Set yourself up to lose excess belly fat by setting realistic goals. You won't be able to lose fat exclusively from your belly -- it will come from all over your body, including your midsection -- or shed 20 pounds in just a week. You can, however, lose 1 to 2 pounds of fat to start slimming your midsection, using sustainable methods that'll allow for larger weight loss over longer periods of time.
It's normal to feel a few hunger pangs when you cut your calorie intake, but you don't want to feel ravenous. Filling your diet with low energy-density foods -- ones that have a low calorie count per gram -- allows you to fill up on larger portions while controlling your calorie intake. Many of these foods also supply water and fiber, which can make you feel full, to help with weight loss.
The fat-burning equation is simple: Protein builds muscle. More muscle = more fat burning. And fish is one of the healthiest sources of lean protein—especially wild salmon, says dietitian Lauren Minchen, MPH, RD, CDN. It’s also a rich source of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, which fuel fat burning, block fat storage and aid weight loss, she explains. But that’s not all: “Getting enough protein and healthy fat also helps to reduce cravings and has been shown to help keep weight off for longer,” adds Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD, CDN, CSCS.
Not all white foods are bad for weight-loss. In fact, plain boiled potatoes are the most filling food there is, according to the Satiety Index of Common Foods, an Australian study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. To maximize their flat-belly benefits, throw ’em in the refrigerator and make a potato salad. The cooling process will crystallize the tubers into resistant starch, which takes longer to break down in your intestine, producing fat-burning butyrate and delaying hunger pangs.
Research suggests these magical pulses are one of the closest things we have to a fat-burning pill. For starters, beans are a great source of resistant starch, a type of slow-digesting, insoluble fiber that feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut, triggering the production of the chemical butyrate, which encourages the body to burn fat as fuel and reduces fat-causing inflammation. They’re also one of the top sources of soluble fiber. A recent study by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center researchers found that for every additional 10 grams of soluble fiber eaten per day, a study subject’s belly fat was reduced by 3.7 percent over five years. Black beans? One cup boasts an impressive 4.8 grams of soluble fiber.
“Starting slow and working your way up is better than overdoing it and giving up,” says Gagliardi. “I like the idea of attaching the new behavior of taking a walk to an existing behavior.” An easy way to approach it: Commit to going for a quick 10-minute walk after dinner, and slowly increase the time as you become more comfortable with daily movement.
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.
Resolve to do more prying. Oysters are one of the best food sources of zinc, a mineral that works with the hormone leptin to regulate appetite. Research shows that overweight people tend to have higher levels of leptin and lower levels of zinc than slimmer folk. A study published in the journal Life Sciences found that taking zinc supplements could increase leptin production in obese men by 142 percent! A half-dozen oysters only have 43 calories but provides 21 percent of your RDA of iron—deficiencies of which have been linked to a significant increase in fat gene expression.
Whole grains contain nutrients that burn fat by keeping your insulin levels low, according to the New York Daily News. Whole grains provide excellent sources of complex carbohydrates and fiber, both beneficial in stimulating your metabolism. This results in burning more fat and calories, according to Fat Free Kitchen. Whole grains include whole wheat, barley, brown rice, quinoa, spelt, kamut, wheat bran and wheat germ. Eating a bowl of oatmeal in the morning will both fill you up and start your day energized. A late night snack of a whole grain fruit-filled bar will help your body burn calories while sleeping.
Sunny side up, scrambled, hard-boiled, or fried—it doesn’t matter. A pan, spatula, and carton of eggs are all you need to fry some serious flab. Eggs are one of the best sources of choline, a major fat-burning nutrient that helps turn off the genes responsible for belly-fat storage. Bonus: eggs are a great source of lean protein, which can set the fat-burning pace for your entire day when eaten for breakfast. In a study of 21 men published in the journal Nutrition Research, half were fed a breakfast of bagels while half ate eggs. The egg group were observed to have a lower response to ghrelin, were less hungry three hours later and consumed fewer calories for the next 24 hours!