Belly Flab Fighter #1: Eat Good Fat
Believe it or not, following a low-fat diet is not the best way to reduce belly flab. “People who have a big middle do not respond well to a low-fat diet,” says Mehmet Oz, M.D
Instead, add “good fat” foods, like olive oil, avocado and sea bass, toasting Ezekiel bread (or another sprouted 100-percent whole grain bread) and topping it with avocado, olive oil, lemon and chili flakes for a belly fat-fighting meal or snack.
Belly Flab Fighter #2: Eat Your Binge Food Every Day
Yes, you read that right, eating the food you crave the most, even if it’s high-fat, could help you finally beat your belly-busting cravings for good. A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who were served their favorite mac-n-cheese meal every day for five days, five weeks in a row, ate less and less of it, and actually consumed about 100 calories less than those who only ate it twice, one week apart (those women actually ate more of it the second time it was served). Consuming formerly off-limits foods may help lessen their appeal, curb cravings (and major diet binges) to slim down your belly permanently. Try eating a small amount of your ‘trigger’ food daily. Knowing that you can eat it again the next day could help you eat less. Chocolate anyone?
Belly Flab Fighter #3: Diet Every Other Day
A recent study led by Krista Varady, Ph.D., an assistant professor of kinesiology and nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago, found that people eating 25 percent fewer calories every other day lost up to 30 pounds in only eight weeks. Make it work for you by taking in 1,200-1,500 calories one day, and then eating as you normally do the next. Don’t overdo it on your “off days” and sabotage yourself, though. And keep up your weekly exercise routine.
Belly Flab Fighter #4: Stop Doing Crunches
No matter how many crunches you do, it won’t help reduce the fat around your belly. That’s why Yegyan, a holistic health practitioner and physique conditioning specialist in Tualatin, Ore., recommends exercising only the large muscle groups of your body. “Your abs are a very small amount of muscle, while your legs, back, chest and shoulders are all larger muscle complexes and burn many times more calories in the same amount of time that you spend on an abs workout.” Instead of crunching, stand up and do multi-muscle group moves such as overhead presses, squats, planks and pushups to burn more calories during your strength workouts to reduce belly fat more efficiently.
Belly Flab Fighter #5: Crank Up the Cardio
While strength training certainly has its benefits, when it comes to reducing belly fat, your best bet is aerobic exercise, say researchers from Duke University. A recent study found that resistance training alone had little effect on eliminating belly flab, while aerobic exercise burned 67 percent more calories for study participants and significantly reduced their abdominal fat. Study participants ran an equivalent of 12 miles per week to achieve these results. If your goal is to shed your muffin top quickly, first focus on adding aerobic exercise (four or five days a week) to burn more calories, and then add in resistance training on alternate days to help add definition and shape to your body.
Belly Flab Fighter #6: Don’t Get Too Little — or Too Much — Sleep
A recent study published in the journal Sleep found a direct correlation between sleep and belly fat — subjects who slept five hours or less each night, or eight hours or more, gained more abdominal fat than subjects who stayed between six to seven hours of shut eye. Be sure to get in the right amount of hours of quality sleep in a quiet, dark room for best results.
Belly Flab Fighter #7: Add a Daily Dose of Soluble Fiber
Eating a diet rich in the soluble fiber found in vegetables, fruits and beans can have a direct effect on reducing belly fat, says a new study by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. The study, the first to directly link dietary fiber with decreased abdominal fat, found that for every 10 grams of daily dietary soluble fiber, abdominal fat was reduced by 3.7 percent over a five-year period. Make it work for you by eating at least 10 grams of soluble fiber per day, such as two small apples, one cup of green peas or a cup of pinto beans.
Belly Flab Fighter #8: Kick your Diet Soda Habit
If you think your diet soda is helping your waistline, you may want to reconsider: A 10-year study conducted by researchers at the University of Texas found that people who consume two or more diet sodas per day gained 70 percent more belly fat than those that didn’t drink it. What’s worse is the artificial sweeteners found in diet soda can cause belly bloating and may be worsening your sugar cravings. To kick your fake sugar habit, start slowly reducing your intake, by replacing that Diet Coke with a glass of sparkling water and a splash of lime or a cup of green tea.
Belly Flab Fighter #9: Pray or Meditate
Your prayers for flatter abs may have been answered. It seems that regular prayer or meditation can help reduce the stress hormone cortisol, which is one of the culprits of belly flab. One study published in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine found that women who prayed or meditated had healthier levels of cortisol than those that didn’t. Make it work for you by carving out some quiet time for reflection for at least 15 minutes on most days of the week.
Belly Flab Fighter #10: Add Coconut Oil to Your Diet
Numerous studies have shown a link between coconut oil and a reduction in abdominal fat. “Coconut oil is a saturated fat that has anti-viral/anti-bacterial properties and it’s pro-thyroid, which can benefit the metabolism,” says Andrew Johnston, a CHEK certified Nutrition Coach and Practitioner in Atlanta, Georgia. “In fact, farmers tried to use it to fatten their livestock in the early- to mid-1900’s, but it made them leaner! So they switched to polyunsaturated fats (vegetable oils), which worked quite well to fatten their animals up fast.” Make it work for you by using it in place of vegetable oils, but stay aware of its calorie and fat content: One tablespoon of coconut oil contains 117 calories and 13.5 grams of fat, making it comparable to olive oil.
Belly Flab Fighter #11: Get Selective with Your Sugar
Choose your sweet treats carefully. “When you eat 120 calories of glucose (found in foods like potatoes and rice) less than 1 calorie is stored as fat,” says Johnston. “When you eat 120 calories of fructose, (think high fructose corn syrup 40 calories are stored as fat, which is how fructose consumption leads to metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and excess fat around the belly.” But not all fructose is bad, only the refined, man-made type. The naturally-occurring fructose found in fruit is okay, Johnston says, and plays an important role in a healthy, balanced diet.
Belly Flab Fighter #12: Train Your Abdominals to Be Smarter, Not Harder
Since crunches won’t target your belly flat alone, you have to train your abdominal muscles to engage and give you a more “drawn in” look. To target your abs more effectively, you have to lift both your upper and lower body at the same time, says Jackie Warner, author of This Is Why You’re Fat (and How to Get Thin Forever). “Bicycles and jack knives are more effective than just crunches,” says the star of the Personal Training with Jackie: Crunch-Free Xtreme Abs DVD.
Belly Flab Fighter #13: Reduce Belly Bloat with Lemon
There is a reason people ask their waiters to put lemon in their water: It can help prevent water retention, says Warner. It’s also a great substitute for artificial sweetners.
Belly Flab Fighter #14: Cut Down on Simple Carbs
No need to cut carbs out completely, just reduce your daily intake. And better yet, make the carbs you do eat whole grains. According to a 2008 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, subjects who replaced refined grains with whole grains like oatmeal, bulgur or brown rice, lost more abdominal fat than subjects that also restricted-calorie diets but didn’t add whole grains to their meals. Not all whole grain products are created equal, though, so be sure to look for foods that list a whole grain as the first ingredient in order to reap its belly-busting benefits (whole wheat, rye, whole oats, etc.). Enjoy your carbs a little less often and you will make significant gains in the battle of the bulge.