Belly fat may be more damaging to your health than fat that is stored around the hips and thighs, warns the Harvard School of Public Health. Even if you are of normal weight, a waist size of 35 inches or greater for a woman and 40 inches or greater for a man indicates you may be more likely to develop heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. Losing belly fat requires you to lose weight. While exercise can help accelerate weight loss and contribute to overall health, you can still lose belly fat without it.
Reduce calories to induce overall weight loss. Eat 250 to 1,000 fewer calories below what you burn to lose between 0.5 and 2 pounds per week. Reduce portion sizes and swap out high-calorie foods for lower-calorie versions, suggests the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
Include more dairy daily. Eat five servings of foods such as low-fat milk, cottage cheese and plain yogurt to help you lose weight from the abdomen. A 2009 study from Curtin University in Australia found that dieters who ate five servings, as opposed to three servings, of dairy daily lost more weight and belly fat in just 12 weeks.
Replace saturated fats with monounsaturated fats. Eat olive oil instead of butter, fish instead of fatty cuts of beef and avocado instead of cheese. A study published in the "British Journal of Nutrition" in 2003 showed that men who ate these types of fats in place of saturated fat lost belly fat after four weeks, without additional exercise or a change in total fat intake.
Cut out all trans fats, found in many processed foods and commercially fried products. Do not buy products with partially hydrogenated oils or fats named in the ingredient lists. Avoid french fries, onion rings and chicken nuggets made in restaurants. Stay away from refrigerated cookie dough and biscuit mixes. Trans fat contributes to an accumulation of belly fat even in people who are following a low-calorie diet, suggests an animal study in the journal "Obesity" published in 2007. Monkeys fed trans fats as part of a low-calorie diet gained belly fat, while monkeys consuming the same number of calories without trans fats did not.
Moderate alcohol intake as too much can cause you to develop a beer belly. Limit extra calories taken in through non-nutritious alcoholic drinks to no more than one or two drinks per day.
- Harvard School of Public Health: How to Get to Your Healthy Weight
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: Balance Food and Activity
- British Journal of Nutrition: Substitution of Saturated with Monounsaturated Fat in a Four-Week Diet Affects Body Weight and Composition of Overweight and Obese men
- Obesity: Trans Fat Diet Induces Abdominal Obesity and Changes in Insulin Sensitivity in Monkeys
- Curtin University: Higher Dairy Intake Can Help Fight Obesity