If you're specifically looking to target your belly, we have some bad news: you can't spot-target fat loss. That means you can do crunches or planks all day long, but you won't specifically burn belly fat. Instead, you can lose body fat overall, including from your belly. And by avoiding certain belly-bloating foods and with some strategic exercise, you will inevitably see results in your belly.
“We try not to vilify any food, except sugar,” added Dr. Aronne. “Having it as a treat is what sugar is for; it’s not meant to be the main part of your meal.” Yet added sugars in the form of sweeteners and syrups to flavor processed foods sees the average adult eating 20 teaspoons of hidden added sugar every day, or an extra 320 calories, according to the USDA’s recent nationwide food consumption survey. And then there’s sugar-sweetened beverages like sodas, sports drinks, juices and flavored coffees and teas stirred with empty calories. “The typical glass of orange juice has three oranges in it; that’s the calories of three oranges. But it’s easy to drink a glass of orange juice and still eat a number of other things,” added Dr. Aronne. “You’re better off just eating a single orange and feeling full.”
You can blame biology for your sweet tooth. We’re hardwired to have a preference for sweets, and this drive is universal and begins early on, according to research on the subject. Sugar makes food taste good, so food companies add it to everything from breads to soups to salad dressings to cereals, yogurts and more. This adds up to way too much sugar!
There are many reasons why you might want to lose weight. If you have been significantly overweight or obese for a long time, then you might have concerns about what the extra weight could be doing to your health. Obesity increases your risk of many health problems, including diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, gallbladder disease, and some types of cancer. If you have recently gained a bit of weight, then you might just want to lose some weight to fit back into your old jeans. Whatever your reason for wanting to lose weight, there are some important strategies that you should know about.
There’s a reason everyone harps on about protein: Not only does it help keep you full, but it’s also responsible for repairing the tiny tears caused by strength training in your muscles. This helps them grow bigger and stronger, nudging out body fat in the process. As a general rule of thumb, aim to get at least 70 grams of protein throughout the day, says Dr. Cheskin. (These high-protein foods can help you reach that goal.)
Belly fat is is different from fat elsewhere in your body. The extra weight some people carry around their waists, arms, and love handles isn’t the same — that’s subcutaneous fat, which sits beneath the skin and is relatively harmless, according to Harvard Medical School. The stuff in your belly, visceral fat, lodges deeper down, around your abdominal organs. It's metabolically active tissue that actually functions like a separate organ, releasing substances into the rest of your body that, in excess, can increase your risk of disease.
Practicing mindful eating can be really helpful if you’re an emotional eater. Check in with yourself to see if you’re actually hungry or just avoiding that assignment that’s hanging over your head. If you’re going to eat, sit down and give your food your full attention. No eating out of the bag, either. If you’re going to snack on some chips, but them in a bowl so you can see how much you’re eating. That might help curb your cravings.
Burning body and belly fat with cardio exercises is half the battle. Next is strengthening abdominal muscles so you have something to show once the fat is shed. In a recent study, ab exercises were ranked from best to worst. The bicycle exercise ranked as #1 because it requires abdominal stabilization, body rotation, and more abdominal muscle activity.
“A lot of people think the foundation of a paleo diet is high-fat meat, but I suggest that it’s vegetables,” says Hultin. The concept is to eat only foods — including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, fruits, and vegetables — that would have been available to our Paleolithic ancestors. This means grains, dairy, legumes, added sugar, and salt are all no-no’s.
If you have Celiac disease, of course you can and should eat gluten-free foods. But for those who choose gluten-free options because they think it’s healthier, think again. “As alternative grains are more bitter than their wheat-, barley-, and rye- gluten-containing counterparts, the most common means to mask bitterness is…wait for it…by adding high levels of sugar,” says Alvin Berger, MS, PhD, nutritionist, lipid biochemist and co-founder of Life Sense Products. “The sugar is added in its plethora of alternative forms and names, to provide cover. The bottom line is that many gluten-free foods are higher in total sugars and high glycemic-carbs than their gluten-containing counterparts.”
Frozen meals are super-convenient. They’re cheap, easy to throw in your bag as you’re running out the door, and take just three minutes to cook. While your 300-calorie Lean Cuisine may seem like a waist-friendly option, it’s not. Most frozen meals are loaded with sodium—as much as you should eat over a full day, not just in one meal—and lots of other synthetic additives. Sodium packs on water weight, as the body needs to maintain a balance in the body, and when you’re thirsty, you could reach for a sugary beverage, which adds hundreds of more calories. Salt also makes food taste better, prompting you to shovel more of it in your mouth. Another problem with frozen meals is they frequently lack sufficient fiber to keep you full, so you’re likely to find yourself sneaking back into the kitchen shortly after you’ve eaten. If you must eat a frozen meal, consider adding a serving or two of frozen vegetables to boost the fiber and fullness quotient and dilute the sodium.
Unintentional weight loss can occur because of an inadequately nutritious diet relative to a person's energy needs (generally called malnutrition). Disease processes, changes in metabolism, hormonal changes, medications or other treatments, disease- or treatment-related dietary changes, or reduced appetite associated with a disease or treatment can also cause unintentional weight loss. Poor nutrient utilization can lead to weight loss, and can be caused by fistulae in the gastrointestinal tract, diarrhea, drug-nutrient interaction, enzyme depletion and muscle atrophy.
When you're trying to lose weight, diet is one piece of the puzzle; the other is exercise. The AND recommends women over 50 engage in 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise -- such as a brisk walk or bike ride -- most days of the week to help burn extra calories. Two sessions per week of weight-training can help build and preserve muscle, which is beneficial for weight loss maintenance. According to the National Weight Control Registry, 94 percent of the people who have lost weight and kept it off engage in some sort of regular physical activity. If your doctor gives the okay for exercising, consult a personal trainer for fitness ideas that are right for you.
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.
Most women will need to eat and drink fewer calories and get the right amount of healthy foods to lose weight. Increasing exercise or physical activity may help with weight loss, but choosing healthy foods (lean protein, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits) is what works best for many people to achieve a healthy weight.1 Combining healthy eating with increased physical activity is best. Talk to your doctor or nurse before starting any weight-loss program. He or she can work with you to find the best way for you to lose weight.
Fleury, N., Geldenhuys, S., & Gorman, S. (2016, October 11). Sun exposure and its effects on human health: Mechanisms through which sun exposure could reduce the risk of developing obesity and cardiometabolic dysfunction. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 13(10), 999. Retrieved from https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/13/10/999/htm
Do it better: The best way to know if you're eating too much is to write it down. "Even if you note it on a napkin and then throw it away, that's okay. Just the act of writing makes you more aware," says Taub-Dix. Portion control cues help too: A baseball-size serving for chopped veggies and fruits; a golf ball for nuts and shredded cheese; a fist for rice and pasta; and a deck of cards for lean meats.
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
If you get enough protein and fat, your total calorie intake should take care of itself. Because you feel full, you won't binge on a can of Pringles and blow your calorie count for the day. The remaining 45 percent of calories in our plan comes from carbohydrates — enough to give your palate a full range of tastes and your body a combination of fast- and slow-burning fuel.
But the whole idea of fast weight loss may be the root of the problem. According to a Time expose on the subject: “When people are asked to envision their perfect size, many cite a dream weight loss up to three times as great as what a doctor might recommend.” An improbable and disheartening goal, and one that obscures the truth that losing small amounts of weight — even ten pounds — still has great health benefits.
“I learned how to cook from scratch and experiment with flavors. The biggest change my husband Mark and I made was planning our meals for the week on Sundays. We also rely on food optimizing—using vegetables to bulk up our meals but still keep them low-calorie. It helped me lose 52 pounds and 8 dress sizes, while Mark lost 110 pounds.” —Amanda Gibbon, 46
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.
When you have the option to choose between dried fruit and fresh fruit, always opt for the fresh variety. “Dried fruits have a lot of calories and added sugar for very little volume,” says Summer Yule, MS, RDN. “For instance, one cup of raisins (not packed) contains 434 calories and 86 grams of added sugar. By comparison, a cup of grapes contains only 62 calories and 15 grams of sugar. This means that you could eat 7 cups of grapes for the same amount of calories as 1 cup of unpacked raisins.”