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.
The number one reason it’s so hard to lose belly fat: hormones. With menopause comes a drop in estrogen; this decrease alters where the body stores fat, making women more prone to gaining visceral belly fat. Other hormonal imbalances during this time can leave the body feeling hungry, even after eating. Sleep disturbances, common in perimenopause and menopause, are associated with decreased levels of leptin (an appetite suppressant) and increased levels of ghrelin (an appetite stimulant).
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.
"Only doing abdominal-focused workouts, like crunches, won’t help you banish the bulge. Belly fat is simply where your body stores energy, so you need to take a whole-body approach to tackle it. HIIT training (high intensity interval training) is a great way to burn fat and get your heart rate up. Squats, burpees and treadmill sprints are all examples to try."
A trim midsection is good for many things, like fitting into your favorite jeans or walking the beach in a swimsuit with confidence. But there are even better reasons to work off extra baggage around your stomach. That baggage, known as visceral fat, isn’t just the most annoying kind — it’s also the most dangerous. As it forms between your organs, deep within your abdominal cavity, it secretes proteins that can trigger chronic inflammation, putting you at risk for heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer.
"If your diet consists of lots of sports drinks, sugar-sweetened drinks like fizzy pop and flavoured waters, or sugary foods like chocolate and cakes, it will make losing weight harder. While whole fruits and vegetables are undoubtedly good for you, they can also sometimes cause weight gain if you eat too much, as they have high levels of natural sugars in them. Low-fat food options might have high amounts of added sugar in there too, so make sure to check the food label.
When it comes to losing belly fat, using any old oil just won't do. Medium-chain triglycerides (or MCTs), like coconut oil or avocado oil, are a unique form of fat that require less energy and enzymes to be digested. "And unlike other dietary fats, MCTs don't get stored as fat in the body; they get burned for energy," says Samit. Which means you get a faster metabolism and tons of energy to power-through your to-do list.
Here’s a shocker: When a group of U.K. researchers told 30 women to avoid chocolate, then packed them into a room filled with the stuff; the women were much more likely to sneak a bite than individuals who hadn’t been given the order. Blame the allure of the forbidden: The more you tell yourself you can’t eat something you love, the more you’re going to want it.
Grains get a bad rap when it comes to weight loss, but that's because refined grains (read: processed foods!) are linked to wider waists. 100% whole grains are bloat-busting superstars, however, as they're packed with minerals and de-puff by counter-balancing salt. Stick to brown rice, quinoa, wheat, barley, millet, farro, sorghum, and amaranth for the biggest benefits.
They may not be totally mainstream yet, but there's good reason to incorporate marine gems like nori, hijiki, wakame, arame, and kombu into your regular diet. "With omega-3 fatty acids not found in other plant foods, sea vegetables (or seaweed) are inflammation fighting powerhouses," says St.John. "Omega-3 fatty acids are potent inflammation-fighters, so sea vegetables can enhance your body's ability to suppress inflammation and may lead to a flatter belly." Note: Store-bought seaweed snacks can pack a lot of sodium (which can contribute to bloat), so be sure to scan nutrition labels before purchasing.
Stop treating your kitchen like an all-night diner and you’ll stop seeing those unwanted pounds piling onto your frame, too. The results of a study published in Cell Metabolism found that mice who only had access to food during an eight-hour period stayed slim over the course of the study, while those who ate the same number of calories over a 16-hour period gained significantly more weight, particularly around their middle. When you’re finished with dinner at night, shut the fridge and don’t look back until morning — your belly will thank you. When you do head back to the kitchen in the A.M., make sure the 40 Things Healthy Cooks Always Have in Their Kitchen are there waiting for you.