It takes more than just crunches! We start to gain weight in our midsection when our cortisol levels spike. Stress is one of the primary culprits for high levels of cortisol secretion. When this happens cortisol breaks downs lean muscle (the type of tissue that burns calories most efficiently) and also holds on to fat storage in the abdominal region. That stress can even get WORSE with bad dieting; studies show that the stress caused by dieting can increase cortisol levels, making no change in belly fat even with calorie restriction. So how do you shape up? Incorporate these 6 things below and you will be on your way to a flatter belly in no time flat!
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While you may be tempted to eat as few calories as possible to lose weight more quickly, as mentioned above, it’s important that you don’t cut more than 1,000 calories from your daily diet or eat fewer than 1,200 calories a day — even if that means your energy deficit is smaller than 1,000 calories. Eat too little and you’ll slow down your metabolism and put yourself on track to regain the weight — often with a few extra pounds.
There’s a phenomenon I’ve see happen again and again. A husband and wife realize they’ve been enjoying their after-dinner snacks a bit too much and are seeing the numbers on the scale rise. They decide to embark on a healthy diet to shed those excess pounds and, ideally, lose weight fast. Two months later, the husband’s shed serious pounds and is looking trim, while the wife struggles to get the scale to budge, even after a diet full of kale salads and grilled chicken breast.
“Diet and exercise are a marriage that should never divorce,” said Giancoli, noting that the benefits of exercise aren’t restricted to the sheer number of calories you burn during thirty minutes on a treadmill. (Need one of those, by the way? We have some favorites.) Instead, research shows that muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue, proving that “muscle mass is a key factor in weight loss.”
Invest in single-serving containers. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases says that a serving size on a food label may be more or less than the amount of food you should eat, depending on your age, height, sex, and weight. Once you're done cooking, place the excess servings in the containers to eat for lunch or dinner tomorrow. That way, you won't polish off everything in one sitting.
If figuring out what to put into your body is too overwhelming, start with how much you're serving yourself. The easiest way to do this? Swap out your plates for smaller ones, like mother of two Jeanenne Darden did. With the help of this trick, she managed to lose an amazing 22 percent of her body weight, going from 187 pounds to 146 pounds. "I ate normally," she says. "I just ate less of everything." Pro tip: This trick is even easier with some cute portion-control dishware.
Fiber is found in beans, nuts, seeds, fruits, veggies, and whole grains and foods rich in fiber tend to lend themselves to weight loss. At the moment, just 10 percentof Americans are hitting fiber targets of around 25 grams per day. Studies that track what people eat over time suggest that there’s a connection between weight and fiber intake, with higher fiber intakes linked to lower body weights (the reverse is true, too). One review of 12 studies found that supplementing the diet with more soluble fiber helped people slim down. Another year-long study found that people who followed the simple suggestion to eat 30 grams of fiber each day lost about 5 pounds.

Hu, T., Mills, K. T., Yao, L., Demanelis, K., Eloustaz, M., Yancy, Jr., W. S., ... Bazzano, L. A. (2012, October 1). Effects of low-carbohydrate diets versus low-fat diets on metabolic risk factors: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. American Journal of Epidemiology, 176(Suppl. 7), S44–S54.  Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3530364/
Because the diet isn’t as restrictive as a traditional vegan or vegetarian diet, it may be simpler to stick with — hence its No. 2 ranking in U.S. News & World Report’s Easiest Diets to Follow category. Because you’ll be eating meat some of the time, you may also be at a lower risk of the aforementioned nutrient deficiencies that vegetarians and vegans may face.
Be choosy about carbs. You can decide which ones you eat, and how much. Look for those that are low on the glycemic index (for instance, asparagus is lower on the glycemic index than a potato) or lower in carbs per serving than others. Whole grains are better choices than processed items, because processing removes key nutrients such as fiber, iron, and B vitamins. They may be added back, such as in “enriched” bread.
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