Of course, diet and exercise are natural ways to lose weight, so those techniques should remain top priorities. But there are also lifestyle changes and adjustments that can be made that will help you get rid of that belly fat naturally. Here are the experts' recommendations for how to tackle the aforementioned multipronged approach to losing belly fat.
You don’t have to go low-carb to ditch those extra pounds around your waist in a short period of time. In fact, opting for more whole grains might just get you there faster. Researchers at Tufts University have linked eating three or more daily servings of whole grains to as much as a 10 percent reduction in visceral body fat, the kind that ups your risk for chronic diseases, like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
A recent study in the journal Nature found that mice who were fed a breakfast in which 45 percent of the calories came from fat tended to burn more body fat over the next 24 hours than those who ate a meal that was only 20 percent fat. This is early research—it needs to be repeated in humans—but mono and polyunsaturated fats like those found in avocados and nuts do have plenty of health benefits when you eat them in moderation.
That’s because it theoretically causes a mild ketosis (yep, the basis of the keto diet), which is a fat-burning state that should make you feel less hungry. The key in being successful with a low-carb diet (especially if you’re used to a more high-carb lifestyle) is to compensate for those lost carbs with protein-rich foods, says Dr. Cheskin. That way, your volume of food stays the same, but you’re doing it healthfully rather than in a way that exacerbates your weight gain.

But the whole idea of fast weight loss may be the root of the problem. According to a Time expose on the subject: “When people are asked to envision their perfect size, many cite a dream weight loss up to three times as great as what a doctor might recommend.” An improbable and disheartening goal, and one that obscures the truth that losing small amounts of weight — even ten pounds — still has great health benefits.
Listen up: Skipping meals will not make you lose weight faster. If a hectic day makes a sit-down meal impossible, stash an energy bar or a piece of fruit in your car or tote, keep snacks in your office desk drawer, and make a point of getting up to grab a nosh — anything that will keep you from going hungry! Going long periods of time without food does double-duty harm on our healthy eating efforts by both slowing down your metabolism, and priming you for another binge later in the day. (Think: You've skipped breakfast and lunch, so you're ready to takedown a whole turkey by dinner!) Make it your mission to eat three meals and two snacks every day, and don't wait longer than three to four hours without eating. Set a "snack alarm" on your phone if needed.
There's a reason you've been hearing so much about cutting meat out of your diet lately. It's not just great for your body, but also a quick way to shed some extra pounds. "Consider swapping a few meat-centric meals each week for ones centered around vegetarian proteins — or give a full-fledged vegetarian diet a try if that's of interest to you," Gorin says. "Research shows eating a vegetarian diet may boost and speed up weight loss, resulting in a loss of up to 10 pounds." Gorin recommends topping a salad or filling a veggie taco with vegetarian protein sources like pulses — which are beans, chickpeas, lentils, and dried peas — to give your weight loss a boost. One study found eating ¾ cup of pulses daily led to a loss of close to a pound over about six weeks, versus people not eating pulses daily.
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Food labels can help you lose weight, if you know how to read them. Everyday Health says it's important to pay attention to serving size, calories (and calories from fat), fats, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, protein, and vitamins and minerals. Then, you can make smarter food choices like picking up a water-packed tuna rather than oil-packed, which can cut significant calories.
You don’t have to go low-carb to ditch those extra pounds around your waist in a short period of time. In fact, opting for more whole grains might just get you there faster. Researchers at Tufts University have linked eating three or more daily servings of whole grains to as much as a 10 percent reduction in visceral body fat, the kind that ups your risk for chronic diseases, like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Losing weight is no small feat—it often requires a complete lifestyle overhaul, and with so much information out there, it can be tough to know what strategy might work for you. And to top it all off, all the weight loss myths that just will not die threaten to throw you off track. That's why it's helpful to know what has worked for real people—in their own words. Here, we've gathered advice from 28 women who have lost between 26 and 174 pounds—and kept that weight off for good.
That’s because women tend to store more temporary fat in their bellies. “The fat stores are gained and lost,” 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. “By and large, belly fat comes off easier in the sense that it comes off first. That’s where a good amount of the fat is lost from.”
These may seem like exercises for guys, but not all squats are done with a barbell loaded with lots of weight. (Although women shouldn't fear heavier weights; they don’t make you bulky.) Variations of these exercises are timeless and extremely effective. Grab a pair of dumbbells and try Bulgarian split squats (Click here to see a how-to video.). Your legs and butt will thank you.
A healthy GI tract is teeming with beneficial bacteria, and scientists are uncovering just how important those microbes are for keeping your weight under control. They’ve discovered that the strains of bacteria in the guts of thin people differ from those in obese folks, and there’s evidence that certain types of probiotics may help aid weight loss by assisting with the regulation of appetite, fat storage, and other related metabolic functions. You can get probiotics from live culture yogurt and certain supplements. While popping a pill or eating yogurt won’t magically shrink your waist, warns Ginger Hultin, RD, gut health is important. Read more about the weight loss benefits of probiotics.
Stavrou, S., Nicolaides, N. C., Papageorgiou, I., Papadopoulou, P., Terzioglou, E., Chrousos, G. P., … Charmandari, E. (2016, July 31). The effectiveness of a stress-management intervention program in the management of overweight and obesity in childhood and adolescence. Journal of Molecular Biochemistry, 5(2), 63–70. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4996635/
Getting your workout in first thing can burn more fat than sweating it out later in the day. When you first wake up, carbohydrates, your body’s preferred energy choice, are in short supply, so your muscles are forced to burn fat for fuel, a process known as ketosis. For men, they’re an added boost because testosterone levels are highest in the a.m., allowing guys to push a little harder during their workouts. Here’s how many minutes you need to exercise to burn fat all day long.
The plan is simple: Commit to two weeks of restricted dieting, then transfer to a sustainable regime. Phase one: Cut out restaurant food, added sugar, eating while watching TV, snacking on anything other than fruits and veggies, and limit meat and dairy. You’re also asked to add four healthy habits, simple tweaks like having a good breakfast every morning.
Women usually need fewer calories than men, especially as they age. That's because women naturally have less muscle, more body fat, and are usually smaller than men. On average, adult women need between 1,600 and 2,400 calories a day. As you age, you need to take in fewer calories to maintain the same weight. You can also keep your weight healthy by increasing how much physical activity you get.
But I've seen some women beat themselves up over a few extra pounds, even though this does little more than destroy their self-worth. Berating yourself will not help motivate you to control your weight and improve your health. So the next time those negative thoughts creep into your head, recognize them for what they are and replace them with positive ones.
Being in optimal ketosis for a prolonged period of time (say, a month) will ensure that you experience the maximal hormonal effect from eating a low-carb diet. If this doesn’t result in noticeable weight loss, you can be certain that too many carbs are NOT part of your weight issue and not the obstacle to your weight loss. There are, in fact, other causes of obesity and being overweight. The next three tips in this series might help you.
Control Your Environments. Another simple strategy to help cut calories is to control your environment -- everything from stocking your kitchen with lots of healthy options to choosing the right restaurants. That means avoiding the temptation by staying away from all-you-can-eat restaurants. And when it comes to parties, "eat a healthy snack before so you won't be starving, and be selective when you fill your plate at the buffet," suggests Ward. Before going back for more food, wait at least 15 minutes and have a big glass of water.
The best way to stick with your diet and know if it is actually working is to comprehensively track your progress. Any online weight loss plan you consider should provide tracking tools that allow you to record your weight, meals, exercise, nutrient intake and other factors. Reporting tools such as line graphs that display your weight loss are also important to help you gauge your progress and results. Most programs should provide a mobile app to help you manage your diet and exercise no matter where you are. Some diet programs include a mobile app to track both food intake and exercise. The best will also sync directly with Fitbit, Apple Heath and other fitness tracking devices.

If you like the idea of an actually useful app, but aren’t interested in tons of interaction or paying a large membership fee, we suggest MyFitnessPal. There are lots of nearly identical apps on the market, but this one provides the easiest, quickest food tracking we experienced, plus advanced options like goal setting and nutrition analysis. For education and support, you’ll have to turn to outside sources.
Grazing is a surprisingly good idea because it helps you avoid metabolic slowdown. "Your body will be tricked into thinking it's constantly eating, so it will never slow your metabolism down," explains Bauer. Aim for five small meals (200 to 500 calories) a day rather than three large ones. Also try not to go more than four hours without eating — if you eat breakfast at 7am, for example, have a snack at 10am, lunch at noon, another snack at 3pm and dinner at 7pm.
The Mayo Clinic Diet is the official diet developed by Mayo Clinic, based on research and clinical experience. It focuses on eating healthy foods that taste great and increasing physical activity. It emphasizes that the best way to keep weight off for good is to change your lifestyle and adopt new health habits. This diet can be tailored to your own individual needs and health history — it isn't a one-size-fits-all approach.
If you’re only getting a minimal amount of sleep each night, that leaves more time for you to snack and make otherwise unhealthy decisions that could affect your weight loss. Although it will vary from person to person on how much sleep you actually need to be most effective (and therefore make progress toward your weight loss goals), the ideal number is typically 7 or 8 hours, says Dr. Cheskin. (Struggling to get that shut-eye? This doctor-approved breathing exercise will help you fall asleep fast.)
Be choosy about carbs. You can decide which ones you eat, and how much. Look for those that are low on the glycemic index (for instance, asparagus is lower on the glycemic index than a potato) or lower in carbs per serving than others. Whole grains are better choices than processed items, because processing removes key nutrients such as fiber, iron, and B vitamins. They may be added back, such as in “enriched” bread.
A recent study in the journal Nature found that mice who were fed a breakfast in which 45 percent of the calories came from fat tended to burn more body fat over the next 24 hours than those who ate a meal that was only 20 percent fat. This is early research—it needs to be repeated in humans—but mono and polyunsaturated fats like those found in avocados and nuts do have plenty of health benefits when you eat them in moderation.
Diet drinks can have a kind of mental placebo effect, making you feel like it’s OK to indulge because you “saved” all those liquid calories. And research shows that your body may be tricked too: People who chug one or more diet drinks a day are more likely to be overweight—not less. Can the soft drinks, whether the sugar in them is real or a substitute. Find out 30 other tiny diet changes that can help you lose weight.
Dieters often decrease the number of daily meals in an attempt to reduce calories—a big no-no. "If you eat six meals a day vs. three with the same total calories, you can lose more fat because more meals burn more calories [by increasing thermogenesis, the production of heat, in the body]," says Aceto. Calculate how many calories you want to consume per day (see tip 3), and spread them evenly across 5-6 meals.
Sleep quality matters as much as quantity, according to Gillespie. In general, an uninterrupted seven hours is better than 12 hours of tossing and turning. Of course, for new moms or others for whom sleep is hard to come by, naps are better than nothing. But if it’s possible to get your nightly sleep done in a solid block, that’s your best bet, she says.
“The alkaline diet often has a focus on eating lots of fresh produce and unprocessed foods, which could be a good thing,” says Hultin. “However, keep in mind that this is not an evidence-based therapeutic diet. When people take it too far — for instance, drinking baking soda — or become too restrictive or obsessive over food choices, it can definitely turn negative.”
Yes, you read that right! “Get rid of your low-fat and fat-free yogurts, milk, and cheeses. Full-fat dairy (and many of these 20 Best Full-Fat Foods for Weight Loss) contains anti-inflammatory fatty acids, like butyrate and conjugated linolenic acid (CLA), that can support healthy metabolic function and fat-burning, says Minchen. “Additionally, full-fat dairy contains vitamins A and K, two vitamins that need fats to be absorbed and metabolized.” However, fair warning: full-fat products do carry more calories, so be sure to cut back elsewhere so you don’t up your total calorie count.
Just bought your book and I’m excited to see how how the program works. I saw The Wild Diet on My Diet is Better Than Yours and it got me interested in starting a new program. I started the year by doing a portion control system and then slowly cut out carbs and replaced some of my fruits and starches with veggies and protein. I now want to lose those last few pounds and I think I need something like this. The only thing is I’m training for a half marathon and will probably need a bit more calories filled with sweet potatoes and fruits the night before my long runs. Would that effect my results? Also, is this recommended for women? I know women have different reactions when it comes to fasting. I did not know if you had coached women on this particular program as well. Thanks for any advice!
Potassium, magnesium, and calcium can help to serve as a counter-balance for sodium. Foods that are rich in potassium include leafy greens, most "orange" foods (oranges, sweet potatoes, carrots, melon) bananas, tomatoes, and cruciferous veggies — especially cauliflower. Low-fat dairy, plus nuts, and seeds can also help give you a bloat-busting boost. They've also been linked to a whole host of additional health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, controlling blood sugar, and reducing risk of chronic disease overall.
Managing how many calories you eat and how many you burn is the essence of a diet. While it is helpful to consider both food and fitness when selecting a diet, most people take in much more food than they can ever hope to burn off. That makes the food portion of each plan especially important. We looked for services that make it easier to eat right, with recipes, recommendations and personalized food plans.
Stavrou, S., Nicolaides, N. C., Papageorgiou, I., Papadopoulou, P., Terzioglou, E., Chrousos, G. P., … Charmandari, E. (2016, July 31). The effectiveness of a stress-management intervention program in the management of overweight and obesity in childhood and adolescence. Journal of Molecular Biochemistry, 5(2), 63–70. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4996635/
A 2010 study from the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition) shows that probiotics may help reduce belly fat. Every day for 12 weeks, 87 study participants drank either seven ounces of fermented milk enriched with a probiotic strain called Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055 (LG2055) or the same amount of fermented milk made without LG2055. Compared to the control group, those who consumed the LG2055-enriched fermented milk showed a greater reduction in belly fat and body weight.
Don’t buy your tickets to Bonnaroo just yet; the kind of acid that will help you slim down is the stuff right inside your cabinet. A 12-week study published in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry reveals that obese study subjects who made vinegar part of their diet dropped more belly fat than a control group, and other research suggests that acidic foods, like vinegar, can increase the human carbohydrate metabolism by as much as 40 percent.

“Trying to lose fat can be very stressful, and depending on the goal at hand, it can take weeks, months or years to see the results you want,” says Marchese. “Being consistent and determined and refusing to give up is everything if you want to be successful.” Some days will be easier than others, which is to be expected, but it’s important to celebrate your wins—so long as it’s not with sweets. Hit the gym four days a week all month long? Why not treat yourself to a massage or a new pair of sneakers? Those are gifts to yourself that will keep you on track towards success.

Like protein, fiber slows the rate at which your body plows through carb calories so you feel full for longer and maintain steadier blood sugar levels, one reason why research consistently links fiber intake to weight loss. That means fibrous whole grain bread tends to be a better choice than white bread and also explains why fruits, which contain fiber and valuable vitamins in addition to sugar, beat straight-up candy every time.
I have been on the Wild Diet for a week now and have lost 11.4 lbs. I know a lot of it is water weight, but I will take it. When I first started, I thought the low carbs would be hard, because I’m a carb junky. But I can say, I have not carved carbs on this plan! I also have more energy and feel awesome! I can’t wait to see how my body & mind changes in the following weeks. Thank you for sharing this program!
We used a group of 10 volunteers to see just how well each program motivated and interacted with its members. Our testers were each assigned to a dieting service, and we had them keep track of their experiences in a dieting journal. We also tracked whether they lost weight on the plans. Each of our volunteers stayed true to their diets in order to provide a fair comparison across the board. Companies that helped our volunteers lose weight scored higher than programs that weren't as effective. Our volunteers provided us insight into their experiences with the plans, which we converted into a service satisfaction percentage.
Say cheese! Adding some extra calcium to your diet could be the key to getting that flat stomach you’ve been dreaming about. Over just 12 months, researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville found that obese female study subjects who upped their calcium intake shed 11 pounds of body fat without other major dietary modifications. To keep your calcium choices healthy, try mixing it up between dairy sources, calcium-rich leafy greens, fatty fish, nuts, and seeds.
Why does this popular plan work? For one thing, it pushes wildly healthy staples to the forefront (think: nuts, vegetables, fruit, olive oil). For another, it's simply delicious, thanks to it's focus on fresh, simply prepared dishes like grilled fish with lemon and whole wheat pita with hummus. Science agrees: One meta-review of 16 studies, found the eating M.O. helped those on it lose an average of 8.5 pounds.
Stop treating your kitchen like an all-night diner and you’ll stop seeing those unwanted pounds piling onto your frame, too. The results of a study published in Cell Metabolism found that mice who only had access to food during an eight-hour period stayed slim over the course of the study, while those who ate the same number of calories over a 16-hour period gained significantly more weight, particularly around their middle. When you’re finished with dinner at night, shut the fridge and don’t look back until morning — your belly will thank you. When you do head back to the kitchen in the A.M., make sure the 40 Things Healthy Cooks Always Have in Their Kitchen are there waiting for you.

A new player in the weight loss program space, Noom packs a lot of behavioral psychology into one sophisticated app. It aims to help you identify and break bad habits, and have some fun doing it. The powerful app echoes Weight Watchers’ successful community approach, but outleagues that program in terms of learning resources. While it’s the more expensive of our two favorite programs, it’s the richer when it comes to virtual experience — with personalized lessons, tasks, and support that made us look forward to opening up the app.


Stress may contribute to abdominal fat, according to several studies, including a recent one at the University of California, San Francisco. "When you're stressed, hormones like cortisol stimulate your appetite, slow your metabolism down and encourage fat storage inside your abdomen," explains Shawn Talbott, Ph.D., director of the Nutrition Clinic at the University of Utah. So what's a frazzled girl to do? "Find an activity that reduces stress for you, whether it's listening to soothing music or taking yoga, and do it daily," advises Talbott.

Some cheat meals are better than others. And a high-carbohydrate, moderate-protein meal, however “naughty,” can help you stay on track. The reason: Carbohydrates have the greatest influence on leptin levels, which help you burn fat and feel satisfied. And protein has the greatest influence on satiety because of its influence on appetite-regulating hormones and high thermic effect—the process of digesting protein requires more energy of your body than any other macronutrient. Need an example? How about a few rolls of sushi? Steak and a potato? Pancakes and an egg white omelet? Spaghetti and meatballs? The options are virtually unlimited.


The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AKA the top nutrition authority in America) released a revised paper this year saying that both vegetarian and vegan diets are best for people's health as well as the environment. If you're not ready to make a complete shift to meatless and cheese-less, consider "part-time" vegan and vegetarian plans, where you eat mostly plant-based at breakfast and lunch or on weekdays, and then eat fish, meat, dairy, and eggs only during designated times.

For Gretchen Schupbach, 40, the key was sustainability. "I started with a lifestyle change from eating out every day to once a week. I started walking every day. When that got easy, I would add five more minutes until I worked myself up to an hour. Then, I started lifting weights every other day. I swapped white bread and rice for whole grain. I tried to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into my day, and brushed my teeth right after dinner so I wouldn't eat after," she says. By making these slow, steady changes, she was able to meet her goals.
There's a reason you've been hearing so much about cutting meat out of your diet lately. It's not just great for your body, but also a quick way to shed some extra pounds. "Consider swapping a few meat-centric meals each week for ones centered around vegetarian proteins — or give a full-fledged vegetarian diet a try if that's of interest to you," Gorin says. "Research shows eating a vegetarian diet may boost and speed up weight loss, resulting in a loss of up to 10 pounds." Gorin recommends topping a salad or filling a veggie taco with vegetarian protein sources like pulses — which are beans, chickpeas, lentils, and dried peas — to give your weight loss a boost. One study found eating ¾ cup of pulses daily led to a loss of close to a pound over about six weeks, versus people not eating pulses daily.
To figure out how many calories you burn a day, calculate your resting metabolic rate—the number of calories you burn daily doing routine activities, not including formal exercise—using this formula: RMR = bodyweight (in lbs) x 13. Next, determine how many calories you burn through exercise—a half-hour of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise burns around 350 calories in the average man, and a half-hour of lifting burns around 200. Add your RMR to the calories you burn in the gym, and keep your daily calorie consumption below that total.
Don’t let extra hours lounging in bed stand between you and a flatter belly. While getting enough sleep can help boost your metabolic rate, sleeping in may undo any benefit you’d enjoy from catching a few extra winks. One study reveals that late sleepers who snoozed past 10:45 in the morning ate nearly 250 more calories over the course of the day, despite eating half as many fruits and vegetables as their early bird counterparts. Even worse, they chowed down on more salty, sugary, and trans fat-laden fast food than those who woke up earlier. If you happen to head out of the house early, you’re in for an additional metabolic boost; researchers at Northwestern University have found that people exposed to just a short period of early morning sunlight had lower BMIs than their late-waking counterparts.
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