If you're wondering how to reduce your waist size, adopting a nutritious diet and exercising regularly are key. And shrinking your waist size doesn't have to be about your physical appearance — instead, waist reduction can help promote overall wellbeing and prevent disease.
Belly fat is classified as either subcutaneous, meaning the fatty tissue just beneath the skin, or visceral, which is the deep fat that lies beneath the abdominal wall, per Harvard Health Publishing. Visceral fat is the more dangerous of the two, as it increases the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, osteoarthritis and other conditions.
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But even modest weight loss can reduce your waistline and improve your health to lower these risk factors.
For instance, a November 2015 study of adults who had obesity in Translational Behavioral Medicine analyzed the effects of a 5 to 10 percent weight loss. The 15-week program included a calorie-restricted diet, plus roughly 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity per week.
People who lost 5 to 10 percent showed reductions in triglycerides, total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, as well as improvements in cardiovascular risk factors. And those with a weight loss greater than 10 percent showed even more marked improvements.
With those benefits in mind, here are the best ways to lose weight, including how to slim your waist.
You can't target weight loss to one area of your body, meaning you can't burn fat around your waist only, per the American Council on Exercise (ACE). So instead of focusing on how to lose weight around your waist, prioritize developing beneficial habits that support full-body weight loss.
Adjust Your Diet
Eating nutritious food is critical to weight loss (including losing fat around your waist) and long-term weight management. Here's how to decrease your waist size — and total weight — with the help of dietary changes.
1. Cut Back on Calories
The only way you can shrink your waist is by losing weight throughout your entire body, according to the ACE.
Experts recommend losing weight at the safe and sustainable pace of 1 to 2 pounds a week. Cutting back your daily calorie intake by 500 to 1,000 calories can contribute to this total body (and waist) weight loss, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
You can create this calorie deficit by eating less and burning more energy through physical activity.
Calorie intake should not fall below 1,200 per day for people assigned female at birth (AFAB) or 1,500 per day for people assigned male at birth (AMAB), except under the supervision of a doctor, per Harvard Health Publishing. Eating too few calories can deprive you of essential nutrients.
2. Eat Enough Fiber
The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, lean proteins and minimal saturated and trans fats and added sugars.
Sticking to this nutritious eating pattern will supply you with plenty of fiber, an essential nutrient that promotes good digestion and can help you find your ideal weight, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend adults eat the following amounts of fiber per day:
- People AFAB: 22 to 28 g
- People AMAB: 28 to 34 g
High-fiber foods to incorporate into your diet include:
- Legumes like lentils, peas and beans
- Whole grains like spelt, buckwheat and oatmeal
3. Prioritize Complex Carbs
Another important tip for how to shrink your waist size (and entire body) is to focus on eating complex carbs, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Simple carbs — like the sugars found in packaged snacks, soda and baked goods — don't provide your body with the nutrition or energy it needs. Complex carbs, on the other hand, can supply you with lasting fuel.
Sources of complex carbohydrates include:
- Legumes like lentils, peas and beans
- Starchy vegetables like potatoes
- Whole grains like brown rice, oatmeal and quinoa
4. Limit Processed Foods
You don't need to eliminate your favorite foods entirely if you're trying to trim your waistline quickly. Instead, eat them more infrequently and reduce your portion size, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For example, if you enjoy chocolate, eat only a square or two rather than the entire bar.
Here are some other processed foods to limit if you're wondering how to shrink your waist fast:
- Packaged baked goods
- High-sodium snacks like chips
- Fried foods
- Fast foods
5. Be Mindful of Your Liquids
Excess liquid calories add up just as food calories do when it comes to how to slim your waist fast.
Beverages — like soda, juice, beer, wine and dessert coffees — all are calorie-heavy and should be limited or avoided when trying to lose weight and reduce your waist size, according to the CDC.
Water is a better option because it contains zero calories, hydrates the body and helps support overall wellbeing.
You can also try intermittent fasting to help improve your body’s insulin response and trim visceral fat, according to Harvard Health Publishing. Either limit your food intake to specific hours — say, between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. — or fast for at least 14 hours following your final meal of the day.
Physical activity is also an important component of any waistline weight-loss program. However, it's important to note that there are no exercises to shrink your waist specifically — according to the ACE, it's not possible to target weight loss in just one body part.
That said, there are certainly exercises that can help build muscle in your midsection. Here's how to lose weight in your waist (along with the rest of your body) with the help of exercise:
1. Find Your Favorite Cardio Activities
One method for how to lose body fat around the waist and throughout your body is incorporating cardio into your day. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend doing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activities per week (or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise).
Here are some sample cardio activities to try if you're wondering how to get smaller (including how to make your waist smaller):
2. Don't Forget to Strength Train
If your goal is to reduce fat near your waist or anywhere else on your body, it's also important to do strength training. It will help you build muscle, which burns more calories at rest than fat, according to the American Cancer Society.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans suggest doing moderate- or vigorous-intensity, full-body strengthening activities at least twice a week. Here are some types of strength training to target excess fat around the waist and other parts of your body:
- Weight lifting
- Isometric training
- Circuit training
You can also do body-weight exercises to build muscle strength and shrink your waistline as you lose fat throughout your body. Try exercises such as:
3. Try Interval Training
If you're curious about how to trim your waistline fast, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) may be for you. HIIT is a training style that alternates bursts of all-out activity with brief periods of rest, per the Mayo Clinic. Think: sprinting for 30 seconds, then walking for 30 seconds.
And HIIT may help you to lose waist fat more quickly than other types of exercise: According to a February 2018 review in Sports Medicine, those who used this method while cycling or running experienced a significant reduction in total body fat, visceral fat and abdominal fat mass.
4. Move More Throughout the Day
Your plan for how to get a smaller waist doesn't need to include a daily trip to the gym — just moving more and sitting less throughout the day can help you lose weight around your waist and the rest of your body, according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
Here are some tips for how to slim your waistline by incorporating more activity into your day naturally:
- Take short walks
- Stretch at your desk
- Try a standing desk
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
Don't rely on abdominal exercises like crunches to lose fat around your waist. These exercises build strong muscles, but they won't target fat loss in the area, according to the ACE.
Make Lifestyle Changes
Revamping your diet and exercise habits is the best way to slim your waist through full-body weight loss. But it's also important to make sure your lifestyle is supporting your overall wellbeing.
While these tips don't specifically address how to shrink your waist size to reduce your waist measurement, they can help you live your healthiest life and promote your weight-loss goals.
1. Get Enough Sleep
Inadequate sleep is linked to weight gain and a higher risk for health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and depression, according to the Mayo Clinic.
To prevent this, adults should get at least seven hours of sleep each night.
Indeed, a May 2014 study in Obesity studied almost 300 people for six years and found that those who slept less than six hours per night or more than nine hours per night gained significantly more visceral fat than people who slept between seven and eight hours a night. The takeaway: Quality snoozes can indirectly help you to slim down your waist.
2. Manage Your Stress
High-stress experiences can trigger habits that promote weight gain, like eating processed foods or sitting more, according to the Mayo Clinic. As a result, keeping your stress levels under control is one way to support weight loss and reduce your waist size.
Here are some tips to help improve your mental wellbeing:
- Eat a balanced diet
- Don't skip meals
- Exercise regularly
- Find a therapist to work with to learn how to cope with hard times
- Try relaxation techniques like yoga, stretching, massage, deep breathing and meditation
- Connect with loved ones
- Translational Behavioral Medicine: "Effects on Cardiovascular Risk Factors of Weight Losses Limited to 5–10%"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans"
- American Cancer Society: "5 Benefits of Strength Training"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Why Worry About Your Waistline?"
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans"
- American Council on Exercise: "Myths and Misconceptions: Spot Reduction and Feeling the Burn"
- Mayo Clinic: "Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "What are the best ways to trim my waist?"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Healthy Eating for a Healthy Weight"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Water and Healthier Drinks"
- Mayo Clinic: "Rev up your workout with interval training"
- Sports Medicine: "Effect of High-Intensity Interval Training on Total, Abdominal and Visceral Fat Mass: A Meta-Analysis"
- Obesity: "Change in sleep duration and visceral fat accumulation over 6 years in adults"
- Mayo Clinic: "How many hours of sleep are enough for good health?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Stress and weight gain"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Calorie counting made easy"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Abdominal obesity and your health"