Okay, you get the point: belly fat = bad. How do you lose it? You have to think beyond crunches and planks and adopt a well-rounded approach. “It’s got to be more losing fat as a whole,” agrees Chris Gagliardi, a certified personal trainer at the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Without further ado, here are the best ways to lose belly fat once and for all.
"Eating directly out of a box or bag (almost always leads to overeating. Serve your food on a plate or in a bowl to keep portion sizes in check and to get used to what one serving looks like. Also, when we take the time to sit down during meals versus standing or driving, we tend to feel more satisfied with our meal. In fact, research shows that you will eat up to 30% more food at the next meal if you ate standing up! Serve yourself, sit down, and enjoy!" — Jennifer McDaniel, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD, food and nutrition expert
The most basic approach to weight loss is burning more calories than you consume. For instance, since 3,500 calories equals 1 pound of fat, a weight loss app—or even just a pen and paper—can help you decide how many calories you need to cut from your diet or burn at the gym in order to meet your goals. “If you were to burn 500 more calories per day 7 days a week, that would lead to 3,500 calories in a week and 1 pound of weight loss,” says Gagliardi.
The fad military diet consists of low-calorie, odd food pairings such as bun-less hot dogs with banana, carrots, and broccoli. “Any diet like the military diet that severely limits the amount of calories you consume or eliminates one or more entire food groups puts any individual at risk for nutrient deficiencies,” says Kyle. “This can be more harmful than holding onto those 10 extra lb you’re trying to lose.” (32)
DASH stands for "dietary approach to stop hypertension" and was created by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as a way to help reverse national trends of obesity and heart disease. Scientists combed through decades of research to come up with an expert-backed list of diet tips, along with a prescription for exercise. And it worked: The DASH diet has topped nearly every diet list for nearly a decade. Doctors particularly recommend it for people looking to lower high blood pressure, reverse diabetes, and lower their risk of heart disease. (Here's the basic list of DASH diet-approved foods.)
"Alcohol not only contributes extra calories, but often keeps company with juice/tonic, slows metabolism, triggers hunger, and can lead to poor food judgement (drunk people order cheese fries, not salads). 'A glass of wine' (or two) 5x a week definitely adds up. It may behoove you to go cold turkey on booze temporarily and see if it makes a different. Plus, alcohol can be rather bloating." — Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RD, LD/N, nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition
"When you're anxious, your body feels like it's under a tremendous amount of stress all the time. This is why anxiety is a powerful trigger for weight gain. Two of the most proven cures for anxiety are exercise and spending time in nature. Combine both with an outdoor run or bike ride and race away from the anxiousness. Making this habit part of your lifestyle can help you stay lean for life." — David Zinczenko, author of the Zero Belly Cookbook
For example, when researching the advantages or disadvantages of animal fat, we found two opposing views: one that treats it as a “cure for all” (keto enthusiasts) and another that swears it off completely (vegans). Both claim to hold the truth, but an objective analysis of data does not support either claim completely. This is why, when it comes to researching the different diet plans, all claims made by diet providers should be taken with a grain of salt.
The Dietary Guidelines is a joint report created by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA). It’s designed with the purpose of setting a general basis for what constitutes a healthy diet. The most recent Guideline was published in 2015 and will be updated in 2020. They include five key recommendations:
All bodies are not created equal, and this is why there is no one “magical” diet solution for all. What’s more, even when two people with similar body compositions try the same diet plan, the difference in results can be overwhelming. “Bodies react differently depending on their genetic makeup and metabolism rates,” said Barcelona-based and Certified Nutritionist Carla de la Torre, and added, “this is why, for example, some people can get abs on a bread and cookies diet, while others cannot get the desired 'six pack' even after undergoing rigorous eating and exercise regimes.”
If the diet is a quick fix rather than one that promotes lasting lifestyle changes, this could pose a problem. In particular, extreme diets that promise big weight loss up front aren’t always sustainable — and you may end up overeating or even binge eating if you feel deprived. “Consider if the diet’s habits are ones you can continue throughout your lifetime, not just 21 or 30 days,” says Angie Asche, RD, a sports dietitian in Lincoln, Nebraska.
The Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension, like the TLC described earlier, is endorsed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Association, the American Heart Association, and the 2015 Dietary Guide for Americans. It was developed with the purpose of helping people reduce blood pressure, prioritize the consumption of calcium, potassium, and magnesium, and, most importantly, abstain from sodium.
This diet theory, consisting of 10% or less of daily calories from fat, is the flip-side to Atkins, Keto, and Paleo. Proponents of the ultra-low-fat approach adhere to a diet rich in plant foods, low in animal products, and high in carbohydrates (80% or more of daily caloric intake). An example of this type of theory is the TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) Diet created by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Association with the purpose of helping people combat heart disease, lower cholesterol levels, and prevent digestive problems.
Getting enough protein every day, whether you’re in a quick-fix or long-term mindset is important for keeping your muscles and metabolism healthy throughout weight loss. Make sure you’re having some chicken breast, lean ground turkey, fish, seafood or tempeh that’s the size of a deck of cards at every meal. When snacking, have 2 eggs, 1/4 cup of nuts, or 3/4 cup of Greek yogurt or cottage cheese to meet your protein needs and stay full and feel slim.