Ask a person what their least favorite body part is and they’re very likely to point to their belly. Even if you’re slim everywhere else, your stomach might still be pudgier than you’d like. Fashion seems to be conspiring against us too with low waist jeans and crop tops become increasingly popular. Belly fat is notoriously difficult to lose because it’s buried deep inside your body, making it harder to burn off. If you’ve spent most of you adult life trying to lose a few inches off your belly, here are eight rules to live by.
1. Get Your Facts Straight About Food Groups
When it comes to belly fat, carbs and fats have been deemed the worst offenders. However, not all carbohydrates and fats are created equal. While refined carbs only add empty calories and bloat your belly, complex carbs are completely different. They provide fuel for your body, contain important nutrients and stop you from overeating. Rolled oats, whole wheat or multigrain bread and wholewheat pasta are great sources of healthy carbs. However, always read the ingredients label before believing something is truly whole grain. Many food products just have a token amount of whole grains added to them to appeal to the health food trend.
In the same way, fats aren’t always bad either. Unsaturated fats and even saturated fat are actually good for your belly. The Mediterranean diet is rich in both these fats, containing plenty of cheese, olive oil and fatty fish. Research has shown that people who follow a Mediterranean diet actually have much less visceral fat. Trans fats however, are undeniably bad for you. Your body isn’t equipped to utilize it and so it just accumulates in your belly. Fried foods and snacks almost always contain trans fats, so stay clear of them.
2. Practice Intermittent Fasting
Studies on groups of rats have found that a 12 hour break from food can lead to weight loss. Rats were divided into two groups, one which was given access to food through the day and one which was given food only for 12 hours in a day. Even though both groups were fed the same amount of food and the same number of calories, the second group lost more weight. Fasting for 12 hours doesn’t mean you have to starve through the day. Try eating your last meal of the day before 8 pm and eat your breakfast only after 8 a.m. You’ll be sleeping for most of the 12 hours so you won’t even realize how much fat you’re losing.
3. Don’t Kill Yourself Doing Ab Crunches
Stomach crunches are often believed to be the most effective way to get a flat stomach, but there isn’t much truth to it. The fact is that all of us have abs, but it’s hidden under layers of fat. The best way to get a flat stomach is to burn the fat covering it, not by exercising those muscles alone. Instead of ab crunches, choose moves that strengthen your core and give you a full body workout. These will tone your entire torso, eliminate fat and give you a flat belly.
4. Breakfast Might Actually Be The Most Important Meal
No matter how hectic your day is, never ever skip your breakfast. Filling yourself up at the start of the day will help stave off hunger cravings. No one ever made good decisions on an empty stomach, especially food decisions. If you skip breakfast, you’re more likely to cave and eat a big lunch or gorge on unhealthy snacks. What you eat for breakfast is equally important. The classic bread and eggs is one of the most belly-friendly meals you can have. Studies have shown that people who eat eggs (yolk and all) for breakfast lose up to 34% more belly fat than others.
5. Happiness Is Your Best Tool
Diet and exercise aren’t the only two things you need to focus on for a flat belly. If you live a highly stressful life, it might show up on your waist. Stress triggers more production of the hormone cortisol. This hormone increases your body’s fat storage capacity, especially around your tummy. Research has shown that women who have high levels of cortisol also have high waist-to-hip ratios than women with lower cortisol levels. You might not be able to quit your job and go live in the mountains, but you can take steps to de-stress. Try meditating for at least 15 minutes every morning to calm your nerves and flatten your belly.
6. Spit Out Your Gum
One of the most popular diet hacks is to chew on a piece of gum to fight food cravings. The chewing is supposed to trick your brain into believing you’re eating something, stopping it from sending hunger signals. However, chewing gum isn’t as harmless as you think. Almost every type of gum is loaded with artificial sweeteners that contribute to belly fat. Apart from the ingredients, the very act of chewing it so much can increase your waist size. Chewing gum causes you to ingest excessive gas, making your stomach more bloated. So if you want to fight a hunger craving, reach for a healthy snack instead of a stick of gum.
7. Turn Down The Thermostat
Just turning down the thermostat a few degrees could go a long way in burning fat. We have two types of fat in our body: brown fat and white fat. Brown fat is good for us, is easily used for fuel and can be burnt off quickly. White fat however, is responsible for health issues, obesity and is very difficult to lose. When our body is exposed to cold temperatures, it begins converting white fat into brown fat. You don’t have to be in the freezing cold for this to happen. Participants in a study who kept their thermostat at 66 degrees for four weeks had double the brown fat they started out with.
8. Practice Mindful Eating
Quick lunches and TV dinners contribute to an expanding waistline. When you eat absentmindedly, you aren’t giving your body a chance to tell you that you’re full. Concentrating on the TV ends up with you eating way more than you actually need. Eating lunch at your workstation is just as bad. When you eat very quickly, not only do you eat more than you’re supposed to, but bigger bites are more difficult for your stomach to digest. This also leads to more gas buildup which makes your tummy bloated. Instead, eat alone with zero distractions. Concentrate on the food you’re eating and chew every bite completely.