Whether it’s left over baby weight, the result of too many bonbons or just a product of where you tend to carry extra weight, tummy flab sucks. It not only is less than flattering when it hangs over the waistline of your pants, but it’s also flat out not good for you. Abdominal (or visceral) fat is associated with higher risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Women with excess visceral fat are also at increased risk for developing breast cancer. Use these seven simple tips to ditch the tummy flab and get your health on track.
1. Don’t focus on your tummy
It may seem insane not to focus on your problem area, but if you want results then it’s the only way to go. Spending all your time doing sit-ups and crunches will only get you a sore neck. Instead, on getting rid of any extra fat you have throughout your entire body—with time that tummy flab will take a hike too.
2. Lift weights
Weights aren’t just for building pecs and quads; they also help fend off unwanted belly fat. A study published in Obesity found that men who spent 20 minutes per day weight training had a smaller increase in age-related abdominal fat than men who spent the same amount of time doing aerobic activities. Ideally, you should include both types of exercise in your routine, but in the battle of the belly bulge, if you only have time for one type of exercise then go with the weights.
3. Choose your food wisely
You can exercise all day long, but if you fuel your body with junk and excess calories, you’re never going to lose that spare tire you have hanging around. Fresh, whole foods should be your primary sustenance, with packaged and processed foods taking a back seat.
4. Get some rest
Exercise and a healthy diet are a must if you want to stop your spreading waistline, but after you’re done sweating and devouring that salad for dinner, don’t forget to indulge in some necessary sleep. According to The National Sleep Foundation, those who sleep less than five hours per night gain more abdominal fat over five years than those who rack up more than six hours per night.
5. HIIT it
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) isn’t one of those activities you’ll look forward to doing. However, according to the American Council on Exercise, it’s a useful tool for ditching abdominal fat. HIIT involves intense bursts of intense activity followed by recovery periods, repeated several times over the duration of your workout.
6. Fiber is your friend
Aside from its benefits in the bathroom, fiber is a known slayer of tummy flab. Fiber slows down the digestion process, keeping insulin levels stable and allowing the mobilization of fat. Several studies have found those with high fiber intakes have a smaller waist circumference, less abdominal fat and lower overall body fat percentages.
Finally, stress doesn’t only affect your mental well-being; it can also sabotage any efforts to keep tummy flab in check. When you’re in a constant state of stress, your body releases stress hormones that tell your body to create more fat—particularly that nasty visceral fat. Exercise is a known stress reducer, especially “mindful” activities such as Tai Chi and yoga. Simply taking a few minutes to sit quietly without external stimuli will help decrease your stress levels and tummy flab.
Amy Roeder. “Using Weights to Target Belly Fat”. Harvard Gazette. December 22, 2014.
American Council on Exercise: High-Intensity Interval Training
National Sleep Foundation: Sleep Linked to Gains in Abdominal Fat
Denis Lairon, et al. “Dietary fiber intake and risk factors for cardiovascular disease in French adults.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. December 2005.
Nicola M. McKeown, et al. “Whole-Grain Intake and Cereal Fiber Are Associated with Lower Abdominal Adiposity in Older Adults.” The Journal of Nutrition. October 2009.