If you exercise and eat right but still struggle with stubborn belly fat, consider working smarter–not harder–to rid yourself of a burgeoning gut. Simple tweaks to your diet, a new perspective on cardiovascular exercise and stress reduction can work synergistically to help you achieve a slender middle.
Choose Healthy Fat Over Refined Carbs
Avoiding dietary fat seems like an obvious step to banishing belly fat, but it turns out that consuming healthy fats, such as those found in olive oil and fish, correlates with reduced jiggle in your middle. Conversely, diets high in carbohydrates–particularly refined carbs in white bread and pasta, sugary drinks and desserts–cause an increase in belly fat. Overall, stored body fat is nothing more than stored fuel. Consume too much, and you will store it somewhere, particularly in your mid-section. Calculate how many calories you are consuming overall. Aim to receive more of them from rich, healthy fats and fewer from refined carbohydrates.
When you have tried everything and still belly fat persists, consider evaluating your stress levels. According to a study published in the July 10, 2009, issue of “Psychosomatic Medicine,” people who engaged in pleasurable leisure activities experienced lower cortisol levels. The stress hormone cortisol appears to increase fat storage around the mid-section and cause water retention. So chill out with some stress reduction techniques and look forward to a slimmer waistline.
During sleep, your liver converts stored fat into energy to maintain basic body functions, such as heartbeat and breathing. If you eat or drink calories within the two to three hours before bedtime, your body will first use those calories before metabolizing stored fat. So finish eating early and let your liver go to work overnight burning fat off your middle.
Bump Up Your Cardio
Exercising at a vigorous pace–like jogging 20 miles a week–burns belly fat, unlike similar amounts of moderate-paced exercise, according to study published in the July 7, 2005, issue of the “Journal of Applied Physiology.” To lose flab around your middle, aim for one hour of intense cardiovascular exercise on at least four days per week.
Consider Other Culprits
Blame the belly bloat on fat alone, and you may be missing some easy fixes to taming your tummy. Even if you have always been regular, ensure you are consuming enough water–96 oz. daily–and enough fiber–25g daily. Additionally, the live active cultures in plain yogurt help with digestion. Another cause of a distended stomach may be gas and bloating from swallowing air while chewing gum, consuming carbonated beverages or eating sugar alcohols, such as sorbitol, found in popular sugar substitutes.
About this Author
Pamela Ellgen is an award-winning journalist and certified personal trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She graduated with a B.A. from Washington State University where she studied writing. Ellgen wrote for the Portland, Ore.-based newspaper, “The Asian Reporter,” for 10 years.