When it comes to excess weight, not all are created equal. And just being overweight does not mean you’re necessarily unhealthy, just like being normal weight doesn’t mean your free from your share of health issues. The thing that does point to a lot of health issues is belly fat.
Belly fat or abdominal fat is the biggest culprit of some pretty deadly diseases like heart disease and diabetes. It’s important to take note of any excess fat in this region and work on getting rid of it before it causes any serious health complications.
Luckily there are some research backed strategies on how to shed those pesky pounds from your belly region.
1. Avoid added sugar.
Sugar is in a lot of food products now and can be very difficult to avoid. If you look at pretty much any processed food, it’s there — especially foods that have been made to be “low fat” because when you take out fat (which can sometimes be healthy and gives food its flavor) to make it tasty, most manufacturers add sugar.
The danger here is that when you consume refined sugars, especially in high amounts, insulin levels increase, blood sugar rises and your body (specifically your liver) is drowned in high amounts of fructose.
Why is this a problem? When these mechanisms occur, your body converts the calories straight into fat that hangs out in your tummy. And when these calories are liquid (such as in the case of sodas or fruit juices) the effect is exponential.
The liquid calories aren’t recognized in the brain the same way they would be if they were a part of a solid food. So, the hormones that tell you “hey, we’ve reached our calorie limit for the day” aren’t being produced. In addition, consuming sugars from whole fruit is also different because you are digesting the fibrous bits of fruit at the same time which aid in slower absorption.
Completely cutting out any drinks with added sugar can drastically improve your health and checking the labels on any processed foods you eat to see how much sugar it contains can also help.
2. Eat more protein.
Protein is key in making you feel full and satisfied after a meal. Without the proper amounts of protein, you could be left feeling hungry with increased cravings that turn into higher food and calorie consumption.
Specifically targeting belly fat, research has shown some big promises. Many studies have linked consumption of protein to less belly fat and a decreased risk of gaining abdominal fat.
It should be noted, however, that unprocessed forms of protein from foods like eggs, seafood, fish, meats and dairy are the best go-to’s to increase the amount of protein in your diet. You might try taking a protein supplement if you are vegan or vegetarian or have a generally difficulty getting the right amount that you need.
3. Cut out the carbohydrates.
Many research studies show a correlation in cutting carbohydrates and weight reduction, largely because when you cancel out some of those carbohydrates, your appetite decreases.
Although low-fat diets were all the rage, studies show that carbohydrates are more closely linked to weight gain and low-carb versus low-fat diets lead to the greatest weight loss.
If you’re looking for more of an “instant result”, low-carb might also be the way to go as it will cause you to retain less water.
4. Eat more fiber.
Get more fiber through consuming foods like vegetables, fruits, and legumes. Fiber helps your body break down foods more slowly so you store less body fat from the calories you’re eating.
If you can’t reach your recommended daily intake of fiber, you might start out with a supplement to get you closer to what you need.
5. Increase your aerobic exercise.
Aerobic exercise (e.g., walking, jogging, running, swimming, jumping, etc.) has demonstrated a significant link to not only reducing abdominal fat but also preventing more from packing on.
6. Avoid high-lactose foods.
As people age, your body produces less lactose, making it difficult to digest lactose (which is in most dairy products). Since digestion slows, eating too much of these can build up abdominal fat.
7. Get more sleep.
Getting enough sleep, but not too much, is critical when it comes to shredding belly fat.
One particular study showed that people who get 6 to 7 hours of sleep gained significantly less abdominal fat over the course of 5 years than those who got 5 hours or less sleep a night or those who got more than 8 hours per night.
Constant, unaddressed, stress can make you pack on the pounds. High, consistent levels of cortisol increases fat storage in the abdominal area. And, while stress will always be in your life in some form or another, what matters most is how you address it.
Tactics like meditation, yoga, exercise, social activities, and counseling can help improve your coping skills significantly.
9. Write it down. Track your food intake.
Before you even begin to alter your diet, it might help to take a quick inventory of what you typically consume throughout the day. This will give you an idea of how many calories you will need to cut: is it a big amount, or just a little?
You don’t necessarily need to commit to tracking your food for the rest of the foreseeable future, but it will help until you get an idea of how many calories are in certain foods and what portions are applicable to your lifestyle (i.e., depending on your levels of activity, your age, your current weight, etc.).
If you’re looking for free calorie trackers, try out some from the list below to determine which works best for you.
If none of these options seem to fit your needs, you might try making an appointment with a registered dietician who can help you individualize your dietary needs to fit your specific lifestyle.