The fat that accumulates around your belly, is the most dangerous fat on your entire body. This type if fat is also known as visceral fat, and while the fat that collects on your thighs or your behind doesn’t leave you jumping for joy, it’s nowhere near as bad for your long-term health outlook as visceral fat.
Even slim people can have hidden visceral fat – known as being skinny fat – so it isn’t just those with a paunch that need to worry. Having belly fat is a serious risk factor for chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure, to name just a few.
Having a BMI (body mass index) that falls within the healthy range is no guarantee that you’ll avoid these kinds of health problems in the future. You may even be experiencing these chronic health conditions at the moment. The good news is that you can take steps to shift that visceral fat and improve not just your appearance but your overall health.
Let’s take a look at the measures that you can take and the lifestyle changes that you can make, to melt away that dangerous fat for good.
- 1 1. Eat A High Protein Diet
- 2 2. Eat Plenty of Soluble Fiber
- 3 3. Avoid Foods That Contain Trans Fats
- 4 4. Don’t Drink Too Much Alcohol
- 5 5. Increase Aerobic Exercise (Cardio)
- 6 6. Take Steps To Lower Your Stress Levels
- 7 7. Replace Some of Your Cooking Fats With Coconut Oil
- 8 8. Don’t Eat A Lot Of Sugary Foods
- 9 9. Reduce Your Carbohydrate Intake – Especially Refined Carbs
- 10 10. Make Getting A Good Night’s Sleep A Priority
- 11 11. Add Resistance Training To Your Workout (Lift Weights)
- 12 12. Track Your Food Intake and Your Levels Of Activity
- 13 13. Avoid Sugar Sweetened Beverages
- 14 14. Add Raw Organic Apple Cider Vinegar To Your Diet
- 15 15. Stop Drinking Fruit Juice
- 16 16. Eat Fatty Fish Every Week
- 17 17. Eat Probiotic Foods Or Take A Probiotic Supplement
- 18 18. Try Out Intermittent Fasting
- 19 19. Drink Green Tea
1. Eat A High Protein Diet
A high protein diet doesn’t mean chowing down on steak and lobster at every meal. Eating too much protein means that the excess will get stored as fat, however a moderate amount of protein will help you to lose weight and to lose fat.
Many weight loss diets limit protein because it’s heavy on calories, but that’s a mistake.
Protein in your diet helps to stimulate the release of a hormone known as Peptide YY. This hormone helps to promote feelings of fullness and decreases appetite.
Eating sufficient protein also makes sure that you don’t lose muscle mass, which is another concern with poorly structured weight loss diets.
Observational studies have shown that people who include more protein in their diets tend to have less abdominal fat than those eating lower levels of protein.
Make sure that you include some protein at every meal. Good sources of protein include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, whey protein and nuts.
How much protein?
Research suggests that increasing your protein intake to 30 percent of your total calories is a good target to aim for if you need to lose weight.
In one study a group of overweight volunteers were placed in an environment where their food intake could be strictly controlled. Researchers found that after increasing the amount of protein that the subjects ate from15 percent of calories to 30 percent, the volunteers decreased their total energy consumption by about 440 calories per day. The result of this change to their diet was that they lost an average of 11 pounds over 12 weeks without counting calories or intentionally eating less.
2. Eat Plenty of Soluble Fiber
Soluble fiber absorbs water and becomes bulky which helps to slow down food passing through your digestive system. This means that the sugars in your food will be released more slowly so you won’t experience as many insulin spikes.
You’ll also feel fuller for longer because the energy from your food is being released more slowly. Feeling full naturally reduces your desire to eat some more food.
Soluble fiber may also target belly fat. A 5 year observational study of over 1100 adults found that belly fat decreased by 3.7% for every 10 gram increase in soluble fiber.
Add soluble fiber to your diet by eating plenty of healthy vegetables and legumes.
3. Avoid Foods That Contain Trans Fats
Trans fats should be avoided at all costs. You’ll find them in lower quality margarines and spreads and in lots of processed foods. Look for hydrogenated (or partially hydrogenated) vegetable oil on the ingredients label.
Trans fats are linked to inflammation, insulin resistance, abdominal fat and heart disease.
Today, it’s easier to find foods that don’t use these dangerous fats because companies are listening to consumer protests and reformulating their recipes.
You just need to be a vigilant label reader!
4. Don’t Drink Too Much Alcohol
A little alcohol, like a glass of red wine is beneficial to health, but consuming too much of other types of alcohol is seriously damaging to your health. Alcohol makes you look old too!
And it’s not just beer that leads to a beer belly. Any alcohol will lead to belly fat.
Observational studies have linked heavy alcohol consumption with excess fat storage around the waist.
One study of more than 2, 000 people found that those who drank daily but overall drank an average of less than one alcoholic unit per day, had less belly fat than those who drank less frequently but drank more alcohol on those days.
Cutting back on alcohol can help to reduce your waist size. You don’t need to forgo it altogether, just enjoy it in moderation. Your liver will thank you too.
5. Increase Aerobic Exercise (Cardio)
Aerobic exercise is an effective way to improve your overall health and burn calories.
Studies also show that cardio is one of the most effective forms of exercise for reducing visceral fat. The frequency and the duration of your cardio sessions does have an impact on the results though.
One study of postmenopausal women found that more fat was lost from all areas when aerobic exercise totalled 300 minutes per week versus 150 minutes.
6. Take Steps To Lower Your Stress Levels
Stress triggers the production of a stress hormone called cortisol. Research shows that high levels of this hormone increase appetite and contribute to abdominal fat storage.
If that wasn’t bad enough, women who already have belly fat tend to produce more cortisol in response to stress, which leads to more weight gain around the middle, which leads to more cortisol. It’s a veritable belly fat feedback loop.
Taking up yoga can help with stress reduction as can learning effective meditation techniques.
7. Replace Some of Your Cooking Fats With Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is one of the healthiest fats you can eat, and it has a high heat point which makes it great for cooking with.
Studies show that the fats in coconut oil may have a beneficial effective on metabolism and decrease the amount of fat that you store in response to a high calorie intake. Some studies aslo suggest that coconut oil may lead to abdominal fat loss.
In one study, obese men taking coconut oil each day for 12 weeks, lost an average of 1.1 inches from their waists without changing their diets or the amount of exercise that they did.
Coconut oil, like all fats is high in calories so don’t go overboard with this healthy fat. Use it to replace some of your other cooking fats like sunflower oil.
Two tablespoons of coconut oil per day should be enough to gain the benefits, and it’s the amount used in most studies that have reported good results.
8. Don’t Eat A Lot Of Sugary Foods
Sugar is high in calories, and its excessive consumption has been linked to several chronic diseases. These include type 2 diabetes, heart and cardiovascular disease, obesity and fatty liver disease.
Observational studies have also shown that there is a relationship between high sugar intake and higher levels of belly fat.
Other often used ‘healthier’ sugars are problematic too. So don’t simply switch sugar for honey or agave nectar or molasses. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, it’s better to satisfy it with a small serving of berries or other low sugar fruit, or to use a sweetener like Stevia.
9. Reduce Your Carbohydrate Intake – Especially Refined Carbs
Before the misguided low fat eating trend took hold, everyone knew that sugar and bread and potatoes would make you fat.
Then along came the low fat trend and suddenly carbohydrates were good to eat, and governments around the world made them the ‘healthy’ base of their food guide pyramids.
Obesity rates skyrocketed as did the rates of type 2 diabetes and heart and cardiovascular disease.
Now, thanks to rigorous research we know that eating too many carbs is a really bad idea.
Dr William Davis of Wheat Belly fame points out that eating two slices of wholegrain bread has the same effect on your blood sugar as eating 6 teaspoons of sugar.
Anyone interested in learning about the dangers of carb rich diets should put Wheat Belly on their reading list.
Diets containing less than 50 grams of net carbohydrate each day lead to losses in belly fat in overweight people, those at risk of type 2 diabetes and women with polycystic ovary syndrome.
10. Make Getting A Good Night’s Sleep A Priority
We now know that people who don’t get a good night’s sleep are more likely to be overweight and to die earlier than those who enjoy a restful night’s sleep.
Studies show that people who are sleep deprived gain more weight and gain more belly fat.
A long term study spanning 16 years found that of the 68,000 women taking part, those who slept for fewer than 5 hours per night were much more likely to gain weight than those who slept for 7 hours or more.
11. Add Resistance Training To Your Workout (Lift Weights)
In addition to getting a cardio workout, it’s important to incorporate resistance training into your exercise regime. Weight training preserves and increases your important muscle mass, and thanks to some studies we know that it is also beneficial for reducing belly fat.
Based on studies in people with prediabetes, type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease, weight training may be beneficial for abdominal fat loss.
In one study of overweight teenagers, the greatest decrease in abdominal fat occurred when cardio workouts and resistance training were combined.
You don’t need special equipment to begin weight training. Simple household items like gallon water jugs can be used for an upper body workout.
If you plan to do more than a few bicep curls, it’s a good idea to seek the advice of a personal trainer at your local gym.
12. Track Your Food Intake and Your Levels Of Activity
Following a low calorie diet is a tried and trusted way to lose weight. To lower calories effectively you need a way to keep track of your food intake and your energy expenditure.
Keeping track helps you to stay on track. When you’re logging every mouthful of food and seeing the calories add to your daily total, you’re less likely to fall off the calorie control wagon.
Inputting your food choices at the beginning of each week gives you a clear picture of what your menu is going to look like and lets you shop accordingly. When things are planned out this way, you aren’t left wondering what to have for lunch or dinner and then giving into a takeout because you don’t have the foods in the fridge.
Trackers let you keep an eye on your macronutrients too, you can track your carb, protein, fat and fiber intakes as well as calories.
Recording your physical activity actually motivates you to be more active. Seeing things written down focuses your mind. If you set a daily goal of 10,000 steps or some other form of exercise and then later that day you get to tick off your accomplishment you get a real sense of achievement that encourages you to stick with your program.
There are lots of apps that you can download and use but two of the best are MyFitnessPal and Fit Day.
13. Avoid Sugar Sweetened Beverages
Any drink that has added sugar should be off your list if you want to shed your belly fat. Most drinks today are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup and this sweetener is even worse than table sugar (sucrose)
One study found that people that consume beverages high in fructose gained significant amounts of belly fat over a 10 week period.
Plus, liquid calories are worse for your weight loss efforts than the ones in solid food. Your brain doesn’t register liquid calories in the same way that it registers solid calories and this leads to consuming too much energy overall.
If you eat solid food containing 400 calories, you are likely to compensate for that at your next meal by eating less food. But if you drink those same 400 calories, you are unlikely to reduce your food intake at all.
14. Add Raw Organic Apple Cider Vinegar To Your Diet
Raw organic, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar has a lot of health benefits. It’s not like the regular white or brown vinegar in the store, this vinegar is full of healthy amino acids, bacteria and enzymes.
Consuming apple cider vinegar has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels after a meal, and it contains a substance called acetic acid, which has been shown to reduce abdominal fat storage.
In a placebo controlled study of obese men, participants that took 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar per day for 3 months lost half an inch from their waist circumference.
15. Stop Drinking Fruit Juice
There’s nothing healthy about drinking fruit juice. Although it contains vitamins, minerals and soluble fiber, the amount of sugar that it contains is far too much.
You wouldn’t set to and eat four or five oranges in a couple minutes, and you might think you were being a little bit greedy if you did. But few people give any thought to consuming that many oranges as a single 8 oz glass of juice. One glass gives you about 21 grams of sugar. And it’s quite common for 6 or more glasses of juice to be consumed in a day. That’s the sugar from thirty oranges.
It’s the same with apple juice. You need about 4 large apples to make one 8 oz serving of juice. And that glass of juice gives you about 24 grams of sugar
That one glass of juice contains an entire day’s worth of added sugar. According to the American Heart Association, women should have no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day, which is 25 grams of sugar. And the AHA recommendations aren’t particularly healthy when it comes to sugar. The best amount of added sugar to aim for in your diet is zero added sugar.
When you consume so much sugar, it’s almost guaranteed that it will be turned into fat, and high fruit juice consumption is associated with an increased risk for diabetes.
Replace fruit juice with plain water, fruit teas or sparking water with a squeeze of lemon or lime.
16. Eat Fatty Fish Every Week
Aim to get 2-3 servings of super healthy fatty fish per week.
Fish like herring, sardines, salmon, mackerel and anchovies are rich in protein and the omega-3 fats that are so important for the prevention of chronic diseases
Some evidence suggests that these omega-3 fats may help to reduce abdominal fat.
Studies in adults and children with fatty liver disease have shown that omega-3 supplements can significantly reduce liver and abdominal fat.
While some omega-3 supplements are good quality, a lot of the capsules on the market contain oils that have oxidized and become rancid. Since quality control is such a big concern with fish oil supplements, the best way to obtain your omega-3 fish oil, is by eating fatty fish, just like nature intended.
17. Eat Probiotic Foods Or Take A Probiotic Supplement
The balance of your gut flora is incredibly important when it comes to burning fat and losing weight.
When bad bacteria take over your gut, they effectively switch off your fat burning mechanisms. Eating a poor diet, heavy on sugars, trans fats and carbohydrates, along with stressful lifestyles and not getting enough sleep, will change the bacterial balance in your gut from predominately good bacteria to predominantly bad ones.
Antibiotics and other medications wreak havoc down there too!
If you’re carrying extra weight, the chances are good that your gut bacteria is doing everything that it can to make you eat sugar and carbs. The way to rectify this is to feed your good bacteria so that their populations can grow and banish the bad guys. Which you’ll be well on the way to doing if you follow the fiber step.
The other thing that you need to do to ensure that you have good diversity of bacteria is to eat probiotic foods. Fermented foods like kombucha, sauerkraut, miso, kefir and live yogurt are all good choices that are easy to add to your diet.
Another way to increase your gut microflora is with a probiotic supplement. You’ll need to research a good one to make sure that the supplement is prepared in a way that allows the beneficial bacteria to actually make it into your digestive system alive.
18. Try Out Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is a great weight loss tool, and its use has become very popular in recent years because it’s so effective.
There are two ways to use this weight loss method. 24 hour fasts once or twice a week. Or daily fasts that last for 16 hours.
The 24 hour fast is exactly what it says on the tin. For a 24 hour period, you don’t take any food, just water or unsweetened beverages.
Daily fasting is much easier to accomplish. You simply eat your food for the day during an eight hour window. A popular way to do this is to begin your 8 hour window with breakfast around 6 – 8 am, and finish with lunch/dinner at 2 pm or 4 pm. Or you can skip breakfast and begin your window at noon and finish at 8pm.
A review of studies carried out on the weight loss effects of intermittent fasting found that people benefited from a 4 – 7% decrease in belly fat within a 6 to 24 week period.
The review also found that intermittent fasting was as effective for weight loss as calorie restriction, and that it offered the same cardioprotective benefits.
19. Drink Green Tea
Green tea is a very healthy beverage to consume over the long term, and it’s a particularly good idea to drink this tasty tea when you’re trying to lose weight.
Green tea contains caffeine and epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) which is a powerful antioxidant. Both of these have shown the ability to boost metabolism.
Several studies have suggested that EGCG may be effective for losing abdominal fat and that the targeted effect can be strengthened when combined with exercise.
While all of the steps listed above will all help you to drop pounds and more importantly shed that dangerous visceral fat from your abdominal region, combining the steps will have a far more powerful effect.
If the idea of making so many changes seems overwhelming, just take things slowly. See which change you think will be the easiest one to incorporate and start with that one. When you’ve got used to say, switching out fruit juice for sparking water, add another step like reducing your intake of carbohydrate rich foods.
Think of this as a marathon rather than a sprint. The healthiest option is to change your unhealthy habits and make them healthy ones that you can stick with over the long term.