Snack on portion-controlled fruit, seeds and nuts. One study found that snacking on 42g of almonds per day (instead of munching on something high-carb with equal calories) helped to reduce belly fat and improved cholesterol levels. “The high levels of fibre are proven to combat excess calorie consumption later in the day,” says registered dietitian Lucy Jones.
You might have heard the term ‘middle-age spread’. This means, as women progress towards their middle years, the ratio of body fat increases compared to the body weight. During menopause, when the levels of estrogen go down, and the amount of androgens or male hormones increase, then there is an increased risk of fat accumulation in the waist. Hormones actually regulate the fat concentration in the body, and your figure depends entirely on it!
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.
"With all the different tips out there, it can be tricky to understand exactly which exercises work the best. HIIT is great for fat burning and will get your heart rate up, but I’d also recommend including strength (resistance) exercises too. Try lifting weights, using resistance bands or using the weight machines at the gym as these will increase your metabolism to help with weight loss, and increase your muscle strength. It’s important to mix-up your whole-body workouts so you don’t get bored."
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.
"Your body needs a healthy balance of exercise and rest. Doing too much prevents the body from shifting excess fat. Exercising without rest can impact our levels of the steroid hormone cortisol and cause an increase of stubborn fat stored in the belly. Not allowing your body to recover can increase the risk of injury too, so make sure you factor in rest days to your plan."
Visceral fat is the hard body layer of fat that lies deep within our abdominal cavity and surrounds a number of internal organs such as the lungs, heart, intestines, liver, and pancreas. Visceral fat produces an inflammatory substance called cytokines that can damage these organs. Too much visceral fat can contribute to many health problems such as glucose intolerance, hypertension, coronary artery disease and type 2 diabetes.
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.
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Want to lose that belly fat? In your dreams! Seriously, though: a good night’s sleep is one of the best ways to get rid of that extra fat around your waist for good. Among the 60,000 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study, those who snoozed for fewer than five hours a night were at the greatest risk of becoming obese and gaining 30 or more pounds over the course of the 16-year study period when compared to those who slept for seven or more hours.
The body doesn't react to all fats in the same way. Research correlates high intake of saturated fat (the kind in meat and dairy) to increased visceral fat, says Patton. On the other hand, monounsaturated fats (the kind in olive oil and avocados) and specific types of polyunsaturated fats (mainly omega-3s, found in walnuts, sunflower seeds, and fatty fish like salmon) have anti-inflammatory effects in the body, and if eaten in proper portions may do your body good. But Patton warns that eating too much fat of any kind increases your calorie intake and could lead to weight gain, so enjoy healthy fats in moderation.
"When we’re lacking in sleep, our body’s hormones get thrown off balance which can impact our hunger levels the next day. We all have two hormones that affect our appetite: ghrelin and leptin. When we don’t get enough sleep, our ghrelin levels (the hormone that makes us feel hungry) rise, and our leptin levels (the hormone that makes us feel full) drop. This means that when we’re awake, we tend to eat more but feel less satisfied. Try going to bed a little earlier than usual to avoid this imbalance and remember to remove any distractions that might prevent you from nodding off."
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."
Think of green tea as your fat-melting, metabolism-fueling cocktail. Especially when swapped for other calorie-rich caffeinated beverages like your morning latte, green tea can boost your fat-burn efforts because it’s low in calories and rich in antioxidants. This brew contains certain antioxidants called catechins, which have been found to rev up metabolism and encourage the breakdown of fat cells—particularly belly fat. Researchers from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences suggest that consuming decaffeinated green tea in conjunction with a balanced exercise regimen will increase weight-loss and fat-burning results rather than just sipping on the drink alone.
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.