What part of your body are you most uncomfortable with?
More often than not, the answer to that question has to do with the midsection—the ever-dreaded stomach pudge.
So many people try to diet and be healthy, yet they can’t get that rid of that stubborn belly fat. It just doesn’t seem to budge!
We’re here to help you out. We got together a panel of experts to weigh in on the matter!
But first, it’s important to understand the fundamental reason behind why belly fat is so difficult to abolish.
The Cause Of Belly Fat
You’d think the main reason behind belly fat is poor diet, or a sedentary lifestyle. And that certainly contributes to the problem.
But really, the biggest problem is one that so many people all over the world deal with today: stress.
Related: 10 Ways To Stop Stress Eating
“Cortisol is released in response to stress to regulate the fuel necessary for the fight-or-flight response,” says Jenny Evans, nutrition and exercise physiology expert and author of The Resiliency rEvolution: Your Stress Solution For Life. “Our ancestors did a lot of fighting and/or fleeing and had to be very careful about managing energy stores on the body. Cortisol is a hormone that regulates both hunger and fat storage in response to stress.”
Fitness and personal development expert Debi Silber further explains, “One of the things cortisol will do is drive fat storage-particularly around the middle. This flooding of hormones also suppresses the thyroid which is in charge of our metabolism. So, chronic stress lowers thyroid function, slows metabolism and we have another reason why we’re gaining weight.”
In other words, even if you’re eating well and exercising, if you’re living a high-stress lifestyle, that belly fat will be much more difficult to shake. You must focus on each of these three areas equally.
But don’t give up. Belly fat is a silent and deadly killer.
Why You Need To Get Rid Of Your Belly Fat
The fat around your stomach isn’t just something to make you self-conscious—it’s something that can threaten your life.
The fat around your belly is dangerous,” says registered dietician and author Liz Pearson. “It doesn’t just sit there. It’s biologically active, producing hormones and other substances that promote chronic inflammation and negatively impact the way your body handles sugars and fats. Abdominal fat can kill you – the more of it you have, the greater your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, dementia, cancer and more.”
Yeesh. But how much belly fat is “too much?”
There’s an easy formula, according to Pearson. “The simplest way to determine if you have too much is with a measuring tape. Measure your waist from the top of your hipbone around, just above or at your navel.”
If you’re male, 40 inches or above is dangerous; if you’re female, 35 inches or above is the deadly number, according to Pearson.
So you did the measurements, and you have too much belly fat. If it’s so difficult to get rid of, can you even do it?
The short answer: of course you can! We compiled over 50 tips, divided into sections. Some you probably figured; some are crazy and wacky. All are effective!
You’ve gotta get up and moving to get rid of that belly fat, but don’t think you have to run a marathon…in fact, quite the contrary!
Here’s what you need to do if you want to work off that belly fat by breaking a sweat.
1. Interval training
Interval training is a quick-and-dirty method to getting the results you want. “Use short bursts of thirty to sixty seconds of physical activity that mimic the fight-or-flight response,” says Evans. “These bursts utilize cortisol and release another set of hormones that restore balance.”
In fact, doing this high-intensity interval training for just minutes a week can produce results. According to Medical Advisory Board Member of the Nutritional Magnesium Association Carolyn Dean, MD, “Doing high-intensity exercise, even for just three minutes a week, can help improve your insulin sensitivity, drop belly fat and improve your overall health.”
Not sure what sort of interval training to do? Fitness expert Rob Miller suggests sprinting as fast as you possibly can for 30 seconds, followed by two minutes of walking at your normal pace. “Repeat this for 15 – 20 minutes, combined with healthy eating and an active lifestyle, and you’ll start seeing the results very quickly,” says Miller.
If that seems like a lot of work, consider this: interval training burns way more calories and up to 36% more body fat than going on that elliptical for an hour, according to Evans.
2. Brisk walking
Fitness minimalist expert Pat Flynn, founder of Chronicles Of Strength, certainly knows a thing or two about working out efficiently and quickly. And surprisingly, one of his biggest recommendations is simply…walking!
“It’s not sexy, and nobody’s doing it,” says Flynn. “Maybe that’s why nobody’s sexy. Anyway, brisk walking burns a ton of fat and virtually zero muscle. It’s best done first thing in the morning, after a cup of tea but before breakfast. 30-60 minutes is sufficient.”
3. Set an exercise quota
That being says, Flynn definitely recommends doing more than just walking. “More movement = less body fat,” says Flynn. “People need to move more, and not just in that one hour that they go to the gym. A good practice is to set an exercise quota for the day, and then accumulate reps however you like.”
Flynn recommends picking a good, solid number, then “collecting” exercises to get up to that number by the end of the day. For example, decide you’ll do 300 push ups throughout the day, and take “push up breaks.”
4. Kettlebell complexes
A great exercise is using kettlebells—preferably in complexes. “Complexes are any series of exercises performed back to back with little to know rest in between,” says Flynn. “Complexes blast fat, boost muscle, and bolster an enormous calorie afterburner.”
Are they hard? “They really suck,” says Flynn. “But if you want to burn fat, complexes are one of the best forms of high intensity exercise you can do.” Hey, no pain, no gain!
For some more of Pat’s funny (and wise!) advice on fitness, check out the video below.
5. Put a dumbbell in your briefcase, purse, or backpack
Don’t have time for any of this stuff? You’re not off the hook!
“People keep on telling me they don’t have time for exercise,” says Dean. “One of the secrets to finding time is redefining ‘exercise.’”
Exercise isn’t only time spent in the gym, says Dean. “Look at our ancestors’ ‘exercise program’…they were exercising all day long. Hunting game, raising livestock, growing food, building fences, constructing homes, fixing wagons…and walking. They walked everywhere…often pulling or carrying something.”
Try putting a dumbbell in your briefcase, purse, or backpack to make it a little heavier—perhaps on those morning walks!
6. Park farther away
Remember, you can “accumulate” exercise throughout the day, bits at a time.
“Most of us have a job that doesn’t involve such physical exertion [as our ancestors],” says Dean. “We also live in suburban situations that have inconveniently placed everywhere we need to go such a great distance away we couldn’t possibly walk to all of them.”
One way to accumulate exercise is to park or get off the bus farther away from your destination and walk the rest of the way.
7. Take squat breaks
Pearson warns against living a sedentary lifestyle, even if your job requires you to sit at your desk. “Don’t spend your day sitting…break up your day with regular periods of activity,” says Pearson.
Related: Stand Up! 5 Reasons To Sit Less
What better way to do that than taking squat breaks? Squats are one of the most effective exercises out there.
“You can knock out 12 super squats every 30 minutes you sit in front of a computer,” says Dean. It will only make you more productive!”
8. Don’t use elevators
Another way to “accumulate” exercise? Stop taking the escalator or elevator and start taking the stairs, says Dean. Going up and down stairs is a great way to get yourself moving.
9. Don’t only do cardio
Trainer Mike Chang has one of the top fitness YouTube channels, with over three million subscribers…so he knows a thing or two about getting rid of belly fat.
According to him, constantly hopping on the treadmill at the gym is a big no-no. You can’t forget about weight lifting!
“Don’t worry guys and gals, you’re not going to look like the Hulk,” says Chang. “The weights will get rid of that belly fat way faster because they will increase how many calories you burn with each pound of muscle you build.”
10. Do weight lifting first!
According to Chang, spend an equal amount of time doing cardio and lifting weights, but make sure to lift weights first, “because it requires more energy and will ultimately burn more calories than cardio.”
Doing cardio first will just exhaust you, making it more difficult for you to lift those weights!
11. Resistance training
According to fitness expert John Rowley, any resistance training will help. “The more muscle you have, the more fat you burn—even at rest,” says Rowley.
“Resistance training” means anything that causes your muscles to contract against an external resistance, so that doesn’t only mean weight training, which can get a bit pricey—you can use exercise tubing (less expensive) and your own body weight (totally free!).
12. Jump rope!
Jumping rope isn’t just for the kids at school. It’s also a fun way for you to work off that belly fat!
According to health and life coach Allison Hagendorf, “Owning a jumprope is the single most useful and portable piece of equipment you can own. Have a coffee break? Jump rope instead of that caloric Starbucks latte. Your waistline and your wallet will thank you for it.”
13. Do some relaxed exercising before bed
It’s great to do your exercises earlier in the day, but save a little bit of your more relaxed exercise before bed.
“Do low heart rate cardio before bed to burn off the remaining carbs in your system,” says fitness model and coach Greg Plitt, creator of Metaball Fitness System.
A good example would be walking around your neighborhood for 45 minutes. Who knew a romantic walk under the stars with your love could make your belly trim?
14. Focus on the numbers
When you’re at the gym, don’t forget to count how many reps you’ve done!
“When working out, instead of jumping on cardio machines, do a fast pace, high rep lifting circuit. You burn twice the fat as opposed to the standard treadmill or stair master workout,” says Plitt. “Reps should be in the ballpark of 20-30 reps per set with less than one minute rest between exercises. Do eight exercises and repeat circuit three times; your workout should be done in under an hour.”
Under an hour for a sexy bod? Sweet!
Nutrition And Eating Tips
Of course, belly fat is also influenced by what you eat and how much you eat of it. But there’s lots of little factors within nutrition and eating that can keep that stubborn belly fat around…or make it melt off.
Here’s what you need to know!
15. Don’t go longer than four hours without eating
Three meals a day? How about every three hours?
“Eat about every three hours throughout the day by alternating between moderate sized meals and small snacks,” said Evans. “Anytime we go longer than about four hours without eating, it stimulates the stress response, releases cortisol, and makes us overeat and store more belly fat.”
This is why the whole “eat less, lose more” thing just doesn’t work. Your body needs fuel!
16. Stay hydrated!
Drink water. Constantly. All the time. Because you’d be surprised just how easily your body can become dehydrated.
According to health and nutritionist consultant Deborah Levy, “Drink plenty of water. If you don’t take in enough, your body may be retaining fluids which cause bloating. Also, constipation and abdominal discomfort are often the result of not enough fluid intake.”
Related: 5 Big Benefits Of Drinking Water
To aid this, Chang suggests that you carry around a gallon of water. Find a stylish water bottle that will hold a whole gallon, and there’s no way you’ll be dehydrated.
17. Spruce up your water
Does water bore you? You’re not alone. A lot of people forget to drink water because it’s just not as appealing as soda or juice.
Luckily, there’s a way to spruce up your water to make it even healthier. According to Levy, drinking warm water with lemon “is a great way to hydrate and relieve bloat, discomfort, and constipation.”
Fitness expert Jennifer Galardi agrees, adding to do it every morning and waiting to eat until half an hour afterwards. “This can help to detoxify and cleanse the internal organs, as well as help things move along in the digestive tract,” according to Galardi.
18. Avoid artificial sweeteners
Steer clear of any artificial sweeteners, because they’re even worse than the real thing.
Not sure what constitutes an artificial sweetener? “Avoid foods that contain artificial sweeteners such as sorbitol, xylitol and mannitol,” according to Levy. “These artificial sweeteners are indigestible in the gut, so it’s likely that too much of these will result in abdominal bloating.”
19. Don’t eat in a hurry
Are you often the first one to clear your plate? Not so fast. Start training yourself to eat slowly.
And that’s not just because of overeating: “When you eat too fast and gulp down your food, you swallow an excess amount of air, which results in abdominal bloating,” says Levy.
20. Skip the straw
Skip the straw and drink straight from the cup. Sounds like a minor thing, but it will “reduce the amount of swallowed air,” according to Levy—a quick-and-dirty method to preventing bloat before it starts.
21. Steer clear of high-fructose corn syrup…
“High-fructose corn syrup”—the phrase itself sounds pretty nasty, right? It is nasty—and, unfortunately, it’s in most everything these days.
“Since 1971, consumption of this sugar substitute—which is used to sweeten soda, commercial baked goods, and even condiments—has increased more than 350% in the U.S., paralleling the rise in obesity,” Dean says.
But though it’s in a lot of stuff, it’s not hard to avoid it. Steer clear of simple carbohydrates, like white breads, pasta, or potato chips. If in doubt, check the ingredients.
22. …or really, any sugar
Sugar may be tasty, but keep it to a minimum. “Sugar (in all it’s forms-obvious sugars found in drinks, sweets, treats as well as grains) creates bloating and inflammation,” says Silber.
Owner and head coach of CrossFit Sunset Ty Vincent agrees, adding that high sugar intake will “immediately contribute to belly fat in both men and women.”
Next time you grab that cookie, think: is it really worth it?
23. Take some magnesium
For a super easy addition to your routine, start taking magnesium supplements, or eating foods high in magnesium.
“Magnesium regulates glucose, decreases insulin sensitivity, eliminates inflammation, and stimulates protein synthesis,” says Dean, which will help you lose that belly fat much more quickly.
24. For breakfast: think ahead
Don’t skip your breakfast! Breakfast is essential, according to Chang: “Your body needs food in the morning because your blood sugar is low. That means you need to keep your insulin levels steady for the simple reason that you will crave unhealthy foods when it gets too low.”
Chang recommends making it the night before, so that you just have to heat it up when you wake—making it less tempting to skip. “One of the meals I make is three egg whites, some ground turkey, bananas, and strawberries,” he suggests.
25. Avoid alcohol
Having drinks with your buddies may be fun, but don’t make it a habit. It’s called a “beer belly” for a reason.
“Keep yourself busy by engaging with people you enjoy, and pick and choose when you really want to imbibe,” says Galardi. “A trick that works for me? I think about how I feel the next morning before I take that first sip. Usually, it’s not worth it.”
Still having a hard time laying off the alcohol? “Offer your sober driving services if that will help you,” suggests Galardi.
26. Watch out for food sensitivities
If you find yourself bloating often, consider the very real possibility that you have a food sensitivity. Food sensitivities, often to dairy, eggs, or gluten, can also lead to excess belly fat, according to Silber.
Rowley agrees, and adds, “Understanding your body and how it reacts to certain foods is key.” If you think you may have a food sensitivity, start writing down what you eat and noting when you start feeling bloated and sick—then see your doctor.
27. Mind your gut health
You might have excess belly fat if you’re not taking care of your belly itself. “Poor gut health can also impact us,” said Silber. “If we’re not digesting our food well, if our harmful bacteria is out of control, if we have things like candida or bacterial overgrowth, we’ll struggle with achieving a flat belly.”
Try eating gut-friendly foods, like probiotic yogurt (unless you have a dairy sensitivity, of course!).
28. Cut back on the carbs
Carbs are important for energy, but just like everything else, moderation is key. “Carb control = belly fat control,” says Rowley. “For quick belly fat loss, cut your carbs down to 30 or 40 grams of carbs from green veggies and watch the fat melt off. Your body will start burning fat for fuel instead of carbs.”
Plitt also adds consuming the majority of your carbs early in the day. “Try to eliminate all carbs 5 hours before bed,” Plitt suggests.
29. Eat more fiber
Fiber…oh, how we love fiber. And for good reason! It keeps us fell fuller…on less food. A great way to keep belly fat at bay.
“Studies have shown that increased soluble fiber makes fat ‘choose’ a depot that’s healthier for us,” says Vincent. “If you over eat, but eat more soluble fiber, the fat will go under skin (which is easier to get rid of) rather than into the belly.”
But that’s not all. According to Pearson, “researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina found a proven way to reduce belly fat is to eat more soluble fiber from vegetables, fruit and beans. The study found that for every 10-gram increase in soluble fiber eaten per day, abdominal fat was reduced by 3.7 percent over five years. Add moderate activity into the mix, and the result was a 7.4 percent decrease in the rate of belly fat accumulation over the same period.”
Not sure what foods are high in fiber? According to registered dietician and nutritionist Kimberly Tessmer, “oatmeal, pears, blueberries, strawberries, apples, beans lentils, nuts, and flaxseed can help belly fat from building up.”
30. Choose low-glycemic foods
According to Vice President of Health for Hallelujah Diet Olin Idol, it’s important to trade in processed foods for unprocessed “with a heavy emphasis on green foods, both raw and cooked.”
The reason for this is because high-glycemic foods are quicker to raise our blood sugar levels, making belly fat more likely. According to Tessmer, beans, lentils, whole grains, and non-starchy vegetables are some great examples of low-glycemic foods.
31. Don’t forget protein!
Protein is essential, and so many people don’t get enough of it.
“Not all food is created equal,” says Hagendorf. “Food has something called a thermic effect, which means, you actually burn some of the calories of the food itself to process it. The thermic effect of protein is about five times greater than that of carbohydrate or fat.”
Burn that belly fat off by eating more protein!
32. Stop drinking your calories.
Addicted to juice? Ditch it and start drinking more water.
“Sure, veggie juices have nutrients and vitamins, but most of the good stuff is in the vegetable pulp, which often gets left out of the juices you buy,” says Hagendorf. “Your best bet is to eat your vegetables and fruit to make sure you are maximizing nutrients and fiber. Plus, you’ll feel fuller for longer.”
33. Do you really need it?
Here’s a simple one: don’t eat more calories than you need, says Pearson. That doesn’t mean you should count every calorie based purely on numbers (200 calories of avocado is better than 100 calories of candy!), but when you’re looking at two similar options, stick to the lower calorie option.
34. Use seasonings
Bland food isn’t just boring—it’s less healthy, according to Pearson.
“Season your food with herbs and spices, especially hot peppers of any kind…early research says that plant compounds found in peppers help bust belly fat,” says Pearson. “These compounds are found in any pepper-derived food, including crushed red pepper flakes, hot peppers, jalapeño peppers, chili peppers and black pepper. Use them liberally in your cooking and your recipes.”
35. Eat your fruits and veggies…
Keep on eating your fruits and veggies! For every meal, make sure fruits and veggies make up the majority of your plate. They keep you fuller longer and help bust belly fat.
36. …but mostly veggies
Though fruit is great, prioritize veggies, according to Idol. “Give fresh vegetables a prominent place and minimize sweet fruits. Vegetables are rich in nutrients, fiber, and displace unhealthy food choices.”
37. But blueberries are cool!
Blueberries are super tasty, plus a flat-belly food, according to Idol. “Blueberries and other berries are rich in fiber, nutrients and lower in sugar. Researchers found that the blueberry intake affected genes related to fat-burning and fat storage and glucose uptake.”
Hear that? Blueberries can actually affect your genes. Who knew?
38. Eat whole grains
If you must eat bread, ditch that white bread!
“Research from Tufts University in Boston involving almost 3,000 men and women found that those who consumed three or more servings of whole grains each day had 10 percent less belly fat compared to those who consumed no whole grains,” said Pearson
Whole grain will also “increase fiber [intake] and stabilize blood sugar,” according to Susan Farkas from Om’echaye Wellness and Fitness Center.
39. Don’t avoid all fats!
Not all fats were created equal.
“Good fats – including omega-3s, oils, nuts and seeds, peanut butter, avocados, olives and fatty fish – fight inflammation,” said Pearson. “Eat foods that contain healthy fats at least three times daily.”
40. Don’t forget your flavonoids
We know they sound like they’re straight out of a sci-fi movie, but flavonoids are no joke.
“Flavonoids are potent antioxidants found in colorful fruits and vegetables, including berries, cherries, citrus fruits, plums, grapes, apples, red onions and dark leafy greens,” said Pearson. They’re also found in red wine, tea and dark chocolate. They fight inflammation and based on preliminary research…they may reduce belly fat too.”
Related: 7 Benefits Of Red Wine
Pearson suggests getting plenty of servings of fruits and veggies a day, while drinking green tea and (occasionally) enjoying red wine and dark chocolate. An added benefit: flavonoids can help fight viruses and prevent infections!
41. Oil….really, though
A more out-there option? Using sterculic oil.
Farkas recommends using sterculic oil, which comes from “a tree that grows in and around India. It is sometimes referred to as the wild almond tree.” According to Farkas, studies have suggested that the acid within the oil can reduce belly fat.
42. Avoid late night eating
Midnight snacks aren’t helping you here.
“What you eat is not as important as when you eat,” said Plitt. “Try to avoid late night eating, eat the majority of calories before 6 pm, and avoid dinners and social meals that aren’t needed.”
43. Drink water first
Do you have a tendency of eating too much when you’re hungry? Empty your water glass first…twice.
“If you’re hungry, drink two glasses of water before eating,” Plitt suggests. “It will give you the sensation of being full and keep you from overeating.”
Related: 5 Ways To Avoid Overeating
44. Eat to live, don’t live to eat
If you’re an emotional eater, recognize it and start taking steps to prevent it.
“Most people that eat wrong eat with emotions. Stop eating that way: eat to fuel the body, not to satisfy the appetite,” says Plitt.
We mentioned earlier that one of the most essential elements of a flat belly is lowering your stress levels. But that can be easier said than done.
Check out these tips on how to chill out (and burn that belly fat in turn!).
45. Get your beauty sleep
When have you ever felt less stressed after a bad night’s sleep? Sleep is what helps you to feel recharged and ready to take on the day. Being exhausted is like taking away one of your most important tools—and that doesn’t lead to a relaxed week.
Remember that scary word, cortisol? Farkas explains that high quality sleep will “reduce your cortisol levels, therefore helping you to lose extra belly fat.”
But there’s more than one reason to get your beauty sleep. “A consistent lack of sleep increases body fat levels, specifically around the midsection,” says Evans. “A study that tracked more than 68,000 women found that those who slept fewer than five hours per night were 32% more likely to gain roughly thirty pounds over the next sixteen years than those who slept for at least seven hours a night.”
We mentioned magnesium earlier, but we’re gonna say it again, because it helps you lower your stress levels as well. “Magnesium lowers cortisol levels and is known as the anti-stress mineral, which is depleted by both physical and emotional stress,” says Dean.
Try magnesium citrate powder mixed with hot or cold water, which is more easily absorbed, says Dean.
47. Mind your serotonin
“Chronic stress also encourages us to look for 2 neurotransmitters: serotonin and dopamine,” says Silber. “Serotonin gives us the feeling of peace and calm, while dopamine rewards the pleasure centers of our brain.”
To increase these levels (and decrease your stress), try subjecting yourself to bright light (a lack of which is the cause of seasonal affective disorder).
48. Try meditation or yoga
Meditation and yoga are both great tools to lower your stress levels and help you center yourself. Give them a try…and watch your belly fat melt away.
49. Make comedy a part of your daily routine
Figure out what makes you crack up and start making it a part of your day. That’s because laughing will make you bust your gut in more ways than one, according to some studies.
50. Play with your furry friend
There’s multiple reasons why you should hang out with Rover—and not just he’s super cute. Spending quality time with your pet can actually lower your stress levels and calm you down! Plus, walking your dog is a great way to exercise and burn off that belly fat.
Miscellaneous Lifestyle Choices
There are so many ways to get rid of that pudge around your belly. Here are a few more that have to do with your overall lifestyle.
51. Mind your chemicals
Detoxify often, and try to avoid additives and chemicals. “A toxic lifestyle filled with toxic foods, chemicals, (things we ingest, are exposed to, products we use, etc.) can also contribute to belly weight because toxins are stored in fat tissue,” says Silber.
52. Stop chewing gum!
Here’s a crazy one—stop chewing on that gum!
“I know you want to ensure minty fresh breath, but you’re better off popping a mint,” said Galardi. “Chewing gum can lead to excess gas in the digestive track.” Who knew?
53. Quit smoking
Studies show that although light smokers tend to have lower body weight, heavy smokers have the opposite quality—a heavy midsection. Quit the habit now—there are just too many reasons to stop.
If you haven’t noticed, there are so many reasons behind belly fat…which means there are so many ways to burn it off. You can do this! Eat healthy, work out, and maintain a low-stress lifestyle. Your waistline will thank you for it.
Sammy Nickalls is the former content manager of Inspiyr.com and is a freelance writer for various sites, including HelloGiggles, YourTango, Quickbooks, and TWLOHA. Follow her on Twitter @sammynickalls.
Photo by Jena Jezy