Losing abdominal fat, or belly fat, is a common weight loss goal.
Abdominal fat is a particularly harmful type. Research suggests strong links with diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
For this reason, losing this fat can have significant benefits for your health and well-being.
You can measure your abdominal fat by measuring the circumference around your waist with a tape measure. Measures of above 40 inches (102 cm) in men and 35 inches (88 cm) in women are known as abdominal obesity.
Certain weight loss strategies can target the fat in the belly area more than other areas of the body.
Here are 6 evidence-based ways to lose belly fat.
- Different Types of Belly Fat
- 1) Stressed-Out Belly Fat
- 2) Tiered Belly Fat
- 3) Mommy Belly Fat
- 4) Bloated Belly
- 5) Beer Or Wine Belly
- 6) Muffin Top Belly Fat
- 12 Ways To Reduce Belly Fat
- 1. Start simple
- 2. Target sugar
- 3. Go Mediterranean
- 4. Front-load your meal
- 5. Commit to a physical lifestyle
- 6. Move around, fidget
- 7. And try not to sit too much
- 8. Redefine ‘rest’
- 9. Don’t rely on sit-ups to give you a six-pack
- 10. Develop more muscle
- 11. Get some sleep
- 12. Forget about weight loss drugs or supplements claiming ‘one trick’
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1) Stressed-Out Belly Fat
If your upper belly (right below your ribs) spills over your shorts or protrudes when you sit, you may have Stressed-Out Belly Fat.
Do you feel out of breath or uncomfortable? Those are the symptoms.
Stressed-out belly fat is caused by stress (hence the name) and lack of sleep. Your exhaustion is slowing down your metabolism and fat is settling in your upper abdomen.
How to fix it:
1. Take control of your sleeping habits. Go to bed earlier and stop using your computer, tablet, and smartphone 30 minutes before bedtime.
2. Eat an earlier dinner so your body can digest supper well before you go to sleep.
3. You don’t have to work out until you drop, but a little low-impact yoga will aid in relaxation and digestion.
4. Say no to caffeine in the evening so your body can relax for a good night’s sleep.
2) Tiered Belly Fat
If your stomach has two layers—fat on top and then another layer of fat near the belly button—you have tiered belly fat. There’s typically fat around the belly AND fat around the hips.
How to fix it:
Tiered belly fat can be conquered by changing your lifestyle. You need to move around more.
1. First, no smoking, and alcohol consumption must be moderate.
2. Tiered belly fat is caused by not burning enough calories. Engage in some form of physical activity.
Pick something you like. You don’t have to run till you collapse. Just walk, bike, swim, or whatever you enjoy.
Even 20 minutes a day will jumpstart your metabolism.
3. Make small changes in your diet to lose some weight.
Decrease fatty snacks and sugar. A little here and there is fine, but the keyword is “little.”
Focus on lean proteins like fish and eggs. Eat more whole grains, vegetables, and fruit. Read labels when you purchase snacks. Low- or no-salt pretzels and popcorn are easier to burn off than potato chips and French fries.
Try to satisfy chocolate cravings with a square or two of dark chocolate. You can have any dessert you want… if you just have a few bites of it.
I know, this is all easier said than done, but there are people who do that and it’s the best way to indulge without contributing to belly fat. Or, if you don’t have many sweets or snacks for 5 or 6 days, you can have a little extra on the 7th day.
Figure out what works for you.
It may take some time to reduce your belly, but stick with the plan and you’ll succeed.
3) Mommy Belly Fat
This is a common one. During pregnancy, your body builds up fat to protect the fetus. After your baby is born, you might have some loose skin and extra fat beneath your waistline from muscles that stretched during pregnancy.
How to fix it:
1. Wait until a month after your baby is born to begin belly exercises. Leg lifts are a great way to strengthen and tighten your stomach.
2. Breastfeeding, drinking lots of water, walking your baby in a stroller, and getting as much sleep as you can (a bit challenging, but nap when baby naps) can do wonders. Eat the foods mentioned in #3 of the Tiered Belly section above; if you’re breastfeeding, you’ll be extra motivated to eat healthy food so your baby gets all of the right nutrients in your milk.
Light weight-lifting can also help with post-pregnancy weight. Some moms use their babies as weights. You can lay on your back and lift your baby above you for “airplane rides.” Baby will love it!
And if you’re now a grandmother but are still carrying a “mummy tummy,” these tips can still work just as well now!
4) Bloated Belly
Bloated belly is caused by dairy, gluten, wheat, fructose, and similar foods consumed during the day. Gas and fluid cause abdominal bloating as these types of foods are digested.
If your belly is flat in the morning and bloated at the end of the day, this is probably what is causing it.
How to fix it:
1. A probiotic supplement should help if you feel bloated and uncomfortable.
2. If a probiotic doesn’t do the trick, make an appointment with a dietitian who handles Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Low-FODMAP (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols) diets are effective for bloated bellies as well.
Here is part of a dietitian’s list of substitutions that will help you avoid the daily bloat:
- Swap whole-meal or multigrain bread for plain, gluten-free bread
- Swap plain flour for buckwheat flour
- Swap garlic for garlic-infused olive oil
- Swap onion for onion-infused olive oil
- Swap cabbage for kale
- Swap leek for ginger
- Swap blueberries for strawberries
- Swap cherries for grapes
- Swap apples for dragon fruit
- Swap regular cow’s milk for lactose-free milk
- Swap yogurt for lactose-free yogurt
- Swap almonds for macadamias
- Swap cashews for peanuts
- Swap honey for maple syrup
5) Beer Or Wine Belly
Who doesn’t want to have a beer or a glass of wine now and then? It’s okay if you just have one or two drinks a day (like Europeans who serve wine every night with dinner)… but if you’re enjoying more than a few beers or glasses of wine daily, your belly is going to show it.
The alcohol will lead to the production of visceral fat, which is the worst type of fat because it sits against the abdominal wall and traps stored fat. Visceral fat is also dangerous because it resides near your important organs.
You’d be amazed at how decreasing your alcohol consumption can help you drop weight.
1. Experiment with creating low-calorie/healthy mocktails.
2. Limit yourself to 1 or 2 drinks per day. Then your body won’t have to work on burning off alcohol calories before it starts burning off food calories.
6) Muffin Top Belly Fat
Muffin top bellies are often caused by hormonal issues. If your lower waist has soft fat, you might be suffering from insulin resistance and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome may be increasing your insulin levels.
High carbohydrate intake and genetics cause muffin top bellies to develop as we age.
How to fix it:
1. Cut out as many carbs as you can from your diet.
The easiest ways to reduce your carb intake are to avoid soda and fruit juice, reduce bread consumption, use natural sweeteners, request veggies at restaurants when you’re offered potatoes or bread, choose flours made from coconuts and nuts in lieu of wheat, and drink almond or coconut milk instead of cow’s milk.
Be aware that carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, peas, lima beans, and corn are all high in carbs.
Opt for Greek yogurt and cheese when eating dairy. They have less carbs than fruit-flavored yogurt, frozen yogurt, and pudding.
2. Squeeze a little exercise into your schedule. Pick something you’ll be able to stick to. Again, even a 20-minute walk each day will help.
If you like to watch television or listen to music while you work out, you might want to get a stationary bike and pedal while you watch your shows or rock out to some tunes.
3. See your general practitioner or endocrinologist to check your hormones and find out what the doctor recommends.
As you can see, your belly fat can originate from several different health issues. Once you determine what’s causing your belly fat, you can customize your approach to successfully win the battle against it.
12 Ways To Reduce Belly Fat
Typically there are many things you may need to improve to lose belly fat. But start by focusing on changing or improving just one thing. Then, once you conquer that first objective, you can move on to the next thing, and so on.
One good place to begin improving your food choices is to eliminate sugary drinks — and not just soda, but juices. Sugar increases belly fat and fiber reduces belly fat; thus when you’re juicing fruits, you’re removing the fiber, leaving pure sugar. So one quick fix, a very concrete fix, would be eliminating sugary drinks.
Replacing sugary beverages with water will help dramatically cut down your sugar intake, and then once you’ve taken that step, you can figure out how to cut down on foods that are high in sugar.
If you have a sweet tooth and need to put that final accent to your meal, eat an apple, melon or fresh berries. Just remember, fruit is not a substitute for vegetables.
The popular “flat belly diets”embrace much of the wisdom found in eating a Mediterranean diet, which helps everything from brain health to hearth health. The basic premise for both diets is eat foods rich in monosaturated fatty acids (MUFA) that may help reduce your belly fat storage. MUFA-rich foods include olive oil, nuts and seeds, avocodos, and fish. Eating yogurt regularly has also been found to be helpful in reducing belly fat.
Another diet trend that promises results when it comes to belly fat: the apple cider vinegar diet. While animal studies have been promising, current research in humans has yet to show impressive results. The data supporting the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, however, are real and cause for making some dietary changes.
Start your meal, especially your largest meal, with seasoned vegetables, be it vegetable soup or the vegetables on your entrée plate. And remember that vegetables should always comprise at least half of your plate and be a mix of starchy (like potatoes) and nonstarchy ones (your leafy greens, broccoli, etc.).
Eating the vegetables first will leave less room for other foods that aren’t as healthy, because vegetable fiber is filling.
The single most important thing people can do to prevent the buildup of belly fat and get rid of existing belly fat is commit to physical activity, and better yet, a physical lifestyle.
For both men and women, the first fat you lose when you exercise is visceral fat.
In a way, moderate-intensity physical activity is that “magic pill” a lot of people are looking for, because the health benefits go beyond keeping your waistline trim: Not only can it reduce your risk of cancer, stroke, diabetes and heart attacks, but studies have shown that physical activity can significantly improve the moods of patients with major depressive disorders.
Overtraining, though, can be problematic when it comes to fighting belly fat because it can lead to coristol overproduction. Excess amounts of this stress hormone has been found to be associated with belly fat.
Simply walking briskly an hour each day can have an impact by boosting your metabolism, as can adding an incline to your treadmill routine.
Here’s something else most people probably don’t know: Fidgeting is good for you. It’s considered a nonexercise physical activity, and it’s an important way to burn energy. You get more health benefits if, in addition to exercising, you are a more fidgety, more active person the rest of the day. This means gesturing while you’re talking, tapping your foot, just moving around.
Studies have shown that people who sit eight to nine hours a day, even if they exercise the recommended 150 minutes per week, do not get the same benefits of exercising as people who are more active throughout the day.
If you have to sit most of the day for your job, try to find some ways to move:
- Take small breaks throughout the day to walk around
- Use your lunch hour to take a longer walk
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator, if possible
- Do stretching exercises at your desk
- Just do your best to move around as much as you can
Having an active hobby — and if you don’t already have one, developing one — is important. Get engaged in some kind of sport, whether it’s a group activity or something you can do alone. Essentially, if an activity is pleasant to you, you’ll continue to do it.
If your leisure time involves sitting around on the sofa or in a chair, you might actually be offsetting the positive health effects of exercising even if you’re working out regularly.
Unfortunately, the general understanding of rest is relaxing in front of TV or dining out — what we call “passive rest.” But really, our rest should consist of sleep, and our leisure time should consist of fun physical activity, which is active rest.
Statistics suggest that out of 900 months in his life, the average man in the U.S. spends approximately 198 months watching TV, five months complaining about his boss, and five months waiting on hold.
Think of the other things you could do with those 208 months of your life. You could find activities that are better for your health and will help keep the belly fat away.
Unfortunately, sit-ups and crunches can’t eliminate visceral fat directly. You can’t reduce fat from specific parts of your body by exercising that body part; our bodies simply don’t work that way.
With sit-ups or other abdominal exercises, you’re toning the abdominal muscles but not burning intra-abdominal fat. The key is to lower your overall body fat with moderate-intensity physical activity and a healthy diet; when you reduce your total body fat, you’ll also be reducing your belly fat.
So if you want to do abdominal exercises, make them part of your fitness routine. Just don’t treat them as a substitute for the recommended 150 minutes of weekly moderate-intensity physical activity.
While sit-ups can’t “target” belly fat, what they can do is help you burn calories, strengthen your core and develop more muscle. Because muscle is more metabolically active than fat, the more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn when you’re at rest.
You can also try lifting heavier weights and resting less between repetitions, which can promote calorie burning after you leave the gym.
Burning those extra calories can help you achieve and maintain a healthier weight in conjunction with regular cardiovascular exercise and a healthy diet.
A recent study of 70,000 individuals showed that those getting less than five hours of sleep were more likely to gain 30 or more pounds.
So far, there is not one single drug that is approved by the Federal Drug Administration for the reduction of belly fat. Supplements claiming a “one trick solution” to belly fat are not strictly regulated, and a lot of the claims made in the ads are not backed up by research.
The bottom line is that when it comes to belly fat, the answer is not in drugs or supplements. Enjoying a healthy lifestyle should be the focus. And while that’s not as simple as swallowing a pill, the benefits will last a lifetime.
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