Everything you need to lose belly fat, reduce bloat, and get a flatter stomach—without straight-up dieting.
Drink Alcohol and Still Lose Weight
The liver processes alcohol before other carbs and protein, and the sheer presence of alcohol in the body slows fat burning, says Diane Henderiks, R.D., personal chef and founder of Dish with Diane. You can still hit happy hour, though. Just stick to one drink a day—that’s 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1 ounce of a spirit. (Try these low-alcohol cocktails for a healthier buzz.)
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Chill the ^*&% Out
Anxiety produces extra cortisol, the hormone that encourages the body to store fat—particularly in the abdominal region. Practicing deep-breathing exercises has been known to help alleviate stress levels, so hit the “pause” button in your mind every hour and take five to 10 deep-belly breaths, inhaling for five counts and exhaling for 10 counts.
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Eating too little will force your body into starvation mode, which will cause it to store added fat for energy (out of fear of not being fed) rather than burning fat and keeping your belly taut, Henderiks says.
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Keep Cardio in Check
Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, which means the more you have, the faster your metabolism is and the more calories you burn all day long—all key for a whittled middle. Resistance training builds this quality lean muscle, so do two to three total-body strength sessions a week, says Tom Holland, exercise physiologist and author of Beat the Gym: Personal Trainer Secrets Without the Personal Trainer Price Tag. For fat-melting cardio, all you need to do is your weight, he adds: If you weigh 145 pounds, do 145 minutes a week, broken up however fits into your schedule—say, 60 minutes on Saturday, 45 on Tuesday, and 40 on Thursday.
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Go for Whole Grains
In a Penn State study, dieters who ate whole instead of refined grains lost more fat from around their midsections. And Tufts University researchers reported that people who included three servings of whole grainsand less than one serving of refined carbs daily had 10 percent less visceral fat than those who didn’t follow this diet. (You might be surprised how many carbs you should eat per day.)
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Work Every Angle
When doing an abs circuit, think about all three planes of motion, says celebrity trainer Gunnar Peterson, who works with Sofia Vergara, Kim Kardashian, and Vanessa Lachey: Try crunches and reverse crunches to hit your sagittal (front to back and up and down) plane, standing side bends for frontal (side-to-side) movement, and chops or twists for transverse (rotational) action. This will help challenge and therefore define your abs.
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Multiple studies show that EGCG, an antioxidant in green tea, helps boost metabolism and may specifically target abdominal fat. Most research has used high doses of tea, but even if you can’t manage to guzzle gallons, any amount is beneficial.
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Not only can a lack of zzz’s slow your metabolism, but a 2012 study also showed that people who were sleep-deprived had subcutaneous fat cells (the ones right below your skin) that were more insulin resistant, which can lead to weight gain, says Patricia Bannan, R.D., author of Eat Right When Time Is Tight.
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Hit the Herb Rack
Ginger, peppermint, and chamomile seem to aid in digestion and may reduce bloating, Henderiks says. If you don’t like herbal tea, snack on pineapple—it contains bromelain, an enzyme that appears to do the same.
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Watch the Sugar
Research shows the average American eats about 20 teaspoons of sugar daily, often hidden in processed foods, including “healthy” ones such as yogurt, frozen dinners, sauces, and salad dressings. Twenty teaspoons adds up to 325 empty calories a day. Insulin production increases with sugar intake, which can slow your metabolism, making it harder to burn those empty calories. Read labels and try to reduce your intake as much as possible.
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