Embarrassed by that spare tire around your waist? You’re not alone. Overweight and obese people aren’t the only ones with belly fat – even average and skinny folks have problems keeping their stomachs flat. If you hate your love handles and that constant bloated feeling, there are several ways to get rid of them.
Avoid Carbonated Beverages
It’s second nature for most people to order soda with meals or drink it to quench their thirst. But it’s better to drink water, tea, milk or (in small amounts) juice to wet your whistle and avoid belly fat. A can of cola has 150 calories and 10 ¼ teaspoons of sugar; a 20-ounce bottle of Mountain Dew has 19 teaspoons of sugar and 290 calories, and a 20-ounce bottle of 7-Up has 240 calories and 15 teaspoons of sugar. But the sugar content and calories aren’t the only bad news for your waistline. The carbonation in the soda releases CO2 particles in your stomach, leaving you with a bloated feeling (and a visibly increased belly) for a few hours after consuming the beverage. Sodas are also high in acid and may cause-you guessed it - acid reflux. Regular soda drinkers may be unable to get rid of belly fat or bloating.
If you’re a soda addict, try reducing or eliminating your intake of both sugary and sugar-free fizzy drinks.
Diet soda is just as bad for your waistline as sugary soda, according to research by the University of Texas in San Antonio. People who drank diet soda every day gained 3.2 inches of belly fat over a few years, while subjects who didn’t drink any diet soda gained only 0.8 inches of belly fat during the same period.
If you go a few months without drinking soda, seltzer water or other carbonated beverages and then you drink a Coke with a meal, you’ll really feel the difference. No worries about bloating, burping or embarrassing flatulence!
Chew Your Food
Don’t scarf your food down, eat slowly until it’s thin as a paste in your mouth. This aids digestion and eliminates gas and bloating. When you eat too fast, you consume more calories, packing on unwanted pounds. If eating quickly is a problem for you, drink a glass of water before meals to fill up.
Speed eating may also cause acid reflux and interfere with chemical signals in your brain that let you know when you’re full.
You should take at least 20-30 minutes to eat your meal, and really try to taste and enjoy you food. Take a cue from the French tradition of mindful eating, and take time to enjoy meals with family and friends.
Eat More Protein
We’ve written a bit about what you shouldn’t eat if you want a flat stomach, but don’t worry, there are some foods that are great for making your stomach leaner. Any protein-rich food reduces your appetite by 60%, increases energy and may cut up to 441 calories off your daily total. Eat high-quality foods including lean beef, eggs, yogurt, cheese, fish, and poultry and drink milk to reduce belly fat.
A Danish study showed animal protein was effective in reducing belly fat in middle-aged subjects over a five year period. If you’re a vegan, never fear. Pumpkin seeds, almonds, quinoa, and beans offer tons of protein. A cup of kidney beans offers 15 grams of protein and a cup of small red beans has a stomach-flattening 16 grams of protein. That bean and cheese burrito you had for lunch can fill you up faster than many other foods and help flatten your stomach.
Tone Up with Exercise Balls
An exercise ball, or stability ball, helps tone up abs and make your workout a lot more fun. Invest in a stability ball from your local sporting goods store. They cost about $30, and will tone up your mid-section more than yoga or Pilates.
Exercise balls tone up your core without the monotony of stomach crunches. A half-hour exercise ball routine focusing on variations of the jumping jack, twist and side crunches will make your workout more interesting. A San Diego State University study named exercise ball crunches as the third best belly-flattening technique, with the captain’s chair at number one and the bicycle maneuver at number two. Intersperse your exercise ball sessions with aerobics, and you’ll burn calories and belly fat in no time.
Exercise with a Friend
Exercise, walk or jog with a friend. Exercising with a companion makes you move up to 104% harder and faster, according to a UK study by Virgin Active Health Clubs. Results showed women who exercised with a friend burned 236 calories instead of 195 for solo health club visitors.
Losing weight can be a chore, especially when you first start dieting and changing your lifestyle. A fitness buddy can motivate you and make you laugh even when you’re hiking or grunting your way to your tenth sit-up. Share your exercise goals with your friend, and trade fat-burning secrets. Set up workouts and bike or jog together. You’ll be less likely to skip exercise if you know your friend will be there waiting for you.
Reduce Sugar Consumption
When you eat (or drink) lots of sugar/high-fructose corn syrup, it saturates your liver, which then turns this sugar overload into belly fat. The DRV of sugar for an adult is 25 grams (six teaspoons), and it’s estimated most adults consume 22 teaspoons a day. This may explain why many people have bulging midriffs (and lots of cavities).
You don’t need to cut sugar out of your diet completely, but reduce consumption- and don’t replace sugary snacks with their “low-calorie” versions containing aspartame and other sugar substitutes, which are just as bad for you. Rely on natural sugars from fruits, dairy, vegetables and grains.
Get Moving with Aerobics
Any type of exercise helps you feel better and firms you up- to a certain extent. When it comes to fighting belly fat, aerobics are your best bet. Researchers from Duke University concluded that aerobic training burns more calories than other types of exercise.
Where fat exists in your body is more important (or detrimental) to your health than the total amount of fat. Belly fat (also call visceral fat) fills in the area between your internal organs. Belly fat contains cytokines, toxins that make you less sensitive to insulin and more susceptible to heart problems. It’s more harmful to your health than fat elsewhere on the body because it’s linked to diabetes, coronary heart disease and colon cancer. When you exercise and modify your diet, you’re doing more than sculpting your middle – you may be saving your life.
Stock Your Fridge and Pantry with High-Fiber Foods
Foods containing soluble, viscous fiber are effective in banishing belly fat. Viscous fiber is thicker than other fiber, and it has been shown to reduce appetite and fill you up faster so you won’t eat as much.
You’ll lose 4% of your belly fat for every 10% of fiber you eat. Stock up on Brussel sprouts, onions, nuts, beans, flaxseeds, oranges, oatmeal, apples and pears and other foods containing viscous fiber.
Limit Alcohol Consumption
It’s called beer belly for a reason. Excess calories consumption causes a pudgy midsection, regardless or what you eat or drink, but alcohol raises cortisol levels, which in turn raises fat. And your liver burns alcohol, not fat, when you drink beer or another alcoholic beverage.
So cut down on alcohol or eliminate it. When you do drink, limit yourself to one or two glasses. If you’re out with friends, pace yourself. Drink a glass of water after your first beer, which will fill you up and make it less likely you’ll go for a second beer. A typical bottle of beer has 150 calories, so an unchecked night on the town can result in an extra pound or two.
Banish the Salt Shaker
Salt makes you retain fluid, giving your stomach a bloated appearance. Don’t add salt to food and choose low salt treats if you get the munchies. Better to eat fruits and whole grains as snacks and eat mostly home-cooked meals so you can keep track of how much salt is in your food.
When you eat in restaurants, it’s hard to tell how much salt is used to prepare dishes, so choose restaurants with ingredient information or stick to salads or natural low salt items. Steer clear of concession stand hot dogs with French fries, potato chips and any sodium-drenched fast-food items on this list.
Drink More Water
Drinking water flushes out the toxins that make you bloated, it helps you lose weight by helping your digestive system run smoothly. No back-ups! While you don’t necessarily need eight cups of water every day, drinks lots of H20 and less coffee, soda and alcohol.
A German study showed that healthy subjects who drank 17 ounces of water developed an increased in their metabolic rate, and this boost in metabolism helps burn fat cells. The researchers noted that person increasing water consumption by 6 cups a day would burn an extra five pounds a year.
Rule Out Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
If exercise and cutting calories don’t curb belly fat and/or bloating, look into medical reasons for your midsection bulge. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) affects between 25 and 45 million people in the U.S. IBS causes gas and bloating, along with constipation, diarrhea or abdominal pain. It’s not known exactly what causes IBS, though there are several possible triggers. Stress, hormones, and diet may play a part, depending on the individual. Most IBS sufferers are female.
If you feel extensive bloating after eating garlic, orange juice, sausages, onions, cow’s milk, cream cheese or apples you may have IBS. A list of foods suitable for IBS and foods to be avoided is available at the IBS Self-Help and Support Group website. Talk to your medical practitioner if you think your bloating may be IBS in disguise.
Snack on Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds have tons of B-complex vitamins to protect against inflammation. Put seeds in salad, soups, cereals, yogurt or stir-fry. Make your own trail mix a bevy of high-protein ingredients - pumpkin seeds, almonds, dates, dried apricots and raisins – along with sunflower seeds.
Get Better Sleep
Research shows people who get seven or more hours of sleep a night eat less and lose 2x as much body fat as insomniacs. Getting more shuteye will help your stomach stay flatter. If you’re the type to spend an hour or more tossing and turning before you drift off, follow these sleep tips.
According to a study in the journal Sleep, people under 40 who sleep too little (or too much) run a greater risk of gaining more body fat. Subjects who slept less than five hours a night over a five year span had a 32% gain in belly fat. People who slept 8 hours or more showed a 22% increase in belly fat, but people who slept between 6 and 7 hours only had a 13% increase in belly fat. To get a skinnier waist, you may want to strive for the lower end of the recommended 7 to 9 hours a night of slumber.
Why does lack of sleep increase abdominal fat? Your body burns the most calories during deep REM sleep, and poor sleep means little to no REM sleep. When you’re not fully rested, your body produces more of the hunger-signaling hormone ghrelin, causing you to eat more. Sleep-deprived people eat 300 more calories a day, on average, than the well-rested.
Do Target Workouts for Belly Fat
Don’t drive yourself crazy with crunches, try these spot exercises for belly fat. The Shot Put and Discus Throw mimic the stances used in those Olympic sports, and the Jump Lunge and Squat Jump are self-explanatory. When used along with aerobic exercises and other physical activity, target exercises do help, but spot workouts for belly fat alone won’t flatten your stomach.
Clean Your House!
Vacuuming and scrubbing aren’t substitutes for exercise, but they burn calories just like going to the gym. Bonus: You’ll get rid of allergy-causing germs and dust at the same time. Increase the fat-burning potential of your housecleaning by taking breaks every half-hour (or hour, if it’s an all-day session) to do jumping jacks, lunges or other exercises. Do squats when you load or unload your dishwasher, or do a spinal twist while you sit on the floor and fold laundry.
Follow these tips and you should see results in a month or two. What you eat and drink has the biggest impact on belly fat and bloat, so change your diet for a skinnier waist.