdominal fat, whole grains are in another category altogether," says St.John. "Intact grains [i.e., ones that haven't been stripped of their nutrients, as is frequently the case with 'white' options] contain fiber which slows digestion and absorption of the grains, which in turn reduces the amount of insulin released by the body." What does this mean for you? The less insulin your body releases equals less abdominal fat tacking itself onto your tummy.