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June 23, 2019 3 min read

By Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD

Are your pants are feeling a bit snug these days? Do you sometimes have to unbutton them just to sit comfortably? Have you have lost some weight but can’t shed your “muffin top”?

Unfortunately, you cannot target a specific part of your body for weight loss. But there are a lot of things you can do to encourage your body to use that stored belly fat and make your stomach appear smaller.

Cut Back on Sugar

Table sugar is a combination of glucose and fructose. A high intake of fructose has been found to increase fat accumulation in the midsection and liver. Drinks sweetened with fructose seem to be particularly problematic for belly fat. 

Avoid sweet drinks and added sugar as much as possible. Instead, choose water, unsweetened  tea, no-calorie sparkling beverages, or other drinks without sugar. However, you may want to avoid certain artificial sweeteners like saccharin, aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame K and neotame, which some studies link to increased appetite and cravings for sugary food.

Eat More Fiber

Fiber helps maintain healthy digestion and may help you lose weight. For weight management specifically, soluble fiber is the most beneficial. A 2011 study found that eating just 10 grams of soluble fiber per day reduced abdominal fat by 3.7% over a year. This type of fiber actually slows down digestion, helping you stay full and lowering your overall calorie consumption.

But soluble fiber does need to be balanced with insoluble fiber, which helps things move along and prevents constipation.

Luckily, most fruits and vegetables contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. The goal is to get at least 25-35 grams of total fiber per day from plant foods.

Exercise

Although you can’t target belly fat specifically with exercise, just working out can help trim your tummy. A 2010 study found that for people who had recently lost weight, those who exercised were more likely to keep the weight off, especially in the midsection, for at least a year.

Cardiovascular exercise is most effective for burning fat in the short term; weight training can help strengthen muscles, which burn more calories in the long run. A combination of cardio and strength exercise is best if you want to lose belly fat.

Eat More Protein

Eating more protein is the best way to lose fat. Protein helps reduce cravings and can boost metabolism by up to 100 calories per day. A 2012 study found an inverse correlation between the amount of protein consumed and belly fat.

Aim to get 25-30% of your calories from protein. Choose sources like fish, chicken, lean beef or a high-quality protein supplement. Beans are also high in protein.

Cut Back on Alcohol

Research has found that excessive alcohol intake increases the risk of increased fat storage around the midsection.

If you choose to drink alcohol, yet want to lose belly fat, first cut back on the quantity you are drinking; for example, drink only on weekends and stick with the recommended limits of no more than two drinks a day for men and one for women.

Manage Stress

Uncontrolled stress leads to the release of a hormone called cortisol. High cortisol levels have been linked to uncontrolled appetite and increased abdominal fat.

Controlling stress through relaxation, exercise and spending time with loved ones can actually help decrease abdominal fat. Try to find time for at least one relaxing activity daily.

Although you can’t force your body to shed weight in a specific area, with a few changes in lifestyle and routine you should be able to make a dent in that unflattering flab around your midsection.

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