1. Clean up your diet. Once you find a diet that works for you, stick to it. Researchers at Tufts University followed 160 people on four different weight loss plans and found that the type of diet participants were on didn’t matter as much as the participants’ willingness to stick to their diets. If you’ve been dieting for a while, you might have become a little lax with your food choices and portions, so tighten them up again. To lose those last pesky pounds, stick to unprocessed foods (the kind that don’t come in a box) and choose lean protein, vegetables, fruit, and whole grains. Keeping a food journal will help you track everything you eat and get your calories under control.
Those trans fats on your menu are hiding out in plain sight and sabotaging your lean belly plans every time you eat them. If a food product says it contains partially hydrogenated oils, you’re eating trans fat, which can increase your risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, and obesity with every bite. In fact, research conducted at Wake Forest University reveals that monkeys whose diets contained eight percent trans fat upped their body fat by 7.2 percent over a six-year study, while those who ate monounsaturated fat gained just a fraction of that amount. Instead of letting harmful trans fat take up space on your menu, fill up with these healthy fats.
If you’re routinely skimping on the recommended seven to nine hours, or you have difficulty falling or staying asleep, it’s time to get serious about your bedtime rituals. Your better-sleep strategy includes: limiting caffeine past the early afternoon; sticking to alcohol caps of one drink for women, two for men (since alcohol can interfere with the quality of your sleep); and staying off the phone and iPad within an hour of bedtime.
One of the very first cardio exercises to reduce belly fat is walking. Surprised? Do you think it’s too simple to be effective? Well, then you should know that walking is a great and effective way to burn away that ugly belly fat. In fact, it is an excellent fat burner for your entire body. If you follow a healthy diet along with walking at a steady pace for 30-45 minutes for at least four to five days every week, you will witness a gradual decrease in your weight.
Eating dessert every day can be good for you, as long as you don’t overdo it. Make a spoonful of ice cream the jewel and a bowl of fruit the crown. Cut down on the chips by pairing each bite with lots of chunky, filling fresh salsa, suggests Jeff Novick, director of nutrition at the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa in Florida. Balance a little cheese with a lot of fruit or salad.
Another win for your morning cup of joe: Caffeinated coffee keeps things moving through the digestive tract. Since staying regular is key to a tighter-looking tummy, drinking about 8 to 16 ounces of java at the same time every day can help you stay on schedule. Remember: Sugary drinks can lead to weight gain, so skip fancy flavorings and synthetic sweeteners containing sugar alcohols, which can cause bloating.
And some of these factors can go pretty deep. Albers says that people often don’t realize how dramatically past experiences influence our relationships with ourselves and bodies. For example, having to clean your plate as a child, getting sweet treats to “cheer up” after a bad day at school, or being called “fat” when you were 8 years old all likely have an impact. “Comments about your body or being urged to lose weight by a parent can do emotional damage for the rest of your life,” Albers says. Unless you deal with these issues, “many people spin their wheels and don't know why they feel so stuck,” she says. For this reason, Langer often refers clients to psychologists who specialize in food issues, and she won’t work with those clients on the nutrition side of things until they’ve started to unpack these fundamental emotional factors. Understanding your relationship to food is an important step in trying to change it.
You’ve heard of a self-fulfilling prophecy? If you keep focusing on things you can’t do, like resisting junk food or getting out the door for a daily walk, chances are you won’t do them. Instead (whether you believe it or not) repeat positive thoughts to yourself. “I can lose weight.” “I will get out for my walk today.” “I know I can resist the pastry cart after dinner.” Repeat these phrases and before too long, they will become true for you.
Switch to Lighter Alternatives. Whenever you can, use the low-fat versions of salad dressings, mayonnaise, dairy products, and other products. "You can trim calories effortlessly if you use low-fat and lighter products, and if the product is mixed in with other ingredients, no one will ever notice," says Magee. More smart substitutions: Use salsa or hummus as a dip; spread sandwiches with mustard instead of mayo; eat plain roasted sweet potatoes instead of loaded white potatoes; use skim milk instead of cream in your coffee; hold the cheese on sandwiches; and use a little vinaigrette on your salad instead of piling on the creamy dressing.