25 Must Dos to Lose Belly Fat (and Keep It Off!)
If you tend to carry weight around your waist, you're not alone — it's one of the most stubborn areas to lose weight! Aside from revealing your amazing six-pack, having a lean, flat belly is also good for your health since visceral fat around your organs can lead to disease. If you want to lose your belly fat and keep it off, here's what you need to do.
Embrace Your Body!
Before we get into how to get flat abs, it's important to make sure you have a realistic goal in mind for your belly. Remember that the super-ripped, lean women you see on magazines and Instagram might look that way because their photo was taken in perfect lighting with the most flattering angle (while flexing!). Or they only look that way when their diet and workout plan is strict or as Autumn Calabrese explained, for that one day after training for a competition.
Don't put all your focus on getting flat abs and remember the importance of being healthy, both physically and mentally, and to embrace your body as it is! Get in the habit of complimenting how you look, saying nice things out loud to yourself when you look in the mirror or at photos of yourself. Focus on the things you love and practice loving the parts you don't. All that kindness and self-love will make you happier and more at peace with your body while on your journey to being your healthiest, best self.
Eat These 3 at Every Meal
"Food is your foundation, and fitness is the accessory," says CrossFit competitor Christmas Abbott. She believes that every meal and snack needs to embrace the macronutrient trifecta of proteins, carbs, and healthy fats to help reduce overall body fat, which will aid in reducing stubborn belly fat. "You can't go wrong by dividing your plate into thirds and filling each section with a primo protein, primo carbohydrate, and primo fat."
Move More Throughout the Day
While working out is great for burning calories and building muscle, you don't want to do a morning workout and then sit at a desk all day. You want to increase NEAT, which stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis. It's the calories you burn moving around throughout the day (not through exercise). Increasing NEAT will increase your metabolic rate, burning more daily calories, helping you lose weight.
If you sit most of the day, set reminders to stand up and walk around a few minutes every hour. Take a brisk walk during your lunch break, walk up a few flights to get to the bathroom on a different floor in your office building, or take a stroll every night after dinner.
Cut Down on the Sweets
Sugary foods such as ice cream, cookies, chocolate and candy spike your insulin levels, which makes loses weight really hard. Keeping your insulin levels low will help you reduce your overall body fat percentage, and that means belly fat.
Eating sugar also increases your cravings for it, and since sweets tend to be high in calories, that's another reason to cut down and only indulge every once in a while.
Get Enough Sleep Each Night
Sleep and weight gain are closely linked since a lack of sleep will raise cortisol levels (your stress hormone), as well as grehlin (hunger hormone), and increasing cravings, so you eat more.
Lack of sleep will also make you too tired to get up for that early morning workout, or have the energy to get push hard if you do make it. So aim to get between seven and nine hours each night, or whatever you feel your body needs.
Do HIIT Workouts
The most effective type of cardio that's proven to target belly fat is high-intensity interval training (HIIT). And no need to suffer for hours at the gym. "The whole workout, including warmup, doesn't need to be more than 45 minutes to be effective," says fitness instructor John Kersbergen. He added that three to four times a week is enough.
Here are some HIIT workouts you can try:
- 7-minute workout that targets belly fat
- 20-minute full-body HIIT video workout
- This 45-Minute HIIT Workout Will Help Shrink Your Belly
- Feel Your Strongest From This 45-Minute Flat-Belly Running and Strength Workout
- This 45-Minute Treadmill Workout Is the Cardio Your Body Is Begging For
- 10-Minute AMRAP Workout
- 30-Minute Cardio and Core Workout For Strong, Hot Abs
- This CrossFit HIIT Workout Is Just 12 Minutes, but You'll Be Toast Afterward
- 30-Minute Jumping Rope and Strength Training Mashup
Eat in a Calorie Deficit
In order to decrease your overall body fat percentage, and lose belly fat, you need to burn more calories than you consume. You can do this through a combination of diet and exercise, being sure to never go below 1,200 calories per day.
Drink Tons of Water All Day Long
Grab a huge reusable water bottle and keep it by your side at all times. Thirst is often mistaken for hunger, so staying hydrated may be what your body needs — not a second helping of dinner. Aim to get between 60 and 100 ounces each day.
Try Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting (IF) isn't a diet — it's a method of eating that involves fasting for part of each day or a few times a week. When your body doesn't have a constant energy source from the food you eat, it allows your body to utilize the fat stores it already has, helping you lose belly fat.
"Belly fat can be stubborn to lose because the abdominal area contains more alpha-2 receptors that slow down your ability to burn fat, compared to beta-2 receptors that increase your fat burning potential." says celebrity certified nutritionist, Dr. Daryl Gioffre. IF is powerful because lower insulin levels "activate your b-2 receptors and shut down your a-2 receptors, allowing you to burn targeted fat in your belly area."
Relax and Reduce Stress
Stress plays a big role in creating a leaner waist because 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 and bring more joy to your life each day. Get 10 minutes alone to color, play music, read your favorite book, or do this tension-melting yoga sequence. If you're anxious or worried, call 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.
Snack on Nuts
Proven to reduce abdominal fat, MUFAs (monounsaturated fatty acids) should be a part of your daily diet, and you can find them in nuts such as almonds and seeds such as chia.
Stop Eating When You're Satisfied
Overeating at every meal means you're eating in a calorie surplus, which will cause weight gain. Practice mindfulness when you sit down to eat. Limit the distraction, chew each bite well, put your fork or food down between bites, and stop when you're halfway through to take a 10-minute break and assess whether you're really hungry for the rest. Stop when you feel satisfied, but not stuffed.
Limit Refined Flour
Bagels, pasta, crackers, rolls, wraps — foods made with refined flour will also spike your insulin levels. Choosing whole grains is a much better choice to keep you feeling full, because foods like quinoa, rolled oats, brown rice, and millet offer hunger-satiating fiber and protein. When you're satisfied, you'll eat fewer calories, which also helps decrease body fat.
Do Strength Training Workouts
Nicole Aurigemma, a physiologist at the Penn State Muscle Biology Lab, says, "It has been shown that energy expenditure, as well as fat oxidation [fat oxidation = your body breaking down fat into energy], increases after multiple sets of resistance exercise, particularly when larger muscle masses are exercised."
Focus on compound movements that utilize more than one muscle group. We're talking weighted squats, thrusters, and pull-ups. Focus on doing at least three strength training sessions per week.
Get Your Fill of Fiber
Aim to get 25 to 30 grams a day for satiety and to prevent constipation — a bloated belly can make you appear puffier than you are. One way to do this is to eat chia pudding for breakfast, a huge salad with avocado and sunflower seeds for lunch, an apple or pear with nuts for a snack, and roasted veggies and quinoa with dinner.
Eliminate Processed Food
Forgo eating packaged foods that contain a laundry list of chemically-laden ingredients, trans fat, sugar, and salt. This includes packaged candy, cookies, chips, and frozen dinners. They're high in calories and don't offer much nutrition, so you end up feeling hunger, and eat more. Choose whole foods that contain one ingredient — itself — and cook meals at home so you know exactly what's in your food.
Watch Your Portions
Research shows that a diet rich in blueberries may help diminish belly fat. Researchers found that the beneficial decrease of belly fat occurred in both high- and low-fat diets, which leads them to believe blueberries affect the way the body stores and breaks down sugar. Add blueberries to smoothies, salads, granola, and pancakes.
Eat a Salad Once a Day
Eat a huge salad for one meal a day, whether it's for lunch or dinner (or hey — even breakfast!). It'll help you get your fill of fiber-rich veggies to not only stay regular, which makes you look and feel leaner, but a salad will also keep you feeling full so you eat fewer daily calories. Remember to add protein and healthy fats to increase the satiety of your bowl.
Avocados are another excellent source of healthy fats that can help reduce belly fat. In fact, in a study conducted by the US National Library of Medicine, consumption of avocados resulted in lower body weight, BMI, and a decrease in weight circumference. Eating healthy fats also keeps you feeling full, which helps you consume fewer daily calories.
Limit the Vino
Wine, beer, and cocktails contain carbs and empty calories that aren't doing your belly any favors. Alcohol can also impair your judgment, increasing cravings for junk food, and making it hard to say no. That foggy feeling the next day also isn't going to inspire you to hit the gym. If you're used to drinking every night, cut it down to once a week and you'll notice a difference.
Autumn Calabrese, creator of the 21 Day Fix and 21 Day Fix Extreme fitness and nutrition programs says it's so important to remain consistent with your exercise and nutrition. "By exercising three to five days per week and eating healthy, you can help fight belly bulge," she said. "You can expect to see changes as fast as the first week of eating healthy and exercising consistently."