The key to losing belly fat with exercise, though, is making sure your sweat session is intense. You’ll want to be working at 85% of your max heart rate at least, says Olson. “The higher your heart rate, the higher the release of epinephrine into the bloodstream and cells,” she explains. “A positive side effect of epinephrine is that it also activates greater release of abdominal fat into the bloodstream to be used for energy.”
The 30-Day Shred workout was designed by celebrity fitness trainer Jillian Michaels. This weight loss DVD comprises three 20-minute circuit training workouts that are based on Jillian's 3-2-1 interval method. Each circuit alternates among three minutes of strength training, two minutes of cardio and one minute of core work to effectively burn fat and lose up to 20 pounds within 30 days. In order to lose weight with Jillian's 30-Day Shred series, you'll need to incorporate a sensible diet that allows you to consume the appropriate amount of calories and healthy foods in order to reduce body fat.
There’s also the impact fiber has on your gut health. By now you’ve likely heard of the microbiome—the trillions of bacteria that live in your digestive tract. It turns out that a predominance of certain strains of bacteria may encourage inflammation and weight gain, and eating fiber-rich foods can favorably shift this balance. While it’s too soon to say that changing your microbial makeup will prompt weight loss, it’s likely to send a “hey, stop gaining weight,” message.
Add resistance training. A 2006 study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism suggests that combining cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise with resistance training is more effective than cardiovascular training alone in getting rid of abdominal fat. You can do resistance training with free weights, exercise machines or resistance bands and it may also be useful to train from unstable positions due to increased muscle activity.
In a new study, Stanford University researchers put more than 600 overweight adults on either a healthy low-fat or low-carb diet. It turns out, participants had similar levels of weight loss success on each plan. Researchers looked for clues (such as insulin levels and gene patterns) to see if there are any factors that might make someone more successful on either diet, but after combing through the data, they were not able to make any connections. Since it may take years before scientists discover individual traits that could lead to more success on one plan compared to another, for now, we can learn a lot — and lose a lot! — by recognizing the dieting advice that all experts agree on.
There’s one caveat, though: Don’t train your abs. (You’re welcome.) While you need to work abs most weeks, the point of workouts at this stage is to get the muscles that pump up well to swell further with increased glycogen storage. Since abs don’t get pumped like biceps or shoulders, it doesn’t make sense to drive glycogen into them—in fact, doing so can cause them to inflate too much, blurring definition.
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.
Frozen meals are super-convenient. They’re cheap, easy to throw in your bag as you’re running out the door, and take just three minutes to cook. While your 300-calorie Lean Cuisine may seem like a waist-friendly option, it’s not. Most frozen meals are loaded with sodium—as much as you should eat over a full day, not just in one meal—and lots of other synthetic additives. Sodium packs on water weight, as the body needs to maintain a balance in the body, and when you’re thirsty, you could reach for a sugary beverage, which adds hundreds of more calories. Salt also makes food taste better, prompting you to shovel more of it in your mouth. Another problem with frozen meals is they frequently lack sufficient fiber to keep you full, so you’re likely to find yourself sneaking back into the kitchen shortly after you’ve eaten. If you must eat a frozen meal, consider adding a serving or two of frozen vegetables to boost the fiber and fullness quotient and dilute the sodium.
Popcorn is a whole grain, so it’s not unreasonable to include it on your green-light food list. However, even “natural” and “light” microwave popcorn is loaded with artificial ingredients, plus sodium and butter—and a ton of calories. This doesn’t mean you have to give up all popcorn though, as air-popped popcorn is a much better alternative. It only contains 30 calories per cup and you can customize it to your liking.
Ultimately, you need to pick a healthy eating plan you can stick to, Stewart says. The benefit of a low-carb approach is that it simply involves learning better food choices—no calorie-counting is necessary. In general, a low-carb way of eating shifts your intake away from problem foods—those high in carbs and sugar and without much fiber, like bread, bagels and sodas—and toward high-fiber or high-protein choices, like vegetables, beans and healthy meats.
The Shred Diet is a cycle diet, which means that if you haven’t hit your goal weight after six weeks, you can repeat the cycle of weeks in a different order. Once you’ve hit your target weight, you’ll be in the maintenance phase, which means that every 4 weeks you choose any week of the diet and follow its plan for 7 days. Once you’ve kept the weight off for a period of six months, you can commit to a week of the cycle to do every eight weeks, like a tune-up for your metabolism.
"When going out for fast food, I used to get the large-size value meal. Now, I satisfy a craving by ordering just one item: a small order of fries or a six-piece box of chicken nuggets. So far, I've shaved off 16 pounds in seven weeks, and I'm on track to being thinner than my high school self for my 10-year reunion later this year." —Miranda Jarrell, Birmingham, AL