Besides being called love handles, there’s nothing cute about that jiggle around your midsection. Not only does it affect your appearance, your health also suffers, because excess belly fat is linked to serious conditions including heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Reducing fat in one area, or spot reduction, is impossible. The only way you can slim down your belly is by losing weight from your entire body. When this happens, the excess jiggle around your midsection will also give way.
Cardio with Intervals
Although cardiovascular exercise burns calories, speeding up your pace periodically can really fire up your caloric burn. High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, can do the trick. According to the Journal of Obesity, HIIT is more effective in reducing belly fat than other types of exercise. You can do HIIT during almost all forms of cardio. Just speed up your pace for 30 seconds to one minute. For instance, jog for two to three minutes, and then go into a vigorous, all-out sprint for up to one minute. Go back and forth between the intensities for about half an hour to complete your workout.
Two strength-training sessions a week can help stimulate muscle tissue and prevent the loss of muscle tissue instead of fat. Muscle tissue uses up more calories than fat and also takes up less space; you lose fat and inches. Rather than solely focusing on doing crunches and situps, also work your other muscles including your chest, back, legs, arms, shoulders and hips. Exercises can include chest presses, lunges, overhead presses, squats, lateral raises and bent-over rows. Use enough weight so the last two repetitions of each set are hard to finish.
Just because you’re exercising doesn’t mean you can neglect eating healthy. Swapping out unhealthy foods for lower-calorie, healthy foods, can save you calories. Instead of eating unhealthy saturated and trans fats, which are present in fast foods and packaged cookies, emphasize Monounsaturated fatty acids, or MUFAS, which can be found in avocados, cashews, pecans, almonds, olive oil and dark chocolate. According to the American Diabetes Association, MUFAS prevent the redistribution of fat from elsewhere in the body to your midsection.
Control Your Hormones
Excessive stress and lack of sleep can wreak havoc on your midsection, because they influence hormones, such as cortisol, leptin and ghrelin. These hormones can trigger uncontrollable cravings for unhealthy foods, and the fat you gain tends to settle around your middle. To avoid this, get seven to eight hours of sleep each night and meditate or practice yoga and deep breathing techniques that can help you better manage stress.
Harvard School of Public Health: Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It
Journal of Obesity: High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
University of Rochester Medical Center: Lifting Your Way to Weight Loss
The Dr. Oz Show: 3 Ways to Get Your Fat to Eat Itself
Harvard School of Public Health: Sleep
University of New Mexico: Cortisol Connection: Tips on Managing Stress and Weight