Routinely squeaking by on five hours or less per night increases visceral fat levels, according to a 2010 Wake Forest University study. What’s more, after analyzing 28 different studies, UK researchers found that people who slept 5.5 hours or less per night ate an extra 385 calories the day after compared to those who snoozed for at least 7 to 12 hours. On top of that, they preferred to munch on fatty foods full of empty calories, like chips.
An easy way to determine if you have too much belly fat is to measure yourself at home. Take a measuring tape and wrap it around your bare stomach, directly above your hip bone. The tape should be snug but not too tight. For women, a measurement of 35 inches or more indicates an unhealthy amount of belly fat. For men, a measurement of 40 inches or more indicates an unhealthy measure.
Keeping a toothbrush handy can do more than polish up that smile (and counter the effects of all that belly-slimming garlic); brushing your teeth throughout the day can also help you ditch that belly fat fast. A study conducted a sample of over 14,000 participants found that brushing after every meal was linked to lower weight. That minty toothpaste flavor not only clashes with virtually every food, brushing may also trigger a Pavlovian response that tells your brain the kitchen’s closed.
Eating foods that seem to target belly fat is just a starter strategy for getting rid of that gut. You'll see better, faster results if you exercise, too. In fact, just being more active in general helps. In one study of office workers, just standing up more often helped melt 1½ inches from people's waists. It doesn't take much—just a few extra hours a week of exercise may produce results. Learn how 3 extra hours of exercise per week affected belly size in a recent study.
Focus on compound moves like deadlifts, squats, kettlebell swings, lunges, chest presses, shoulder presses — exercises that work your entire body rather than isolating muscles. Simply put, you cannot 'spot-reduce' fat, meaning that endless crunches will do little for getting rid of your belly. For best results split your sessions over different days.
The conclusion? Intermittent fasting was just as effective for weight loss as daily calorie restriction. So if you struggle with daily food restriction, fasting might be an easier way to dial back the amount you’re eating without feeling completely deprived. Read more in-depth about how intermittent fasting works (and if you’ll be able to stick to it) here.
"America has been trying to follow a low-calorie, low-fat diet for 40 years, and where has that gotten us? To being one of the heaviest countries in the world," says David Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D., obesity expert and author of Always Hungry. Think about it: "The problem is when you cut back on calories like that, your body tries to fight back with increased hunger and a slower metabolism because it thinks it's going into starvation mode," he says. Meanwhile, you eventually eat again to satiate the hunger pangs, and likely eat more because, well, you're insanely hungry. But your metabolism is still operating on that low level, so calories don't get burned fast enough and they get stored as fat. Ludwig says this cycle continues until you feed your body regularly (he suggests at least three meals and two snacks in between) with real food made from real ingredients. That matters more than the calories it's made up of, so repeat after us: I will always choose an all-natural version of something over food that's labeled low-calorie or fat-free.
If antioxidants are the good guys of gut health, trans fats are the supervillains. These sneaky fats actively contribute to your wobbly waist – not just by adding new fat, but by moving fat from other areas of your body to your belly. During a six-year study at Wake Forest University, monkeys that were fed an 8 per cent trans fat diet had 33 per cent more belly fat than monkeys that were fed an 8 per cent monounsaturated fat diet.
"Fructose has (rightly so) gotten a bad rap lately for its role in promoting central obesity or belly fat," says St.John. "However, fructose found in whole foods like fruit does not act so sinisterly in the body. Fresh or frozen raspberries contain a great deal of fiber, which helps to regulate the body's insulin response and also reduce belly fat." If a fresh pint comes with a steep price tag at your local grocer, consider buying 'em frozen: they're cost-effective, last practically forever, and are picked at the peak of freshness.
The researchers explain that people who cook their own meals may simply have other good-for-you habits, like exercising more. However, they concluded that home cooks simply ate more fruits and vegetables (along with a wider variety of foods), have healthier methods of prepping their food, and splurge less on foods high in calories and sugar. No clue where to start? Try these 25 high-protein chicken recipes for weight loss.
Consider this specially-bred strain of seaweed the protein-packed answer to your prayers. Eating just a little of it each day (seriously, you only need three grams — or one heaping teaspoon — to get your fill, says nutritionist Tali Pines, R.D.) will give you a hefty dose of important antioxidants like beta-carotene and echinenone, both of which help curb cravings and fight illness. Bonus: the levels of beta-carotene found in Hawaiian spirulina suppress cholesterol levels (great news for your heart), and the high levels of iron improve weakness and fatigue so you have enough mojo for your next workout. Get your fix by popping a daily supplement, adding it to your morning smoothie, or simply stirring a spoonful of the powdered version (which is the most easily digestible, according to Pines) into a glass of water.