Losing inches around your waist not only makes you feel better, but may also improve your health. And, lucky for you, that unhealthy belly fat comes off faster than fat stored on your hips and legs. However, while you may be anxious to lose pounds -- and inches from your waist -- in a matter of days, you'll need to take weight off slowly, making changes to how you eat and exercise to ensure you're losing fat and not muscle. Before you start working on trimming your mid-section, consult your doctor to discuss the right techniques that fit your specific health needs.
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A Little About Belly Fat
Belly fat is made up of two types of fat: subcutaneous and visceral. Most of the fat on your body -- 90 percent -- is subcutaneous, which is the pinchable fat under your skin that hangs over your belt buckle. Visceral fat, which makes up the other 10 percent, is found only deep in your abdominal region, surrounding your organs. You can't touch visceral fat, but you can see it as the bulging mound that some people refer to as apple-shaped. Though neither fat is all that good for you in excess, visceral fat is especially bad because it's linked to medical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.
The good news is that visceral fat comes off faster than subcutaneous fat. That means you'll lose inches from your waist faster than inches from your hips.
Having a generous waist is linked to serious medical conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. For men, a waist larger than 40 inches puts you at risk, and for women, a measurement larger than 35 inches. If your waist circumference is greater than these numbers, it's wise to work on losing weight.
Trim Calories to Trim Inches from Your Waist
When you want to lose the pounds and the inches from your waist, you need to make a change to your calorie equation. Consuming fewer calories than your body needs forces your body to turn to fat for fuel. One pound of fat has 3,500 calories, so creating a 500- to 1,000-calorie-a-day negative balance, through diet, exercise or both, can help you lose 1 to 2 pounds a week. Losing more than 2 pounds a week is not recommended because it typically leads to loss of more muscle than fat.
To determine your weight-loss calorie needs, use an online calculator to estimate how many calories you need to maintain your weight, then subtract 500 to 1,000 from that number. If you currently need 2,300 calories a day, to lose weight you'd need to reduce your intake to 1,300 to 1,800 calories a day. Even though you want to lose inches fast, women shouldn't go below 1,200 calories a day and men 1,800 calories day. Eating too few calories makes it harder for you to get all the nutrients your body needs for good health and may cause your metabolism to slow down.
No special food or exercise can help spot reduce from anywhere on the body, including the belly, so there's no way to speed up the number of inches you lose from your waist. As you lose weight all over, however, your waist circumference will shrink.
Make the Right Food Choices
Calories are important, but so are the foods you eat. Certain types of food -- refined carbs such as white bread and sweets, high-fat meats such as bacon and sausage and trans fats such as those found in baked goods and fried foods -- are linked to belly fat. To lose inches from your waist, skip these types of foods. Instead, eat more whole grains, fruits and veggies, healthy proteins such as fish, poultry, lean red meat, eggs, beans and soy and healthy fats such as olive oil, safflower oil and various nuts and seeds.
You may also want to stay away from foods high in salt and sodium, especially if you're trying to lose inches in days. Too much dietary sodium may cause fluid retention and abdominal bloating. In addition to eliminating the salt shaker, to reduce the bloat, limit boxed and canned foods, watch out for sodium-laden condiments such as soy sauce, and avoid salty snacks such as salted nuts. Also, be sure to drink plenty of water, 8 to 12 cups a day, to help your body flush out excess sodium and fluid.
Exercise to Lose Inches Around the Waist
Regular exercise can help you shed inches from your waist. At a minimum, you should do 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise most days of the week, and 60 minutes is even better. A fast-paced walk, a low-impact aerobics class, a bike ride or laps in the pool all work.
Though crunches and side-bends can't help you lose inches from your waist, they do tone your muscles. Resistance-training -- which is lifting weights and doing body resistance exercises -- also helps build muscle. Having more muscle may help you burn more fat, and lose more inches, because muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue. Do strength-training twice a week on alternate days to help tone and shape not only your waist, but your whole body.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- Harvard Health Publications: Taking Aim at Belly Fat
- Harvard Health Publications: Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It
- FamilyDoctor.org: What It Takes to Lose Weight
- American Council on Exercise: Myths and Misconceptions: Spot Reduction and Feeling the Burn
- McKinley Health Center: Breaking Down Your Metabolism
- Better Health Channel: Fluid Retention
- Clemson Cooperative Extension: Fluid Needs
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- Baylor College of Medicine: Adult Energy Needs and BMI Calculator
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: Assessing Your Weight and Health Risk