20 ways to fight tummy flab
Tummy flab fighter #1: eat good fat
Believe it or not, following a low-fat diet is not the best way to reduce belly flab. 'People who have a big middle do not respond well to a low-fat diet,' says Mehmet Oz, M.D., Vice-Chair and Professor of Surgery at Columbia University and host of The Dr. Oz Show.
To reduce belly flab, Dr. Oz advises avoiding refined carbohydrates that are low in fat (like white rice) and can have a yo-yo effect on blood sugar. Instead, add 'good fat' foods, like olive oil, avocado and sea bass.
Dr. Oz recommends toasting Ezekiel bread (or another sprouted 100-percent whole grain bread) and topping it with avocado, olive oil, lemon and chili flakes for a belly fat-fighting meal or snack.
Tummy flab fighter #2: eat your binge food every day
Yes, you read that right, eating the food you crave the most, even if it’s high-fat, could help you finally beat your belly-busting cravings for good.
A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who were served their favourite mac-n-cheese meal every day for five days, five weeks in a row, ate less and less of it, and actually consumed about 100 calories less than those who only ate it twice, one week apart (those women actually ate more of it the second time it was served).
Consuming formerly off-limits foods may help lessen their appeal, curb cravings (and major diet binges) to slim down your belly permanently. Try eating a small amount of your ‘trigger’ food daily. Knowing that you can eat it again the next day could help you eat less. Chocolate anyone?
Tummy flab fighter #3: diet every other day
A recent study led by Krista Varady, Ph.D., an assistant professor of kinesiology and nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago, found that people eating 25 percent fewer calories every other day lost up to 30 pounds in only eight weeks.
Make it work for you by taking in 1,200-1,500 calories one day, and then eating as you normally do the next. Don’t overdo it on your 'off days' and sabotage yourself, though. And keep up your weekly exercise routine.
Tummy flab fighter #4: stop doing crunches
No matter how many crunches you do, it won’t help reduce the fat around your belly. That’s why Yegyan, a holistic health practitioner and physique conditioning specialist in Tualatin, Ore., recommends exercising only the large muscle groups of your body.
'Your abs are a very small amount of muscle, while your legs, back, chest and shoulders are all larger muscle complexes and burn many times more calories in the same amount of time that you spend on an abs workout.'
Instead of crunching, stand up and do multi-muscle group moves such as overhead presses, squats, planks and pushups to burn more calories during your strength workouts to reduce belly fat more efficiently.
Tummy flab fighter #5: crank up the cardio
While strength training certainly has its benefits, when it comes to reducing belly fat, your best bet is aerobic exercise, say researchers from Duke University.
A recent study found that resistance training alone had little effect on eliminating belly flab, while aerobic exercise burned 67 percent more calories for study participants and significantly reduced their abdominal fat.
Study participants ran an equivalent of 12 miles per week to achieve these results. If your goal is to shed your muffin top quickly, first focus on adding aerobic exercise (four or five days a week) to burn more calories, and then add in resistance training on alternate days to help add definition and shape to your body.
Tummy flab fighter #6: don’t get too little, or too much, sleep
A recent study published in the journal Sleep found a direct correlation between sleep and belly fat - subjects who slept five hours or less each night, or eight hours or more, gained more abdominal fat than subjects who stayed between six to seven hours of shut eye.
Be sure to get in the right amount of hours of quality sleep in a quiet, dark room for best results.
Tummy flab fighter #7: add a daily dose of soluble fibre
Eating a diet rich in the soluble fibre found in vegetables, fruits and beans can have a direct effect on reducing belly fat, says a new study by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre. The study, the first to directly link dietary fiber with decreased abdominal fat, found that for every 10 grams of daily dietary soluble fibre, abdominal fat was reduced by 3.7 percent over a five-year period. Make it work for you by eating at least 10 grams of soluble fibre per day, such as two small apples, one cup of green peas or a cup of pinto beans.
Tummy flab fighter #8: bin you diet drink habit
If you think your diet fizzy drinks are helping your waistline, you may want to reconsider: A 10-year study conducted by researchers at the University of Texas found that people who consume two or more diet fizzy drinks per day gained 70 percent more belly fat than those that didn’t drink it.
What’s worse is the artificial sweeteners found in diet drinks can cause belly bloating and may be worsening your sugar cravings. To kick your fake sugar habit, start slowly reducing your intake, by replacing that Diet Coke with a glass of sparkling water and a splash of lime or a cup of green tea.
Tummy flab fighter #9: pray or meditate
Your prayers for flatter abs may have been answered. It seems that regular prayer or meditation can help reduce the stress hormone cortisol, which is one of the culprits of belly flab.
One study published in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine found that women who prayed or meditated had healthier levels of cortisol than those that didn’t. Make it work for you by carving out some quiet time for reflection for at least 15 minutes on most days of the week.
Tummy flab fighter #10: add coconut oil to your diet
Numerous studies have shown a link between coconut oil and a reduction in abdominal fat. 'Coconut oil is a saturated fat that has anti-viral/anti-bacterial properties and it's pro-thyroid, which can benefit the metabolism,' says Andrew Johnston, a CHEK certified Nutrition Coach and Practitioner in Atlanta, Georgia.
'In fact, farmers tried to use it to fatten their livestock in the early- to mid-1900's, but it made them leaner! So they switched to polyunsaturated fats (vegetable oils), which worked quite well to fatten their animals up fast.'
Make it work for you by using it in place of vegetable oils, but stay aware of its calorie and fat content: One tablespoon of coconut oil contains 117 calories and 13.5 grams of fat, making it comparable to olive oil.
Tummy flab fighter #11: get selective with your sugar
Choose your sweet treats carefully. 'When you eat 120 calories of glucose (found in foods like potatoes and rice) less than one calorie is stored as fat,' says Johnston.
'When you eat 120 calories of fructose, think high fructose corn syrup 40 calories are stored as fat, which is how fructose consumption leads to metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and excess fat around the belly.'
But not all fructose is bad, only the refined, man-made type. The naturally-occurring fructose found in fruit is okay, Johnston says, and plays an important role in a healthy, balanced diet.
Tummy flab fighter #12: train your abdominals to be smarter, not harder
Since crunches won't target your belly flat alone, you have to train your abdominal muscles to engage and give you a more 'drawn in' look. To target your abs more effectively, you have to lift both your upper and lower body at the same time, says Jackie Warner, author of This Is Why You’re Fat (and How to Get Thin Forever).
'Bicycles and jack knives are more effective than just crunches,' says the star of the Personal Training with Jackie: Crunch-Free Xtreme Abs DVD.
Tummy flab fighter #13: reduce belly bloat with lemon
There is a reason people ask their waiters to put lemon in their water: It can help prevent water retention, says Warner. While it won't strip away the flab, it can help slim down belly bloat.
Lemon juice is a natural, gentle diuretic that may also help with constipation. Just be sure to dilute its acidity (too much can be irritating to the stomach and enamel on teeth). For each glass of water your drink, squeeze a quarter lemon slice into your glass.
Tummy flab fighter #14: cut down on simple carbs
No need to cut carbs out completely, just reduce your daily intake. And better yet, make the carbs you do eat whole grains. According to a 2008 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, subjects who replaced refined grains with whole grains like oatmeal, bulgur or brown rice, lost more abdominal fat than subjects that also restricted-calorie diets but didn’t add whole grains to their meals.
Not all whole grain products are created equal, though, so be sure to look for foods that list a whole grain as the first ingredient in order to reap its belly-busting benefits (whole wheat, rye, whole oats, etc.). Enjoy your carbs a little less often and you will make significant gains in the battle of the bulge.
Tummy flab fighter #15: ‘pear’ down your waist
Need a belly-busting secret weapon? Try pears! According to one Brazilian study, women who ate at least one pear a day lost 38 percent more weight and experienced a drop in blood glucose levels, which is directly linked to belly fat levels.
Those who didn’t consume the fruit didn’t fare so well. And it’s no wonder: Pears pack a whopping 5.5 grams of fibre (that’s more than prunes) per serving, which will keep your belly full and satisfied and may help you consume less calories overall. Enjoy this fiber-licious fruit before a meal or as a snack.
Tummy flab fighter #16: dose up on dairy
Following a high-protein, dairy-rich diet could help you lose more belly flab, says a recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition. Three groups of overweight women were put on three different eating plans, with varying amounts of protein and dairy.
While all three groups lost the same amount of weight, the ones who consumed the most protein (30 percent) in addition to several daily servings of dairy gained more lean muscle and lost twice as much belly fat than the low-protein, low-dairy group.
Make it work for you by making simple switches like enjoying a breakfast parfait instead of cereal in the morning, topping your lunch salad with yogurt dressing in place of croutons or enjoying this delicious strawberry milkshake instead of cookies for dessert.
Tummy flab fighter #17: bring on breakfast
More than half of America regularly skips breakfast, says Rania Batayneh, a nutritionist and healthy eating strategist and owner of Essential Nutrition for You in San Francisco, California.
'Studies show that people who regularly skip breakfast consume more calories throughout the day and are heavier than those who do. A healthy breakfast jumpstarts your metabolism and provides you with energy for a busy day.'
And it’s equally important for the whole family too: A recent study from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles found that children and adolescents who regularly skip breakfast have higher levels of abdominal fat than those who eat a morning meal regularly.
Belly flab fighter #18: reduce diet-induced inflammation
According to Barry Sears, Ph.D., creator of the Zone Diet and author of Toxic Fat: When Good Fat Turns Bad, more than 90 percent of the population suffers from diet-induced inflammation, which can cause increased belly fat. Sears says the best way to reduce inflammation is to eat a healthy, balanced diet, decrease your intake of Omega-6 fatty acids (those found in vegetable oils such as corn, soy and safflower oils) and increase your consumption of Omega-3’s found in fish such as sardines, mackerel and herring or fish oil supplements.
Tummy flab fighter #19: spice it up
Adding spices to your diet may help you slim down your belly without a lot of effort. A new study by researchers at Purdue University found that consuming chili pepper helps reduce your appetite for sugary and fatty foods, and may help curb hunger and reduce belly fat by speeding up your metabolism.
Capsaicin (the active ingredient found in chili peppers) seems to raise your body’s level of appetite suppressing hormones, while reducing the hormones that promote hunger. A half of a teaspoon appears to be the magic amount, so try sprinkling a little chili pepper on your eggs in the morning or chicken breast for dinner.
If you just can’t take the heat, try turmeric instead. Its active ingredient, curcumin, can help keep blood glucose levels in check and slow down your body’s absorption of carbohydrates after large meals, according recent research from India’s Gujarat University.
Tummy flab fighter #20: get checked for PCOS
If stubborn belly fat just won’t budge even after changing your diet and exercise program, you may want to ask your doctor if you could be suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
A common condition that an estimated over 5 million women suffer from, PCOS causes hormonal imbalances that can cause insulin resistance and weight gain, especially in the abdominal area. If you suffer from mood swings, irregular periods, have excess facial hair and carry extra weight mainly around your waist, it may be time to ask your doctor for an exam.
Next Up: 95 healthy snacks under 200 calories
We’ve got snacks for work, home, to eat on the go and to satisfy your sweet tooth.
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