When we change our diets and commit to a fitness routine, we start to see a difference in our bodies’ tone. That’s because weight loss looks different for everyone. While some instantly see a less puffy face, others see it in their backends first. However, one of the most stubborn and tricky areas to lose fat is our stomachs. Though each person is unique, most of us will struggle to lose belly fat as we blow out more birthday candles every year. Rather than logging more hours on the treadmill or only eating salads for every meal, we’ve determined a few lifestyle hacks can help you win the battle against a muffin top once and for all.
Here are our top tips on how to lose belly fat straight from doctors, and for more healthy tips, check out our list of 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time.
Practice intermittent fasting.
Have you ever wondered what belly fat is made of? And why it’s some of the most stubborn cells to flatten in our bodies? Certified nutritionist and author Dr. Daryl Gioffre explains there are two types of belly fat: visceral and subcutaneous fat. As defined, visceral fat forms inside our abdominal cavity around the organs. Subcutaneous fat, on the other hand, develops under the skin—and is exceedingly difficult to get rid of, according to Dr. Gioffre.
And most of us are familiar with subcutaneous fat since it creates the muffin top or the ‘bleg’, which is the fat that collects in our hips and upper thigh, where our butt meets our leg. The reason that this type of fat is tricky to part with is due to the cells having two types of alpha receptors: adrenaline and noradrenaline which hinder a fat cell’s ability to be burned. It has fewer beta receptors, which is what allows us to use fat to burn energy, and thus, drop pounds.
One way to cut through the excess weight is to practice intermittent fasting. It’s trendy right now, but likely because it’s effective, Dr. Gioffre raves. “The good news is that when you go for longer than about twelve hours without eating, the resulting drop in insulin levels activates more beta receptors in the subcutaneous fat. This accelerates the loss of belly fat, as well as helping your body burn fat from these troublesome areas for energy,” he says.
To practice intermittent fasting, he suggests trying out his three-hour rule. This means no eating of any kind before you go to sleep. So, if you finish dinner by 8 p.m. and have breakfast at 8 a.m., you complete a 12-hour fast. “Most of that time was spent sleeping, which makes the fast, and the associated belly-fat loss that will follow, that much easier to attain,” he says.
Here’s What Happens To Your Body On The Intermittent Fasting Diet.
Limit alcohol consumption.
Though a nice pour of your favorite red wine or a perfectly-crafted cocktail is much needed sometimes, moderation is key. When you boil it down to chemistry, alcohol is, well, sugar. And all of that sweet stuff hangs around in your mid-section, according to board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Thomas Sterry. As he explains, consuming drinks high in sugar (like booze, soft drinks, and juices) will lead to rapid weight gain.
“Unfortunately, we can’t choose where all the extra weight ends up, and for some reason, the body tends to accumulate fat in the abdominal area,” he says.
Another reason alcohol is bad news for our stomachs? When we’re drinking, we naturally start to get the munchies since it stimulates our appetites, Dr. Sterry shares. Since most people drink at nighttime, this means we reach for greasy, fried foods before bed, which doesn’t give us an opportunity to burn off the added calories.
Here are 41 Ways Alcohol Ruins Your Health.
Cut out refined carbs and added sugar.
Repeat this: carbs are not the enemy. But also, not all carbohydrates are equal.
As OB-GYN and double-board certified functional medicine doctor Dr. Renee Wellsenstein explains, refined carbs are diet sabotagers because they don’t offer the same benefits as good carbohydrates, which provide our body with energy. A refined carb would consist of your go-to fast food orders, white rice, white flour, pastries, pasta, pizzas, desserts, and cereals.
“Providing very little vitamins and minerals, the body processes refined carbs quickly and don’t deliver lasting energy,” Dr. Wellsenstein says. “More notably, these foods are stripped of fiber. And fiber is essential in not only promoting a healthy gut microbiome—which aids in weight loss—but also promotes satiety, meaning eating less food and less frequently.”
Swap out those refined bad guys for the good ones with high-carb healthy superstars like quinoa, buckwheat, sweet potatoes, beets, blueberries, and whole-grain or gluten-free oats. You can also add in these 24 Best Healthy Carbs To Eat For Weight Loss.
Keep exercise consistent.
One of the most common myths about losing belly fat, according to Dr. Sterry, is that you need to run a marathon for it to be effective. This isn’t true since the key is consistency and movement. Modest exercise—including going for a long walk—will help to both burn calories and keep a more lean body mass.
However, fitness on its own will never result in meeting your goals. In fact, Dr. Sterry says no matter how much of a sweat you work up, you can’t erase a bad diet.
“The average person doesn’t have the time or ability to burn enough calories through exercise to reduce their weight without a little bit of diet modification. Most of us have full lives, and we can’t spend hours in the gym when we have so many obligations to work, family, or school. It’s simply not realistic,” he says.
Reduce stress and prioritize sleep.
When we’re asleep, our bodies do all of the hard repair work from the day. So when we aren’t able to reap the benefits of shut-eye, our system will retaliate against us, making it more difficult to lose weight. That’s why Dr. Sterry says prioritizing meditation, mindfulness, and bedtime will reduce our sleep levels and result in better rest.
“There are many good hormones secreted during sleep that promote healing. It is a surprisingly important part of a healthy lifestyle,” he says.
Mimic the Mediterranean diet.
Even if you can’t jet set to southern Europe right now, you can take after the Greek and Italians and copy their diet to beat belly fat. Dr. Wellsenstein says this includes increased consumption of healthy fats like avocados, nuts, olive oils, and vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. According to one study, those who follow this eating regimen long-term showed a notable decrease in waistlines. Plus, did you know that the Mediterranean diet is the Best Diet for Weight Loss?