To banish stubborn belly fat, you have to ramp up your workouts. In a study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, people who completed a high-intensity workout regimen lost more belly fat than those who followed a low-intensity plan. (In fact, the low-intensity exercises experienced no significant changes at all.) "You need to exercise at full intensity because the end goal is to burn more calories, and high intensity exercise does just that," says Natalie Jill, a San Diego, Calif.-based certified personal trainer. High intensity workouts mean you're going all out for as long as you can. If this sounds intimidating, think of it this way: you'll burn more calories in less time.
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.
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.
"Nuts are surprisingly an excellent food to support weight loss. Although they're rich in calories, they've been associated with weight loss and weight loss maintenance," says Hever. "Researchers suggest this is due the fact that nuts promote satiety, thereby leading to compensation of calories elsewhere in the diet. Also, nuts have been shown to increase resting metabolism." A faster metabolism can help flush out any bloating, so this is definitely a plus for slipping into your skinny jeans or favorite cocktail dress.
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).
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.
“It can take 12 minutes or longer for the signal that you’ve started to eat to make its way to your brain,” says Mark S. Gold, M.D., of the McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Florida. Quick tips: Sip some water between every bite of food you eat, or at least eat more meals with friends or family members. You’ll be more likely to talk and therefore to eat more slowly.
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.
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.
Hate having to pass on the potatoes for the sake of your pants size? Well, you may not have to. Just eat them cold—as in vinegar potato salad. If you chill potatoes overnight, they form something called resistant starch crystals—a constituent of fiber that triggers the production of two hunger-halting hormones, according to research. And resistant starch helps the body incinerate more fat for fuel while making less fat available to stash away in fat cells. (Related: Find out how vinegar potato salads help your blood sugar, too.)
Belly fat is a major concern for many. Not only does it make your figure unattractive, but also increases the risk of developing hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. Recently, Public Health England stated for the first time that belly fat is the clearest sign of type 2 diabetes. Another significant study, published in the Journal Heart, states that having a big belly significantly increases the risk for sudden cardiac death. The most common causes include genetics, hormonal imbalance, physical inactivity and an unhealthy diet.
High-intensity interval training is high on every trainer’s list, and for good reason. “My No.1 pick for fat loss would be high-intensity interval training, just because you’re burning a lot of calories in a short amount of time. You’re getting more bang for your buck. I know a lot of guys that don’t have all day to work out in a gym, so when it comes to belly fat you have to focus on calorie burn and intense workouts,” says Jim White, owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios in Virginia Beach. Think bootcamps, tabata, and series of burpees, box jumps, and sprints—those all do the trick. The best thing about HIIT is that it keeps your body working long after you leave the gym, burning calories and fat on your off hours via a phenomenon called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, aka EPOC.
In a 2012 study in the journal Obesity, subjects who increased their soluble fiber intake by 10 grams a day—the equivalent of two small apples, one cup of green peas, and one half-cup of pinto beans—reduced visceral fat by 3.7 percent after five years. Even more, participants who also engaged in moderate physical activity (exercising vigorously two to four times a week) experienced a 7.4 decrease in visceral fat over the same period of time.