Unless plastic surgery is an option, spot reducing your tummy isn't possible and losing belly fat certainly won't happen overnight. Reducing fat from anywhere in your body requires a full-body weight-loss approach -- you can't choose what part of your body sheds the weight. Only when your total body fat is reduced will that excess fat around your middle disappear.
Count Those Calories
A flat tummy looks good and reduces your risk of obesity-related health conditions, including high cholesterol, hypertension, certain cancers and heart disease. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute suggests losing weight safely at a rate of 1 to 2 pounds a week, advising that gradual weight loss is easier to maintain long-term compared to quick weight loss. To achieve weight loss at this rate, you must reach a daily deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories. You can do this by burning calories through exercise and by eating fewer calories.
Stop Focusing on Abdominal Exercises
If you've been doing hundreds of sit-ups and crunches and expect to get a flat tummy, you're in for an unpleasant surprise. Abdominal exercises won't reduce belly fat: They only strengthen and tone the muscles underneath the fat. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't do them; they just shouldn't be your main focus. When your belly fat is reduced, these exercises can add definition to your waistline.
Burn Calories With Cardio
Doing 30 to 60 minutes of cardiovascular exercise on most days of the week is recommended by experts on weight loss. Including high-intensity intervals in your cardio routine can help, because, according to the National Institutes of Health, this type of training effectively reduces belly fat. To do an interval routine, jog for two minutes at an easy-to maintain intensity and then speed up to a vigorous, one-minute sprint. Alternate between a jog and a sprint for about 20 minutes.
Maintain Lean Muscle Tissue
Unless you include strength training in your workout routine, solely doing cardiovascular exercise can eventually result in the loss of lean muscle tissue. Preserving lean muscle is essential because it burns more calories than fat even when you're at rest. Perform strength training on at least two days per week, targeting your major muscle groups. You can use your own body weight, weightlifting machines, free weights and exercise bands for resistance.
Cut Calories From Food
Small dietary changes can help you consume fewer calories. Eating from smaller plates, for instance, results in smaller portions and fewer calories. Swapping out high-calorie snacks such as chips and cookies for veggies and fruits can also contribute to weight loss, as can limiting foods that are high in trans fat and saturated fat, sugar, salt and cholesterol. Aim to establish healthy eating habits that are easily maintained in the long run.
- Muscle Rx: Your Prescription for the Ultimate Physique; James Kohler
- Harvard Health Publications: Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: Facts About Healthy Weight
- Scaleless Dieting; Wendell C. Sleet
- National Institutes of Health: Effect of Exercise Training Intensity on Abdominal Visceral Fat and Body Composition
- American Council on Exercise: High-Intensity Interval Training
- Effective Strength Training: Analysis and Technique for Upper-body, Lower-Body and Trunk Exercises; Douglas Brooks