“Once you decide on the method that you’re going use to lose weight, put the blinders on every well-meaning friend or family member who thinks it’s not a good idea. For me, it was raw juicing. Along with a healthy diet, it helped me lose 48 pounds and keep it off for over a year.” —Jennifer Devlin Waller, 48, founder and CEO of Celtic Complexion Luxury Artisan Skincare
Want to lose that belly fat? In your dreams! Seriously, though: a good night’s sleep is one of the best ways to get rid of that extra fat around your waist for good. Among the 60,000 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study, those who snoozed for fewer than five hours a night were at the greatest risk of becoming obese and gaining 30 or more pounds over the course of the 16-year study period when compared to those who slept for seven or more hours.
If you tend to carry weight around your waist, you're not alone — it's one of the most stubborn areas to lose weight! Aside from revealing your amazing six-pack, having a lean, flat belly is also good for your health since visceral fat around your organs can lead to disease. If you want to lose your belly fat and keep it off, here's what you need to do.
Over the summer, I began to figure out what "eating healthy" even meant. I spent the summer learning to balance meals with protein, veggies, fruits, and carbs. I learned what kinds of foods were good for me and ate less and less processed foods. Once the healthy foods were a regular part of my routine, I didn't have to think as much about making healthy and smart choices. My self-control was more focused on trying to avoid slipping into old habits.
Belly fat is is different from fat elsewhere in your body. The extra weight some people carry around their waists, arms, and love handles isn’t the same — that’s subcutaneous fat, which sits beneath the skin and is relatively harmless, according to Harvard Medical School. The stuff in your belly, visceral fat, lodges deeper down, around your abdominal organs. It's metabolically active tissue that actually functions like a separate organ, releasing substances into the rest of your body that, in excess, can increase your risk of disease.
Both men and women are prone to an all-or-nothing approach to weight loss (for example, after a binge, figuring, “Well, I blew it. I might as well go all out!”). But Sass says she sees more women take extreme measures to get back on track, with tactics such as juice cleanses, skipping meals or extreme dieting — not the most sustainable methods. “Most but not all men tend to just try to get back on track with the original plan, or build in a little more exercise,” she says. That is, they take a more balanced approach to getting back on track, just trying to regroup and get back on the diet, or build in a little more exercise.
"I use low-fat Greek yogurt in place of mayo in recipes, and it tastes great," says Krystal Sanders, who went from 185 pounds to 110 by coming up with healthy versions of her favorite restaurant foods. "It can also be used as a sour cream substitute." The possibilities are endless when it comes to this tasty staple, but you can start with these dessert recipes.
As my body changed, people started to notice. The encouragement and positive talk from friends and family was helpful, except for when people would say things like, “wow you look so great now!” Now. It didn’t quite sit right to hear that some people thought I looked a lot better now, but that I didn’t look as great before. It was important to remind myself that I looked great no matter what. More important than what other people think about my looks, I needed to accept and love myself and my body, even if my body never changed. I didn’t set out on the weight loss journey to have other people change their minds about how I looked; I started the journey to create a healthy body, healthy mind, and overall wellness.
About: Aurora is a college student full of curiosity, including a nearly insatiable appetite to learn all she can about fitness and nutrition. She fell in love with exercising early on, while playing for a softball team growing up. That fueled a passion for nutrition as well, and eventually a blog dedicated to both as a way to inspire others to live healthy and lose weight. Aurora, who works in a veterinary’s office, also has a deep love for animals (which is always a bonus in our book). And yes, she includes many photos of cute puppies in her blog.
Ease into running. You might get discouraged if you attempt a jog without building up that type of strength—and this could put a damper on your motivation. "I started walking, and before long, I was running," says Cipriana Cuevas, who lost 60 pounds and eventually completed a half marathon. "Getting lighter made running easier, and, in turn, more fun."
Experts typically recommend reducing your daily intake by about 300-500 calories per day below "maintenance level," or the amount you need to stay at your current weight. This decrease in calories converts to about 1/2 pound to a pound of weight loss per week. Although you may feel like you can "do more," slow, steady progress is much healthier—and easier to keep up.
It’s no surprise that there is a link between sugar intake and increased abdominal fat. In fact, this is one of the best ways to burn belly fat. Along with furthering obesity, sugar has also been linked to chronic diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease. According to the AHA, women should consume no more than 25 grams of sugar per day, while men should stay under 38 grams, daily. Keep in mind that eating sugary foods will increase your cravings. This can lead to snacking, which can cause you to gain weight.
The menstrual cycle itself doesn’t seem to affect weight gain or loss. But having a period may affect your weight in other ways. Many women get premenstrual syndrome (PMS). PMS can cause you to crave and eat more sweet or salty foods than normal.4 Those extra calories can lead to weight gain. And salt makes the body hold on to more water, which raises body weight (but not fat).
My weight was pretty consistent throughout middle school, high school, and into college. As a middle schooler, there was so much going on in just trying to develop as a human that fitness, nutrition or creating a healthy lifestyle was never going to be a priority. I exercised by figure skating (I used to be a competitive figure skater!), track and field, and soccer (I played goalie for one year so honestly I shouldn’t even count that.) I also remember many sleepovers spent eating pizzas, candy, and soda. I specifically have one memory of me and a friend challenging each other to eat entire medium pizza from dominos by ourselves…and we both succeeded…so that’s where I was as a 7th grader. I remember feeling bigger than a lot of girls and embarrassed about my weight sometimes, but I had super great friends, kept busy with activities, and overall was supported and I think that is why my weight never got me down too much. Overall, I probably lived a generic middle school life.
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You snack on fruit, count calories, and get some form of exercise most days. So when you step on that scale and the needle stays put, you wonder what the heck you're doing wrong. Even with clean eating and good fitness habits, you may be making a few small mistakes that can lead to a plateau and derail your results. Here's how to upgrade your already-healthy habits to finally reach your get-slim goal. (Snack AND lose weight with this box of Prevention-approved treats from Bestowed.)
About: The truth is we all love a good success story — they show us what other people, real people that went through the same things we did, were able to achieve. They also give us ideas on how we can kickstart our own weight loss journey and succeed. The Weigh We Were is a one-stop shop for all those stories, real stories from other people who lost weight, plus how they did it. It’s just the place to get ideas from similar people to see what might work and what won’t.
So what can we do with all this knowledge? Tempting as it is to get discouraged, we can actually find it encouraging. Biology is not destiny, after all. “Lifestyle choices are immensely powerful,” Peeke says. And on the heels of any tidal wave of new research is sure to come a trickle of weight-loss advice that can be more customized and more effective to help men and women with their weight-loss obstacles, no matter what they are.
That said, targeting your belly fat with crunches will not work. “Spot reduction isn’t a viable approach to losing belly fat," explains fitness trainer and nutrition expert Corey Phelps, creator of the Cultivate by Corey app. "But there are some great core-focused exercises that will torch fat all over the body resulting in a strong more chiseled core.”
When you want to lose leg fat, it pays to be the hare, not the tortoise. Fast, intense exercises, like sprints, are one of the most effective ways to shed fat quickly. Research published in the Journal of Diabetes Research reveals that shorter periods of intense exercise, like sprinting, are just as effective at reducing body fat as longer periods spent exercising at moderate intensity, so go ahead and add some quick sprints to your routine. Pair those sprints with the fat-burning foods and you’ll be looking leaner before you know it.