Eight weeks is an ambitious time frame to see the results of a lifestyle change, and, in some cases, it's not enough time to completely destroy your belly fat. Work hard for eight weeks, though, and you'll likely see some noticeable results, even if you don't completely meet your goal during that time. Combine the basics of weight loss -- diet and exercise-- with techniques to improve your posture to help visually flatten your midsection.
Cut Calories, But Set Realistic Goals
You may not be able to achieve double-digit weight loss within an eight-week period, but you can jump-start a lifestyle change that allows for large fat losses over time. Safe and sustainable weight loss comes at a rate of 0.5 to 2 pounds per week, so you should realistically aim for a weight loss of 4 to 16 pounds during your eight-week time frame. Keep in mind this weight loss will come from all over your body -- including, but not exclusive to, your belly.
Achieve this loss by reducing your calorie intake to 250 to 1,000 calories less than you burn. How many calories you should cut depends on your current calorie burn. Use an online calculator to determine your current calorie needs or consult with a registered dietitian; then subtract the 250 to 1,000 to create your calorie goal for weight loss.
For example, an active 31-year-old man, who is 6 feet tall and weighs 180 pounds, burns about 3,200 calories daily. Since his calorie burn is relatively high, he could cut 1,000 calories to eat 2,200 calories daily and lose 2 pounds a week. On the other hand, a sedentary 53-year-old woman who is 5 feet,1 inch tall and weighs 135 pounds burns just 1,700 calories daily. She should cut her calories to either 1,450 or 1,200 calories and lose 0.5 to 1 pound weekly, respectively. Trying for a 1,000-calorie deficit would push her calorie intake too low.
Don't eat less than 1,800 calories daily if you're a man, or 1,200 calories daily if you're a woman. While this crash dieting might offer short-term results on the scale, you'll likely lose muscle tissue, lower your metabolism and put yourself on track to regain any lost weight once you go off your diet.
Maximise Belly Fat Loss with Exercise
You'll need to get more active to reach your goal of maximizing fat loss in just eight weeks. Include aerobic activity in your schedule several times weekly, leaving one or two "rest" days to allow your body to recover. You'll get the best results if you push yourself to work vigorously when you exercise. In fact, vigorous exercise might be the only way to trigger significant fat loss, according to a study published in the Journal of Obesity in 2011. When researchers compared the fat loss effects of high-intensity exercise, low-intensity exercise and no exercise, they found that only high-intensity exercisers were able to lose a significant amount of weight.
That doesn't mean you should push yourself to exercise at a dangerous intensity. Instead, pair short intervals of vigorous intensity with longer rest intervals that allow you to recover. For example, after warming up for 5 to 10 minutes, "sprint" by working at maximal intensity for 15 seconds; then "recover" by working at a low intensity for 45 seconds. Repeat 10 to 15 times for a short fat-burning workout, then complete a 5- to 10-minute cool down. As you get more advanced, you can lengthen your sprints and reduce your recovery intervals -- for example, to 20 seconds of sprinting and 40 seconds of recovery -- or simply add more intervals to your workout.
Pair your aerobic exercise with strength training a couple days a week. Movements that work several muscles at once -- like deadlifts, pushups, squats and pullups -- help you tone your whole body in just a few exercises, and also help increase your calorie burn. Visually flatten your stomach with planks, wood chops and Russian twists -- moves that strengthen the ab muscles that cinch in your waist, so your stomach looks smaller and flatter. If you're not sure where to begin, ask a fitness professional to design an exercise program for you.
Make Other Lifestyle Modifications
The rush to lose all your belly fat right away can leave you stressed out, but that's actually counterproductive to your goals. Even though you're busy with lifestyle modifications, on top of your other commitments, take time for yourself to relieve stress -- for example, by scheduling relaxing time with a loved one, playing with your pet or taking in a yoga class or guided meditation. Additionally, make sure you get enough sleep. These activities help normalize your stress hormone levels, preventing an increase in stress hormones that would otherwise trigger belly fat gain.
Stand Up Straight to Look Thinner
While it won't make you lose fat, improving your posture can make you look slimmer. Certain postural problems -- like arching your back and slumping your shoulders forward -- create the appearance of a rounder stomach, which can make you look as if you carry more belly fat than you actually do.
Mindfully squeeze your shoulder blades together throughout the day, holding for 5 seconds each time, to keep your shoulders from rounding forward, recommends Harvard Medical School. And imagine creating a straight line from your head through your shoulders, hips and ankles. Lift your chest upward and pull your shoulder blades back without allowing your back to sway. This will improve your alignment, so you look slimmer.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Choosing a Safe and Successful Weight Loss Program
- Baylor College of Medicine: Adult Energy Needs Calculator
- Journal of Obesity: High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss
- University of New Mexico: Cortisol Connection: Tips on Managing Stress and Weight
- Harvard Medical School: 4 Ways to Turn Good Posture into Less Back Pain