If your waist is the first place pounds tend to creep up on, those are probably the pounds that are the hardest to lose. If you've been blessed with an apple-shaped body and you're looking to slim your middle a bit, here's what you need to do to lose your belly fat.
Be Kind to Yourself
Instagram is an endless source of inspiration, but seeing all those six-packs staring back at you can make you feel really self-conscious if you're struggling with a little belly fat. Remember that we all have a little squishiness, and it in no way measures what an amazing person you are. It's also OK to want a slimmer middle; just be sure you're going about it in a healthy way and setting realistic goals. Talk to yourself the way you'd talk to your best friend. Be positive and love yourself along your journey to a flatter tummy.
Do Cardio, but Not Just Any Kind
Unfortunately you can't pick and choose where you want weight to melt away, so instead of doing crunches, you need to do cardio to lose your overall body fat. While running, biking, and swimming are excellent ways to burn calories, incorporating high-intensity intervals has been proven to target stubborn belly fat. You can add 30- to 60-second speed bursts into your regular workout or try this 45-minute HIIT workout to shrink your belly.
Don't Forget About Your Muscles
Cardio burns fat, but so does having muscle mass. If you want to effectively reduce your body fat percentage, which will help diminish the roundness in your belly, fitness instructor John Kersbergen says you must also include strength training.
Bodyweight moves are great, but to lose weight faster and more efficiently, add weights to your routine. And the order of what you do in the gym matters, too. Natalie Carey, certified trainer and sports nutritionist at DIAKADI Fitness, says to do strength training first, then cardio, since strength training increases the "afterburn effect."
Also, instead of focusing on core-specific moves, do full-body moves like the squat to overhead press. These types of exercises save time by working multiple body parts while simultaneously engaging your core.
Abs Really Are Made in the Kitchen
You've probably heard this before, and it's the truth! You can't outrun a bad diet. If you exercise every day, but your diet is terrible, it'll show. Jade Jenny, head CrossFit coach and owner of Champlain Valley CrossFit, told POPSUGAR, "There are really no exercises to reduce belly fat. Unfortunately, this is the age-old myth. People think they can get abs, and just abs." But here's the truth: "Reducing belly fat ultimately comes down to how you eat." In order to lose belly fat, you need to reduce your overall body fat percentage by dialing in your diet, eating whole foods, ditching the junk, and creating a calorie deficit with portion control.
Be Smart About What You Eat
Processed food and junk food are definitely not going to help you get a six-pack. But there are foods you can eat that are proven to target belly fat. Go for oatmeal, blueberries, MUFA-rich almonds, lean protein like salmon, and fiber-rich greens.
Christmas Abbott, CrossFit competitor and author of The Badass Body Diet ($28), also says that to diminish belly cellulite, "You can't go wrong by dividing your plate into thirds and filling each section with a primo protein, primo carbohydrate, and primo fat." She also suggests ditching processed foods and says to avoid alcohol.
Did you know that stress plays a big role in belly fat? It triggers the production of cortisol, which is a stress hormone that's linked to an increased appetite and more belly fat. Find healthy ways to relax each day, like getting 10 minutes alone to meditate, read your favorite book, or do this tension-melting yoga sequence. If you're anxious or worried, talk to a friend or therapist or write in a journal. And go ahead and treat yourself to a manicure or a massage when you're really stressed. It's good for your mental health — and your belly.
Model credit: @mandymartini