Central adiposity is the term researchers use when they describe belly fat. Admittedly, the phrase sounds better than muffin top, though they relate to the same thing. Central adiposity is the accumulation of fatty tissue around the abdominal region. It can be difficult to regulate the amount of fat in this area of the body once a large amount of fatty tissue has been, accumulated.
You will want to maintain a good ratio of body fat to body weight, not only for any aesthetic preferences you have but to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. Excess belly fat can be seen as an indicator for obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other health concerns.
There are three main areas that you should focus on to eliminate abdominal fat: stress management, diet, and exercise. Prolonged or chronic stress causes fatty deposits to be deposited in the abdominal region (1). A poor diet that is high in fats, low in fruits and vegetables is another cause of weight gain (2). Regular exercise is very helpful in both losing and maintaining your body weight (3).
Even a small change in each area is enough to help lose inches around the waist. We have narrowed down a few different practices that can be used alone or in conjunction with another in order to eliminate excess belly fat.
1. Learn to manage stress
Everyone is familiar with stress at some level. But, did you know that stress can make you fat? Unfortunately, we have a lot of stress in our lives; jobs, relationships and finances are the biggest stressors among American adults. These common stressors often lead to weight gain over a long period of time (4).
This is because stress releases cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that is integral for many internal processes including metabolism. An influx or steady stream of cortisol in the body can lead to other chemical reactions that cause fat deposits in the abdominal region. (1). Simply put, stress makes you fat.
Unfortunately, getting an inadequate amount of sleep is another factor that can lead to gaining weight. Sleep deprivation causes stress on the body and can alter its functions. Sleep also allows both the brain and body an opportunity to recover and modulate homeostatic processes. The essential bodily functions that are regulated during the sleep cycles include metabolism(5). So getting at least eight hours of sleep on a regular basis is crucial. When you do not get an adequate amount of sleep on a regular basis, your body is not allowed sufficient time to complete the cycles that manage internal processes. Metabolism is a process that suffers greatly from inadequate sleep. This leads to terrible eating habits and the appropriation of body fat to the abdomen. Chronic inadequate sleep is a physical stressor for your body as well as a psychological stress factor.
An excellent practice for general health, that can be introduced during a weight loss regimen, is to get consistent and adequate sleep. Proper sleeping habits can help reduce belly fat by reducing the amount of stress on the body and allowing the body to regulate vital processes such as metabolism.
Relieving the stress we experience on a daily basis can help stop the bodily mechanisms that add to pesky belly fat build up. Meditation is one of many methods that can be used to reduce stress. There is a growing body of research dedicated to studying the effects of meditation and mindful thinking on weight loss. Researchers have studied the effects of meditation and mindful thinking on the loss of abdominal fat (6). The study revealed that meditation, self acceptance and awareness, along with light yoga had the effect of reducing belly fat. Meditation was used as a tool for stress relief and self control. Meditation is not enough to lose abdominal weight on its own; however, it can help you to power through food cravings as you adjust your diet
Scientists have noted the importance of addressing the underlying stress factors when creating a weight loss regimen. It is common knowledge that the toughest weight to lose is around the stomach. It is just poor luck that humans gain a generous amount of body fat around the abdominal region due to the consequences of chronic stress. Most weight loss regimens do not address this cause of fat and that may be why they do not seem to work! The most effective weight loss regimen must include stress relief and proper sleep as a daily practice.
2. Practise Yoga Regularly
Yoga is an activity that is well-known for using breathing techniques and exercise for physical fitness and stress management. The regular use of yoga is a great method for getting rid of abdominal fat. Researchers have observed the effectiveness of yoga as a weight loss technique. One group of scientists found that yoga alone was effective in specifically losing abdominal fat. Women in the study participated in yoga class for three months and saw a significant reduction in their waistline (7). So, that means getting rid of your belly fat is as simple as taking a yoga class with your friends!
Men can also use yoga to lose belly fat. A different study observed men during a yoga class for three months, and they also lost inches from their waistline (8). Both studies conclude that practicing yoga regularly is an excellent way to lose belly fat. If you have reservations about joining a gym, then participating in a yoga class may be preferential to you.
Yoga can be fun and exciting. Yoga may seem intimidating if you have seen photos of yogis (yoga teachers) completing difficult poses but it is very simple for beginners. Yoga is typically considered safe for most people; it tends to focus more on breathing and being in sync with your body than completing a particular movement. Most yogis will encourage you to progress through the movements at your own pace so there is less risk of bodily injury. Due to it’s popularity, yoga is very accessible. If you are not able to take a class at a yoga studio, you can take a class at home. There are many websites and mobile apps that offer yoga videos at a low cost or even free!
3. Exercise regularly
Many weight loss programs have a strong focus on exercise, or physical activity as a weight loss method. Exercise can be one the hardest methods to use to lose weight. An exercise regimen takes a lot of effort and it can leave you physically exhausted. It can sometimes even be discouraging to exercise because it takes weeks to see any results. As daunting as exercise may seem, it really works to reduce abdominal fat! There is not one magical exercise that works more than anything else; any physical activity could be sufficient. A review of recent studies found that exercising of any kind is effective in reducing belly fat; there isn’t just one way that will eliminate fat(9). There are different methods of exercising that can contribute to reducing belly fat, including aerobics, resistance training and a combination of both.
Basically any kind of physical exercise is better for losing belly fat than nothing at all.
4. Resistance training is another form of exercise that is proven to reduce abdominal fat.
Resistance training, also known as weight-lifting or strength training, is a form of exercise that uses resistance against the muscles to build muscle composition and subsequently strength. Most would think that only athletes or professional weight lifters need strength training but, surprisingly, it is a great method to lose weight and tone your muscles. Resistance training is effective in reducing belly fat. Resistance training can even be effective without dieting (10).
It is common knowledge that muscle tissue is more lean than fat tissue, meaning that one pound of muscle tissue takes up less space than one pound of fat tissue. It is possible to lose belly fat and gain abdominal muscle without losing much weight in the expression of pounds. Adults who utilized resistance training exercises three times a week for four months had a significant decrease in the abdominal fatty tissue although there was no statistically significant change in weight (11). In comparison to aerobic or cardio exercise, resistance training is just as effective in melting belly fat. Scientists are unable to statistically prove that either aerobic exercise or resistance training are the superior method for reducing abdominal fat (12).
Resistance training can be done independently at a gym, in a class with a professional trainer, or even at home. Like yoga, there are many available resources for resistance training outside of a formal setting. There are various blogs, websites and mobile apps in circulation that are aimed at helping you train at home. A good resistance training program will start with light or no weights and slowly progress as your muscles strengthen.
As with other forms of exercise, an effective resistance training regimen will take several weeks before results are seen. Resistance training is one of the more physically taxing methods of exercise but it is proven to be effective in reducing belly fat. Furthermore, resistance training is an excellent method if you are not only concerned with losing belly fat but also with gaining strong, lean muscle. Exercise alone is proven to be an effective method in reducing weight around the middle, however, adding physical activity to a well-balanced diet can increase your weight loss success.
5. Pilates is a low impact form of exercise that works well
Pilates is a method that focuses on muscle control, core strength and postural alignment. It is a low impact form of strength training. This system was created in the 1920’s by Joseph Pilates and has gained recent popularity from the use of athletes and dancers (13). Pilates is different from other methods of exercising because the main focus is muscular control rather than completing a certain number of repetitions. Pilates can be easier for some people to implement than typical exercise because it relies on a series of simple movements. As little as two months of regular Pilates, one hour a day three times per week, can have a significant impact on eliminating belly fat (14).
Although Pilates may seem like just another famous fitness trend, it does have actual benefits for shedding stomach fat. One of the main focus points of Pilates is the core muscle region. The core muscle region includes the abdominal muscles and the muscles that wrap around your spine for stability. Any typical Pilates session will have several exercises that target this region. The regular usage of exercises that specifically target the abdominal muscles will result in both melting the fat around those muscles and building strength within the muscles. It is not secret that the key changing your body composition, to get your ideal body, is to simultaneously burn fat and build muscle in the region that needs to be improved. Regular Pilates exercise can improve the structure of the abdominal region. A recent study showed that participating in Pilates twice a week for nine months showed up to a twenty percent increase in abdominal muscle (15).
6. Aim for aerobic exercise
Some studies have found aerobic exercises are excellent for reducing belly fat. Aerobic exercise is defined as an activity that increases your heart rate and respiration which is sustained for twenty to sixty minutes. Aerobic exercises are also referred to as cardio exercises because they cause your heart rate to elevate. Common cardio exercises are walking, jogging, biking, swimming, and even include walking on a treadmill or elliptical machine. The key to being successful with an exercise regimen is regular and systematic practicing of the exercise. When you exercise to lose weight it will typically take a number of weeks before you reach your goal.
There are scientific studies that explore whether dieting with aerobic exercise or aerobic exercise alone is enough to eliminate excess abdominal fat. One study found that adults who walked briskly or lightly jogged on a treadmill for one hour, five times a week, for at least three months saw a decrease in the amount of belly fat (17). In the study, the participants did not diet and although they lost abdominal fat, they did not overall shed a significant amount of pounds.
Aerobic exercise is another weight loss method that can be done from the comfort of your own home, or with the company of supportive friends, without taking a class. Although some people may prefer walking or jogging on a treadmill, using a stationary bike, or elliptical machine, special equipment is not necessary to reap the benefits of cardio exercise. Cardio can be as inexpensive as walking around your neighborhood for thirty minutes to an hour. Alternatively, if you already own a regular bicycle, you can ride your bicycle as an aerobic exercise. A mixture of cardio and other resistance training exercises was effective in lowering body weight and eliminating belly fat in just two months (19).
7. Manage your diet smartly
A diet high in fats and sugars contribute to gaining weight, especially around the abdominal region (20). Altering the way you eat by adding more fruits and vegetables, increasing protein and fiber intake as well as limiting fat, sugar and calorie intake, can have long lasting positive effects on your weight.
A diet can help you lose weight in the short term, but a lifestyle change in eating habits will help to keep off the extra pounds. Many popular diets claim that a low calorie diet is the best way to lose weight. There is some truth in that method, although it may not be a sustainable practice for everyone. Low calorie diets and even low calorie lifestyle changes are effective in losing belly weight and keeping it off. One study observed adults who participated in a low calorie diet for two years and then stopped. The participants were able to keep off over fifty percent of the weight they originally lost even two years after they stopped the calorie restrictions (21). Long term diet changes have a long lasting effect.
Even though there are benefits to a low calorie diet, you do not have to starve yourself to achieve a significant change in diet. Eliminating sugary drinks from your diet has been shown to reduce your belly fat. The sugar and calorie content from just one twelve ounce soda per day for one year can contribute up to fifteen excess pounds to your waistline (22). Actions as small as replacing your afternoon cola with a cup of tea or glass of water can actually help you reach your body goals.
You should also focus your attention on what you eat, not just how many calories you are consuming. The nutrient content of your food is a large factor in losing weight and maintaining a healthy metabolism (23).
8. Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
Whether you are familiar with the food pyramid or the plate model, the message has been the same for decades: fruits and vegetables are an essential component of a healthy diet. Sadly, fresh fruits and vegetables are often pushed aside and replaced by fatty, sugary more processed food. Although, many people view eating vegetables as a chore that must be completed before dessert is served; vegetables are an integral part of maintaining a healthy body as well as losing and keeping off belly fat. Increasing your fruit and vegetable intake can greatly improve metabolic processes that have been altered due to weight gain (26). Furthermore, it may be easier for some people to simply add more fruits and vegetables to their diet rather than limit the amount of calories eaten.
Fruits and vegetables actually work to block the formation of fatty tissue around the midsection (27). The nutrients found in various fruits and vegetables help to combat inflammation and other symptoms of bodily stress that lead to weight gain. They contribute to healthy endocrine systems, cardiovascular systems, and metabolism. Although, it should be noted that cooking vegetables in fatty oils can eliminate the nutrient content and overall effectiveness of the vegetable.
Adding more fruits and vegetables into the diet does not have to be seen as a chore, it can be fun! A good place to begin is by just eating more of the fruits and vegetables that you enjoy. There is no reason to force yourself to eat grapefruit or brussel sprouts, for instance, if you don’t like the taste. A great way to incorporate fruits and vegetables is your diet is to drink freshly made smoothies on a regular basis. With a small investment in a blender, you can make fresh fruit and vegetable smoothies any time of day! Another fun way to add more fruits and vegetables is to watch or join a cooking class. Many restaurants offer classes for a fee but you can also utilize the internet and watch free cooking blogs and explore websites.
9. Try a High Protein Diet
Many people may think that a diet high in protein is useful to the builder or some other athlete looking to bulk up their size, but not to the average person seeking to lose weight. It is common knowledge that protein contributes to muscle mass, so it may seem intuitive to think there would be no benefits of a high protein diet to a weight loss regimen. Surprisingly, a high protein diet is a great compliment to any weight loss regimen. Adopting a high protein diet during, and maintaining the diet after, an exercise regimen can help to maintain your acheived body weight (27). A high protein diet can help to target belly fat as well (28). Adding more protein to the diet can not only assist in eliminating the belly fat but also keep it off in the long run.
Merely losing belly fat is not sufficient, there must also be long term methods that can be employed to keep the weight off. A proper weight loss regimen should ultimately be focused on increasing overall health. Small, but permanent changes in the diet, like increasing protein, can dramatically increase the quality of results when targeting the reduction of belly fat. A high protein diet is beneficial in eliminating abdominal fat and maintaining weight loss, however, the effects can be optimized when accompanied with other dietary changes. Practicing both a high protein and low sugar diet will result in a higher percentage of weight loss and management than if participating in a high protein diet by itself (29).
A high protein diet that is implemented while losing weight results in more lean body mass. So, a high protein diet can help to maintain a nice body tone while you are losing weight. However, it will yield the best results along with an exercise regimen. There are various ways to adjust your diet, just as there are different methods of exercise, to aid in the reduction of belly fat.
10. And a diet high in fiber
Fiber is another interesting nutrient that can enhance a weight loss regimen. Although fiber has gained some notoriety for regulating bowel movements, it has more conversation worthy benefits. Fiber has been longed hailed for its beneficial effects on blood pressure and heart disease. Fiber is a great aid in a weight loss diet because it helps to keep you full. Both soluble and insoluble fibers are needed for your daily fiber intake. Insoluble fibers are naturally found in vegetables and wheat bran. Fruits, vegetables, oats and beans are natural sources of soluble fiber (30). Soluble fiber stays in the digestive tract longer and as a result you ended feeling satiated for longer. Insoluble fiber helps to push toxins out of the intestine as well.
Like fruits and vegetables, fiber is an essential component of a healthy diet. In fact, increasing your consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables will actually help to increase your fiber consumption. Whole grains, which are another component of a balanced diet, are excellent sources of fiber. Diets high in fiber and whole grain result in the reduction of abdominal fat as well as overall body weight (31).
High fiber diets are found to be just as effective as low calorie diets in lowering body weight and stomach fat. However, high fiber diets are shown to be more beneficial than low calorie diets because they offer the added value of lowering unhealthy cholesterol levels (32). Increasing your fiber intake is simple. Besides eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, fiber can also be found in beans, oats, and wheat bran. Eating a cup of oatmeal or a bowl of sugar free wheat bran cereal with your morning coffee is great way to increase your fiber intake.
Weight loss can be overwhelming and difficult, especially when trying to lose belly fat. Instead of wasting time trying our different fad diets and exercise trends, rely on evidence based research to assist you in creating the most effective belly fat reducing weight loss regimen.
The main areas to focus on when creating an exercise regimen is stress management, diet and exercise. The mismanagement of those three areas contribute directly to gaining belly fat. Although, some change is required, a weight loss regimen does not have to be strenuous. The different weight loss techniques explained above can be combined for a personalized regimen that fits your lifestyle, preferences and budget.