We don’t know why they call them love handles, because we certainly don’t love our belly fats! Not only does it make it harder to find a flattering swimsuit, it’s actually dangerous. Dr. Lawrence Cheskin, director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center, says that abdominal or visceral fat is more likely to increase your blood sugar levels. So even if the rest of your body is super slim, your belly fat increases your risk for heart disease and diabetes.
So the big question is: how to lose those belly fats, fast! Here are some tried-and-tested tips from fitness experts, nutritionists, and medical experts.
Load up on fiber
If you have trouble sticking to very strict diets, just make this one change: eat more fiber. They make you feel more full (which prevents overeating) and keep your digestive system running smoothly. Women should get 25 grams of fiber a day. That sounds like a lot, but you can find that in a lot of food: whole grain breads, oats, vegetables, fruits, beans and legumes.
Here’s an example of a day’s worth of fiber:
- 1 cup cereal (8 grams of fiber)
- 2 slices whole grain bread (4 grams)
- 1 cup broccoli (4 grams)
- ½ cup beans and ½ cup rice (9 grams)
Count your steps
In one study, obese women were told to walk for 50 minutes three times a week. After just 3 months they had slashed their visceral fat.
“If you work in an office and have a generally sedentary lifestyle, try to walk for at least 30 minutes a day. Get a fitness watch that will help you count your steps. Most people take 4,000 steps a day. Commit to adding more to your count each week and work your way up to 10,000 steps,” says fitness coach Sharon Miranda.
Do strength training
Forget those 100 crunches challenges. “You can’t target fat loss in specific parts of your body,” says personal trainer George Melvin. Work on whole body training, which will build muscle that replaces body fat. You also boost your metabolism so you burn more calories even after your workout.
But that doesn’t mean that you should give up on abs exercises. “It builds muscle in the area,” explains trainer Jodie Marciano. But instead of crunches, go for moves that work your entire core.” This includes planks, squats — or if that bores you, some dance workouts. Who wants to join us for bellydancing sesh?
Manage your stress
Stress hormones can make your body store more fat. It’s a survival instinct: your body thinks you’re in trouble or under crisis, and is loading up on energy stores. So if you want to lose fat, lose the stress. Or at least, learn to manage it better! Give yourself at least 1 hour of Me Time every day, and find ways to calm down in the middle of stressful situations. Try downloading an app, making a mood-boosting playlist, or learn deep breathing or meditation techniques. And try these techniques from How to Never Let Anyone Ruin Your Day.
Get more (and better) sleep
In one study done by the University of Colorado, participants were asked to sleep just 5 hours a night for 1 week. By the end of the week, they had gained two pounds. And there’s tons of other research that link sleep deprivation with weight gain. Factors? People tend to eat more when they lack sleep, plus lack of sleep triggers stress hormones – and we know what that does! (Here’s an article on how to get quality, restful sleep.)
Eat more protein
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism found that people who have high protein diets have less belly fat. However, it has to be quality protein – giant cheeseburgers don’t count! Look for lean cuts and vary meat with fish and beans.
Cook your food with coconut oil
Some studies have found that getting 2 tablespoons of coconut oil a day can help lower your belly fat. That’s because coconut oil contains fatty acids that can actually boost your metabolism.
Avoid Trans Fats
Just remember this: more transfats = more bellyfats. You can find transfats in margarine, crackers, microwave popcorn, cookies and donuts, and many packaged and pre-frozen foods. A 6-year study discovered that monkeys who were put on a high-transfat diet had 33% more abdominal fat than those who were given monounsaturated fat.
So read your food labels! Aside from being labelled as transfat on the nutritional info, scan the ingredient list for terms like “partially hydrogenated oil”.
Stop crash diets
We know how much you want to lose belly fats, but starving yourself isn’t the answer. Even if you lose a couple of pounds at first, your body metabolism slows down so you’re more likely to regain the weight (and have a harder time losing it!) “Instead of trying to get a quick fix, pick a healthy and sustainable diet, and an exercise routine that you really enjoy,” says fitness expert Jamie Cortes.