"Feeling stressed can wreak havoc on our bodies. It can cause our body to produce the steroid hormone cortisol, which can make you crave sugary foods that provide instant energy and pleasure. Short-term bursts of cortisol are necessary to help us cope with immediate danger, but our body will also release this hormone if we’re feeling stressed or anxious. When our cortisol levels are high for a long amount of time, it can increase the amount of fat you hold in your belly."

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.
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.
"Protein is great for fat loss. It helps build and preserve lean muscle tissue and can increase the amount of calories you burn. It’s also a great source of energy that helps you feel fuller for longer, so you’re less tempted to snack. Good sources include chicken breast, tuna, eggs, milk and chickpeas. And if you’re finding it difficult to avoid snacks that are high in carbohydrates, try substituting them for protein shakes or bars. Remember also to opt for the lean sources of protein because some sources can be high in saturated fat."
Instead, build up to at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity cardio, such as swimming, jogging or hiking. A duration of 250 minutes per week will lead to more significant weight loss, explains the American College of Sports Medicine. This means 250 minutes a week for several weeks or months, though; you're unlikely to see dramatic results after one week.
What’s more, your body digests protein more slowly than carbs, so it keeps you feeling fuller longer and zaps your need to needlessly snack. “During weight loss, you want more protein—to prevent hunger, enhance satiety, and minimize muscle loss, as long as there’s some degree of physical activity,” Tom Rifai, MD, regional medical director of metabolic health and weight management for the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit told Prevention.
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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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.
Another win for your morning cup of joe: Caffeinated coffee keeps things moving through the digestive tract. Since staying regular is key to a tighter-looking tummy, drinking about 8 to 16 ounces of java at the same time every day can help you stay on schedule. Remember: Sugary drinks can lead to weight gain, so skip fancy flavorings and synthetic sweeteners containing sugar alcohols, which can cause bloating.
2. Decline Bench Sit Up Ceiling Touches: This great exercise works on your shoulder, abs and lower back. Sit on the bench with the weight on your lap. As you move backwards, lock your arms and raise the weight above your body. Touch your back to the bench and use your abs to sit up. As you sit up you should keep your arms and weight pointed to the ceiling.
Tight deadlines, bills, your kids—whatever your source of stress, having too much of it may make it harder for you to drop unwanted pounds, especially from your middle. And it's not just because you tend to reach for high-fat, high-calorie fare when you're stressed, though that's part of it. It's also due to the stress hormone cortisol, which may increase the amount of fat your body clings to and enlarge your fat cells. Higher levels of cortisol have been linked to more visceral fat.
Intermittent fasting has blown up in the past year, but scientists are just starting to figure out how it can help you lose weight. In one study from the University of Illinois at Chicago, researchers compared obese people in a traditional weight loss group and fasting group. For the experiment, the calorie-restricted group simply reduced the amount of calories they ate by 25 percent each day. The fasting group, however, alternated days: they ate 25 percent of the calories they needed one day between 12 and 2 p.m., and then had feast days the next, where they ate 125 percent of their required calories.
Consider high-intensity interval training. Adding shorter, high-intensity workouts to your routine has been shown to burn fat. While the endurance you gain from running is great, it's not particularly helpful when it comes to burning fat, especially the more your body adjusts to your routine. During a high-intensity workout, you can't work out nearly as long, but mixing it in with your regular cardio routine will help blast away fat.
The 2003 research indicated that exercise is a top weapon against visceral fat, backed up by a 2011 study which found that aerobic exercise is basically a magic bullet. Aerobic exercise is known to most people as cardio — activities such as running and cycling, as opposed to resistance training (where you lift heavy stuff around). While participants in the study worked fairly hard (jogging 20km per week at a high intensity), the researchers said lower-intensity but longer workouts should have similar benefits.
While it’s often assumed that bread is off-limits when you’re trying to lose belly fat, the right bread may actually expedite the process. Switching to sprouted bread can help out carb-lovers eager to get their fix without going up a belt size, thanks to the inulin content of sprouted grains. The results of a study published in Nutrition & Metabolism reveal that found that pre-diabetic study subjects whose diets were supplemented with inulin shaved off more belly fat and total weight than those whose meal plans didn’t pack this healthy prebiotic fiber.
Tight deadlines, bills, your kids—whatever your source of stress, having too much of it may make it harder for you to drop unwanted pounds, especially from your middle. And it's not just because you tend to reach for high-fat, high-calorie fare when you're stressed, though that's part of it. It's also due to the stress hormone cortisol, which may increase the amount of fat your body clings to and enlarge your fat cells. Higher levels of cortisol have been linked to more visceral fat.
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.
When you exercise on the rowing machine, try this interval workout: Row for 60 seconds, note the distance on the machine, then rest 60 seconds. Repeat, only this time, row for 55 seconds and try to match or better your distance from the first time. Rest 55 seconds, then repeat, reducing the time to 50 seconds. Continue until you can’t beat your original distance.
The 2003 research indicated that exercise is a top weapon against visceral fat, backed up by a 2011 study which found that aerobic exercise is basically a magic bullet. Aerobic exercise is known to most people as cardio — activities such as running and cycling, as opposed to resistance training (where you lift heavy stuff around). While participants in the study worked fairly hard (jogging 20km per week at a high intensity), the researchers said lower-intensity but longer workouts should have similar benefits.
"As we head into colder months with less sun exposure, vitamin D intake from food becomes extremely important. Research shows that low levels of vitamin D may be correlated with abdominal obesity," says Kayleen St.John, R.D., executive director of Nutrition and Strategic Development of Euphebe. "Mushrooms grown under UV light should be incorporated into belly fat-fighting meals." Try this Italian Mushroom and Bean Soup.
To get the most of this natural source of probiotics, seek out yogurts like those by Fage, Dannon, and Oikos, which contain lactobacillus. In a 24-week study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, women who consumed this type of probiotic lost twice as much weight as those who didn't regularly include it in their diets. Besides eating yogurt at breakfast, try using plain or Greek yogurt in chicken or salads in lieu of mayo or sour cream.
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.
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.
Yes, that is the sound of you drinking water. A lot of it. "People confuse thirst for hunger," says Pamela Salzman, a certified holistic health expert and cooking instructor. "Instead of automatically reaching for another snack, have a glass of water first. Most of the time that'll do the trick, but if not, then you're in the clear to grab something more filling." But not all waters are created equal. Mineral waters, while great for helping you hit your daily calcium and magnesium needs, are often high in sodium — a common culprit of bloat. And coconut water gives you some potassium…but for 45 calories per cup (and there's usually more than one cup in a container). It's a better bet to reach for standard purified water — and eat a banana if you want the nutrient boost — or grab alkaline water, which can help prevent your bones from getting weaker.
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