"When going out for fast food, I used to get the large-size value meal. Now, I satisfy a craving by ordering just one item: a small order of fries or a six-piece box of chicken nuggets. So far, I've shaved off 16 pounds in seven weeks, and I'm on track to being thinner than my high school self for my 10-year reunion later this year." —Miranda Jarrell, Birmingham, AL
This question is on so many minds: how can I lose belly fat...and fast? While there's no magic formula of food and exercise to reduce belly fat with the snap of your fingers, there are nutrition choices, exercises and lifestyle changes that can help. Here's your guide to understanding exactly what belly fat is and how you might be able to reduce it over time.
●Halt bad eating habits. Before you cave to the crave, hit the pause button, recommends Pamela Peeke, author of the bestseller “The Hunger Fix: The Three Stage Detox and Recovery Plan for Overeating and Food Addiction.” Ask yourself: “Am I hungry? Angry? Anxious? Lonely? Tired?” Get in touch with your emotions and ask, “Am I’m emotional right now? Am I about to knee-jerk into overeating?”
You may say you want to lose weight to feel good about yourself. “Why?” Noom asks again. “It’s like peeling back the layers of an onion,” Noom explains, “And yes, tears might be involved too!” By the time our tester answered the third “Why?” she had indeed gone deep — even in the guise of a 40-year-old mom. The ultimate Why she came up with: “To enjoy life and bring joy to others.”
The upshot of all these chemicals floating around is big trouble for big-bellied guys. In a study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, researchers took 137 men of all ages and sizes and used seven different measurements to determine their risks of cardiovascular disease. The single best sign of multiple heart-disease risks? No, it wasn't the guys' family histories or their cholesterol profiles. It was the amount of abdominal fat they carried.
This principle involves eating low-energy-dense foods and can help you lose weight by feeling full on fewer calories. Healthy choices in each of the other food groups in moderate amounts make up the rest of the pyramid — including whole-grain carbohydrates, lean sources of protein such as legumes, fish and low-fat dairy, and heart-healthy unsaturated fats.
When you restrict your caloric intake, or cut out specific food groups, you do run the risk of having nutritional deficiencies, especially when it comes to micronutrients. Cutting out fatty foods, for example, could have the inadvertent effect of causing your omega-3 fatty acid intake to plummet, which could increase your long-term risk for cardiovascular disease (8).
The scale is not necessarily your friend. You may want to lose fat – but the scale measures muscles, bone and internal organs as well. Gaining muscle is a good thing. Thus weight or BMI are imperfect ways to measure your progress. This is especially true if you’re just coming off a long period of semi-starvation (calorie counting), as your body may want to restore lost muscles etc. Starting weight training and gaining muscle can also hide your fat loss.
The plan is simple: Commit to two weeks of restricted dieting, then transfer to a sustainable regime. Phase one: Cut out restaurant food, added sugar, eating while watching TV, snacking on anything other than fruits and veggies, and limit meat and dairy. You’re also asked to add four healthy habits, simple tweaks like having a good breakfast every morning.
What you put on your plate is important, but healthy eating is also about being mindful of how much you consume. For example, your husband has pancakes with butter and syrup for breakfast, your son grabs a doughnut, and you opt for a cup of oatmeal with a handful of walnuts, a sliced banana, and a large glass of organic blueberry juice. You may win on nutrients, but when it comes to calories, you're dead last: That healthy-sounding meal adds up to almost 700 calories, more than a third of your allotment for the day.
If you want to shrink your gut, get enough protein in your diet. In this case, about 25 percent of calories. Why? For starters, protein makes you feel full and helps you build muscle (which increases metabolism, thereby making it easier to lose weight). Just as important, high-protein diets have been shown to be the best way of attacking belly fat. In one study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, Danish researchers put 65 people on either a 12 percent protein diet or a 25 percent protein diet. The low-protein dieters lost an average of 11 pounds, which isn't bad. But the high-protein subjects lost an average of 20 pounds--including twice as much abdominal fat as the low-protein group.
You know you're supposed to eat more protein to lose weight, but you might not know exactly why. Well, it actually has to do with how your body handles insulin. "Your body starts to produce more insulin as you age, since your muscle and fat cells aren't responding to it properly," explains Louis Aronne, M.D., director of the obesity clinic at Cornell University.
Too much variety in your diet can mess with your satiety cues and make you overeat, so add some (tasty) monotony to your routine. One easy way: Eat the same healthy breakfast and/or lunch each day during the week, and savor new tastes on the weekend. The best thing about that plan, says 69-pound-loser (er, winner?) Melanie Kitchen: "I didn't have to keep coming up with new recipes!"
When you exercise on the rowing machine, try this interval workout: Row for 60 seconds, note the distance on the machine, then rest 60 seconds. Repeat, only this time, row for 55 seconds and try to match or better your distance from the first time. Rest 55 seconds, then repeat, reducing the time to 50 seconds. Continue until you can’t beat your original distance.
We all want a toned, flat stomach. No surprise there. But since many women are still relying on crunches to get it, we want to make one thing clear: Crunching is not the most effective abs workout. "Crunches work only the muscles on the front and sides of your abdomen, but it's important to target all the muscles of the core to get more defined abs—including lower back, hips, and upper thighs," says Lou Schuler, co-author of The New Rules of Lifting for Abs. (Also try these 20 tricks for engaging your core and getting a sneaky abs workout.)
Fruits like berries, cherries, apples, and oranges are high in quercetin, a natural compound that reduces inflammation in the belly. And if you put a bowl of the good stuff right where you can see it in your kitchen, you’re more likely to reach for it when you want a snack. These are the 10 reasons why apple cider vinegar is brilliant for slimming down.
If the diet is a quick fix rather than one that promotes lasting lifestyle changes, this could pose a problem. In particular, extreme diets that promise big weight loss up front aren’t always sustainable — and you may end up overeating or even binge eating if you feel deprived. “Consider if the diet’s habits are ones you can continue throughout your lifetime, not just 21 or 30 days,” says Angie Asche, RD, a sports dietitian in Lincoln, Nebraska.
That’s because women tend to store more temporary fat in their bellies. “The fat stores are gained and lost,” says Lawrence Cheskin, MD, chair of the department of nutrition and food studies at George Mason University and director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center. “By and large, belly fat comes off easier in the sense that it comes off first. That’s where a good amount of the fat is lost from.”
The calorie restriction diet myth suggests you will win the fight against flab. While losing weight does come down to how many calories you consume, it’s the types of foods you eat that will determine how you feel as you lose weight and the kind of weight you will lose. If you have a poorquality diet — counting calories but eating junk food — chances are you’ll lose muscle rather than fat, and thus, suffer from slow metabolism.
Unintentional weight loss may result from loss of body fats, loss of body fluids, muscle atrophy, or even a combination of these. It is generally regarded as a medical problem when at least 10% of a person's body weight has been lost in six months or 5% in the last month. Another criterion used for assessing weight that is too low is the body mass index (BMI). However, even lesser amounts of weight loss can be a cause for serious concern in a frail elderly person.
When it comes to food, there is evidence that men and women’s brains are wired differently. In a study published in the January 2009 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, even though women said they weren’t hungry when asked to smell, taste, and observe treats such as pizza, cinnamon buns and chocolate cake, brain scans showed activity in the regions that control the drive to eat (not the case for men).
The final possible culprit behind stubborn weight issues may be the stress hormone, cortisol. Too much cortisol will increase hunger levels, bringing along subsequent weight gain. The most common cause of elevated cortisol is chronic stress and lack of sleep (see tip #10), or cortisone medication (tip #9). It’s a good idea to try your best to do something about this.
Instant oatmeal may be a lot quicker to make than traditional oats, but what you gain in convenience you lose in nutritional value. Many of the oatmeal’s healthy properties are stripped away in processing, explains Stephanie Lincoln, an eating psychology specialist and the founder and CEO of Fire Team Whiskey Military Health and Fitness. Plus, sugar is added during manufacturing. These two factors turn instant oatmeal into a high glycemic index food, making you feel hungry even after you’ve just eaten. One study found that people who ate instant oatmeal for breakfast instead of eggs were found to eat 81 percent more food during the day. And one thing you don’t want when you’re trying to lose weight is the munchies. Next, don’t miss these 42 easy tricks for losing weight fast.
This popular plan recently underwent a rebranding to create a more balanced program, changing its four-phase approach with the help of a science advisory board. The Atkins Diet is still low-carb, but you won't be chowing down on steak and eggs all the time to promote weight loss. Lean protein is still key, but there's more of a spotlight on fiber, fruit, vegetables, and healthy fats.
“Under normal conditions, humans absorb only about 80% of the nutrients from the food they eat,” says A. Roberto Frisancho, Ph.D., a weight-loss researcher at the University of Michigan. But, he says, when the body is deprived of nourishment, it becomes a super-efficient machine, pulling what nutrients it can from whatever food is consumed. Start eating again normally and your body may not catch up; instead it will continue to store food as fat.
Eating too little can be extremely dangerous for your body. According to Medical News Today, having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of under 18.5 can lead to malnutrition, osteoporosis, developmental problems, a weakened immune system, anemia, and chronic fatigue. Healthline reports that the average woman needs about 2000 calories per day to maintain her weight and about 1500 calories to lose one pound of weight per week, though you should consult with your healthcare provider to see what's best for you.
All meals are important, but breakfast is what helps you start your day on the right track. The best, heartiest breakfasts are ones that will fill you up, keep you satisfied, and stave off cravings later in the day. Aim to eat anywhere between 400 and 500 calories for your morning meal, and make sure you're including a source of lean protein plus filling fat (e.g., eggs, beans, unsweetened Greek yogurt, nuts, or nut butters) and fiber (veggies, fruit, or 100% whole grains). Starting your day with a blood sugar-stabilizing blend of nutrients will help you slim down without sacrifice.
So what can we do with all this knowledge? Tempting as it is to get discouraged, we can actually find it encouraging. Biology is not destiny, after all. “Lifestyle choices are immensely powerful,” Peeke says. And on the heels of any tidal wave of new research is sure to come a trickle of weight-loss advice that can be more customized and more effective to help men and women with their weight-loss obstacles, no matter what they are.
The best way to lower your cortisol levels is by decreasing stress. While it’s easier said than done, weight loss tips like this one involve you simply taking the time to put yourself and your health first. Practicing saying “no” to events and things you know will cause you stress, carve out time to exercise, set aside some time daily — even just 5 minutes — to meditate or practice gratitude and learn to recognize when you’re feeling extra worn out and need a time out.
Eating is for nutrition. This study analyzes weight loss, but not nutrition. I would be interested in which diet meant people had no vitamin or mineral deficiencies. Many people who eat low carbohydrate eat few vegetables and fruit because of their carbo content. I have a difficult time believing that is healthy. The extreme, of course, is the Ketogenic diet.
Another popular mainstream diet, Dr. Barry Sears's plan is considered to be one of the first in the recent wave of "anti-inflammatory" plans. It sets you up for success by calibrating your plate to be a third protein and two-thirds carbohydrates (not starchy ones like potatoes, think colorful vegetables instead) with a little bit of MUFAs, or monounsaturated fatty acids (the good-for-you kind ) in the mix.
Rains, T. M., Leidy, H. J., Sanoshy, K. D., Lawless, A. L., & Maki, K. C. (2015, February 10). A randomized, controlled, crossover trial to assess the acute appetitive and metabolic effects of sausage and egg-based convenience breakfast meals in overweight premenopausal women. Nutrition Journal, 14, 17. Retrieved from https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12937-015-0002-7
When you’re eating to deal with your emotions, like anxiety, stress or unhappiness, you’re likely not reaching for carrot sticks and blueberries, but carbohydrates, processed foods and even alcohol. Those calories eventually add up and, at the same time, you’re avoiding learning how to deal with difficult emotions and situations. It’s pretty much a lose-lose situation.
Skimp on fluids, and your body will release an antidiuretic hormone that leads to water retention that could affect the scale, Dr. Setlzer says. While this sneaky effect is one reason why the scale is a poor measure of body mass loss, you can outsmart it by drinking more—particularly if you fill your glass with water or non-calorie alternatives like unsweetened coffee and tea.
Gym memberships can be expensive, and some days you just can't make it into the gym. Or maybe, you might not feel comfortable in a gym quite yet. At the start of her weight loss journey, Suheily Rodriguez says he was too embarrassed to go to a gym. "So I built a home one," she says, "where I exercised an hour a day, six days a week." She credits this to her 96-pound weight loss.
Make sure that the diet has been studied extensively for safety — and discuss any changes with your physician or registered dietitian before beginning a new diet. (If you don’t have a dietitian, find one in your area at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website.) And do a self-check to ensure the diet fits with your own values and preferences.
Women usually need fewer calories than men, especially as they age. That's because women naturally have less muscle, more body fat, and are usually smaller than men. On average, adult women need between 1,600 and 2,400 calories a day. As you age, you need to take in fewer calories to maintain the same weight. You can also keep your weight healthy by increasing how much physical activity you get.
Including your significant other in your workouts can help to keep you on track, even if your goals aren't necessarily the same. "My hubby and I make exercise outings 'our' time," says Twyla Grimes, who knocked off 26 pounds by combining an hour on the stairmill or treadmill with strength training. "We'll go to the gym for an hour and lift weights together. Having him there keeps me accountable."
And some emotional eaters, in an effort to feel better, are prone to reach for foods that will ignite the reward center of the brain, which tend to be the sugary, fatty, salty, hyper-palatable foods that can lead to weight gain, says Pamela Peeke, author of the “The Hunger Fix: The Three-Stage Detox and Recovery Plan for Overeating and Food Addiction.”
Lifestyle fit: Figure out whether a plan is compatible with your lifestyle before committing. Some meal plans are very simple; others require more work. Think about how much time and planning goes into each weight loss program. Some people find that meal planning and preparation takes up too much time, while others enjoy planning meals and spending time in the kitchen.