With 74.1% of American adults being overweight or obese, it is no surprise many people wonder how to get rid of belly fat. Even if you are at a healthy weight, you may find yourself with stubborn fat around your lower abdomen hiding the bottom half of your washboard abs from the rest of the world. Obesity is a global epidemic putting a massive strain on national healthcare systems around the world.
So how do you get rid of belly fat? Contrary to popular belief, you cannot spot check body fat, meaning you cannot do crunches for an hour a day and lose belly fat. If you are looking to cut belly fat without expensive, invasive cosmetic surgery, you must commit yourself to a healthy lifestyle including nutritious, filling foods and exercise. Because fat loss is all about commitment, change your outlook to make these lifestyle changes sustainable. You are not restricting food from your diet. You are adding healthy, delicious foods and exercise to give you strength, energy, and power. You are improving yourself so you can live a long, happy, healthy, enjoyable life while taking care of your loved ones. Remember, always secure your own oxygen before you try to take care of your children. You can’t help anyone if you do not first help yourself.
What is Belly Fat?
Before you can answer the question of how to lose belly fat, you have to understand what belly fat is and why it is important to not have it in excess. Belly fat, known as visceral fat in the medical community, is the so-called spare tire you see on men or love handles and muffin tops on women. It is imperative you learn how to get rid of belly fat and implement these changes if you are overweight or obese. Obesity is a lead indicator of a host of health disorders including heart attack and stroke, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and gallbladder disease. Unfortunately, these are just a handful of many.
A certain amount of fat is necessary for health, but visceral fat is the dangerous fat stored in the abdominal cavity, surrounding vital organs such as the liver, small and large intestines and pancreas. Liver and kidney failure, pancreatic cancer and pancreatitis are diseases obese individuals have a higher risk of contracting.
Cause & Effect
When learning how to get rid of belly fat, it is important to understand what happens you go about it the wrong way.
Coined by Kelly D. Brownell of Yale University, yo-yo dieting is now a common phrase in America. It summarizes succinctly the vicious cycle that can occur when trying to lose weight. Commonly, individuals, particularly female adolescents, go on a restrictive diet. These hypocaloric fad diets may cause pride at food restriction at first, but eventually, fatigue and depression will kick in. Your body will naturally crave carbohydrates until you give in and consume them, raising serotonin and dopamine, the happiness hormones in your brain. Inevitably, dieters will give up.
Low-carb diets cause massive initial weight loss, but most of this is water weight. Your body stores two to three grams of water for every gram of carbohydrates you consume, which is why wrestlers and rowers avoid carbohydrates for a few days leading up to a pre-season weigh-in. Excessive calorie restriction will cause your body to consume your muscles as fuel. Your body can only consume up to one percent of its body weight for fuel per week. A moderately active 25-year-old 250-pound man who stands six feet tall requires 23,403 calories per week. His body can only consume 8,750 calories from his stored fat as fuel. If he consumed 1,908 calories per day, he would experience a weight loss of three pounds per week. However, half of a pound of that would come from his muscle as his body cannot consume three pounds of fat per week. This is dangerous as muscle mass is an important part of being able to live a healthy, active lifestyle.
Take it Easy
Stress causes cortisol levels in your body to increase. Cortisol is a hormone that increases your appetite and drives your body to store fat excess fat around the abdomen. Being overweight is stressful to many individuals which continues to drive up their cortisol, which means if they consume more calories than they burn, they will store more fat around their abdomen making them even more stressed, particularly if they are trying and failing at unsustainable fad diets.
How to Get Rid of Belly Fat
There are dozens of lifestyle changes you can make once you learn how to get rid of belly fat. Today we will be discussing a number of the most effective methods.
Eat Plenty of Soluble Fiber
Of the two types of fiber, soluble fiber has proven to be the most effective in weight loss. An observational study of over a thousand people showed for every additional 10 grams of soluble fiber in an individual’s diet, belly fat was reduced by 3.7% over five years. Additionally, soluble fiber absorbs water in your digestive tract, forming a gel which slows down the passage of food. It also causes your body to absorb fewer calories from the food you consume. Foods which are high in soluble fiber include Brussel sprouts blackberries and raspberries, legumes such as lentils and chickpeas, avocados, flaxseed and shirataki noodles. Be careful eating avocados as these are extremely calorie dense. Also, be wary if you eat it as guacamole with food high in processed carbs like tortilla or corn chips.
Do not Drink Alcohol in Excess
Alcohol in moderation provides several health benefits. However, an excess of alcohol reduces your inhibitions increasing your risk of overeating. Furthermore, a serving of alcohol contains 96 calories. It contains seven calories per gram. This is less than the nine calories per gram of fat, but these are empty calories with zero nutritional value. This is also nearly twice as much as the four calories per gram in nutrient-dense protein and carbohydrates.
If you are going to drink in moderation, stay hydrated. Alcohol is a diuretic, making you dehydrated. Additionally, many Americans mistake their dehydration for hunger as their bodies crave food high in sodium to help it retain the water it has. Alcohol also lowers your blood sugar making you genuinely hungry. Avoid sugary drinks such as hurricanes and long island ice teas. One cocktail can contain several hundred calories which can really blow your calorie budget. Eat a high protein meal with a glass of water, sip on a low- to no-carb adult beverage such as scotch, champagne or wine. Avoid beer and mixed, sugary drinks when possible.
Avoid Foods That Contain Trans Fats
Trans fats are commonly seen on food labels as partially hydrogenated oil. This is because it is manufactured by adding hydrogen to monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, like the monounsaturated fat soybean oil. A multitude of observational and multi-year animal studies show the dangers of trans fats. In a six-year study on monkeys, the primates who consumed trans fats gained 33% more visceral fat than those who consumed unsaturated fats. Furthermore, trans fats result in inflammation which causes joint pain, heart disease, and insulin resistance. Trans fats are commonly found in margarine and vegetable spreads. Remember, oil should be liquid at room temperature, not solid.
Eat a Diet High in Protein
A high-protein diet will keep you feeling fuller for a longer time. This reduces your likelihood of snacking on calorie dense, nutrition poor, processed foods. Try to eat protein in combination with healthy fats or slow carbohydrates. For example, have a multi-grain bagel and peanut butter with no added sugar to hit all three macronutrients. Or have plain oatmeal cooked with milk instead of water, cinnamon and brown sugar. Cinnamon has been clinically proven to increase your metabolism and insulin sensitivity and decrease the concentration of your blood sugar.
Reduce Your Stress Levels
Engage in relaxing, enjoyable activities such as meditation, yoga, drawing or music to reduce stress. This will reduce the cortisol levels in your body, so you will store less fat around your middle and your appetite will not be excessive.
Minimize Sugary Foods
Fructose, or fruit sugar, is naturally found in foods such as fruit and honey. However, it can also be added as a flavoring agent in cereals, pastries and a host of other processed foods, many claiming to be healthy. Beware, fructose is linked to several chronic diseases including obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease and excess fat stored around the lower abdomen.
Do Aerobic Exercise
Aerobic, or cardiovascular, exercise is great for how to get rid of belly fat. There are mixed results about whether moderate- or high-intensity training is best for weight loss, but there is no denying that the duration and frequency of these workouts are of critical importance. Post-menopausal women sometimes struggle to lose weight due to hormone changes. It is significantly more effective for these women to perform cardiovascular exercise for 300 minutes per week than for 150 minutes per week. If you can’t block out an entire at a time in your day, schedule thirty minutes each morning and evening five days per week.
Reduce Carbs, Especially Refined Carbs
Consuming fewer than 50 grams of carbs per day is an extremely effective method of how to get rid of belly fat for overweight individuals, those suffering from polycystic ovary syndrome and at risk of Type 2 diabetes. You don’t have to go on a low-carb diet. Do your best to replace refined carbohydrates with unprocessed, starchy carbs to improve metabolic health and reduce belly fat.
Replace Some of Your Cooking Fats with Coconut Oil
In a study performed on obese men, consuming two tablespoons of coconut oil per day for 12 weeks, or 30 milliliters, led to the reduction of 1.1 inches from the waist without intentional diet or exercise. This indicates that coconut oil can either increase your metabolism, satiety or both. Replace some of your cooking oil with coconut oil as it is still high in calories. Two tablespoons contain 237 calories, which is a significant amount, particularly if you are trying to reduce your daily calorie consumption.
Perform Resistance Training
A study on overweight teenagers shows that lifting weights is one of the most effective methods for how to get rid of belly fat. This is because progressive resistance training results in muscle growth. Muscle mass requires more calories to be maintained than fat mass and as your muscles break down and repair themselves, you burn calories long after your workout session. A combination of strength and conditioning through resistance training and aerobic exercise is the best way to cut belly fat for good.
Eat Fatty Fish Every Week
Fatty fish is high in quality protein and healthy omega-3’s. Omega-3 fatty acids are shown to reduce dangerous visceral fat like the fat around the liver and abdomen. Aim for two to three four-ounce servings of fish per week. Excellent choices include anchovies, mackerel, sardines, herring and grilled, wild salmon. Farmed salmon is terrible for the environment and these fish are higher in fat as they are less active.
Stop Drinking Fruit Juice
People know to cut sugary drinks out of their diet. Soda contains sodium which is bad for your blood pressure, high-fructose corn syrup linked to dangerous diseases, added chemicals and artificial additives and empty calories. However, some people mistake fruit juice as a healthy beverage choice. While fruit juice contains vitamins and minerals, even an unsweetened glass of natural apple juice contains 12 grams of fructose. Easily eliminate 113 calories per eight-ounce serving of fruit juice you drink by replacing these beverages with unsweetened tea or coffee or water. Eliminate one cup of orange juice from your diet each day and reduce your caloric intake by 791. If that is the difference between maintenance and a deficit that is 0.226 pounds of fat with one easy substitution! If you find the thought of unsweetened tea repulsive, try substituting sugar for honey or infuse your tea with fresh, local, in-season fruit.
Try Intermittent Fasting
There are two common methods of IF, known as intermittent fasting. Some dieticians and nutritionists recommend you go 24 hours without eating once or twice a week. Another method is to fast for 16 hours at a time and consume all or most of your calories within an eight-hour window before you go to bed. The idea is you burn fat while you are active throughout the day and your body has a chance to absorb all the nutrients from your food while you are asleep at night. Remember, humans existed for 300,000 years without a steady food supply. It is okay to feel hungry. In fact, intermittent fasting for 14 to 16 hours per day will help to put you in tune with your body, learning when it needs fuel and what type of fuel it needs. If you have a medical condition, your dietitian may recommend small portions of fruit and milk every hour, before, during or after your workout or at some other interval. If you count your calories with the goal of a daily deficit during this time, be sure to eat plenty of filling, nutrient-dense vegetables.
How to get rid of belly fat is no great mystery. Consume fewer calories than you burn and your body will decide where to use your stored adipose tissue as fuel. However, certain foods target the dangerous visceral fat we all carry. It is imperative you lose excess visceral fat as it leads to several chronic diseases and other medical conditions such as liver failure and obesity. Obesity itself is a lead indicator of a host of other health problems including Type 2 diabetes, heart attack and stroke, heart disease
There are dozens of lifestyle changes you can implement to reduce belly fat. These can be summarized as eat healthy foods and exercise regularly. It is important you approach visceral fat loss with the right attitude as weight cycling can be devastating. You aren’t losing weight to make your ex jealous or attract the attention of your coworker. You must want to improve your health to live a longer, happier, active life. Take time to de-stress, as cortisol is the hormone responsible for significantly increasing your appetite and driving your body to store visceral fat. Perform both aerobic and resistance exercises on a regular basis. This is good for your cardiovascular system, metabolism, bones, joints and more. Exercise is also known to reduce stress and improve mood.
We have all heard the old adage, “You can’t out-exercise a poor diet.” Try to eliminate or at least reduce sugary drinks including soda, cocktails and fruit juice. Avoid consuming alcohol in excess as it reduces your inhibitions and makes you feel hungry. Aim to eat between eight and 12 ounces of fatty fish each week. The protein will keep you feeling full and the omega-3 fatty acids reduce visceral fat, as does coconut oil. Be sure to substitute some of your cooking fat with coconut oil instead of just adding it to your diet as it is high in calories. Avoid trans fats which cause you to store more fat around your abdomen than unprocessed unsaturated fats. If you find yourself consuming many calories at each meal, try intermittent fasting and consuming all of your calories within one window. This comes with the added benefit of spending less time and money preparing your food or eating out.
We only covered a handful of tips and tricks on how to get rid of belly fat. The bottom line is to make small changes one at a time until they become a habit. You want this lifestyle overhaul to be sustainable and last a long, happy, healthy lifetime.