A little belly fat is perfectly normal: Even people with six-pack abs have it. Also known as visceral fat, it provides protective cushioning around your organs, but too much isn’t a good thing. Conditions such as high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, dementia and certain cancers are more likely in those who have excess belly fat. The source recommended aiming for a waist size that’s less than 35 inches if you’re a woman and less than 40 inches if you’re a man. But how can you lose that stubborn belly fat?
The first step to losing excess belly fat is reevaluating your diet. It’s most important to stick to your recommended daily number of calories and avoid unhealthy fats like saturated fat. According to Dr. Oz, there are certain foods that can help you combat belly fat, like:
- Foods with healthy fats: Healthy fats, like monounsaturated fats, are good for your heart. They keep inflammation levels to a minimum and have been shown to prevent people from gaining belly fat. Cook with olive oil and add nuts and avocados to your diet.
- Low-glycemic-index foods: Foods that are ranked high on the glycemic index, which goes from 0 to 100, cause more rapid spikes in blood sugar. This triggers the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which can contribute to excess belly fat. Go with low-GI foods with a rating of 55 or less.
- Low-fat dairy: Your body produces a hormone that signals the body to store belly fat when it’s low on calcium. Make sure you’re always getting enough by eating low-fat dairy like Greek yogurt and skim milk.
Get more shut-eye
Studies have shown that adults who get five hours or less of sleep every night are more likely to gain belly fat than those who get around seven hours of sleep. The National Institutes of Health recommend that adults should get between seven to eight hours of sleep a night, so take steps to hit the hay earlier. Avoid using your phone and watching TV before bedtime, and use blackout shades, an eye mask or a white noise machine to minimize distractions.
Since higher levels of cortisol have been linked to excess belly fat, it’s important to keep your stress levels down. People who are stressed also tend to reach for unhealthy foods, which is another reason why you should take time to relax and unwind after a stressful day. Do whatever makes you happy, whether it’s reading a book, taking a bath or going for a jog.
Speaking of going for a jog, exercise is another key to losing stubborn belly fat – but not just any exercise. You should aim to get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week. This will help you avoid putting on more belly fat, but if you want to lose existing fat, you need to pick up the pace. Vigorous exercise not only helps you blast the belly fat, but cuts down on the length of your workouts. You’ll only need 20 minutes of vigorous activity four days a week. Put the treadmill on an incline, do high-intensity interval workouts and choose classes like Zumba to get your heart pumping.
As for crunches, you can forget about those, according to Health magazine. They’re not effective at targeting your belly fat, but other core exercises are. Try planks and other moves that engage your abdominal, back, pelvic and oblique muscles.
How do you eat right, de-stress and exercise to bust belly fat?