Belly fat is among the most dangerous types of fat. It is a significant indicator of disease, and getting rid of it takes more than a few sit-ups every morning. Weight gain around your middle is a sign that your levels of cortisol (your stress hormone) are too high and that deadly inflammation is infecting your body. Changing a few simple habits can reduce the weight around your waistline, making you your very best from the inside out.
Interval training. You can do crunches all day long, but you will never see that six-pack if it is buried under layers of fat. To achieve a truly flat stomach, work in some cardiovascular exercise between sit-ups, crunches, planks and other abdominal exercises. Try jumping rope, running on a treadmill or even do jumping jacks for 30 seconds to one minute between each set. You will shred fat while building a solid core.
Don’t skip meals. Skipping meals is an easy way to earn a round waistline. When you skip meals, your body responds by raising cortisol levels, increasing cravings and storing fat, especially in the abdomen. Consuming small meals and snacks throughout the day can pacify cravings and rev up your metabolism to prevent fat storage.
Skip the sweets. Sugar is the mortal enemy of a flat tummy. Sugar causes unnecessary spikes, crashes of your blood sugar levels and, when consumed in excess, gets stored as fat. If you crave sweets, keep fruits like blueberries, raspberries and strawberries accessible to pacify your sweet tooth.
Increase vitamin C. Vitamin C, found in abundance in citrus fruits, broccoli, kale and bell peppers, can aid in keeping cortisol levels under control. Plus, vitamin C is essential in the production of carnitine, which the body uses to convert fat into energy.
Boost intake of healthy fats. Although you should still moderate your intake, healthy fats like avocados, walnuts and olive oil can improve satiety. These foods will also rev up your metabolism thanks to high doses of omega-3.
Sleep. Statistically, when people get busy, sleep moves down on the list of priorities. However, sleep is so important to weight management and optimal health that you can’t afford to skimp on it. Multiple studies have proven that too little or poor quality sleep leads to weight gain, junk food cravings and increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. Getting more sleep is an easy way to keep your body trim and healthy.
Relax. Cortisol is the stress hormone. When you’re stressed, levels of cortisol rise. In cases of chronic stress, like tight deadlines at work, financial crises, injury or illness, your cortisol levels can reach extremes or impair the function of your adrenal system all together. This can lead to weight gain or the inability to lose weight, decreased immunity and increased levels of inflammation. Making time to relax and meditate each day – even for only five minutes – can help you keep cortisol levels balanced.
Take a brisk walk before breakfast: This easy a.m. ritual works on two levels. First, a recent study found that exposure to sunlight in between the hours of 8 am and noon reduced your risk of weight gain regardless of activity level, caloric intake, or age. Researchers speculate that the morning light synchronizes your metabolism and undercuts your fat genes. And burning calories before you eat means you’re exercising in a fasted state—the energy you burn comes right from your fat stores, instead of the food you ate.
Start with the Perfect Breakfast: Naturally sweet recipes in Zero Belly Diet were the key to weight loss. Choose each recipe for fat-burning proteins, belly-filling fibers, and healthy fats that will boost your metabolism and lead to all-day (and night) calorie burning, including eggs and omelets, pancakes and waffles, breakfast meats, sandwiches, homemade cereals, oatmeals and overnight oats, and creamy and delicious smoothies.
Choose red fruit over green: It’s the best fruit for weight loss. That means Pink Lady over Granny Smith, watermelon over honeydew, red grapes over green ones. The higher levels of nutrients called flavonoids—particularly anthocyanins, compounds that give red fruits their color—calm the action of fat-storage genes. In fact, red-bellied stone fruits like plums boast phenolic compounds that have been shown to modulate the expression of fat genes.
Make some guacamole: Learning to eat real, chemical free, fresh foods has been the best thing that ever can happen with you. You will never hungry. And the weight just keeps coming off.
Avocados are a double-whammy to belly fat. First, they’re packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats that dim your hunger switches; a study in Nutrition Journal found that participants who ate half a fresh avocado with lunch reported a 40 percent decreased desire to eat for hours afterwards. Second, unsaturated fats like those found in avocados seem to prevent the storage of belly fat.
Power up with eggs: You’ll find lean, satiating protein in every single bite you take on. The muscle-building macronutrient is fundamental to the plan, and eggs happen to be one of the easiest and most versatile delivery systems in the universe. Not only that, they’re also the number-one dietary source of a nutrient called choline. Choline, which is found also in lean meats, seafood and collard greens, attacks the gene mechanism that triggers your body to store fat around your liver. A breakfast hash with sweet potatoes and fresh farm eggs. The more eggs you eat, the less egg-shaped you get.
Mix up a magic elixir: Start each day by making a large pitcher of “spa water”—that’s detox water filled with sliced whole lemons, oranges or grapefruits—and make a point of sipping your way through at least 8 glasses before bedtime. Citrus fruits are rich in the antioxidant delimonene, a powerful compound found in the peel that stimulates liver enzymes to help flush toxins from the body and gives sluggish bowels a kick, according to the World Health Organization.
Make your own trail mix : The three major ingredients of a perfect meal or snack are protein, fiber and healthy fats, and all three can be found in abundance in a good trail mix. Sadly, most commercial mixes are made with extra oils, salt, and sugar. Mix up your own high-protein snacks from a selection of nuts, seeds, unsweetened dried fruit, and dark chocolate pieces. Make sure to include peanuts: they’re a top source of both genistein and resveratrol, two nutrients that help diminish the action of your fat-storage genes.
Snaxercise: The biggest reason we can’t stick to our workouts? No time. Trying to squeeze a trip to the gym, with a shower and change of clothes, into a hectic schedule—especially around the holidays—can make even the most dedicated fitness buff into someone, well, less buff. But scientists in New Zealand recently found that men and women who engaged in three 10-minute exercise “hors d’oeuvres” before breakfast, lunch and dinner saw lowered blood glucose levels—a fat-busting benefit these folks showed all day long!
Rethink your supplements: If you’re taking lots of vitamins and probiotics each day, you may want to reevaluate your strategy. Increased levels of B vitamins have long been associated with a higher prevalence of obesity and diabetes, perhaps because megadosing triggers our fat genes. A daily multivitamin is probably fine, but don’t try to convince yourself that more is better. And a recent study found that most commercial probiotics have far less healthy bacteria than they claim. Your better bet is to focus on the foods to ensure your belly is getting plenty of love—and your fat genes are being cut off at the pass.
Have dark chocolate & berries for dessert: Indulging in delicious food is a core principle of diet. It makes scientific sense, also: A recent study found that antioxidants in cocoa prevented laboratory mice from gaining excess weight and actually lowered their blood sugar levels. And another study found that gut microbes in our stomach ferment chocolate into heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory compounds that shut down genes linked to insulin resistance and inflammation. Why the berries? The fruit speeds up the fermentation process, leading to an even greater reduction in inflammation and weight.
Swap farmed salmon for wild salmon: Lean protein like fish is a great way to fight fat and boost your metabolism. But the farmed salmon you get at the local market might not be the best bet for your belly. The cold-water fish has a well-deserved reputation for packing plenty of heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids—1,253 mg of the good stuff, and just 114 mg of inflammatory, belly-busting omega 6s. But the farmed variety—and 90 percent of what we eat today is farmed—has a very different story to tell. It packs a whopping 1,900 mg of unhealthy omega-6s.
Eat a better peanut butter: Real peanut butter is made with two ingredients: peanuts, and maybe some salt. You already know that peanuts give you belly-slimming monounsaturated fats, tummy-filling fiber, and metabolism-boosting protein. But peanuts have a hidden weapon in their weight-loss utility belt: Genistein, a compound that acts directly on the genes for obesity, helping to turn them down and reduce your body’s ability to store fat. (Beans and lentils have the same magic ingredient, albeit in slightly less delicious form.) But be careful of the brand you buy: if you see ingredients like sugar, palm oil, or anything you can’t pronounce, put it back. They’ll undermine any good the peanuts might do.
Dinner with greens: High-volume, low-calorie greens will fill you up, without filling you out. Leafy greens like collard greens, watercress, kale, and arugula may not be on your everyday list, but they all contain a compound called sulforaphane. This nutrient has been shown to act directly on the genes that determine “adipocyte differentiation”—basically, turning a stem cell into a fat cell. A healthier intake of the compound means a healthier body weight for you. And just a scant teaspoon of vinaigrette will help your body absorb the fat-soluble nutrients.
If you find that you are struggling with stubborn belly fat coupled with fatigue, moodiness and poor sleep despite your best efforts at a healthy lifestyle, you may be suffering from a hormone imbalance. Conditions of hormone imbalance, like adrenal fatigue, can be caused by chronic stress but may be corrected with hormone therapy and healthy lifestyle changes.