Although men are prone to gain weight around the middle, women can also gain belly fat, especially when genes, hormones and aging are factored in.
Not only does this excess fat negatively affect your appearance, it also impacts your health — because it's linked to breast cancer, high blood pressure, gallbladder surgery, type-2 diabetes and heart disease. The only way to lose your excess midriff fat is by making healthier lifestyle choices.
Plan on losing weight at a gradual rate of one to two pounds per week by creating a daily deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories. This expert-recommended weight-loss rate is healthy and safe and allows you enough time to get used to the required lifestyle changes. According to the National Institutes of Health, most women lose weight by eating 1,000 to 1,200 calories a day.
Change your eating habits to reduce your caloric intake. Eat smaller portions and emphasize veggies, fruits, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy. Avoid fructose-sweetened beverages and foods, and limit trans fats, because these are linked to belly fat.
Also, get calcium from foods, such as kale, salmon and almonds, and vitamin D from fish, mushrooms and low-fat milk. According to a study at Massachusetts General Hospital, the calcium and vitamin D combination aids in the reduction of belly fat.
Reduce stress in your life, because excess stress is linked to an increased production of cortisol in your body. This stress hormone increases your appetite and triggers cravings for sugary, fattening foods. The fat you gain typically gets stored in your belly, which can quickly add up if you're constantly stressed. Meditate, take yoga classes, delegate tasks and get enough sleep at night to combat stress.
Engage in at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise five days a week. Ride a bike, walk briskly, swim laps or exercise on a stair climber or elliptical machine to burn calories. Avoid overexerting yourself — you should still be able to talk during the exercise. To burn more calories as you get used to exercising, increase your workout duration to 60 minutes.
Perform resistance training on at least two days of the week to maintain and increase muscle tissue. Compared to fat, muscle tissue uses up more calories to sustain itself, which benefits weight loss. For optimal results, target all major muscle groups including your arms, legs, chest, hips, back, shoulders and abs. Work your way up to finishing two or three sets and eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise.
Target your stomach muscles with exercises such as bicycle crunches, reverse crunches and knee or leg raises in a captain's chair apparatus. These exercises most effectively work your abdominals, according to the American Council on Exercise. They won't reduce belly fat, but they do strengthen the muscles under that fat layer, so that when it reduces, you'll have a toned tummy.
- Harvard Medical School: Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It
- National Institutes of Health: Aim for a Healthy Weight
- Harvard Medical School: Taking Aim At Belly Fat
- Wellness Times: Calcium-Vitamin D Combo Reduces Stomach Fat
- Marilyn Glenville: Fat Around the Middle
- Centers for Disease Control and prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- 365 Ways to Boost Your Metabolism; Rachel Laferriere
- American Council on Exercise: New Study Puts the Crunch on Ineffective Ab Exercises