Whether it is your New Year resolution or something you wish deep inside, losing belly fat is what most of us aspire to do. While it may seem easier to lose weight on the rest of the body, it is belly and hips that most women struggle to lose weight from. I am not even talking about six pack abs but more of a toned abdomen.
Anything over 40 inches (102 cm) in men and 35 inches (88 cm) in women can be categorised as abdominal obesity. If you have a lot of fat around you waistline, you must try to get rid of it even if you are not fat overall for better health.
Also you may be exercising for years but still find that belly fat is quite stubborn and just does not seem to budge. Here are 6 actionable tips on how to lose belly fat:
You will notice that I have put this above exercising. That is because while many of us get onto the bandwagon of workout (especially in the new year), so many of us either neglect our diets or end up starving in the name of diet.
Many of us overeat whether it is daily meal or indulgences. So what exactly is eating optimally? To understand that the easiest way is tracking what you eat, every little bit. Yes, it can feel tiresome, but it is the only way by which you can figure out exactly what you eat. Trust me, you will be surprised with the results if you document correctly. Somehow, most of us either over- or under-estimate what we eat.
So do this exercise for a month to get an idea of what you eat. Apps like MyFitnessPal that I have personally used are very helpful in this regard. Use the values you get to streamline your diet. Subsequently, you will not need to count calories or monitor on a daily basis once you figure out how much to eat to stay satiated, energised and nourish your body without going overboard.
For eg. I have 2 eggs for breakfast with 2 slices toast on weekdays. My lunches are pretty similar and I have same portion sizes of cooked vegetable, lentils, carbs (roti or rice), a bowl of yoghurt and salad. I have 1 scoop of whey protein after my workout when I do intensive weight training. Thus, you see that I don’t need to count calories, I know what is healthy for my body.
Easiest rule of thumb is to include more fresh produce in your diet: eg. Fruits and vegetables. They are filling, bursting with nutrition and low on calories. You can eat them in large quantities. For protein add legumes, beans, lentils, sprouts, dairy and soy products. If you eat non-vegetarian food, go with meat and eggs. Just ensure that you go for leaner meats. And don’t shy away from fats—get your ghee or oil in. We need about 30% calories from fat.
Another suggestion is to eat what you’ve grown up eating and relishing. No need to discard that for tasteless ‘healthy’ food. And if you eat in moderation, you don’t need to give up anything from sugar to rice, potatoes and God knows what! What you need to give up is junk food or processed food that has so much added sugar, fat and preservatives.
Please don’t give up carbohydrates because they are your body’s fuel. You can up your protein intake (About 30% to 35% Calories) to feel more satiated and also for your muscle and organ regeneration and building.
This article quotes studies that have demonstrated that protein intake is inversely related to increases in waist circumference (abdominal obesity). This means that having more protein keeps your waist area less prone to accumulating fat.
Eat optimally so that your body stays nourished. Meal plan and slowly start eating cleanly.
Additional Reading: How I lost 9 pounds in 8 weeks
Additional Reading: Why You need to Start Meal Planning
2. Exercise regularly
You must exercise 5-6 times a week for multiple health benefits including weight loss. I would suggest doing both cardio and weight training. Cardio exercises like brisk walking, jogging, running, swimming, cycling, playing sports etc. help in raising your heart rate.
They help you burn fat and calories if you do intense workout. Couple that with strength or weight training at least twice a week because it helps build muscle mass and reduce fat in your body.
Strength training also helps in improving your metabolism or how many Calories you burn at rest or when not active thereby helping you burn more Calories, in general.
This study showed that visceral fat does not come back even after 1 year if one continues to exercise regularly. Hence exercise is key in keeping your belly slim.
Additional reading: Beginner tips for strength training
3. Don’t waste time on spot reduction
No matter how many crunches you do, your belly will not get slim. This scientific study proves that abdominal exercise has hardly any impact on abdominal fat reduction.
Many women have a loose core in their middle age. Some due to having children have loose fat deposits and skin that just does not seem to get better.
The fact is that we lose fat all over the body and cannot reduce from specific places. Also where fat deposits stay on your body is also dependent on your genetics eg. Check how your mum and grandmum looked.
My mother had a slim bone and body structure and tended to gain more weight on her tummy and abdomen. Hence my problem areas are love handles and lower tummy. I can easily lose weight on my hips.
So what can we do? Do a mix of cardio and strength training. Work on strengthening all the big muscles in your body like shoulders, back, thighs, butt muscles (glutes) and abdomen. What this does is you will notice inch loss around your waist and hips. Your clothes will start fitting better in 8-12 weeks of regular workout. This is a clear signal that you are losing fat.
Why belly fat is harmful for health is because our abdomen has so many vital organs. Fat around organs is dangerous for health. All the more reason to aim for a toned belly.
4. Minimize processed food
This will really make a difference in your overall health as well as help you lose fat especially belly fat. Processed food is loaded with added sugar and fat, even foods labelled as ‘healthy’ food.
Things like chips, mixture or fried snacks that you buy from outside is very unhealthy. The same ones made at home are much better. Use cooking techniques like baking or Airfrying to make your recipes relatively healthier.
Additional Reading: Healthy Airfryer Recipes You Must Try
Limit junk food consumption to perhaps once a week. The same applies to pastas, cakes, chocolate and anything that is processed. Even food items like health bars, granola, cereal, nuts etc. are loaded with calories and sugar. Do read the label before buying anything. That helps you decipher if the food is actually healthy or just packaged healthy.
Additional Reading: 7 Healthy Foods that are Hurting your Weight Loss Efforts
Fruit juice is not really healthy. It does away with the good parts of the fruit like fibre and reduces it to a sugar shot. Always pick up a fruit instead of juice. If you really must have fruit juice, have it freshly juiced and without added sugar.
Try meal planning to eat mindfully and in an organized manner. Especially plan for your snacks where we tend to wreck our sensible eating patterns.
Additional Reading: 7 Easy Steps to Make a Meal Plan for Beginners
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5. Get enough sleep
If you wish to lose fat, you have to pack in enough hours of rest every day. If you are not sleeping 6-7 hours daily, even exercise will not help you lose weight. Sleep is the time when your body rests, repairs and rejuvenates.
Without enough sleep, you will feel cranky and your body will be sluggish. Not to mention how you will reach for more carbohydrate- or fat-intense foods .
When you don't sleep well, your cortisol or stress hormone levels increase and make your body reserve your energy or fat thus making it difficult to lose weight.
This NIH study shows that inadequate sleep leads to weight gain and obesity. So aim to get enough sleep daily.
6. Take care of your nutritional deficiencies
Get regular health checkups done to catch any deficiencies. For eg. I am over 40 and prone to Vitamin D deficiency. My doctor has prescribed Calcium and Vitamin D supplements for me. If you are woman who feels very tired and fatigued, you could be deficient in iron or Vitamin D.
Get health check done once a year and stay on top of any deficiencies. You will feel in increase in stamina and energy. Thus you will have the energy to exercise regularly for your weight loss goals.
These 6 tips will help you lose belly fat in a sustained manner over weeks. You will start seeing results within 4-8 weeks. The other wonderful benefits will be more energy, more stamina, your posture will improve as your muscles get stronger, your joints will be more flexible and your body will look more toned. Yes, you will drop sizes too. 🙂
Losing fat and getting in shape is hard work. Show up everyday to eat healthy and exercise. Don’t get daunted and try to do too many things at one time. Get rid of each unhealthy habit slowly to build healthier habits and a healthier body.
You'll have setbacks; it's only natural. But if you stay committed to your goal, you'll be fitter and healthier and best of all, will build wonderful habits for many years ahead.
I believe in a balanced diet most importantly. Everything else is secondary.
Excellent tips out here, Rachna.
That and workout. Thanks Soumya.
Shilpa Garg says
True, spot reduction does not help, it is working on overall health and fitness that works. Fantastic tips, Rachna.
Thanks Shilpa. Glad you liked them.
Nabanita Dhar says
Very good tips, Rachna. I have started esercising but it's only a few days now so will talk about it only when I do it regularly. But will try to keep your tips in mind.
It will help you build strength and stamina, Naba. One of the nicer benefits for me personally is that it is a stress buster and really lifts my mood.
Great tips, Rachna. One thing I realized is when I don't focus on weight loss and exercise regularly without eating from outside I fell energetic and my clothes fit well. I don't do weight training as I am not sure if it is okay with my back trouble. I am not supposed to carry heavyweights. My chiropractor advised not to do squats even. But I do planks, push-ups, etc. as well as pilates and yoga along with a brisk walk.
Hi Vinitha, exactly the approach to take. While there is nothing wrong in having weight loss goals, those are generally for short intense plans. For a sustainable weight loss, lifestyle changes are needed. I can understand that back trouble can make you indisposed to many exercises. But you need to investigate further. How can your back pain get better? Can physiotherapy help? or customised fitness regimen? Pilates, Yoga are all excellent for building a strong core and back. Good going!
You make it easy enough!
Reema D'souza says
Those are some really good tips. A balanced diet with regular exercise and enough sleep will go a long way in having good health.
Love your brand of common sense advice, whether it's about parenting or weight loss.