Maintaining a trim waist is often challenging. However, keep in mind that it's dangerous to carry extra weight in this area. Abdominal fat, also referred to as visceral fat, is linked to serious health complications like cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and breast cancer in women, according to the Harvard Health Publications website. If you've noticed a gradually widening waistline, it's important to take steps to reduce it. Spot-reduction, or losing fat from a specific area of your body, isn't possible. Shrinking your waistline involves following a healthy diet and exercise program as well as making a few lifestyle changes.
Take a look at your diet and make changes that will lead to overall body fat loss. If you're carrying excess weight around your middle, it's likely that you're consuming more calories than you need. When you take in more calories than your body can use, it stores the excess as fat. Lower your calorie intake by reducing your intake of fast food, sweets, soda and other sugary beverages and refined carbohydrates like white bread, white pasta and white rice.
Eat primarily lean protein, carbohydrates from healthy food sources and low-fat dairy. Fresh fruits and vegetables should make up the majority of your meals, accompanied by a portion of lean protein, such as fish or chicken, and a serving of whole grains. Choose non-starchy vegetables, such as lettuce, bell peppers, broccoli, cucumbers and tomatoes, because they are lower in calories and higher in water and fiber, which helps fill you up and keeps you feeling full on fewer calories.
Engage in 30 to 45 minutes of cardiovascular exercise most days of the week, and do some form of resistance training at least two times per week. Cardio exercise, such as jogging or swimming, will help you burn any extra calories you consume, while resistance training will help you build lean muscle mass. Muscle takes more calories to maintain, so the more lean muscle you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate will be. Be sure to target all your major muscle groups -- the shoulders, arms, back, abdominals, chest and legs.
Drink plenty of water each day, especially before meals and when you feel a craving for high-calorie foods. In a study published in the "Journal of the American Dietetic Association" in July 2008, overweight subjects who drank 16 ounces of water before breakfast, consumed 13 percent less calories at that meal than study subjects who didn't have the water. In addition, people often think they're hungry when they're actually thirsty. If a snack attack hits, drink a cup of water first, and then reassess your hunger level. You may feel satiated by the water and be able to forgo the snack.
Sleep seven to nine hours each night and take steps to lower your stress level. This will help reduce your body's production of the stress level cortisol, high levels of which have been associated with an expanding waistline. Go to bed earlier each night or sleep later, if possible. You might want to take the TV out of the bedroom so you don't stay up late watching it. Also make sure you have comfortable bedding. To reduce stress, you might want to practice yoga or mediation, take soothing baths, listen to calming music or write in a journal each day.
Doing endless crunches to shrink your belly is not a good use of your time. You have to shed overall body fat before you will even be able to see your stomach muscles, which lie underneath a layer of fat. Abdominal exercises should be a part of every total-body strength-training program, but don't rely on them alone to trim your tummy.
Don't reduce your calorie intake too much, as this can cause the body to enter starvation mode, notes the Harvard Health Publications website. When that happens, it can slow your metabolism and cause your body to store more fat. Don't eat less than 1,000 calories a day unless you are under medical supervision.
- Harvard Health Publications: Abdominal Fat And What To Do About It
- CDC: Can Eating Fruits And Vegetables Help People To Manage Their Weight?
- ShareCare: How Does Metabolism Influence Weight Loss?
- Journal of the American Dietetic Association: Water Consumption Reduces Energy Intake at a Breakfast Meal in Obese Older Adults
- PKD Foundation Health Notes: Hungry or Thirsty?
- The Dr. Oz Show: Reset Your Hormones to Beat Belly Fat
- Hussman Fitness: How Calories Work