how to lose belly fat

Somehow the myth that you can choose where you lose weight on your body still exist. But, in reality, you cannot do that. So if you’ve ever wondered how to lose fat from the stomach area specifically and you’re looking for safe and lasting ways to do it, know this: you can’t reduce body fat, but you can. There are diets and lifestyle adjustments that will help you lose fat everywhere. And we’ve got you covered.

Let’s put that aside right off the bat: “People genetically store their weight differently,” says Albert Matheny, RD “You can gain weight in different areas and when you go to lose weight, you just lose the fat that is stored.” But you can’t tell your body to extract fat only from certain areas, because your body extracts fat as a system rather than in specific areas, he adds.

While you should never feel pressured to lose weight, it’s important to point out that belly fat in particular isn’t good for your overall health. For example, it has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Meet the experts: Albert Matheny is a registered dietitian and co-founder of SoHo Strength Lab, Promix Nutrition, and ARENA. Jessica Cording is a registered dietitian and author of The Little Book of Game Changers.

If you’re on a mission to lose belly fat, it really depends – you guessed it! – your diet, exercise habits and personal genetics. “If you exercise and eat fewer calories, you’ll lose weight,” says Matheny. There are some factors that might help, like drinking and less stress, says Jessica Cording, RD, but more on that in a second.

You can also technically lose belly fat without exercising, according to Matheny, provided you burn more calories than you consume. But exercising regularly is good for your overall health, so you should definitely make it part of your daily routine, whether you’re trying to lose weight or not.

In general, experts say these health and fitness changes can help you lose belly fat — and fat elsewhere — and keep it off.

1. Manage your stress level as best you can.

Easier said than done, right? Unfortunately, having higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone was shown to promote the buildup of fatty tissue around the midsection, explains Cording.

If you know what’s seriously stressing you out, like a friend who keeps talking bullshit or a bad life situation, take steps to eliminate those stressors. Are you facing a more difficult situation to resolve? Consider practicing mindfulness meditation or yoga, or see a mental health professional for advice on how to better manage your stress.

2. Reduce your alcohol consumption.

Alcohol contains calories, but they aren’t the ones you usually think of when partying at happy hour. And if you drink regularly, it can add up.

Alcohol also lowers your inhibitions and can increase the chances that you’ll seek out less healthy foods when you’re under the influence, Cording says. In general, it is better to stick to the US dietary guidelines for Americans, which recommend that women consume no more than one drink per day. If you find that you still have belly fat and can do without a regular cocktail, this could be an easy fix.

3. Avoid juices.

Speaking of drinks, juices can also add extra calories. and mess with your blood sugar, Cording says. When you drink juice, it turns into sugar in your body. And if you don’t have it with fat or protein sources at the same time, it can cause blood sugar to drop later on, leaving you feeling hungry. This can ultimately cause you to eat more, she says. So skip the OJ in the morning if you can help it.

4. Prioritize sleep as best you can.

This one sounds basic, but timing a few extra Zs can help you lose weight. A 2016 meta-analysis published in the european journal of clinical nutrition reviewed data from 11 studies and found that people who slept 5.5 hours or less each night ended up consuming 385 calories more than those who slept 7 to 12 hours. People with fewer hours of sleep also ate less good foods for weight loss, such as junk food.

If you can, strive to get advised more than seven hours of sleep per night.

5. Watch your calories.

It’s quite simple and recommended many times by experts: Keep an eye on your calorie intake. About 3,500 calories equals one pound of fat, Cording says, so you’ll want to reduce the number of calories you eat in order to lose fat.

A handy tool to try: The National Institutes of Health’s body weight planr is an online tool that asks you for information such as your weight and weight loss goals, and the time frame in which you hope to achieve them. He will then give you a calorie goal to achieve each day to lose weight.

6. Do some math.

This frees you from watching your calories. “It’s really about focusing on the numbers,” says Matheny. “You want to create an input versus output deficit – that’s when you’ll lose weight.”

So if you know you burn 200 calories exercising every day, and you cut an extra 100 calories from your morning orange juice, you’ll have a 300 calorie deficit, which ultimately helps you lose weight.

7. Eat more fiber.

Fiber, in case you don’t know it, is a type of carbohydrate that your body cannot digest. It also helps you fill out and stay regular, Cording says, and it can help you lose weight.

A 2015 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine 240 adults followed a high fiber diet or another diet recommended by the American Heart Association. The highest fiber group lost weight simply by increasing their fiber intake.

How much fiber should you aim for? In general, women want to have 25 grams a day, per National Institutes of Health (NIH). FYI, foods like lentils, berries, avocados, and chia seeds are great sources of fiber, so be sure to add them to your meals and snacks.

8. Take more steps each day.

Yes, like walking. Jessica Simpson and Rebel Wilson both lost weight by increasing their step count, and Matheny says it’s a legit way to help you lose weight. Research has also shown that walking more can actually target stomach fat.

A 2014 study published in The Journal of Exercise Nutrition and Biochemistry walked obese women for 50 to 70 minutes three times a week for 12 weeks and found that they lost a significant amount of abdominal fat compared to those who did not follow a walking program.

You can gradually progress with this one, says Matheny. “You’ll burn more calories if you put more general activity into your day,” he says. “Doing more steps adds up.

9. Keep an eye on your sugar intake.

Sugar is not good for your overall health or your weight. Indeed, a 2012 study published in the Nutrition review found a link between people who eat a lot of sugar and higher levels of body fat. Cording suggests cutting down on obvious sources of sugar, like sweets and drinks like soda, to help you reach your goals.

10. Avoid processed foods.

Processed foods (chips, candy, cookies) can quickly add extra calories to your diet. They can also increase the level of inflammation in your body, which increases your risk of developing body fat, explains Cording. Opt for fresh, whole foods whenever you can.

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11. Skip the simple carbs.

Things like white bread, pasta, and cereal can cause your blood sugar levels to spike and then drop, Cording says. The result? You may end up feeling hungrier and eating more than you normally would. Instead, try to focus on complex carbs, like whole-grain breads.

12. Add interval workouts to the mix.

Interval workouts like HIIT help get your heart rate up and burn more calories, according to Matheny. Try working your way through intervals that combine cardio and strength training for maximum benefit, like battle ropes alongside pull-ups, push-ups, jumping jacks, burpees, and planks.

What about sit-ups and crunches? These workouts will be only train your abdominal muscles (which is pretty good), but doesn’t burn visceral fat, which is stored deep in your belly and wraps around your organs. When people talk about belly fat, they are usually referring to visceral fat. To reach this layer, you will need to reduce your overall body fat by changing your diet and engaging in moderate-intensity physical activity.

You can always do abdominal exercises if that’s your jam. Just know that you will have to work your whole body if you want to lose belly fat.

You may have heard the saying “muscle burns more than fat”, and it’s absolutely true. “It’s easy to lose weight when you have muscle mass — muscle is what burns the most calories outside of your basal metabolic rate,” says Matheny. “The more muscle you have, the more extra calories you can burn.”

If you haven’t done strength training in the past, he recommends starting a routine. And, if you’re already a weightlifter, try adding more reps to your existing plan.

14. Opt for more protein.

Protein helps fill you up, which makes you less likely to overeat. “Sometimes people just don’t have enough protein,” says Cording. Try adding lean meats to your diet, such as grilled chicken and fish to boost your protein intake.

15. …and healthy fats, while you’re at it.

Fat also helps fill you up, Cording says. Of course, too much fat works against your weight loss goals, so you should strive to have healthy fats in your diet (think: nuts and avocados) and watch your calorie count to make sure that you don’t overdo it.

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