Tag Archives: belly fat

Burn More Belly Fat

Easy lifestyle choices that will transform your life for the slimmer


The Lean Belly Prescription

Travis Stork, M.D., host of The Doctors on TV, sees the devastating effects of belly fat every day in the E.R. at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville. Heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, sleep disorders, and more—all a result of people who are carrying too much weight.

The Lean Belly Prescription is his 911 response: to blast belly fat—stat! It’s filled with simple strategies that will help you lose weight the same way you gained it: By making easy lifestyle choices that will transform your life—but this time, for the better. Changing your body doesn’t always mean getting more mileage on your gym membership. Reap the benefits of what scientists term non-exercise aerobic thermogenesis, or “N.E.A.T.”

Get Outside

People who spent at least 20 minutes a day outdoors felt they had up to 20 percent more physical and mental energy than those who stayed inside thought they did, according to scientists at the University of Rochester.

Clock in Some Cardio

It can be as beneficial as a formal workout, according to a new study in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness. Just 20 minutes of playing soccer or dodgeball raised adults’ heartbeats to 88 percent of their maximum and burned 160 calories, researchers found.

Ball It Up

“Use a Swiss ball for 20 minutes every hour you sit at your desk,” says sports-performance coach Charles Staley, C.S.C.S., author of The Unnatural Athlete. The ball will not only keep you in perpetual motion, but also strengthen your core muscles, alleviating another side effect of too much sitting: back pain.

Get on Your Feet

When you talk on the phone, stand up. You won’t think of it as exercise, but it can help you burn as much as 54 calories for every 20-minute conversation. An alteration of as little as 100 calories a day can start you on the road to serious weight loss.

9 New Discoveries About Fat That Will Clarify A Lot

Finally! An end to the back and forth

One minute, you’re drenching everything you eat in olive oil, the next you’re filling your pantry with nothing but “fat-free” goodies. Figuring out fat is beyond confusing…and annoying. The great news: these 9 new fat facts are all you need to know to about choosing the right fats and navigating around the sketchy ones.

1. Limiting your fat intake is totally passé.
1. Limiting your fat intake is totally passé.

After a number of studies confirmed the heart-healthy benefits of a Mediterranean diet—which includes several sources of unsaturated fats—top academics are calling for change to the USDA recommendation to limit daily calories from fat. “The amount of total fat is irrelevant, and we shouldn’t be using any numerical rule,” says Walter Willett, chair of the department of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health. “But the type of fat is still relevant.” Aim to get the majority of your fats from whole foods such as nuts, fish, avocado, high-fiber grains, and olive oil, à la the Mediterranean diet (rather than 100-calorie snack packs). (These fit the bill perfectly.)

2. There are worse things than saturated fat.
2. There are worse things than saturated fat.

Namely, refined carbs and sugar (see for proof). While you may want to limit certain saturated fats, it’s no better to replace them with refined starch or sugar—for example, dropping butter in favor of jelly on your toast. It is helpful, on the other hand, to cut saturated fat if you replace it with unsaturated fat—for example, swapping butter with almond or peanut butter.

3. There is one type of fat you should never eat.
3. There is one type of fat you should never eat.

While saturated fat in moderate amounts is part of many healthy foods, such as olive oil and fish, trans fats should be avoided completely, Willett says. These artificial fats have no nutritional value and have been shown to raise “bad” LDL cholesterol and lower “good” HDL cholesterol, as well as increase risks of heart disease and diabetes. Learn more about

4. The best way to cut cravings is to crowd them out.
4. The best way to cut cravings is to crowd them out.

A Mediterranean-style diet rich in whole foods, especially vegetables, olive oil, nuts, seeds, fish, and whole grains, and low in processed foods, meats, and dairy, will cut your cravings for the bad stuff—saturated fat, refined starches, and sugar.

5. You can tell if you have dangerous visceral fat in 30 seconds.
5. You can tell if you have dangerous visceral fat in 30 seconds.

Okay, if you want to know for sure, you’ll have to have an abdominal MRI, which can cost several hundred dollars. The next best thing: This quick test, courtesy of Pamela Peeke, professor of medicine at the University of Maryland and author of :

  • Lie flat on the floor and press your index fingers right above one side of your pelvic bone.
  • As you push down, tighten up your abdominal muscles.
  • Walk your index fingers across your abdominal muscle wall to your belly button: “it should feel nice and flat, like a stretched out piece of plastic,” says Peeke. If it sticks up, you’ve got visceral fat, which is pushing your ab muscles up.
6. It's the size of your fat cells that matters.
6. It’s the size of your fat cells that matters.

White fat produces a hormone called adiponectin, which helps regulate insulin production. Thin people have small fat cells, which release more insulin-regulating adiponectin than the large fat cells that heavier people have. This is one of the reasons why being overweight can be bad for health. “When you gain weight and fat cells increase in size, they produce less adiponectin, which in turn raises risk of conditions like diabetes and heart disease,” explains Louis Aronne, MD, director of the Obesity Clinic at Cornell.

7. White fat—the type of fat you have most of—does burn calories.
7. White fat—the type of fat you have most of—does burn calories.

, only 2 calories a day per pound of fat. Far preferable: muscle, which burns 6 calories a day per pound. Here are .

8. There's one fat you need more of.
8. There’s one fat you need more of.

Most people need more brown fat, finds recent research. Like muscle, this stuff burns calories even when you’re at rest. And you can create additional stores of brown fat by exercising: Long bouts of aerobic exercise release the hormone iris in, which helps convert white fat into brown, according to one recent study. ()

9. The circumference of your waist can tell you your heart disease risk.
9. The circumference of your waist can tell you your heart disease risk.

Women with waists over 37 inches have an 80% higher risk of conditions like heart disease, lung problems or cancer compared to women whose waist span was under 27 inches, according to a Mayo Clinic review published this past March. Every two-inch increase translated into a 9% increased mortality risk.

10 Fat Fighters For Over 40

Pile your plate with these 10 slimming superfoods

Foods that fight fat: bell peppers
Bell peppers

Vitamin C is an unsung weight loss weapon, and one bell pepper provides twice your daily dose.

Foods that fight fat: Chili Powder
Chili powder

This spicy powder contains capsinoids, which burn belly fat. When volunteers in a 2009 study popped 6 g of capsinoid oil a day, they lost five times as much fat as those who didn’t.

Foods that fight fat: grapefruit

When volunteers ate half a grapefruit before every meal in a University of Arizona study, they shaved an inch off their waists, thanks to naringenin, which experts say may help burn fat. (Not a fan of plain grapefruit? Try these instead.)

Foods that fight fat: nonfat ricotta
Nonfat ricotta

Muscle loss as you age can tank your metabolism. Made from whey protein, ricotta can enhance muscle building and metabolism.

Foods that fight fat: romaine lettuce
Romaine lettuce

Filling up with a leafy green can trim the overall number of calories you eat by 10%; 2 cups of romaine rack up half your daily fill of vitamin A, plus 113% of bone-building vitamin K.

Foods that fight fat: nuts

Their satisfying trifecta of protein, healthy fat, and fiber can help you slim down. To slow your intake, choose nuts in their shells.

Foods that fight fat: melon

Satisfy your sweet tooth by spooning a thick slice from the rind for just 45 calories.

Foods that fight fat: canned salmon
Canned salmon

Protein requires more calories to digest and keeps you feeling full. With nearly 17 g of it per 3 ounces, salmon makes getting your fill of protein a breeze.

Foods that fight fat: edamame

Packed with an intelligent combo of protein, healthy fat, and fiber, these pods are guaranteed to keep you full and satisfied for hours.

Foods that fight fat: dark chocolate chips
Dark chocolate chips

These flavor bombs put the brakes on a craving. The little pieces fool you into thinking you’re getting more, helping you eat less, finds new research.

7 Ways To Beat Stress Fat

Anxiety is a powerful trigger for weight gain. Here’s how to stop it—fast.


Stress fat 101

For most of us, stress is a fact of life. Unfortunately, research reveals that it’s also a fact of fat. “Even if you usually eat well and exercise, chronic high stress can prevent you from losing weight—or even add pounds,” says Pamela Peeke, MD, author of .

Here’s what happens: Your body responds to all stress in exactly the same way. So every time you have a stressful day, your brain instructs your cells to release potent hormones. You get a burst of adrenaline, which taps stored energy so you can fight or flee. At the same time, you get a surge of cortisol, which tells your body to replenish that energy even though you haven’t used very many calories. This can make you hungry…very hungry. And your body keeps on pumping out that cortisol as long as the stress continues. (Balance your hormones and lose up to 15 pounds in just 3 weeks by learning how to reset your hormones! )

But few of us reach for carrots in these situations. “Instead, we crave sweet, salty, and high-fat foods because they stimulate the brain to release pleasure chemicals that reduce tension,” explains Elissa Epel, PhD, a researcher on stress eating at the University of California, San Francisco. This soothing effect becomes addicting, so every time you’re anxious, you want fattening foods.

With your adrenal glands pumping out cortisol, production of the muscle-building hormone testosterone slows down. “Over time, this drop causes a decrease in your muscle mass, so you burn fewer calories,” explains Shawn Talbott, PhD, author of . “This occurs naturally as you age, but high cortisol levels accelerate the process.” Cortisol also encourages your body to store fat—especially visceral fat, which is particularly dangerous because it surrounds vital organs and releases fatty acids into your blood, raising cholesterol and insulin levels and paving the way for heart disease and diabetes.

Obviously, getting rid of all anxiety isn’t an option. But by taking these 7 steps to beat stress, you can get your cortisol levels and your weight under control—and improve your health.

1. Drop and do 10.

That’s right, power out some push-ups. “Moving your muscles is an effective, instant stress reliever. It actually fools your body into thinking you’re escaping the source of your stress,” says Talbott. “Exercise makes your blood circulate more quickly, transporting the cortisol to your kidneys and flushing it out of your system.” But if push-ups aren’t practical, just flexing your hands or calf muscles will help move cortisol along, he says. Even taking a stroll on your lunch break is beneficial. In one study, Talbott found that 18 minutes of walking 3 times per week can quickly lower the hormone’s levels by 15%.

Watch to see this move in action.

2. Go slowly at meals
2. Go slowly at meals.

Under stress, we tend to scarf down even healthy food. In fact, research has linked this behavior to bigger portions and more belly fat. But Epel hypothesizes that slowing down, savoring each bite, and paying attention to feelings of fullness may lower cortisol levels along with decreasing the amount of food you eat, thereby shifting the distribution of fat away from the belly.

3. Stop strict dieting
3. Stop strict dieting.

It’s ironic, but research shows that constant dieting can make cortisol levels rise as much as 18%. In addition, when your cortisol levels spike, your blood sugar goes haywire, first rising, then plummeting. This makes you cranky and (you guessed it) ravenous. When your brain is deprived of sugar—its main fuel—self-control takes a nosedive, and your willpower doesn’t stand a chance. (Balance your hormones and lose up to 15 pounds in just 3 weeks by learning how to reset your hormones! )

4. Give in to cravings‚ a little
4. Give in to cravings‚ a little.

When stress drives you toward something sweet or salty, it’s okay to yield a little. “It’s much better to indulge in a small way and cut off your cortisol response before it gets out of control,” says Epel. “Have a piece of chocolate. You will feel better. Just stop at one.” If you have trouble restraining yourself, take precautions so you won’t binge. Buy a single cookie when you’re out instead of keeping a box at home; or keep them in the freezer so you have to wait for one to defrost.

5. Curtail caffeine
5. Curtail caffeine.

Next time you’re under duress, choose decaf. When you combine stress with caffeine, it raises cortisol levels more than stress alone. In one study by the University of Oklahoma, consuming the equivalent of 2½ to 3 cups of coffee while under mild stress boosted cortisol by about 25%—and kept it up for 3 hours. When subjects took 600 mg of caffeine (the equivalent of 6 cups of java) throughout the day, the hormone went up by 30% and stayed high all day long. You’ll experience these effects even if your body is accustomed to a lot of lattes. And because high cortisol levels can contribute to stress eating, you might want to consider quitting caffeine altogether.

6. Power up breakfast
6. Power up breakfast.

Deficiencies in B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, and magnesium are stressful to your body. And these deficiencies lead to increased cortisol levels and food cravings, says Talbott. But you can fight back by eating a breakfast that’s high in these nutrients. He suggests some OJ, a grapefruit, or a large handful of strawberries to supply vitamin C; 6 to 8 ounces of low-fat yogurt, which contains calcium and magnesium; and a whole grain bagel or toast with a bit of peanut butter. Whole grains are bursting with B vitamins, while peanut butter contains fatty acids that can decrease the production of stress hormones.

7. Sleep it off
7. Sleep it off.

The most effective stress-reduction strategy of all: Get enough shut-eye. “Your body perceives sleep deprivation as a major stressor,” says Talbott. A University of Chicago study found that getting an average of 6½ hours each night can increase cortisol, appetite, and weight gain. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7 to 9 hours. As if that weren’t enough, other research shows that lack of sleep also raises levels of ghrelin, a hunger-boosting hormone. In one study, appetite—particularly for sweet and salty foods—increased by 23% in people who lacked sleep. The good news: A few nights of solid sleep can bring all this back into balance, and getting enough regularly helps keep it there. Says Talbott, “You’ll eat less, and you’ll feel better, too.”

Bring on the Cheese! 7 Portion Size Rules for High-Fat Foods

“Fats increase satiety, which means they help us feel satisfied,” says Lauren Slayton, MS RD, author of . “Certain types of fat also help us lose body fat during weight loss.”

Not to mention, the healthy fats found in whole foods, like avocados, olive oil and nuts (sorry, not the processed fats found in ), are an essential element in every diet — whether the goal is weight loss or not. As Slayton points out, fat is essential for the absorption of some nutrients, like vitamins A, D, E and K — plus, fat can help ease constipation.

With that said, fats are still higher in calories than other foods. As explained by , fats have nine calories per gram compared to the four calories per gram found in protein and carbohydrates. In other words, the same amount of fat provides more than twice as many calories. That’s why it’s important to keep your portion sizes in check. Luckily, we’ve rounded up the ultimate cheat sheet to prevent you from taking your love for cheese and a little too far. Check it out, then dig in.

7 Portion Size Rules for Healthy High-Fat Foods

Avocado Portion Size

1. Avocado

Portion size: Half an avocado, or the size of a computer mouse

Between and , our love for avocados is endless. Yet, recommended serving sizes for this fruit (yes, fruit) are all over the place — from to to . Lucky for us, research leans toward the higher end of this range, with that half an avocado at lunch helped people feel full longer with less desire to snack later. Assuming don’t have the whole fruit in front of you to gauge, your serving size should be about the size of a computer mouse (not quite the size of your face, guac lovers).

Healthy Grilled Cheese

2. Cheese

Portion size: 1.5 ounces, or the size of a lipstick tube

As anyone who’s hovered over the cheese platter at a party can agree, “Cheese is a food that can be abused,” Slayton says. She recommends keeping your portion to the size of a tube of lipstick, and avoiding overly processed cheeses and spreads (sorry, Cheez Whiz). , opting for full-fat, organic cheese gives you a higher dose of good-for-you omega-3 fatty acids, too.

Egg Whites or Whole Eggs

3. Eggs

Portion size: Two whole eggs, or about 1/2 cup scrambled

Conventional wisdom once held that eating egg yolks led to higher cholesterol and heart disease, but has debunked that myth. Whether you’re starting your day sunny-side up or snacking on hard-boiled eggs, keep your serving to two whole eggs. (If you’re scooping scrambled eggs off a buffet, two eggs would be about half a cup, or the size of a slice of bread.)

Miso Salmon Recipe

4. Fatty Meats and Seafood

Portion size: 3 ounces, or about the size of your palm

The types of fat in meat varies widely, , and while saturated fat isn’t condemned by doctors as it once was, the polyunsaturated fats in fish are still preferable. (In other words, the saturated fats in red meat might not be bad for you, but they aren’t as good for you as the fats in seafood either.) are mackerel, trout, herring, tuna and salmon. Regardless of whether you go for fish or meat, the ideal portion size is about the palm of your hand.

Peach Greek Yogurt

5. Milk products

Portion size: 1 cup, or about the size of a baseball

When it comes to milk and yogurt, Slayton’s advice is to “skip the skim,” as there is generally more net sugar in fat-free options. Instead, consider full-fat milk and full-fat or low-fat yogurt, and go for a portion size of one cup (eight ounces), or about the size of a baseball if you’re eye-balling it.

Peanut Butter for allergies

6. Nut butters

Portion size: 1 tablespoon, or about half a golf ball

Slayton’s favorite nut butter is sunflower butter (yes, technically a seed butter), as it offers linoleic acid, which has been shown to reduce belly fat. However, , all nut butters can be a healthy option, offering protein, fiber and a wide array of vitamins and minerals in addition to healthy fats. Just keep an eye out for added sugars and preservatives. As for serving size, stick to one tablespoon or half a golf ball, with a maximum of two servings per day (yup, that’s the whole golf ball for those keeping track at home).

Bulletproof Coffee Butter

7. Oils, Butter and Ghee

Portion size: 1 tablespoon, or about the size of a poker chip

The huge range of fat options for both cooking and serving can be overwhelming. While there are lots of articles suggesting the dozen different oils you should cook with for every possible case, Slayton’s recommendation is to keep things simple and stick with coconut oil for high-heat cooking (e.g. frying, sauteeing, stir-fying), and olive oil for lower temps (oven cooking, for example). Butter is also a safe bet for lower temps. Regardless of which you choose, your portion size should be one tablespoon per person per meal. That’s approximately the size of a poker chip if you’re the gambling type.

Once you’ve got your portion sizes down, remember to make the most of your high-fat diet. Focus on high-quality foods. “ is very different nutritionally from conventional butter. Raw nuts are different from roasted,” Slayton says. Finally, aim to eat a wide variety of high-fat foods, but don’t go overboard. Her guideline is one “added” fat per meal (e.g. nuts, cheese, or avocado on a salad — not all three).

5 Daily Habits Of Someone With A Flat Belly

Daily Habits Of People With Flat Bellies

It’s not all about and salads. The secret to getting and maintaining a flat belly comes down to adopting a few key habits and sticking with them. () Luckily, none of these changes are major—but put together, they can have a huge impact. Below, 5 things that have become second nature for people with flat bellies.

They don't eat their oatmeal plain
They don’t eat their oatmeal plain.

Or their cereal. Or their yogurt. Adding a handful of fruit goes a long way toward promoting a slimmer midsection (not to mention amping up flavor). published in the suggests that flavonoids—particularly ones called anthocyanins, which lend fruits like blueberries, strawberries, and cherries their dark hue—may promote weight loss. (Try them in these .) For every 10 milligrams of anthocyanins people consumed per day, they weighed 0.2 pounds less, researchers found. That might not sound like a lot, but it can add up fast: A half cup of blueberries contains 12 times that many anthocyanins—so you could, in theory, weigh 2.4 pounds less by eating a handful every day.

And previous research in rats suggests that these antioxidants may also impact brain chemicals involved in appetite. “Some of those studies found that higher flavonoid intake decreased energy intake and increased energy expenditure, which are two ways eating flavonoid-rich foods may relate to weight maintenance,” says study author Monica Bertoia, PhD, a research associate at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Talk to yourself
They talk to themselves.

It may sound corny, but it’s effective (and no one says you have to do it out loud). “Asking yourself one simple question on a daily basis is very powerful,” says Robby D’Angelo, who lost 115 pounds and coauthored . “And the question is, ‘Will this choice get me closer to or further away from my goals?’ ” This is especially helpful when you’re debating whether to house a big piece of chocolate cake or whether to go for a post-dinner walk or relax on the couch.

Take it one step further by writing down your next goal—like fitting into a dress you bought to wear to a wedding this spring—on a business card to keep in your wallet, or scribble it on your bathroom mirror with a dry-erase marker. In a study published in the , envisioning the benefits of not eating a high-calorie food worked better than other strategies.

Walking is more than transportation
They see walking as more than a mode of transportation.

That is, they actively focus on getting enough steps in. And making it a priority works, even when it comes to : Moderately active people reduce their rate of abdominal fat accumulation by 7%, compared with those who move less, according to published in . (Burn calories and build muscle—all while boosting your mood—with our !)

Donna Mero, a Rochester, NY, woman who lost 100 pounds between 2012 and 2013 and has kept it off, found creative ways to work more steps into her day. “Sometimes it was weird things like walking the mall before I went shopping or getting someplace 20 minutes early so I could get a 20-minute walk in without having to worry about arriving on time,” she says.

Always have a water bottle
They keep a water bottle in their bag at all times.

and you’re sure to see results around your waistline: in the showed that soda drinkers had 10% more visceral fat—the dangerous belly fat that lurks around organs—than those who avoided the fizzy stuff.

In in the , people who drank more water gained less weight. Every cup per day was linked to 0.29 pounds less weight gain over the next 4 years. (Spruce up your water with these .) Meanwhile, every cup of sugar-sweetened beverages or fruit juice added to the number on the scale. “Drink at least 8 ounces of water first thing in the morning to rehydrate yourself, and keep a reusable water bottle with you during the day,” says Nicole Avena, PhD, an assistant professor of pharmacology and systems therapeutics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. “This will help prevent you from overeating at meals.”

Practice mindfulness
You’ve heard it a million times, but they also practice…you guessed it…

! But really, it pays off. In published in the journal , mindful people were more likely to lose weight over the next 12 months than those in a control group. So tune in while you eat. “Turn off the TV, put away the laptop, put down the tablet reader, and simply focus on enjoying your meal as you eat it,” says study author Ashley Mason, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “People feel more satisfied after eating without multitasking, and may therefore be less likely to go seek other food rewards later on. Try eating one meal without distraction—mindfully—each day, and note how you feel afterwards.”

And consider practicing mindfulness not only at the dinner table. In a recent study published in the , mindful people had less trunk and upper body fat than those who were less adept at non-judgmentally evaluating their mind and body processes.

5 Foods That Can Help You Burn More Fat


Let’s be super clear: Despite the latest claims, no one superfood or magical ingredient will melt away belly fat. To do that, you’ve got to go low-sugar, eliminate food intolerances, get great sleep, control stress levels, and do the right exercise.

But once you’re doing all that, a few tweaks can control your appetite, reduce inflammation, rev your metabolism, crush cravings, and otherwise dial up fat loss a few notches.

These five science-based hacks are readily available, taste good, easily fit into your diet, and could become the needle-movers to give fat loss a favorable nudge.

Lemon juice

You may have heard of having to support good digestion. I did this when I lived in Japan years ago. Turns out a few tablespoons of lemon juice just before or during a meal may also help lower your blood sugar response from that meal. One mice found lemon polyphenols suppressed body weight gain and body fat accumulation. Also try a glass of sparkling water with lemon juice during your meal or squeeze some lemon onto your salad or your fish.


Cinnamon can reduce blood glucose levels because it slows stomach emptying, making you feel full faster. One found cinnamon improves glucose balance in people with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, making it one of the . It doesn’t take much: One and a half teaspoons a day seems to do the trick. Just make sure it’s fresh cinnamon, as its polyphenols and active ingredients degrade over time.

cayenne pepper

Cayenne can help you and curb hunger, and it’s one of the . You can get that same effect with some hot sauce or hot peppers. Studies among its benefits, capsaicin (the phytochemical that gives peppers spiciness) can increase metabolic rate, increasing fat burning. A nondairy, soy-free, plant-based or defatted beef chocolate protein powder blended with avocado, coconut milk, and one-quarter teaspoon cayenne (easy there) tastes amazing. Cayenne can really provide that get-up-and-go morning kick!


Inflammation becomes a key culprit in nearly every disease while holding your weight hostage. I sprinkle anti-inflammatory, nutrient-packed turmeric on nearly everything, including my veggies. Studies its active ingredient, curcumin, can reduce obesity, and help . If you’re not using turmeric regularly or really want to boost those anti-inflammatory benefits, a professional-quality curcumin supplement is the way to go.


Freshly ground flaxseed is my favorite shake add-on since it’s an amazing source of omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which helps reduce inflammation and . Studies flaxseed added to a weight loss diet could reduce inflammation, so it becomes a win-win. Plus flaxseed provides crave-busting fiber. Always buy whole, preferably organic flaxseeds and grind them yourself in a coffee grinder, since the fragile fatty acids can quickly go rancid.

4 Types Of Belly Bulges And How To Fix Them

4 types of belly bulges
Paunch. Pooch. Pudge. Whatever you call it, no one wants it. But if you’re serious about , you first have to figure out what’s causing it.

Sure, sometimes it’s as simple as too much ice cream and not enough . But a protruding tummy may also be caused by a number of other reasons, ranging from genetics to a past pregnancy or just . (Here are 4 common types of big bellies and the corresponding prescriptions to flatten them out.

(Tighten your tummy and tone every inch in just minutes a day with these exclusive ballet-inspired routines from )

menopot belly bulge

Before , many women carry excess weight on their hips and thighs. But once “the change” happens, estrogen levels plummet, and even formerly pear-shaped women can develop round tummies. Meanwhile, testosterone drops, too. “By losing testosterone, you lose muscle mass. And when you lose muscle mass, it ,” says Steven A.R. Murphy, MD, an assistant professor at New York Medical College. “It becomes much harder to process simple carbohydrates, and that leads to fat storage.”

Another reason menopause can lead to pudge? “When your hormones change, your sleep changes, too,” Murphy says. “This causes your fat cells to trigger cortisol, a stress hormone that leads to belly fat storage.”

To get flatter abs in your 50s and beyond, Murphy suggests skipping the CrossFit or SoulCycle classes: Even though these activities burn a lot of calories, they’re so intense that they can prompt your body to make more cortisol. Instead, he while holding hand weights and keeping your heart rate between 90 to 110. That type of more moderate exercise will help you torch belly fat without kicking up the cortisol.

post-pregnancy pouch
Post-pregnancy pooch

When you get pregnant, your stomach stretches to incorporate amniotic fluid, a widening uterus–and, oh yeah, a brand new human being. Unfortunately, everything doesn’t just go back to normal the second you give birth, and many women complain of a bulge that never seems to disappear.

Part of the reason is hormonal: Pregnancy causes insulin levels to spike, which can cause more fat to be stored in your midsection. But a far more common post-pregnancy issue is diastasis recti, a separation of the right and left abdominal wall muscles that occurs when the uterus stretches to accompany the growing fetus.

If diastatsis recti is your problem, “” may help, says Murphy, who advises patients to sit at a desk and squeeze their pelvic muscles together as though they’re trying to stop a stream of urine, then try to squeeze through the pelvic floor and up through the abdomen (so you’re contracting your stomach as well).

Yoga and breathing exercises can also be helpful. (Try this .) “When you breathe deeply, you use your diaphragm. With yoga and breathing, you really work with your ab muscles, and then they’ll strengthen and come back together over time,” says Murphy. If all else fails, you may need an abdominoplasty (tummy tuck) to repair the rift.

If you don’t have diastasis recti (ask your doc if you’re not sure)—or if you had gestational diabetes—Murphy recommends getting your insulin checked to make sure that you haven’t become insulin resistant or prediabetic. If so, you might need a drug called metformin.

classic apple belly pouch
Classic apple

If lots of women in your family have big bellies (rather than big hips or big butts), your DNA may be stacked against you. “About 50 to 60% of and is based on genetics,” says Murphy. “You can’t really change genes. But what you can do is modify their expression.” Simply put, genetics may predispose a woman to gain weight in her midsection—but diet and exercise can influence how much weight stays on, and where.

“The best thing to do to is to stay away from simple carbs” while loading up on lean protein, says Murphy, who explains that it takes more energy to burn protein. (Here’s .) When you do eat carbs, choose whole grains, which are high in filling fiber so you’ll eat less. Plenty of cardio helps, too.

Chrissy Barth, RDN, a registered dietitian, yoga coach, and CEO of a nutrition consulting practice in Phoenix, urges clients not to harp on their family history too much. “If people go around thinking, ‘My mother is overweight and I’m destined to be overweight, too,’ that’s depressing! And if you stress over it, it can cause cortisol to spike, and that will cause you to gain weight.”

bloated belly
Bloated belly

The problem here is really gas or fluid retention rather than fat, and , says Barth. But what’s making your tummy puff up? It’s different for everyone. Some people are just bothered by certain foods. Others may have a food allergy or a condition such as .

Barth often urges clients to limit their intake of animal protein while getting more fruits and vegetables, but it’s important to make the swap slowly and ; otherwise, the increase in fiber could temporarily cause you to become even more bloated. Other patients turn out to be intolerant or sensitive to gluten, so they may have to cut back on grains (or, if they have celiac disease, eliminate them entirely).

To sort it out, you may need some testing (such as to check for or food allergies). Going on an —in which you stop eating a vast array of potentially problematic foods and slowly re-introduce them—may also be in order before for you to deflate.

5 Signs Out-Of-Whack Hormones Are Causing Your Stubborn Belly Fat—And How To Fix Them

Can’t seem to stop pinching that inch (or three)? Before you blame it on lack of willpower, consider that your hormones may be getting in your way.

Research shows that it doesn’t take much of a for your body to start packing on the pounds, especially around your midsection. Something as simple as eating carbs for breakfast or getting too little sleep can create an imbalance. What’s worse, that extra padding, called , can churn out stress hormones like cortisol, that actually lead to belly fat storage.

Here are 5 signs your hormones are getting between you and a trimmer waistline—from !)—and how to get them back on track.

1. Metabolism moving at a crawl

Thyroid hormones keep everything humming along. The masters of energy conversion, thyroid hormones (TSH, T3, and T4) drive virtually every cell in your body. When all three hormones are functioning as a team, your metabolism is a fat-burning machine. , allergic responses, or just getting older can throw them off.

Growth hormone (GH) and acetylcholine are also essential to the metabolism equation. They’re released when you sleep and work to repair and build muscle tissue. Over-exercising and skimping on sleep can get in the way of burning fat and keeping your metabolism revved. Stress increases belly-broadening cortisol and suppresses your GH levels.

2. Insulin insensitivity

Adiponectin is essential to the fat-burning process. A hormone that is produced in our , adiponectin helps us lose weight by increasing our insulin sensitivity. Remember, insulin tells us whether to store or burn fat. So if your body is more in tune with your energy needs, you’ll lose the pudge—and not muscle tone—more easily. Greater levels of adiponectin mean more energy burned, even at rest. Eating a high-carb diet and skipping exercise will knock this hormone out of whack (here are .)

low energy
3. Low energy

When we eat , insulin spikes, telling our bodies to store fat—too many carbs, too much fat. But we can’t cut out all carbs forever—we need some for immediate fuel, otherwise we create a bad hormonal chain reaction that can affect our energy levels. Plus, you want to be burning sugar (not protein) for fuel to maintain muscle tone.

This is where the glucagon plays a role—it helps regulate blood sugar levels, telling the body when to use stored fat and sugars, say, after you exercise. If you’re not getting enough fruits, veggies, or whole grains, along with protein, you may have low glucagon levels, and throughout the day feel like you’re swimming through pudding.

no gas
4. No gas when you need it

Another hormone, adrenaline, accelerates fat loss and boosts energy. Also known as epinephrine, adrenaline is responsible for quickly revving you up (think fight or flight response and how that makes you feel).

This handy hormone allows the body to free up stored fats and so you have that burst of energy when you really need it. If you’re too frequently in an amped up state, though, you’re overproducing adrenaline, which means that when you really have to step on the gas, the tank will be empty.

sex drive
5. MIA libido

A key sex hormone, DHEA, is also often touted as the anti-aging hormone. While it boosts libido and helps you feel focused, youthful, and energetic, it amps up your immune system, too. DHEA, along with , protects muscle tissue, which burns more calories than fat. DHEA and testosterone naturally decline with age, stress, and illness. Many times when your libido is low, you’re not sleeping well either, and as studies show, poor sleep translates to weight gain.

The fix

Boost your by exercising (walking or strength training at least 5 days a week), getting at least 7½ to 9 hours of sleep, and eating nutritionally balanced meals (that means trying to eat one protein, one carb, one fat, and one fiber at each meal, four times a day).

To balance your thyroid and growth hormone, in addition to sleep and exercise, make sure you consume lean protein based on your body weight and gender—most women need about 38 grams a day.

If your adiponectin and/or glucagon levels are low, eat a , including healthy fats, to support your insulin balance and keep your blood sugar in check, in addition to walking and weight training.

When it comes to boosting your DHEA, to boost serotonin for better sleep. (Sleep also regenerates the adrenal glands, which produce DHEA and reduces cortisol.) Also, have sex at least twice a week—orgasms spark DHEA levels, too! Any stress-reducing activity will stimulate this essential hormone.

Learn more about exactly how to rebalance your fat-burning hormones and lose the belly fat for good with !

5 Basic Rules You Need To Follow If You’re Trying To Erase Belly Fat

losing belly fat

Lots of women who set out to set their sights on a . But if you don’t have a plan of attack to specifically target belly fat, your diet and workout plan could be all for nothing.

So before you embark on your next belly-fat eliminating mission, here are a few things you need to know.

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losing belly fat
It’s about more than looks.

from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis suggests that people with a lot of fat around their waist have an increased risk of chronic issues like heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. That’s because unlike subcutaneous fat, which hangs out directly under the skin, belly fat (aka visceral fat) hangs in and around your vital organs, says Albert Matheny, RD, CSCS, a registered dietitian and trainer with in New York City. That goes for women who are at an otherwise “healthy” weight, too.

Your first order of business: Check your waist circumference. In women, measurements of 35 inches and greater are associated with a significant increase for chronic disease.

losing belly fat
Genetics play a role.

If you’re reading this, chances are you didn’t win the genetic lottery—at least not when it comes to belly fat. Actually, 2013 research published in the journal suggests that there are five different genes that play into the amount of fat you store around your middle. Womp. Before you get super bummed though, remember that genetics influence only your susceptibility to a large waistline. It’s your lifestyle that ultimately runs the show.

Still it’s important to stay realistic when going after belly fat, says Georgie Fear, RD, author of . If healthy nutrition, , and stress management (we’ll hit how to optimize all three below) don’t make your abs looked Photoshopped, that’s okay. (Get lean, strong, sexy muscles with The from Women’s Health.)

losing belly fat
Building muscle can help.

Losing belly fat all comes down to muscle, which keeps your metabolic rate high and improves insulin sensitivity to prohibit fat from globbing onto your middle, Matheny says. In fact, a 2015 study of 10,500 adults shows that strength training fights belly fat better than . Shoot for at least three to four days of strength training per week.

While lifting weights is bomb for fat loss, you can get the biggest benefits by combining regular strength exercises with a . One study from found that women who get 30% of their daily calories from protein lose twice as much belly fat as women who follow low-protein diets. With that in mind, aim to eat between 25 and 30 grams of protein—about the equivalent of half a chicken breast—at every meal.

losing belly fat
The quality of your calories matter.

Even if you’re already getting the right amount of macronutrients (like carbs and protein), you can’t discount the importance of getting them from quality sources—meaning whole foods. Many are lacking in fiber and filled with chemicals that can throw off hormone levels and how your body stores fat, says Fear. Whole, quality foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and grass-fed beef supply your body with the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that keep belly fat off.

losing belly fat
You have to get your stress levels in check.

Constantly elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol don’t just promote fat retention, they send it straight to your stomach, Matheny says. And that goes for mental and physical.

Common stressors that stand in the way of your fat-torching goals include (if your workouts have plateaued, you might need to schedule some more rest), crazy workloads, and lack of sleep. In fact, research from shows that getting five hours or less of shut-eye per night is tightly linked with increased visceral fat. Aim to get seven to nine hours a night and schedule some deep-breathing between meetings to slash stress and work toward your belly goals.

7 Women Share How They Finally Lost Their Belly Fat

lose belly fat
If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you’ve probably seen your boobs disappear while your belly fat just stays put. So unfair.

But it doesn’t have to go down this way.

Since belly fat is notoriously stubborn, we went straight to the women who’ve ditched the extra weight around their midsections to find out exactly how they conquered the battle of the belly bulge. Snag their tips and get closer to your goals.

lose belly fat
“I got into fitness competitions.”

After having three children, Shantea Johnson felt frumpy and wanted to from her belly and hips. “I honestly had no idea how I could accomplish this feat, but I was determined,” she says. “Coincidentally, a friend introduced me to the world of fitness competitions, and I began working with a trainer who taught me the importance of nutrition and how it’s connected with obtaining the results I wanted.”

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Shantea gave up soda and started eating five to six small, structured meals a day; each meal contained protein, a complex carb, and vegetables. Shantea went from 150 pounds in June 2012 to 120 pounds in October 2012 after cleaning up her nutrition, exercising five to six days per week, and completing abs-focused workouts two days a week. “To my surprise, my transformation revealed abs that I had never seen before in my life,” Shantea says.

She also went on to compete in her first fitness competition, placing third. She continues to compete, and at age 42, she’s been able to keep the weight off and maintain her abs. To keep her stomach toned, she does Abs Ripper workouts, as well as exercises like planks and crunches.

I Lost 85 Pounds By Hula Hooping
“I Hula-Hooped.”

For , weight loss was a game. To get in shape, she Hula-Hooped for 30 minutes straight at least five days a week with the 2-pound , which is weighted to make the workout more challenging. “I watch TV while hooping and challenge myself to add in arm movements during commercials,” she says. Over the course of 11 months, she lost a total of 80 pounds and toned her stomach.

Cori also went cold turkey on soda. Before she was drinking about four cans of Coke a day, but now she sticks to water. She fills up a 1-gallon jug each morning and makes it a goal to finish drinking it by the end of the day.

lose belly fat
“I started doing HIIT workouts.”

After having three kids in 2 years, Kate Glazer packed on more pounds than she realized. It got to the point where she didn’t even recognize herself in photos. “If I hadn’t known what I wore that day, I wouldn’t have recognized myself,” she says. To make a change, she started watching what she ate more carefully and taking walks around her neighborhood. But as winter approached in Baltimore, she had to take her workouts inside. She started working out on a , doing high-intensity (HIIT) workouts on the machine, which she says allowed her to shed the belly fat. She’s lost 60 pounds over the course of her fitness journey.

“I perfected my sit-ups.”

In college, was overweight and coveted Britney Spears’ abs, so she started eating healthier by figuring out what foods she had an intolerance to and learning how to get more out of her workouts. A trainer also pointed out that Dorothy’s sit-ups could be more effective by tilting her pelvis up, so her back lies flat on the floor. She also does Pilates and yoga.

5 Women Share How Yoga Helped Them Lose Weight
“I learned to love yoga.”

had a tough time getting into yoga. Actually, it bored her. But when she ripped a calf muscle during a Zumba class and had to find an alternative way to work out, she tried an outdoor class that took place in a garden. It got her hooked on the practice. She started doing yoga three times a week, and then sought out more challenging classes as her body adapted. She says she lost about 10 pounds in 6 weeks and seriously strengthened her core. (Get the secret to banishing belly fat from readers who’ve done it with )

“I started using a balance board.”

After Rachael Novello’s daughter was born, she was anxious to get back in shape. “Being a personal trainer and former figure competitor, I know the idea of returning to your pre-baby body is a fantasy,” says Rachael, a mom of two. She knew losing the residual fat her body built up wasn’t going to be easy, even though she ate healthy and exercised daily. In June 2016, just 8 weeks after her daughter was born, she started using a , which is a balancing board that comes with recommended strength and balance moves. She says that she made the most of the StrongBoard while watching television or folding laundry. “Very quickly, I saw my entire body changing shape, but most noticeably my core.” The StrongBoard, she says, helped contract her core while she was doing other tasks. Rachael says that an active pregnancy, eating a diet that was high in fiber with a balance of complex carbs and healthy fats, and balance training helped her shed the last bit of belly fat from her pregnancy. Rachael, who owns a boutique fitness studio, combines her StrongBoard workouts with other training, including lunges, , and biceps curls.

“I stopped drinking alcohol.”

During her freshman year of college, adopted some late-night habits that led to the storied “freshman 15.” Downing sugary, boozy drinks, followed up with junk food led to next-day hangovers and . She noticed the weight gain most in her stomach and lower back. But when she went on a family vacation, she reverted to her healthier habits, like early-morning runs instead of trips for bagels and coffee, and started abstaining from alcohol. After 6 months of not drinking, she lost “the booze belly” and the 15 pounds she gained. Now, she only drinks on special occasions and enjoys a glass of wine or a simple cocktail, like a vodka soda, rather than sugar-loaded drinks.

6 Ways To Make Italian Food Flat Belly-Friendly

The melted cheese, the sweet sauces, the . When all of these flavors and textures come together on a plate, the combination is one that few can resist. In fact, Italian food is the most regularly eaten ethnic cuisine in the United States. Unfortunately for our collective waistlines, it’s also among the most caloric, according to a study.

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But that doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite dishes to lose weight. While you probably already know that whole grain is healthier than white spaghetti, there are other, lesser-known ways to make pasta dishes, meatballs, even , flat belly-friendly. Here are some of the easiest to pull off:

flat belly italian food
Swap your proteins.

Adding protein to your pie or pasta bowl will help you stay fuller longer, which in turn, can help you say no to seconds. But not just any source of the nutrient will do. Prosciutto, pepperoni, sausage, and many other Italian-style meats are far too rich in saturated fat and belly-bloating salt to be considered healthy.

To stay on track with your diet, add chicken, roasted ham, anchovies, or meatballs (made with 90% lean beef and chopped mushrooms) to your favorite dishes, instead, suggests , a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.

Following a vegetarian or vegan plan? Top your pie with protein-packed vegetables like cooked spinach (3 g per ½-cup serving) or broccoli (2 g per ½-cup serving), and one of these . “These healthier alternatives are not only more diet-friendly, but they’re also a good source of , iron, zinc, and B vitamins.” (Check out how this .)

flat belly italian food
Pair carbs with veggies.

Despite conventional wisdom, things like Italian bread, spaghetti Bolognese, and ravioli aren’t inherently “bad” for you. But the way we prepare them in America—typically without vegetables—isn’t the healthiest or most authentic way to enjoy them. (Check out Premium’s compelling case for .)

“Eating bread with butter or olive oil, for example, is unheard of in Italy. There, people dip their bread into vegetable soup or use it to mop up the salad dressing that’s lingering on their plates,” says Chicago-area registered dietitian . “When carbs are paired with fiber-rich vegetables, as they often are in authentic Italian dishes, they’re absorbed far more slowly, which helps ward off blood sugar and hunger spikes.”

Adding more veggies to classic Italian dishes is also a smart way to lower the calorie count. “If you are watching your weight, aim to have more veggies and protein on your plate and less of the pasta,” says , a registered nutritionist practicing in Connecticut. “Stick to one cup of cooked pasta and jazz up your dish with lots of veggies and some protein like chicken, shrimp, or .”

Learn to make a gremolata.

“Gremolata is an Italian garnish of raw, finely chopped garlic, fresh parsley, and lemon zest,” explains Chloe Coscarelli, celebrity chef and author of . “It adds huge amounts of flavor with far fewer calories and fat than creamy or oily sauces.” (When you’re craving a rich, creamy pasta dish but don’t feel like going all out on the cheese, cream, and calories, )

For a meal so delicious you’ll forget all about that soggy Alfredo sauce, sauté wild mushrooms and spinach in some olive oil, mix ¾-cup of the veggies with a ¾-cup serving of whole grain pasta together in a bowl, and top with Coscarelli’s go-to gremolata recipe:

¼ cup fresh Italian parsley

2 cloves garlic, finely minced or crushed

Zest of 1 lemon

1 Tbsp olive oil

¼ tsp sea salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Mixall ingredients together in a small bowl, and spoon it over your dish. Serves 4.

Grass fed cheese
Use grass-fed cheese.

Back in the 90’s when many folks feared dietary fat, cheese earned itself a pretty bad rap. Even though we now know that fat is not the enemy, many still assume cheese can’t be part of a healthy weight loss plan. But that’s simply not true (check out these ). In fact, in one British study, study participants who ate a high-protein, moderate-calorie cheese snack consumed less during their next meal than those who skipped the creamy treat. Researchers say this is likely because cheese is a good source of filling protein.

Of course, it’s easy to overdo it; the key is portion control and picking the right variety. “If you love Parmesan, you don’t have to avoid it. One tablespoon of shredded Parmesan, for instance, is only 22 calories, while a one-ounce serving is 112 calories,” Schapiro says. “Fresh mozzarella is also a good option. It has 85 calories per ounce, which isn’t too bad compared to other cheeses.”

Another way to use cheese in your favor: Buy varieties. “Cheeses from grass-fed animals are higher in omega-3 fats, which may aid weight-loss efforts,” says Schapiro. “They also provide a higher concentrations of various vitamins than cheese from grain-fed cows.”

Choose a better marinara.

When it’s made in a factory, marinara is often filled with sugar and salt to boost its shelf life. And that’s bad news for your diet. One recent Australian study found that people who consume a high sodium diet actually crave, and subsequently consume, more fatty foods than those who eat less salt.

“Look for a sauce that has less than 450 milligrams of sodium and less than four grams of sugar per serving,” Schapiro says. “If you want a sauce that’s even healthier, make it yourself. Use canned peeled Italian plum tomatoes, mix it with low-sodium tomato paste, and season the mixture with your favorite spices.” (Thisdelicious is packed with tasty veggies and has just 46 calories per serving.)

flat belly italian food
Mix noodles with zoodles.

If you don’t love the idea of eating zucchini noodles (aka zoodles) in lieu of spaghetti, we don’t blame you—the taste and texture aren’t for everyone. But if you have a tough time sticking to a reasonable portion of pasta, it’s worth trying to find a spiralized vegetable you like. Everything from carrots and yellow squash to butternut squash and parsnips can be turned into veggie noodles. (Don’t have a spiralizer? No problem. Here are )

“If you absolutely cannot bear to give up pasta entirely, doing half vegetable noodles and half whole grain is a great option that’s rich in fiber,” Schapiro says. A half-cup serving of each topped with a wholesome sauce and a small sprinkle of cheese is filling and hits all the right flavor notes. (For even more weight loss-friendly noodle ideas, don’t miss these .)