When you’re trying to reduce your calorie intake, it’s important to make each calorie count by choosing low-calorie, high-nutrition foods like vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins. The tables available through the Mayo Clinic provide examples of how making some relatively simple food “swaps” and portion alterations can help significantly reduce your calorie intake.
Shrinking your belly isn’t just about what you put in your body, it’s about what’s going on in your brain, too. In a 2015 study, Brown University researchers asked nearly 400 people to complete a mindfulness awareness survey, which asked whether subjects agreed with such questions as “I find it difficult to stay focused on what’s happening in the present.” Then, they X-rayed the subjects’ bellies to determine their degree of belly fat. The results showed that the higher people scored on the mindfulness survey, the less visceral fat they were likely to have. People who are less mindful have, on average, an extra pound of fat inside their bellies than those who are more in tune with their everyday lives and the world around them.
Why: "Oats fill you up with fiber without added sugar, like most highly processed cereals," Glassman says. "Nut butter provides healthy fat that will keep you satisfied, but won't hold onto water like sugary and salty packaged foods. (That being said, be sure to check labels and pick items with no added salt sugar!) Berries fill you up with fiber and water volume without adding a big carb load to your morning."
Just don't wait until you blow the tape-measure test to start defending your belly from this flab. Step one is to toss the trans fats, which are found in prepackaged treats under the alias partially hydrogenated oils and have been shown to pack on body fat, particularly in the abdomen. Replace them with monounsaturated fats — for example, olive oil and those in walnuts and avocados — which help your body metabolize belly fat. And swig some reduced-fat milk, like 1 percent or skim, while you're at it: Calcium increases the activity of enzymes that break down fat cells and reduces the stress hormone cortisol, which triggers your body to hoard belly fat.
A natural source of melatonin, which helps lower cortisol, tart cherry juice can help you achieve a good night's sleep. Getting only 6 hours of sleep versus the recommended 8 hours means that you can have up to 50% more cortisol exposure – and that can lead to more sweet-tooth cravings and belly fat. Elevated cortisol also keeps you restless and alert when you don't need to be, making it hard to fall asleep. Drink an 8-ounce glass in the morning and 2 hours before bed for sweet dreams. To get the full benefit, drink this juice at a scheduled time every day.
I ask Dr. McCulloch how I ended up with a relatively slim 26-1/2-inch waist that has forced me to belt every pair of pants I've ever bought in order to cinch the gap created by wearing sizes big enough to fit my more ample bottom. The answer includes factors like body type, fat composition, and possibly even the shape of the pelvic bone, where your ab muscles attach, she says. Theoretically, a wider pelvis can translate into a broad lower abdomen and hips, compared with what's north of the belly button. "These are all variations on normal, and genetics can play a big role," she assures me.
Get into a crunch position—lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor, shoulders and head off the floor with your abs contracted. Then have someone throw an exercise ball (or basketball) to you—first to your left side so you have to twist and reach to catch it, and then to your right. Do this as many times as is comfortable, and try to increase the number each week.
Exposure to light at night doesn’t just interrupt your chances of a great night’s sleep, it may result in weight gain, according to a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Study subjects who slept in the darkest rooms were 21 percent less likely to be obese than those sleeping in the lightest rooms. For more ways to lose weight, check out these 33 Ways to Flatten Your Belly—Fast!!
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Not only will the protein in cheese keep you full so you’re not tempted to snack more later, but it can also help you avoid bloating and gas. Pairing it with an apple gives you an extra kick of nutrients. “Protein helps the flow of digestion, and produce gives you the nutrients your body needs, along with fiber,” says Crandall. A banana with nut butter, or carrot sticks with hummus make other good combos of protein and produce. Try to eat this food every day to beat belly bloat.
But because you don't have X-ray vision to see whether too much of the potentially dangerous visceral fat is parking itself in your own belly, scientists have figured out a couple of DIY guidelines. To avoid increased risk of obesity-related diseases, women should have a waist measurement no bigger than 35 inches (measure it at the smallest point of your midsection), and some experts recommend a waist-to-hip ratio of around 0.8, meaning that your waistline should be no greater than 80 percent of your hip circumference. According to a Mayo Clinic study released last May, the ratio of waist to hip is believed to be a measurement of visceral fat. Other fascinating research, published in the American Journal of Human Biology, found that women who give birth before age 40 have an average of two centimeters more fat around their bellies than women of the same ages who haven't given birth. (I'll have to thank my two daughters for those extra centimeters.)
In this book, we look at all of the ways you can improve your own gut health, starting with the food you eat. My diet recommendations, meal plans, and recipes will help feed and protect your gut microbes. And we look at the many other steps you can take to support your beneficial bacteria, from avoiding unnecessary antibiotics to changing the way you think about dirt and germs. Even the choices you make about how you bring your children into the world can have an impact on your family’s microbiomes.