I’m an apple, so middle management is my life story. When I gain weight, 99.9% of it winds up around my midriff. If I gain just a pound or two, I’m sporting a muffin top that’s just waiting to become a bundt cake.
As I’ve covered previously on this blog, fab abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym. You can do sit-ups, planks and ab exercises all day long but without losing total belly fat, you will still have a pudding-like middle.
The good news is that several recent studies indicate that the types of foods and beverages we eat and drink can impact how much fat is stored as belly fat. Here are some of the strategies I rely on to banish belly fat. The bottom line, however, is that to lose belly fat, you need to eat fewer calories than you burn off to help you reduce overall body fat.
- Eat Less: If you have excess belly fat, chances are you could stand to lose a few lbs. To do that, eat about 500 calories less per day than you normally do and you’ll lose about a 1 pound per week. The good news about belly fat is that is mobilizes very quickly because it’s highly metabolic. When I am just 3-5 pounds above my ideal body weight, I can feel my stomach getting that extra layer that I loathe. When I’m at my goal weight, I have some abdominal definition (If I look really, really hard!)
Try some of these proven strategies to help you lose lbs.
- Eat whole grains in place of refined options. Studies show that individuals who eat a higher percentage of whole grains gain less ab fat than those who eat more refined grains. Refined grains and sugary foods raise blood sugar levels quickly and trigger insulin response that shuttles all that excess blood sugar into fat storage. Minimize these foods that are most often linked with being overweight.
- Follow a Mediterranean diet. Research shows that individuals who eat a more Mediterranean-style diet have smaller waist circumferences. The keys to a Mediterranean diet include lots of fruits and vegetables and seafood; healthy fats and oils, moderate alcohol consumption and minimal meat and full-fat dairy products.
- Eat the Good Fats, Nix the Bad Fats. Studies have previously found that monos and polys are more readily burned as fuel and less likely to be stored as ab fat compared to saturated fat and trans fats, which essentially make a beeline to your belly. The healthy fats I include in my diet are olive oil, avocados and avocado oil, nuts and seeds. In place of butter, I use trans-free vegetable oil based spreads.
- Relax more. Research shows that chronic high-stress lifestyles disrupts the balance of hormones that breakdown fat and store fat, shifting the balance to fat storage. Exercise, practice deep breathing, try to connect with nature or find other ways to help you unwind. With the amount of stress I have in my life, I sometimes think without exercise, I’d have the shape of the illustration above!
- Strengthen your core. Like any muscle group, the core needs to be worked in order to keep the muscles of your abdomen and supporting muscles strong. My core workout consists of exercises that target the upper and lower abs, obliques, and lower back. No matter how strong my core muscles become, without losing the layer of Sub-Q over them, you’d never know it.
My favorite core exercises include Tabata Hollow hold (a CrossFit staple that consists of 8 rounds of 20 seconds hold and 10 seconds rest); planks; overhead squats (single arm with dumbells)