Looking your best and feeling your best go hand in hand. Unwanted belly fat not only impacts our self esteem, it can also cause a surprising number of several long-term health problems. Dr. Josh Axe tells us why belly fat is an important health concern and 11 ways you can eliminate belly fat for good!
Losing weight is in the forefront of many of our minds. And there’s a lot of advice out there on how to lose weight quickly, often with the least possible effort. While your primary reason for wanting to lose belly fat may be vanity (it is nearly swimsuit season, after all), there are also many convincing and important health reasons for trimming down your waistline as well.
If you’re like most adults, including even many young adults, losing extra fat around your midsection is one of the biggest obstacles you’ll encounter on your weight loss journey. You may have experienced periods in the past when you’ve watched the numbers on the scale fall, but still you didn’t see a corresponding loss in belly fat like you’d hoped for. Or, maybe you’re the type who feels overwhelmed by the onslaught of conflicting dietary advice out there, and you haven’t yet started to lose weight or tackle the belly fat problem.
While there are a number of factors why so many people are gaining weight, we know that the accumulation of dangerous visceral fat– deep fat that tends to accumulate near your belly—raises the risk for serious conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and many others.
Research shows that losing just 10-20 pounds (or around 5-10 percent of your total body weight)—and especially belly fat—can make a real difference in terms of lowering your risk for developing these serious diseases. And hundreds of different studies show that effective long-term weight loss that results in decreased visceral/belly fat depends on making permanent changes in dietary quality, calorie (energy) intake, lifestyle habits and also physical activity. These changes aren’t always easy to make initially, but with time, healthier habits can become much more manageable. Plus, the effort to sustain them is well worth it in the end!
Here are my recommendations on how to lose that belly fat:
11 Ways to Start Trimming Your Midsection
1. Eat More Real Foods
Naturally, the first step in finding out how to lose belly fat starts with food. Eating real foods from nature, instead of fake foods found in packages or boxes, is one of the best (and easiest) things you can do for yourself and your loved ones. Real foods are the ones that humans have been eating for all of history: vegetables, fruits, seeds, clean meats and fish, legumes and others grown in healthy, rich soils without any chemicals added. Especially when it comes to belly fat, eating real foods can give your body the vital nutrients it needs to function properly. And eating real foods will result in you eating more of a high-fiber diet, which is beneficial for controlling appetite, digestion, heart health and more
Fake foods, on the other hand, are what you want to avoid at all costs. These are most of the foods you’ll find at your local supermarket: bagged, boxed, frozen, items loaded with unhealthy additives and preservatives you don’t want to be putting into your body.
2. Stay Away from Sugar, Liquid Calories and Grains
Sugar is really bad for you. And you especially want to avoid added sugar when you are trying to lose belly fat – watch out for hidden sources of sugar like sweetened dairy, juices or packaged snacks made with grains.
- Don’t drink your calories! Drink more plain water, herbal tea or fruit with lemon slices.
- Reduce your intake of grains (especially refined kinds). Not all grains are bad-try sprouted or gluten-free grains. But grains won’t help you lose weight or recover from a health condition. Instead, focus on vegetables and fruits that are low in sugar and high in fiber (like raspberries, for example).
3. Eat Mindfully
Mindful eating means many things:
- slowing down while you eat so you’re less likely to scarf down too much, too quickly;
- being aware of how much food it takes to make you feel satisfied when eating without becoming overly stuffed;
- eating while undistracted and avoiding multi-tasking;
- facing emotional or comfort eating head on by figuring out better ways to handle stressors in your life; and
- eating in a healthy manner first and foremost that supports your health over the long-term, rather than just to lose weight quickly
4. Consider Intermittent Fasting
Want to know how to lose belly fat? Then it’s time to introduce your body to intermittent fasting, which is best approached as a shift in lifestyle and eating patterns, not a diet. There’s no need to count calories or measure grams. Simply focus on extending the duration of time between eating the healthy foods you already eat, with a particular emphasis on healthy fats and proteins.
The effects of fasting on hormones are multi-faceted:
- it has a dramatic impact on human growth hormone levels, resulting in greater endurance with faster muscle repair and growth;
- it may help slow the aging process;
- it can help regulate insulin levels, which is key for those who are diabetic or obese;
- it might improve detoxification, it helps the body use glucose (sugar from carbs) more effectively; and
- it usually helps reduce calorie intake
If this sounds too extreme for you, carb cycling is another option, which alternates days of low-carb eating with days of higher carb consumption to help keep cravings and fatigue in check.
5. Implement HIIT Workouts
Most people don’t realize that a lot of cardio/aerobic exercise can actually wear down our joints, increase our stress hormones (including cortisol) and contribute to fatigue or overeating. A better option is to alternate the types and intensities of your workouts, doing some at a harder pace but for shorter duration and others for strength or cardiovascular benefits
One of the most effective and efficient ways to lose unwanted belly fat, or simply extra weight in general, is burst training or HIIT workouts. High-intensity interval training style has been shown to be an excellent way to burn fat in a short period of time and help improve the physical performance of athletes of all kinds.
High-intensity interval training combines short, high-intensity bursts of exercise, with slow recovery phases repeated throughout one short 15-20 minute session. It’s done at 85-100 percent of one’s maximum heart rate rather than 50-70 percent in moderate endurance activity.
While this approach to losing belly fat is not a good fit for everyone (such as some athletes, those who are underweight, or women who experience hormonal alterations easily), doing HIIT workouts has been shown to help many overweight people drop pounds while not feeling hungry or deprived
6. Reduce Stress
Chronic stress experienced over a long period of time is considered not only dangerous—raising your risk for heart disease, diabetes, mental disorders and autoimmune diseases to name a few—it’s also tied to weight gain and poor eating habits.
Stress manifests in the body in multiple ways you can’t always feel by:
- increasing levels of “stress hormones” like cortisol;
- causing blood sugar levels to rise;
- altering your appetite;
- getting in the way of normal digestion by changing the gut environment; and
- affecting the way your thyroid glands and hormones work.
Regular stress can take a toll on your metabolism and levels of body fat.
If you’re up against large amounts of stress in your life (from work, lack of sleep, relationships, finances, etc.), studies show you can greatly benefit from carving out more time for stress relievers such as regular exercise, meditation, spending time outdoors and keeping up with fun hobbies.
7. Get Enough Sleep
Want to find an easy secret for how to lose belly fat? A lack of sleep is often one of the most overlooked factors contributing to belly fat! Getting enough sleep helps regulate your stress hormones, controls your appetite better, gives you more energy for physical exercise, may help reduce cravings for sweets and tends to decrease emotional eating.
8. Try a Low-carb or Ketogenic Diet
Weight loss isn’t always as straightforward as “calories in versus calories out.” Changing the type of calories you eat can also accelerate weight loss and reduction of belly fat. A ketogenic diet is a strict low-carb diet that is high in filling foods, mostly fats and some protein. Reducing carbs helps the body burn stored body fat for energy, usually very quickly.
9. Add in Metabolism Boosters
Try adding in some foods that can help boost your metabolism to help you lose weight:
- Cayenne peppers: Hot peppers increase your heart rate, make you sweat and boost your metabolism at the same time. They are also one the best foods to reduce inflammation in your body. Capsaicin, found in cayenne pepper, can increase calories burned after consumption. A study in the British Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when subjects consumed capsaicin for weight maintenance, fat oxidation (the breakdown of fat) was increased. Capsaicin may also stimulate the production of AMPK, leading to further breakdown of fat.
- Matcha Green Tea: Few things are more beneficial in helping your metabolism and losing weight than matcha green tea.
- Seaweed called wakame: If you haven’t heard of this seaweed native to Japan yet, you can bet you will soon! In a Japanese study at Hokkaido University led by researcher Kazuo Miyashita, Ph.D., fucoxanthin, found in wakame, was shown to promote fat burning in animals’ fat cells. Fucoxanthin fights fat in two ways. First, it encourages the action of protein UCP1, which causes fat oxidation, especially in the type of fat that surrounds organs where it is found. Second, fucoxanthin promotes DHA production in the liver. Increased DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid, can help with decreasing bad cholesterol or LDL.
10. Regularly Perform Abs Workouts (Including Those Suitable for Beginners)
Even most personal trainers and athletes agree that the quality of your diet is the number one factor to address in order to lose belly fat. Once you improve your eating habits, ab workouts and core exercises are the icing on the cake. Doing about two to four ab workouts weekly can strengthen and define your midsection while you also work on losing body fat all over through improving your diet and sleep and reducing stress.
A strong core also helps with balance and stability, improves your posture, and can help eliminate back pain that may be a result of carrying extra weight. Some of the best core exercises include V-ups, planks of all kinds, flutter kicks or scissor kicks, burpees, Russian twists and reverse crunches.
11. Work Out On an Empty Stomach
While it’s not the best idea for everyone, such as those who eat dinner early or who feel weak and dizzy when exercising with nothing in their stomach, working out on an empty stomach does seem to have some benefits. It may help improve your body’s response to insulin, keep your calorie intake lower overall, improve performance and boost the amount of body fat you burn for energy during workouts.
However, there’s also the risk of burning through muscle instead of stored glucose, which is the last thing you want to happen when you’re committing to regular strength-building workouts. Everyone is different at the end of the day, but research suggests working out on an empty stomach might help for short workouts, but not as well before longer or tougher workouts.
Precautions When Trying to Lose Belly Fat
It’s nice to think there’s a one-size-fits-all approach to losing belly fat that works for everyone, but this simply isn’t the case. There are many variables at play when it comes to losing belly fat: genetics, how fit you otherwise are, what type of exercise you’re doing, your medical history, hormones, age, gender and so on.
Regardless of the exact type of exercise regime and diet you choose in order to lose weight, several things are important for everyone:
- Stay hydrated before, during and after your workouts.
- Manage stress in your life in whatever way that works for you.
- Pay attention to how different habits affect your energy levels.
- Keep track of what makes you feel happiest and least likely to feel fatigued.
- Consider emotional triggers that make you crave junk food throughout the day.
- Track your sleep.
- Speak with a professional if you notice warning signs of more serious health problems.
Losing belly fat is not only something to strive for to look better- it reduces your risk for diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and more. So consider one of the many options described in this article such as:
- eating more fresh plant foods
- stay away from sugar, especially hidden sources sugar like sweetened juices and processed food
- eat mindfully
- intermittent fasting
- try HIIT workouts
- reduce stress
- get enough sleep
- try a low carb diet
- add in some foods that can boost metabolism such as cayenne peppers, matcha tea or wakamee
- do ab workouts on a regular basis
- working out on an empty stomach
While the list may seem overwhelming, remember that even one small change is a change toward greater health.
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