More than half of American women feel like they're not getting enough sleep, according to a survey conducted by the Better Sleep Council. And this lack of ZZZ's can have serious consequences—especially if you're trying to lose fat. A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that women who slept five or fewer hours per night were 32 percent more likely to experience major weight gain over 16 years than those who got more sleep. Plus, according to a study from the New York Obesity Nutrition Research Center, when women got four hours of sleep instead of eight, they consumed more than 300 extra calories a day, mostly from fatty foods. Why? Too little sleep causes an increase in a hormone called ghrelin that stimulates appetite. (Here's more on why sleep is the most important thing for weight loss.)
Giancoli also recommends finding a diet that fits in with how you really live. She notes that if you enjoy going out to eat but try to commit to a diet that forbids you from ever going to a restaurant, you’re just going to cheat. “It’s not sustainable… You’re most likely going to have a healthier meal if you’re going to cook yourself, but you’re depriving yourself of that social interaction if you never go out.” To put it another way: Your eating practices shouldn’t isolate you or keep you from having fun.
The diet that best fits the above guidelines is a calorie-controlled Mediterranean Diet. As the name implies, this diet is based on Mediterranean cuisine and is high in MUFA (click here for more information on the Mediterranean diet for weight loss.) Being based on Mediterranean cooking, this is a rather delicious way to lose belly fat. The hallmarks of this diet are as follows:
The plan promotes long-lasting, sustainable changes, and undoubtedly a bounty of research backs this up. In fact, one December 2013 study in the American Journal of Medicine shows that people following Weight Watchers were close to nine times more likely to lose 10 percent of their body weight, compared to people following a self-help diet plan. (20)
Instead of piling everything on one plate, bring food to the table in individual courses. For the first two courses, bring out soup or veggies such as a green salad or the most filling fruits and vegetables. By the time you get to the more calorie-dense foods, like meat and dessert, you’ll be eating less or may already be full. Nothing wrong with leftovers!
Make sure that everything you're eating is whole — as in nothing processed or packaged. Since salt is a preservative, these are the foods that are highest in sodium — something to keep in mind when planning your meals. Plan on making sure that all items you choose are fresh. That means filling up on fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean protein.
Foods that have thermogenic properties burn your calories as you eat them. Protein is highly thermogenic. Animal proteins are more thermogenic than vegetable proteins. Thus, lean meats are the best calorie burning food. When you eat lean meat, you burn about 30 percent of the calories it contains within it just by digesting the food. So, if you eat a 300 calorie chicken breast, you will use about 90 calories to digest it. It’s wise to include some protein in each of your meal. This can be lean chicken, beef, or pork, especially in dinner so that you burn most of the consumed calories through digestion at a time when your body’s metabolism is slower. Just remember, do not fry your lean meat!
It’s clear from hundreds of different studies that effective long-term weight loss that results in decreased visceral/belly fat depends on permanent changes in dietary quality, calorie (energy) intake, lifestyle habits and also physical activity. These changes are how to lose belly fat but aren’t always easy to make initially. However, with time, healthier habits can become much more manageable, plus the effort to sustain them is well worth it in the end!
Try this interval-training trick on the elliptical trainer: Ride for 30 seconds as fast as you can, then immediately reverse your direction and ride for 30 additional seconds just as fast in the opposite direction. Rest 60 seconds, and repeat. The force of stopping your momentum, as well as going from a dead stop to full speed twice in the same interval, will give your fat-burning efforts a massive boost, says Alwyn Cosgrove, C.S.C.S.
We’re continuing to learn that shortchanging our sleep — even for just one night — can lead to less healthy food choices the next day. The latest study took a look at subjects’ MRI scans after a night of sound sleep and again after a night of sleep deprivation. The MRI scans showed that sleep deprivation activates an area of the brain that makes you view food as more desirable. In other words, it prompts cravings. This adds to other evidence showing that insufficient sleep increases hunger while also making us less likely to stay active. Taken all together, it means that a healthier sleep situation can encourage a healthier weight.
Eat More Produce. Eating lots of low-calorie, high-volume fruits and vegetables crowds out other foods that are higher in fat and calories. Move the meat off the center of your plate and pile on the vegetables. Or try starting lunch or dinner with a vegetable salad or bowl of broth-based soup, suggests Barbara Rolls, PhD, author of The Volumetrics Eating Plan. The U.S. government's 2005 Dietary Guidelines suggest that adults get 7-13 cups of produce daily. Ward says that's not really so difficult: "Stock your kitchen with plenty of fruits and vegetables and at every meal and snack, include a few servings," she says. "Your diet will be enriched with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, fiber, and if you fill up on super-nutritious produce, you won't be reaching for the cookie jar."