If you feel like any extra calories you eat go straight to your belly or thighs, you're not imagining things. Those are usually the areas where you store fat because of your genes, hormones, age, lifestyle, and other factors. Your body tends to hoard calories as fat to keep you alive and safe. The challenge is learning how to get rid of that extra fat.
Eat small meals more often. In simple terms, eating spurs your metabolism — the process by which your body turns food into energy. Eating more often, then, may kick your metabolism into a higher gear more times per day (e.g., if you eat six times a day, you get six “spikes”). But, you must make sure that eating more often does not also mean eating more; it's essential that you reduce your overall average daily calories.
Find ways to reduce your stress. People under excess stress tend to make less healthy food choices, and they may also burn fat more slowly. Excessive stress is bad for your skin, it's bad for your sleep, it's bad for relationships — it's just bad overall. So find a healthy way to get rid of it! You'll feel better no matter how much it helps you in losing body fat.
A big part of weight loss is simply being aware of the decisions you’re making. For example, when out at happy hour with friends, you may lose track of how much you're eating or drinking. But if you take a split second to step back and become aware of that fact, you’re more able to course correct. “The awareness and then planning for what else I can be doing, that might give me the same benefit of eating comfort foods,” says Gagliardi.
Try this treadmill workout: Walk or jog on an incline for five to 10 minutes. Maintain a jog for another five to 10 minutes, then pick your pace up again and start running. "This doesn't have to be an all-out sprint," says Penfold, but you should be working hard enough that you can't carry a conversation. Spend five minutes running, then drop your pace back down to a jog. Continue alternating with five to 10 minutes of jogging and five to 10 minutes of running for 30 to 45 minutes.
For our purposes here, high-intensity cardio falls between about 80 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate (MHR) or, if you're not using heart rate zones, about a 6 to 8 on a 10-point perceived exertion scale. What this translates to is exercise at a level that feels challenging and leaves you too breathless to talk in complete sentences. But you're not going all out, as in sprinting as fast as you can. There's no doubt that some high-intensity training work can be helpful for weight loss as well as improving endurance and aerobic capacity.
How to do Russian twists: Sit up tall on the floor with your knees bent and feet off the ground. Hold a medicine ball with your hands at chest height. Lean backward with a long, tall spine, holding your torso at a 45-degree angle and keeping your arms a few inches away from your chest. From here, turn your torso to the right, pause and squeeze your right oblique muscles, then turn your torso to the left and pause to squeeze your left oblique muscles. The movement should come from your ribs and not your arms.
There are a variety of definitions of what moderate-intensity exercise is, but it typically falls between about 70 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate, which would be a level 4 to 6 on a 10-point perceived exertion scale. That means you are breathing harder than normal but can carry on a conversation without much difficulty and you feel pretty comfortable with what you're doing. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) often recommends this level of intensity in its exercise guidelines. The lower end of this range usually incorporates the fat burning zone.
Still, it’s a worthy goal to lose belly fat because it’s “unfortunately the most dangerous location to store fat,” says Lawrence Cheskin, MD, chair of the department of nutrition and food studies at George Mason University and director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center. Because belly fat—also known as visceral fat, or the deep abdominal fat that surrounds your organs—is more temporary, it circulates throughout the bloodstream more regularly and is therefore likelier to raise the amount of fat in your blood, increasing your blood sugar levels and putting you at a greater risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
2. Eat smaller meals more frequently: “Insulin is probably the single most important factor that contributes to fat storage,” Seedman explains. This hormone is activated when you eat and responsible for shuttling nutrients into cells, either fat or muscle. A quick biology lesson: Every time you eat a meal, your blood glucose spikes, and when this goes up, so do your insulin levels. More calories at once means a larger spike in both. When these levels are sky high, it signals to your body to put nutrients into fat cells instead of muscle, causing an accumulation of fat, Seedman explains. The same thing happens when your insulin stays elevated for a prolonged period of time, which is why it’s important to let yourself become hungry before eating again, he adds. Aim for five to six meals throughout the day.