Many people struggle with weight loss issues. Losing belly fat in particular is about more than just aesthetics: visceral fat, the kind of fat that tends to settle around the midsection, can cause an increase in your body’s production of stress hormones that can affect your body’s insulin production. As a result, excess belly fat can lead to serious complications like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. There is no way to target belly fat, but diet and exercise will eventually burn off belly fat. Knowing how to take the first step can help you feel better and get you on the road to a healthier, more active lifestyle.
1Cut back on calories. The most important part of losing weight is not working out until you collapse — it’s your diet. If you burn 500 more calories than what you eat every day, you will lose 1–2 pounds every week (any more than that is considered unsafe weight loss). There are tons of little changes you can make to cut calories from your diet, from replacing high-calorie dressings with vinaigrette and asking for all dressings/sauces served on the side, eating at the table instead of in front of the tv, skipping cheese and other fatty additions to your salads and meals, using smaller plates, leave off the whipped cream on your coffee drink, and on and on.
Eat more protein. Protein is required by the body to repair damaged cells and plays a vital role in growth and development. But it can also play a role in weight loss. Diets high in protein tend to make people feel fuller, and when paired with a reduction in carbohydrate intake these diets can help with weight loss. However, it’s important to remember that not all sources of protein are good for you: red meat and full-fat dairy products, though high in protein, can also increase the risk of heart disease. Good sources of protein include:
- Soy protein
- Legumes and beans
- Skinless poultry
- Lean beef or pork
- Fat-free or low-fat dairy products
Eat polyunsaturated fats. While saturated fat leads to the body’s retention of visceral fat, causing abdominal girth and excessive weight gain, studies have shown that a diet high in polyunsaturated fat helps promote the production of muscle mass instead of body fat. Polyunsaturated fats can also help reduce cholesterol levels in the body, lowering the risk of stroke and heart disease. Sources of polyunsaturated fats include:
- Olive oil
- Soybean oil
- Corn oil
- Sunflower oil
- Sunflower seeds
Eat low-glycemic-index foods. Foods that are low on the glycemic index (GI) are digested and absorbed more slowly than high-index foods, and when coupled with increased physical activity a low-GI diet has been shown to be effective in losing weight. Foods that are low on the glycemic index include:
- Beans and lentils
- Certain types of pasta
Avoid processed foods. Processed foods are often reached for as comfort food. But certain processed foods, like refined grains and refined sugars, increase inflammation in the body, and have been linked to excess belly fat.
Drink green tea. Some studies suggest that drinking green tea (including decaffeinated green tea) or taking green tea extracts can increase the body’s rate of fat oxidation and may decrease overall body fat. The studies used green tea extract, administered by capsule, but dieters may also get some of the same benefits from drinking green tea.
Get enough calcium. Adults typically need around 1,000 milligrams of calcium every day to help maintain muscle and nerve function, and it’s necessary for healthy bones and teeth. But calcium may also help prevent the body from storing visceral fat in the abdomen. Though studies have not shown a drastic change in weight due to increased calcium intake, researchers suggest that it may have a small effect in some people. Calcium requires vitamin D to be absorbed into the body; therefore, be sure to get enough vitamin D as well. Sources of calcium include:
- Dietary supplements
- Non-fat or low-fat milk and dairy products
- Tofu (with calcium sulfate)