Losing belly fat has been and continues to be a major problem for many of us. And over the years there have been so many gimmicks and puffed up tips to get a flat belly that’s impossible to keep track. In spite of the wonders of good advertising, however, we still have a population of jiggly belly people.
While there is no magic formula to melt your belly fat by next week there is a systematic solution, that if followed consistently, will make that spare tire go away. It will put you in control of how you look and feel.
I am writing this book to highlight how we sabotage our health through poor eating and a lack of consistent activity and what we can do to reverse the trend starting now.
To make it easy to get started now I have broken the book into five sections for quick reference.
Kick-start your metabolism
Exercising to lose belly fat
Eat right for fat loss
How to keep track of your progress
To get a flat belly takes commitment and faith. You must believe that the work you’re doing is going to pay-off. It’s easy to give up after a few days because you don’t see immediate results . . . but with perseverance it will happen.
Kick-start Your Metabolism
Start your day with a healthy breakfast
- Eating a healthy breakfast keeps you full and energized through the morning and is the best way to get your metabolism started. Contrary to conventional thinking, having breakfast before starting your day will keep your insulin and glucose levels in the normal range.
- Breakfast will improve your thinking process, whether in school or on the job.
- Your body gets used to processing food at the same time each day which is good . . . so try to have your meals at a consistent time every day.
- An ideal breakfast should consist of good proteins such as eggs and slow release sugar in the form of fibrous fruits, preferable those that are currently in season. Who says that you must eat your veggies with dinner. You can most definitely have them in the morning. A healthy protein smoothie will make you feel full throughout the morning.
- Sugary cereals are for kids. Actually not. We shouldn’t be giving these things to our kids. Thanks to slick marketing, this is what your mother gave you as a child for breakfast – a bowl of cereal with milk.
- It’s also time to give up the pancakes drenched in syrup, the donuts and sugar laden instant breakfast cereals.
- Consider doing intermittent fasting for a period of time, such as a month or six weeks, where you eat your meals within a certain window each day. For example, get all your calories between 11:00 am and 6:00 pm each day or within some 7 – 8 hour time frame everyday and only having water at other times. This is great for kick-starting your metabolism and keeping it stoked when eating the right foods.
You must relieve stress
Another way to get your metabolism going is to reduce the stresses in your life.
Stress is a good thing in that it prepares your body for a fight of flight situation. Your breathing speeds up, your heart rate increases and circulation becomes restricted with your body sending more blood to the muscles in preparation for action.
One of the unfortunate side effects of too much stress is that it causes our bodies to secrete cortisol or ‘the stress hormone’. Studies indicate that excess secretion of cortisol will lead to an expanding waistline.
Use the following strategies to fight daily stress:
- Mediation – Take a moment to close your eyes and visualize a place where you are calm – walking along the beach, at a ball game, spending time with your best friend(s), traveling to a far off country. It doesn’t have to be for a long time. It could be for just a few minutes (5-10).
- Deep breathing exercises – When we are in a state of stress our breathing quickens and our heart rate speeds up. Deep breathing returns us to a state of normal breathing and heart function. It also relaxes our minds so we can think more clearly. Do one minute of deep relaxed breathing followed by a minute of normal breathing. Do this for seven minutes. Do deep breathing several times during the day especially when you feel a stressful situation coming on.
- Practice tai chi or yoga which is also another way to control breathing with the addition of controlled movements or poses.
- Develop the exercise habit. This is one form of stress relief that I use regularly. While working out I focus of the task at hand and shut out all distracting thoughts.
- Make a list of positive affirmations that you can repeat at the appropriate moment. An example of this would be . . . ‘I refuse to let other people ruin my day’ or ‘I will be better today than I was yesterday’. Identify and replace all negative thoughts about yourself with positive affirmations.
- Be thankful. Each morning and night I give thanks for all that I have – life, sight, hearing, family, friends, my faith in the Divine and much more
- Get a good night sleep ( between 7 and 8 hours).
Switch out refined grains for whole grains
We can also kick-start our metabolism by switching out refined or over-processed grains for whole grains. Studies have shown that replacing refined grain products (white or starchy flour) with whole grains will reduce belly fat. Whole grain products include:
- whole grain bread
- wild brown rice
- whole oats
- cracked wheat
When you combine a diet of whole grains with leans meats, fish or chicken along with several servings of fruits and veggies, consistently, you are certain to lose belly.
Not only does whole grains help to reduce belly fat but it will also help to keep blood sugars in the normal range.
For those suffering from pre-diabetes this in one of the ways to reverse or even prevent the condition from becoming full-blown diabetes. You are not only reducing the jiggly fat (subcutaneous fat) but visceral fat which forms around our vital organs.
Keep your body hydrated
Research indicates that staying hydrated with water throughout the day can result in a more active metabolism which leads to reduced belly fat. Stay away from sodas, juices and alcohol which are loaded with sugars. And avoid diet sodas which could potentially increase belly fat.
One immediate benefit of water is that it flushes waste from your body and can result in you consuming fewer calories.
- Ideally, you should have a least one 8-oz. glass of water 8 times per day, or 64 ounces total.
- Keep your water with you during the day and drink a glass of it before each meal and whenever you feel thirsty.
- Know how to tell when you’re sufficiently hydrated. You’ll know you’re drinking enough water when your urine runs almost clear. If it’s still yellow, drink up.
Once you kick-start your metabolism it’s time to incorporate a workout program to stoke the excess fat around your waist.
Exercising to lose belly fat
Many of us have been living a sedentary lifestyle that’s caused us to put on those extra pounds of belly fat. Now it’s time to ‘pay the piper’.
Proven steps to get a flat belly
There are several proven steps we can take to get a flat belly by exercising. And it starts by knowing that you must move your body regularly to get your body’s internal furnace heated up.
You can’t do it for a week or two weeks or two months but consistently for six months or more to really see dramatic results. That’s not a long time considering that the excess weight didn’t happen overnight but may have taken years to develop. This really should be a life time commitment that you can start now.
Follow these steps to get the best results from exercising:
- Stay active during the day whether at home or work. One way to do this is to challenge your yourself to walk more by taking 10,000 steps (5 miles) each day. By walking 10,000 steps you are burning approximately 300 calories each time you do it. Doing this has proven to be effective in losing belly fat. A pedometer is a great way to keep track of your steps.
- Take stairs instead of elevators.
- If you have to go to the store a mile away . . . walk instead of driving.
- Do high intensity interval training (hiit) along with weight training instead of steady state cardio and limited resistance exercises. This ramps up the intensity of both types of workouts and burns more calories for a toned and flat belly. You will build more muscle and endurance faster than standard exercises. Sprinting on a treadmill or on an outdoor track is one way I increase the intensity. I do this by going all out for one minute then do a slow jog for two minutes until I catch my breath. I repeat this for twenty minutes. Start by doing hiit training for ten minutes and increase from there.
How to get a six-pack definition
Although we can target certain muscles by exercising them more – like bicep curls or leg squats – you won’t notice them until you shed the fat. In the same way doing ab crunches and sit-ups will build your core muscles, but you might not see them under the rolls of fat around your waist.
In fact, crunches might actually make your stomach look bigger as you will build up thicker abs. Try these exercises that focuses on your core muscles instead:
- Planks – This is a very targeted exercise that’s effective in tightening and toning your abs . . . not building them out. To do them get in position to do pushups, then rest on your elbows instead of the palms of your hand. Hold that position for as long as possible. I try to hold mine for two minutes and fifteen seconds. Don’t arch your back but hold it as straight as possible. Aim for three sets of one minute every other day.
- Squats are one of the best lower body exercises that also tightens up your core. Do body squats by holding onto a stable object. Advance to doing them by holding your hands out in-front of you. After you get good at doing these start doing them with a weighted bar across your shoulders. Do three sets of ten repetitions.
- Ramp up the cardio – As stated earlier, increasing the intensity will get your heart pumping and you will burn more calories which makes you lose fat all over, including your belly. You can’t “spot-reduce” belly fat, but by doing HIIT training it’s usually the first to burn off.
- Add resistance training – A 2006 study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism suggests that combining cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise with resistance training is more effective than cardiovascular training alone in getting rid of abdominal fat. You can do resistance training with free weights, exercise machines or resistance bands.
Avoid injuries that can delay your progress by not overdoing your workouts when starting any exercise program. You must give your body time to recover and benefit from the work you are doing. Do resistance exercises every other day and cardio three days per week.
Eat right for fat loss
For many this is the biggest challenge to getting a flat belly. It takes commitment and discipline to avoid the foods that make us fat but to lose belly fat it must be done. How badly do you want it?
Once you are committed – use the following steps to get it done:
- Reduce calorie consumption – You must reduce the amount of calories you consume. Unless you restrict calorie intake, you won’t lose belly fat.
- Keep a food diary. Most people tend to underestimate how much they eat. Get an honest assessment of your eating habits by writing down everything you consume for a week. Utilize an online calorie calculator, and figure out roughly how many calories you’re consuming in a day. From there, see what you can afford to cut.
- Try a diet in which you consume 2200 calories (men) or 2000 calories (women) per day. This should cause a deficit sufficient for you to lose one or two pounds per week, depending on your activity level.
- Eat good fats. Studies suggest that a diet with a higher ratio of monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) — such as avocadoes, nuts, seeds, soybeans, and chocolate — can prevent the accumulation of belly fat.
- Avoid foods containing trans fats (margarines, crackers, cookies, or anything made with partially hydrogenated oils). They result in more fat being deposited in the abdomen.
- Get more fiber in your diet. Soluble fiber (such as that found in apples, oats, and cherries) lowers insulin levels which can speed up the burning of visceral belly fat.
- Add fiber to your diet slowly. If you are currently getting 10 grams of fiber a day, don’t jump to 35 grams of fiber the next day. The natural bacteria in your digestive system requires time to adapt to your new fiber intake.
- Eat the skin on your fruits and vegetables. Incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet adds fiber, but only if you eat the skin, as that’s where all the fiber is. Don’t peel those apples before you eat them. With potatoes, leave the skin on (with baked or mashed potatoes) or if you peel them, make snacks of them, such as baked garlic Parmesan peels. Keeping the skin on potatoes when cooking them helps keep more vitamins/minerals in the flesh. (Just don’t eat any parts of skin that are green.)
- Eat more split pea soup. Split peas are a fiber “power food”. Just one cup of them contains 16.3 grams of protein.
Keep track of your progress
Calculate your waist-to-hip ratio. Your waist-to-hip ratio — or the circumference of your waist divided by the circumference of your hips — can be a good indicator of whether you need to lose belly fat. Here’s how to get it:
- Wrap a soft tape measure around the thinnest part of your waist at the level of your navel. Note the measurement.
- Wrap the tape measure around the widest part of your hips, where you can feel a bony protrusion about 1/3 of the way from the top of the hipbone. Note the measurement.
- Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement.
- Know what’s healthy. Women should have waist circumference of 35 inches or less; men should be 40 inches or less.
- Continue taking your measurements as you progress. After incorporating some of the above strategies, keep measuring so you can see your progress
- Weigh yourself at the same time each day. Because body weight fluctuates depending on the time of day, when you last ate or when you last had a bowel movement, standardize the process by weighing yourself at the same time each day. Many people choose to do this the first thing in the morning, before breakfast.
- Join forces with a friend. Trying to lose weight with a partner can help you stay accountable for your actions, as well as giving you an extra incentive to keep exercise appointments. Share your victories together, and discuss solutions to whatever roadblocks you encounter.
- Understand risks associated with belly fat. Losing belly fat doesn’t have to be solely a cosmetic goal; understanding the health issues linked with belly fat can help motivate you.
- Belly fat is linked with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. Specifically it’s the deepest layer of belly fat —the fat you can’t see or grab — that poses health risks. That’s because these “visceral” fat cells actually produce hormones and other substances that can affect your health (e.g. increased insulin resistance and/or breast cancer risk)
- The fact that “visceral” fat cells are located right next to and in between organs in your abdominal cavity doesn’t help. For example, fat next to the liver drains into it, causing a fatty liver. This is a risk factor for insulin resistance, setting the stage for type 2 diabetes.
Check out this short video on How to lose belly fat
Here are some extra tips to
- Drink water before and after each meal. It fills you up so you won’t be as hungry, then after it helps clean your system.
- Having trouble getting motivated to exercise? Get halfway there. If you want to go to the gym, but don’t feel like it, just drive/walk there, and say that if you still don’t feel like exercising, you’ll go home. Odds are, once you’re there, you’ll stay. Then say you’ll just use the treadmill for 10 minutes, even if your routine involves much more. Just telling yourself to do one more thing, without having to commit to anything else, will make things much easier. Before long, your endorphins will take over.
- Before eating something, think about why you are eating it. Is it because of real body hunger? If not, don’t eat it.
- Skipping (jump rope) is great for losing body fat. It burns more calories than running.
- Eating a hearty breakfast will kick-start your metabolism and keep it high throughout the day, burning more fat.
- Exercise in the morning. It burns more calories than any other time of the day. It can be hard waking up with energy so try to get as much sleep as possible, around 7-8 hours for adults you will see the results.
- An easy way to burn more fat is to walk everywhere within a reasonable distance. You save money on gas, and also save wear and tear on your vehicle. All you need are comfortable shoes and walk, walk, walk. Pick up the pace as you get fitter to quicken those short journeys and smile at all the traffic congestion. Biking is also great as you are working hard and arriving to destinations faster.
- Doing a few jumping jacks or push-ups just after waking up will also kick-start your metabolism and also wake you up!
- Eat smaller dinners. You don’t need to stop eating what you like, but try eating smaller portions inch by inch. Large dinners tend to hurt a fat-loss process because people aren’t very active after huge dinners. This is the basis for advice along the lines of “don’t eat anything within a certain number of hours before going to bed”. The claim that your entire dinner is stored as fat isn’t entirely true. The process is more complicated than that, but the fact that you don’t move after dinner is enough to hurt your cause. Offset this by eating a larger lunch or snacking healthily before dinner.
- Eat small snacks every few hours. Three almonds, a piece of fruit, piece of dark chocolate…choose your favorites and have them handy.
- Eat a heavy breakfast, a moderate lunch , and a light dinner.
- If you get lots of sweet cravings, replace sweets and sugar with fruits. The sugars in fruits are digested differently than the empty calories of white sugar that are in most candy and processed foods. The fiber in fruit also slows the absorption of the sugars so you don’t get as high a sugar rush (and as low a crash).
- When you feel dragged down because you haven’t slept much, consume lean proteins. Without proper sleep, we tend to crave sugar and junk food. Curtail this by eating lean proteins (nuts, fish…).
- Make a fun exercising and cleaning game to get through all of your chores.
- Do something you enjoy for exercise such as sport or cycling. This will improve your mental drive as it seems ‘easier’.
- Try to cycle to near-by places, such as the grocery store. Carry a bag along with you. With the supplies, your bag pack will get heavy. Cycle around for an hour. It will help in losing fat from all over your body.
- There are lots of free calorie-counting apps for the iPhone and iPod touch (and probably Android). These are a great easy way to track your food, and many will input brand name foods and their nutrition facts for you!
- The way bodies distribute fat is largely beyond control and can be dependent on several factors (genetics, menopause…). What is within your control is your level of body fat overall — if you keep that low, it won’t really matter where the fat goes, as there won’t be much fat in the first place.
- If you don’t have weights for resistance training, you can start by lifting anything heavy. Or, you can use gravity as resistance: do pull ups and push-ups.
- Many women start gaining more weight in their belly as they age, especially after menopause. The body fat distribution changes — less fat goes to your arms, legs and hips, and more goes to your midsection. Some people even find their waistline widening while their weight remains the same. Nonetheless, the above steps will help to do away with belly fat.
- Walk at the same time each day and if you can run a mile a day..
- Doing only sit-ups and crunches can actually cause the appearance of more belly fat, as the abdominal muscles grow in size and shape, they will push out against the fat, making it appear larger and thicker.
- Do not try to lose weight too rapidly. Crash diets and diet pills that promise weight loss are usually bad for you and actually don’t help keep the weight off in the long run. Resist the urge to take the “easy” way out and instead stick with a healthier lifestyle. This way you lose the weight and improve your health, helping you keep the weight off in a way that won’t harm you in the long run.
- If you’ve gained weight or been pregnant, you may have excess skin in the belly area that won’t disappear no matter how much fat you burn. You will only know how much excess skin there is, though, if you get rid of all the fat first. It is also possible that your skin will tighten up again once you’ve lost the belly fat.
Learn how to prevent pre-diabetes or early stage diabetes by making a few key changes in your lifestyle. You can get a copy of my training manual by visiting How to prevent Pre-diabetes.