"Feeling stressed can wreak havoc on our bodies. It can cause our body to produce the steroid hormone cortisol, which can make you crave sugary foods that provide instant energy and pleasure. Short-term bursts of cortisol are necessary to help us cope with immediate danger, but our body will also release this hormone if we’re feeling stressed or anxious. When our cortisol levels are high for a long amount of time, it can increase the amount of fat you hold in your belly."
On test days, they were fed either the control meal or the same entrées but altered so that calorie density was reduced by 20% using one of the three strategies. Entrée portion sizes were large enough so that the subjects could consume as much as they desired of the test meals. Leftovers were weighed to determine precisely how much was eaten of each of the test meals.
Diet is a major part of the equation, but you can also lower your belly fat with a strategic workout plan. Since you can’t reduce fat in one area, you’ll have to focus on a full-body burn. The good news? That means you’ll be trim and lean all over, not just your mid-section. To torch fat, holistic nutritionist and certified personal trainer Ashley Walter recommends weight training and fasted exercise.
Lifestyle fit: Figure out whether a plan is compatible with your lifestyle before committing. Some meal plans are very simple; others require more work. Think about how much time and planning goes into each weight loss program. Some people find that meal planning and preparation takes up too much time, while others enjoy planning meals and spending time in the kitchen.
If you're specifically looking to target your belly, we have some bad news: you can't spot-target fat loss. That means you can do crunches or planks all day long, but you won't specifically burn belly fat. Instead, you can lose body fat overall, including from your belly. And by avoiding certain belly-bloating foods and with some strategic exercise, you will inevitably see results in your belly.
A relatively new offering, the Nutritarian diet is based on maximizing the amount of healthy vitamins, minerals, and trace nutrients in your food, balancing your hormones, and avoiding toxins. The plan—created by Joel Fuhrman, M.D., author of The End of Dieting—is nutrient-dense, plant-rich, and includes anti-cancer superfoods to help you not just lose weight but live a long, disease-free life. (P.S. Follow these guidelines to make sure you're absorbing all the nutrients from your food.)
While you may be tempted to eat as few calories as possible to lose weight more quickly, as mentioned above, it’s important that you don’t cut more than 1,000 calories from your daily diet or eat fewer than 1,200 calories a day — even if that means your energy deficit is smaller than 1,000 calories. Eat too little and you’ll slow down your metabolism and put yourself on track to regain the weight — often with a few extra pounds.
It’s important to eat ad libitum. We shouldn’t stuff ourselves, but we do need to feel comfortably full. Otherwise, we end up crazy-hungry. But unfortunately, ad libitum eating is not what traditional weight-loss strategies have taught us for the past 100 years. Dieters have been told to focus mainly on how much they eat rather than on what they eat. They’ve been told to cut portion sizes and/or use their will power to override hunger in an attempt to create a negative calorie balance and reduce body fat stores.
Becky Duffett is a contributing nutrition editor for Fitbit and a lifestyle writer with a passion for eating well. A former Williams-Sonoma cookbook editor and graduate of San Francisco Cooking School, she’s edited dozens of cookbooks and countless recipes. City living has turned her into a spin addict—but she’d still rather be riding a horse. She lives in the cutest neighborhood in San Francisco, spending weekends at the farmers’ market, trying to read at the bakery, and roasting big dinners for friends.
“I have one heck of a sweet tooth, and so I have to refuse to bring candy, cake, or sweets into the house, period,” say Lin Williams, who’s lost 105 pounds. Instead, if she wants a treat she has to want it bad enough to get up, get in the car, leave her home, and go to the store—a process that rarely feels worth it. And on the rare occasion she does indulge? “I get exactly what I want and enjoy every bite of it!” she says.
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Whether you love or hate it, running is one of the best and simplest ways to burn calories. And, you don't need a treadmill to do it. Just lace up your shoes and hit the road. But pounding pavement doesn't have to be a mindless workout. Running in intervals—speeding up and slowing down your pace—will help make the minutes and miles go by quickly. Run in fartleks, which means speedplay in Swedish, where you pick up the pace every other street lamp or water hydrant you hit, and then slow down after you pass the next one. Follow these running tips in the video below:
The "all meat all the time" low-carb approach or strict veganism can be great options for people who thrive on clear diet rules (and those two are actually the most popular diets out there) but these extremes are not for everyone. If you prefer more of a moderate approach, the Flexitarian diet is the clear winner. The "flexible vegetarian" mindset allows you a healthy balance of plant-based foods, responsibly sourced meats, and quality fats. The best part? It's not super restrictive, so you have plenty of nutritious food options. (Start here: How to Adopt a Flexitarian Diet)
Some diet plans, such as the MIND diet and the DASH diet, are meant to focus on certain areas of health — and weight loss may be a bonus. Others are created with weight loss as a primary goal. “It is important to remember that we are all very unique individuals,” says Kyle. “We all have different states of health and different lifestyles, which could affect what diet plan is best for us. That means that you should not be considering what is working for your friends or family members — and instead should pay attention to what works for you individually.”
Eating less, however, means something different for everyone. According to Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D. in this article, if you’re an active woman, you may be looking at eating around 1,600 calories a day whereas if you’re less active, you may be looking at a diet closer to 1,200 calories a day. Regardless of the calorie limit that’s right for you, cutting down on calories can really aid in weight loss, but you must remember to make sure you’re getting all of your nutrients in, too.
Take a walk through the supermarket, and you’ll be assaulted with aisle after aisle of low-fat and no-fat foods, “healthy” chips and cookies and juices and sodas galore. You likely already know that if you want to lose weight, cutting out processed foods and sweets is the first and most obvious step. But those healthy-sounding options can be just as bad, too.
This is a diet that is recommended to women over 40, especially to those going through menopause, when fat accumulation becomes the norm. It refers to eating foods that may be high in fats but low in carbs. As it’s been said many times, not all fats are bad. It is in fact vital to have enough of these in our daily meals. Brain functioning is based on fat and so is hormone and enzyme production.
●Personalize your portions. If you’re a woman eating with a man, customize your portions to suit your body’s needs, says Sass. That might mean more veggies and smaller servings of protein and foods with starch and fat. For example, on burrito night, skip the tortilla in favor of a bed of greens, and stick to a piece of lean protein the size of a smartphone, a small scoop of a healthful starch such as brown rice and a dollop of guacamole.
There are lots of individuals and companies out there keen to get their slice of the pie, so to speak. With the US weight loss industry’s net worth sitting at around $66 billion at the end of 2017, it’s obvious that diet supplements, plans, and programs are doing well but that doesn’t mean you have to help them. Pay for a plan, by all means, but try to sustain yourself on natural foods rather than dietary supplements or detox drinks.
There is at least one area where women have the edge, weight-wise. When men deposit fat, it most often goes to their middles, while women's excess weight tends to settle below the belt and in the middle. And it turns out that the "pear-shaped" body has a health advantage over the "apple": Those who carry extra fat mostly around their middles are at higher risk of developing heart disease than those who are bottom-heavy.
What the diet advocate says: 'The key components of a Mediterranean diet are lots of vegetables, olive oil, oily fish and nuts, with no calorie restrictions. Combine that with cutting down on sugar, which was traditionally a rarity in the region, and you’ve got the base of the Mediterranean diet right. And if you get the base right you can eat a little of whatever else you like,' says Consultant Cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra.
The secret lies in something called ‘postprandial thermogenesis’. It may sound like something straight out of the science lab, but it’s the reason why high-protein foods like chicken and eggs are your weight loss allies in the battle against the bulge. Digesting protein is more energy-intensive than any other food (about 50-100% more than carbohydrates!) and the good news is that all of this extra work uses up energy in the form of calories.
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The Mayo Clinic Diet provides practical and realistic ideas for including more physical activity and exercise throughout your day — as well as finding a plan that works for you. The diet recommends getting at least 30 minutes of exercise every day and even more exercise for further health benefits and weight loss. The diet also emphasizes moving more throughout the day, such as taking the stairs instead of an elevator.
Setting the right goals is an important first step. Most people trying to lose weight focus on just that one goal: weight loss. However, the most productive areas to focus on are the dietary and physical activity changes that will lead to long-term weight change. Successful weight managers are those who select two or three goals at a time that are manageable.
Physical activity helps burn abdominal fat. “One of the biggest benefits of exercise is that you get a lot of bang for your buck on body composition,” Stewart says. Exercise seems to work off belly fat in particular because it reduces circulating levels of insulin—which would otherwise signal the body to hang on to fat—and causes the liver to use up fatty acids, especially those nearby visceral fat deposits, he says.
First, eliminate or seriously cut back on the fake foods. When possible, choose real foods instead. Among weight loss tips, this one is absolutely essential. That means an apple instead of apple juice, orange slices instead of something orange-flavored. If you’re craving something, skip the no-fat version that will likely leave you wanting more, and instead measure out a serving instead so you can enjoy the food without going nuts.
In terms of the foods, this is not a low-calorie diet. This is not even necessarily a low-carbohydrate diet. This is not a vegetarian diet. This is not a low-fat diet. This is not a carnivore diet. This is a diet designed to lower insulin levels because insulin is the physiologic trigger of fat storage. If you want to lower fat storage, you need to lower insulin, and this may be done even with a high-carbohydrate diet.
Long-term weight loss appears to be more of a function of lifestyle choices than specific food choices. One study on people in the National Weight Control Registry, a large group of people who have lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off for at least five years, found that key weight maintenance behaviors include a consistent diet pattern, not skipping breakfast, and exercising at least an hour per day (5).
"About a year ago, I went to the doctor for my annual exam. I had just turned 30, and the number on the scale was the highest it had ever been, and my cholesterol was high," says Lauren Zarzour, 31. "I joined Weight Watchers and ClassPass. I'm now 30 pounds lighter and have developed a better understanding of nutrition and a passion for the gym. I've learned how much more you value food when every day isn't an indulgence, and how amazing it is to be strong. I wish I would have known how easy it could be, but I don't think it would have been easy if I hadn't had that epiphany." (Related: How to Rekindle Your Weight-Loss Motivation)
The menstrual cycle itself doesn’t seem to affect weight gain or loss. But having a period may affect your weight in other ways. Many women get premenstrual syndrome (PMS). PMS can cause you to crave and eat more sweet or salty foods than normal.4 Those extra calories can lead to weight gain. And salt makes the body hold on to more water, which raises body weight (but not fat).
Pros: Compared to eating a traditional diet, switching to a low-carb diet can significantly reduce body fat, studies show. Cap your carb intake at 20% of daily calories and the weight-loss results are even stronger—plus, you can reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke. Some research suggests low-carb diets are even better than low-fat diets: One study in Annals of Internal Medicine found that people who limited their carbs lost eight more pounds than those who cut back on fat. If you cut back on carbs enough, your body learns to burn fat as fuel instead. Studies are mixed on how low-carb diets affect performance, but some evidence suggests that endurance performance can actually improve among people whose bodies adapt to fat-burning fairly easily.
Dairy products contain varying amounts of lactose (milk sugar), which slows down weight loss. What’s more, part of the protein in milk generates a significant insulin response, which can have the same effect. Consequently, cutting back on dairy products may accelerate weight loss. This applies especially to dairy products typically lacking in fat, such as regular milk and various yogurts, but be careful with full-fat dairy such as cream and cheese all the same. And don’t forget whey protein powder, which is pure milk protein.