It's not just what you eat that can make you pack on pounds—it's also how much. Before dropping 102 pounds, DeGennaro did not have a grip on proper serving sizes. "Sitting down to dinner with my husband and three kids, I'd scarf down mounds of pasta and endless rolls," she says. "Adjusting to smaller portions was tricky at first; I'd round out meals with extra veggies to keep from getting hungry."
Your best bet for blasting belly fat is slow, steady weight loss -- not instant one-week results. Steer clear of diets promising double-digit weight loss in just a week or diets that cut out entire food groups or require you to eat just a couple foods. These are typically fad diets that aren't sustainable -- so you're likely to regain any lost weight -- and such diet plans might even interfere with your ability to lose fat in the long run, explains the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Weight loss once again came in first place for New Year’s Resolutions, sharing its spot with “becoming a better person.” For a lot of us, becoming a better person starts with feeling better about ourselves. The start of a new year may be primetime to renew dedication to health and happiness, but periodic sprints of weight loss do not equate to wellness. That’s why the best diet is the one you can sustain for the rest of your life.
Losing belly fat shouldn’t mean strict dieting or deprivation. “People often think that you have to eat certain foods or avoid certain foods [to lose weight] and in reality, it comes down to eating more of a balanced diet that is portion- and calorie-controlled,” says Zeratsky. “This allows your body to have enough energy to do what it wants to do while managing weight.”
“That first day was so tough, I almost caved and reached for the vending machine at work but I remembered a quote I had on my Facebook page that said ‘The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullshit story you keep telling yourself as to why you can't achieve it’ and that was enough to make me turn away from the machine,” she says.
And as people get older they tend to become less active, which means you burn fewer calories all day long. Plus, you naturally lose muscle mass due to hormonal changes, which further drops your daily calorie-burn rate. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue, so a body with less lean tissue has a lower metabolism and is prone to weight gain.
Research has shown that regulating your sleep scheduled and ensuring that you get more than 5-6 hours per night of sleep can help you reduce your visceral fat stores. However, if you turn around and sleep in two days a week (Saturday and Sunday?), it can add to your visceral fat. According to the Oxford Academic’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, there is a strong independent association between sleep apnea, visceral obesity, insulin resistance, and hypercytokinemia, that may further lead to health complications. Essentially, make a firm sleep schedule, but don’t let your body get too lazy on your days off. Regularity in your Circadian rhythms and metabolic cycles will be helpful for keeping belly fat in check.
It’s important to eat ad libitum. We shouldn’t stuff ourselves, but we do need to feel comfortably full. Otherwise, we end up crazy-hungry. But unfortunately, ad libitum eating is not what traditional weight-loss strategies have taught us for the past 100 years. Dieters have been told to focus mainly on how much they eat rather than on what they eat. They’ve been told to cut portion sizes and/or use their will power to override hunger in an attempt to create a negative calorie balance and reduce body fat stores.
There’s probably a biological basis to stress eating, researchers say. Chronic stress causes your body to secrete excessive amounts of the hormone cortisol, and too much cortisol triggers cravings for high-fat, high-sugar foods. What’s most troubling, though, is that stress eating doesn’t just pack on pounds; it packs on pounds in the worst place, your middle (cortisol stimulates fat production deep in the abdomen).
Keeping track of what you eat is a great way of forcing yourself to focus on your diet and assess exactly what you’re eating. Without it, the calories can start creeping up without you noticing so a journal of some other means of tracking your calorie intake can be the difference between maintaining your weight or being forced to start dieting all over again.
“I have one heck of a sweet tooth, and so I have to refuse to bring candy, cake, or sweets into the house, period,” say Lin Williams, who’s lost 105 pounds. Instead, if she wants a treat she has to want it bad enough to get up, get in the car, leave her home, and go to the store—a process that rarely feels worth it. And on the rare occasion she does indulge? “I get exactly what I want and enjoy every bite of it!” she says.
The sad truth is that conventional ideas – eat less, run more – do not work long term. Counting calories, exercising for hours every day and trying to ignore your hunger? That’s needless suffering and it wastes your time and precious willpower. It’s weight loss for masochists. Eventually almost everyone gives up. That’s why we have an obesity epidemic. Fortunately there’s a better way.