While many people turn to artificial sweeteners in a misguided attempt to whittle their waistlines, those fake sugars are likely to have the opposite effect. According to Yale researchers, artificial sweeteners are actually linked with an increased risk of abdominal obesity and weight gain, possibly because they can trigger cravings for the real stuff and spike insulin levels in a similar fashion to real sugar.

For example, you might not realize just how much you eat when you go out to happy hour with friends. But if you take the split second to take a step back and make yourself aware of that fact, you’re more able to make a healthy decision. “The awareness and then planning and coming up with strategies for what else I can be doing—that might give me the same benefit of eating those comfort foods that make me feel better,” says Gagliardi.

You don’t have to be the next Usain Bolt in the making to enjoy some serious belly-slimming results from hitting the track from time to time. Even a moderate-rate jog a few times a week can blast through that belly fat; in fact, a study conducted at Duke University Medical Center found that, over the course of an eight-month study, overweight adult study subjects who jogged 12 miles a week lost the most belly fat and burned 67 percent more calories than participants who did an equivalent amount of resistance exercise, or a combination of cardio and resistance work.
Each slice of grapefruit you add to your salad acts like a match to spark your body’s fat-burning ability. A study published in the journal Metabolism found that those who ate grapefruit for six weeks lost a full inch off their waistlines. What’s behind the belt-tightening effect? The fruit is rich in phytochemicals, bioactive compounds that recent research shows stimulate the production of a hormone called adiponectin, which is involved in the breakdown of body fat. Japanese research suggests the smell of the juicy fruit can “turn on” calorie-burning brown fat cells, promoting the breakdown of body fat while reducing appetite.
It’s a dietary miracle: A fat that makes you skinny. Dietary supplementation of coconut oil actually reduced abdominal obesity in a study published in the journal Lipids. Of the participants, half were given two tablespoons of coconut oil daily and the other half were given soybean oil, and although both groups experienced overall weight loss, only the coconut oil group saw smaller waistlines. And other researchers have also pointed to the waist-whittling effects of the tropical oil. In a separate study of 30 men, those who ate 2 tablespoons of coconut oil a day shrank their waists by an average of 1.1 inches in one month. Thank C.O.’s medium-chain triglycerides, which are burned as energy instead of being stored as fat, and lauric acid, which has been shown to pinpoint belly fat and torch it.

Who knew there was a connection between a spicy pepper scorching your mouth and burning your belly fat? Scientists did! According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, daily consumption of one of the compounds found in pepper (capsaicin) speeds up abdominal fat loss by boosting the body’s ability to convert food into energy. It also acts as a natural appetite suppressant: men who ate spicy appetizers consumed 200 fewer calories at later meals than those that did not, a study by Canadian researchers found. All you have to do to reap the benefits is use a pinch of cayenne pepper to season grilled fish, meats, and eggs.
This classic lunchbox sandwich condiment is teeming with flat-belly nutrients such as cholesterol-lowering monounsaturated fats and is a great source of plant-based protein. According to a recent study presented at the annual Society for Endocrinology conference, researchers found that when protein is digested and broken down into amino acids in your body, one of those amino acids—phenylalanine—triggers hormones that help reduce appetite and ultimately leads to fat burn and weight loss. Go for brands that have an ingredient list of just two items: nuts and a little salt, or look to our guide: Best and Worst Peanut Butters.
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