In addition to helping maintain heart health and keep inflammation levels under control, monounsaturated fatty acids, or MUFAs, may stop belly fat before it starts. Research in the journal Diabetes Care found that people who got roughly 25 percent of their total daily calories from MUFAs gained no visceral fat over the course of the study, while those who ate less MUFAs and more carbs added fat to their midsections. My favorite MUFA-rich food is olive oil because you can use it in so many meals (check out the belly-blasting breakfast I recommend), but avocados and nuts are other excellent sources. Pine nuts are particularly great because they also contain high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids. These acids increase levels of two hormones that signal your brain when you’re full. Try snacking on one ounce of pine nuts (about the amount you can fit in a shot glass) 20 minutes before mealtime to avoid overeating.
Thanks to the hormone estrogen, the female body likes to hold on to fat, too. A study in Obesity Reviews shows that women store fat more efficiently than men in an effort to prepare the body for pregnancy. But while it seems like women may have drawn the short-end of the stick, the stereotypical pear-shape is actually considered healthier than boasting a beer gut, because belly fat is a red flag when it comes to your health. “Visceral fat is associated with increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome,” says Harris-Pincus.
Sientz, C. A., Aiken, L. B., Hournard, J. A., Bales, C. W., Johnson, J. L., Tanner, C. J., … Kraus, W. E. (2005, October 1). Inactivity, exercise, and visceral fat, STRRIDE: A randomized, controlled study of exercise intensity and amount [Abstract]. Journal of Applied Physiology, 99(4), 1613–1618. Retrieved from http://jap.physiology.org/content/99/4/1613.short
Research also shows that workouts involving high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can help reduce excess fat around your middle. Besides working your core, try incorporating a day or two of more vigorous exercise into your weekly schedule. (You can start with these three beginner routines.) Keep in mind that you can lower your total body fat percentage even by moving around more at work, according to another study.
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.
1. Bicycle Crunches are a great ab exercise and work the abs from every angle. It’s a combination of the regular crunch, a side-to-side motion that hits the oblique muscles and a reverse crunch that targets the lower abs. You can change the difficulty level by increasing or decreasing the range of motion used and the speed of movement as well as the intensity of the crunch by holding and squeezing.
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.
We all have an Achilles heel: the one food or meal that we can't seem to help digging into. But Mark Mincolla, Ph.D., nutrition expert and author of The Whole Health Diet, recommends taking the time to visualize that food multiple times throughout the day, as research shows doing so makes you actually want it less. When that theory was put to the test, scientists found that those who repeatedly imagined their guilty-pleasure foods reduced their calorie consumption of that food by as much as 50 percent. And it wasn't because they found it to be less desirable — if you love pizza, you love pizza — but rather because they just didn't feel like eating it when given the option because they had already thought about it so much. Reverse psychology, much?
Having a hearty bowl of oatmeal for breakfast isn't just delicious, it's great for your waistline. "The whole grains not only absorb water to make you feel more full, but they're also high in soluble fiber to keep you feeling satisfied for long periods of time," says Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D.N., creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It. To really prevent any trips to the vending machine between meals, Taub-Dix recommends adding a spoonful of nut butter to your oats.
1. The side plank exercise is the best way to reduce belly fat. There are only two points of contact with the floor which helps the core muscles to contract even harder. Lie on your side with your legs top of each other, rest on your lower forearm that is bent on the elbow. Force your upper body off the floor by using your forearm and place other hand on your hips. You should resemble a diagonal line from head to toe. After you lift your bodies just hold it for 30-60 seconds.
3. Twist: One foot placed slightly in front of the other with body facing the corner. This should resemble the movement of wringing a towel while taking knees further “inward” and opening body in the opposite direction. Start with knees bent and straighten with the twist by lifting the hip and leading it to the opposite corner.10 reps each side, then 10 again (total of 20, alternating after 10)
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.