Maintaining a trim midsection does more than make you look great—it can help you live longer. Larger waistlines are linked to a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and even cancer.
Losing weight, especially belly fat, also improves blood vessel functioning and also improves sleep quality.
It’s impossible to target belly fat specifically when you diet. But losing weight overall will help shrink your waistline; more importantly, it will help reduce the dangerous layer of visceral fat, a type of fat within the abdominal cavity that you can’t see but that heightens health risks, Here’s how to whittle down where it matters most.
Here are the 5 ways to lose belly fat and live a healthier life:
Think eating plan, not diet.
Ultimately, you need to pick a healthy eating plan you can stick to, Stewart says. The benefit of a low-carb approach is that it simply involves learning better food choices—no calorie-counting is necessary. In general, a low-carb way of eating shifts your intake away from problem foods—those high in carbs and sugar and without much fiber, like bread, bagels and sodas—and toward high-fiber or high-protein choices, like vegetables, beans and healthy meats.
Move away from processed foods.
The ingredients in packaged goods and snack foods are often heavy on trans fats, added sugar and added salt or sodium—three things that make it difficult to lose weight.
Hang out with health-focused friends.
Research shows that you’re more apt to eat better and exercise more if your friends and family are doing the same.
Load up on protein.
There’s a reason everyone harps on about protein: Not only does it help keep you full, but it’s also responsible for repairing the tiny tears caused by strength training in your muscles. This helps them grow bigger and stronger, nudging out body fat in the process. As a general rule of thumb, aim to get at least 70 grams of protein throughout the day.
Drink less alcohol.
To lose weight, you simply have to consume fewer calories—but that can be tough when feelings of hunger start creeping in. One good plan of attack? Ditch the empty calories that don’t serve your goals so you can make more room for the foods that do. This includes all sugary drinks, like soda, but alcohol is a big one.
Try to limit your stress.
Stress can mess with every part of your body—but how you deal with it can make or break your weight loss goals. Most of the effect of stress is behavioral rather than neurochemical.