There’s loads of advice out there regarding how to lose weight quickly, and often with the least possible effort involved. And while your primary reason for wanting to learn how to lose belly fat may be due to vanity, there are also loads of convincing health reasons for wanting to trim down your waistline as well.
For example, dangerous visceral fat — the type of deep fat that tends to accumulate near your belly, surrounding your vital organs — raises the risk for serious conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and many others. According to a report published in the Lancet, as of 2005, globally “Excess body weight was the sixth most important risk factor contributing to the overall burden of disease worldwide.” (1) The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that in 2005 approximately 1.6 billion people worldwide were overweight and that at least 400 million adults were obese.
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The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders (NIDDK) seconds this, stating that obesity— which presumably includes carrying extra belly fat — can contribute significantly to the following health problems:
However, fortunately research shows that losing just 10–20 pounds (or around 5–10 percent of your total body weight) — including finding out how to lose belly fat — can make a real difference in terms of lowering your risk for developing these serious diseases.
If you’re like a high percentage of adults, including even many young adults, losing extra fat around your midsection is one of the biggest obstacles along your weight loss journey. You may have experienced periods in the past when you’ve watched the numbers on the scale fall, but still you didn’t see a corresponding loss in belly fat like you’d hope for. Or, maybe you’re the type who feels overwhelmed by all the available but conflicting dietary advice out there, and so you haven’t yet started to lose weight or tackle the belly fat problem even though you know you need to for your health.
It’s no secret that obesity rates have been rising for several decades now, and scientific studies continue to draw conclusions about how eating a highly processed diet that’s tied to weight gain is one of the leading contributors to most chronic diseases. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the rate of obesity between 1980 and 2000 doubled among adults and children, and scarily has tripled amongst adolescents. This translates to 60 million obese adults in the U.S. alone — a staggering 30 percent of the total population.
Why are so many people putting on more weight, despite their best efforts to reverse or prevent it? While not all experts entirely agree on what needs to be done in order to correct “the obesity epidemic,” most support the theory that several key factors are to blame for such high rates of unhealthy weight gain. Accumulation of dangerous visceral fat (essentially the belly fat that most want to see disappear the most) and general obesity is said to be a “complex pathological processes reflecting environmental and genetic interactions,” which include:
Visceral fat is also called “organ fat” or “intra-abdominal fat” — and it’s one of the primary reasons why you must learn how to lose belly fat. This fat lies in close proximity to the vital organs of the body, including the liver, kidneys and other digestive organs, meaning it’s a real health concern. Fat is actually similar to an organ, in that it releases compounds in the blood and alters hormone levels. (4)
When fat is stored close to the vital organs, it’s easier for this fat to get into the bloodstream and circulate through the entire body. This leads to problems such as clogged arteries, hypertension and even problems with metabolic functions in the body. Several hormones are involved in accumulation of belly fat, including insulin, ghrelin, leptin and cortisol. Here are some of the ways that the “modern lifestyle” can cause belly fat to start increasing:
It’s clear from hundreds of different studies that effective long-term weight loss that results in decreased visceral/belly fat depends on permanent changes in dietary quality, calorie (energy) intake, lifestyle habits and also physical activity. These changes aren’t always easy to make initially, but with time, healthier habits can become much more manageable, plus the effort to sustain them is well worth it in the end!
1. Eating More Fat-Burning Foods
Naturally, the first step in finding out how to lose belly fat starting with food. Eating real foods from nature, instead of fake foods found in packages or boxes, is one of the best (and easiest) things you can do for yourself and your loved ones. Real foods are the ones that humans have been eating for all of history: vegetables, fruits, seeds, clean meats and fish, legumes, and others grown in healthy, rich soils without any chemicals added.
Fake foods, on the other hand, are what you want to avoid at all costs. These are most of the foods you’ll find at your local supermarket: bagged, boxed, frozen, items loaded with unhealthy additives and preservatives you don’t want to be putting into your body.
2. Stay Away from Sugar, Liquid Calories and Grains
3. Eat Mindfully
Mindful eating means many things:
4. Intermittent Fasting
Want to know how to lose belly fat? Then it’s time to introduce your body to intermittent fasting, which is best approached as a shift in lifestyle and eating patterns, not a diet. There’s no need to count calories or measure grams. Simply focus on extending the duration of time between eating the healthy foods you already eat, with a particular emphasis on healthy fats and proteins.
There are several ways to practice fasting, including: skipping breakfast, eating all you want five days out of the week, severely limiting calories on some days or even not eating anything at all some days, or limiting your eating hours to only 6 or 8 hours a day.
The effects of fasting on hormones are multi-faceted:
5. HIIT Workouts
One of the most effective and efficient ways to lose unwanted belly fat, or simply extra weight distributed all over, is burst training or HIIT workouts. High-intensity interval training–style has been shown to be an excellent way to burn fat in a short period of time and help improve the physical performance of athletes of all kinds. (8)
High-intensity interval training combines short, high-intensity bursts of exercise, with slow, recovery phases repeated throughout one short 15–20 minute session. It’s done at 85–100 percent of one’s maximum heart rate rather than 50–70 percent in moderate endurance activity.
Most people don’t realize that loads of cardio/aerobic exercise can actually wear down our joints, increase our stress hormones (including cortisol) and contribute to fatigue or overeating. A better option is to alternate the types and intensities of your workouts, doing some at a harder pace but for shorter duration (like with the Tabata protocol) and others for strength or cardiovascular benefits.
6. Reducing Stress
Chronic stress experienced over a long period of time is considered not only dangerous — raising your risk for heart disease, diabetes, mental disorders and autoimmune diseases to name a few — but it’s tied to weight gain and poor eating habits.
Stress manifests in the body in multiple ways you can’t always feel:
All of these take a toll on your metabolism and ability to control levels of body fat. If you’re up against large amounts of stress in your life (from work, lack of sleep, relationships, finances, etc.), studies show you can greatly benefit from carving out more time in your busy stress relievers like regular exercise, meditation, spending time outdoors and keeping up with fun hobbies.
7. Getting Enough Sleep
A lack of sleep is often one of the most overlooked factors contributing to belly fat, and experts call getting good sleep an “important part of a obesity prevention approach.” (10) Want to find an easy secret for how to lose belly fat? Getting enough sleep helps regulate your stress hormones, controls your appetite better, gives you more energy for physical exercise, may help reduce cravings for sweets and tends to decrease emotional eating.
8. Trying a Low-carb or Ketogenic Diet
Weight loss isn’t always as straightforward as “calories in vs. calories out.” Changing the type of calories you eat can also accelerate weight loss and reduction of belly fat. A ketogenic diet is a strict low-carb diet that is high in filling foods that supply mostly fats and some protein. Reducing carbs helps the body burn stored body fat for energy, usually very quickly.
While this approach to losing belly fat is not a good fit for everyone (such as some athletes, those who are underweight, or women who experience hormonal alterations easily), it has been shown to help many struggling with being overweight to drop pounds while not feeling hungry or deprived. (11)
If this sounds too extreme for you, carb cycling is another option, which alternates days of low-carb eating with days of higher carb consumption to help keep cravings and fatigue in check.
9. Add in Metabolism Boosters
10. Regularly Perform Abs Workouts (Including Kinds Suitable for Beginners)
Even most personal trainers and athletes agree that the quality of your diet is the No. 1 factor to address in order to lose belly fat. Once you improve your eating habits, ab workouts and core exercises are like the icing on the cake. Doing about 2–4 ab workouts weekly can strengthen and define your midsection while you also work on losing body fat all over through improving your diet, sleep and stress.
A strong core also helps with balance and stability, improves your posture, and can help eliminate back pain that may be due to carrying extra weight. (13) Some of the best core exercises include V-ups, planks of all kinds, flutter kicks or scissor kicks, burpees, Russian twists and reverse crunches.
11. Working Out On an Empty Stomach
While it’s not the best idea for everyone, such as those who eat dinner early or who feel weak and dizzy when exercising with nothing in their stomach — working out on an empty stomach does seem to have some benefits. It may help improve your body’s response to insulin, keep your calorie intake lower overall, improve performance and boost the amount of body fat you burn for energy during workouts.(14, 15) Yes, it can boost your efforts in learning how to lose belly fat.
However, there’s also the risk of burning through muscle instead of stored glucose, which is the last thing you want to happen when you’re committing to regular strength-building workouts. Everyone is different at the end of the day, but research suggests working out on an empty stomach might work for short distances, but not as well before longer or tougher workouts.
It’s nice to think there’s a one-size-fits-all approach to losing belly fat that works for everyone, but this simply isn’t the case. There are many variables at play when it comes to losing belly fat: genetics, how fit you otherwise are, what type of exercise you’re doing, your medical history, hormones, age, gender and so on.
Regardless of the exact type of exercise regime and diet you choose in order to lose weight, several things are important for everyone:
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