While you may be anxious to shed pounds and inches from your waist in mere days, it's important to approach weight loss with a long-term mindset. Few good things are achieved easily or quickly — weight loss included. Keeping inches off your waist requires a lifestyle change, not a quick fix.
Gradual improvements in your diet, exercise and sleep routines will get you to your goal in time. Don't forget to practice a little kindness to yourself — progress is rarely linear!
What Exactly Is Belly Fat?
Our body stores two types of fat: subcutaneous and visceral, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Most of the fat on your body is subcutaneous, which is the visible fat under your skin that may hang over your belt buckle.
Visceral fat is found only deep in the midsection, surrounding the organs. You can't touch visceral fat, but you can see it gathering around the abdomen. Though neither type of fat is healthy in excess, visceral fat is especially bad. It covers vital organs like the liver, pancreas and intestines, and has been linked with an increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, among other conditions.
While visceral fat is more dangerous than subcutaneous, it can be shed with the same methods, according to the Mayo Clinic. Eating a healthier diet, getting regular exercise and managing stress and sleep are all ways to help you lose inches off your waist.
Losing fat can happen in just a few weeks, but keep the long term in mind. Prioritize your health over your appearance, and practice methods that will keep the fat off for good. Attempting to lose drastic amounts of weight in days may work in the short term but will ultimately result in weight regain, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Read more: How to Actually Get a Flat Stomach at 50
Trim Calories to Lose Inches from Your Waist
When you want to lose inches from your waist, you need to make a healthy change to your calorie consumption. Losing weight requires burning more calories than you take in. According to the Mayo Clinic, creating a safe and sustainable calorie deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories can help you slim down.
Calorie deficits are not a one-size-fits-all equation. Use a calorie counter to see how many calories your body burns each day. Consider how many calories you can cut out each day — and make sure that's sustainable over a longer period of time.
No magic food or exercise can spot reduce fat from anywhere on the body. There's no way to speed up the number of inches you lose from your waist. But as your total body fat drops, your waist circumference will shrink, too.
Make Smart Food Choices
Calories are important, but food quality plays a big role in fat loss. Certain types of food, like highly processed foods, are linked to excess calorie consumption. To lose body fat, avoid the snack aisle of the grocery store and keep close to fresh produce and lean protein.
To maximize your daily calorie allowance as much as possible, fill up on fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber and low in calories. Fiber slows the pace at which foods pass through your digestive system, keeping you full for longer, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Other fiber-rich foods include beans, legumes and almonds.
Protein is another key player in weight loss. Lean meats like chicken, turkey and fish are high in protein but lower in calories than other meats. Like fiber, getting enough protein can help you stay satisfied, possibly because of its dampening effect on ghrelin, a hormone involved in triggering hunger, according to a June 2015 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Exercise to Lose Inches Around Your Waist
While isolation exercises like hanging leg raises or planks help build core strength, they won't necessarily trim your waist. You can't spot reduce through exercise, but establishing a regular workout routine will help you lose total body weight. Then, coupled with some core exercises, you can build a sculpted midsection.
Your metabolism is the process by which your body burns calories, according to the Mayo Clinic. Even if you're just lying in bed, your metabolism uses energy to help your body breathe or circulate blood. The calories you burn to just stay alive is your basal metabolic rate, determined largely by body composition. The more muscle mass in your body, the higher your metabolic rate.
That means strength training is an effective weapon in combatting body fat. Shoot for two or more weight training sessions per week, recommends the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Build your workout around one heavy compound exercise, like a deadlift or squat, and supplement with two or three other total body exercises, like kettlebell swings or dumbbell step-ups.
Read more: How to Build Muscle in a Matter of Weeks
Stress Less and Sleep More
It's not uncommon to cope with stress by eating (or even over-eating) comforting foods. Cortisol, a stress hormone, increases your appetite, especially for high-fat or sugary, calorie-laden treats, according to Harvard Health Publishing, thereby sabotaging your weight-loss goals.
Stress can also negatively affect your sleep, which can cause your body to retain fat, according to the Mayo Clinic. Lack of sleep can also do a number on your willpower, making it even harder to resist tempting foods. And of course your ability to crush a workout is also compromised with sleep deprivation.
Reduce stress and improve your sleep with regular exercise, a favorite hobby or consistent meditation. Limit your screen time before bed and, above all, listen to and prioritize your body (you only get one!).
- Global Diabetes Community: "Visceral Fat (Active Fat)"
- Mayo Clinic: "Belly fat in women: Taking — and keeping — it off"
- Harvard Health Publishing: 'Lessons from “The Biggest Loser'"
- Mayo Clinic: "Counting calories: Get back to weight-loss basics"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Fiber"
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "The role of protein in weight loss and maintenance"
- Mayo Clinic: "Metabolism and weight loss: How you burn calories"
- US Department of Health and Human Services: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Why stress causes people to overeat"
- Mayo Clinic: "Sleep: The foundation for healthy habits"
- Baylor College of Medicine: Adult Energy Needs and BMI Calculator
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: Assessing Your Weight and Health Risk