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All You Need to Know About Losing That Belly Fat - Forever

07 Jan, 2020
By Daniela Massenz
Is it possible to lose fat around your belly in a week? Sorry - no! The net is full of articles on how to do it in 5 days. All bogus. Months or years of accumulated fat just won't disappear in 5 days. If you think you can get away with going on a quick diet or taking a few supplements, that's not going to work. And forget about doing hundreds of crunches to get that perfect tum. Instead you have to change your food and lifestyle choices. The good news? It can be done - and pretty easily.

A ton of research has been done on how to lose weight and the results are crystal clear. While you can't do much about your genes (yes - your round belly may come from your mom), making healthy food choices, avoiding all the bad stuff, doing the right type of exercise, looking after gut health and getting stress and sleep patterns under control can reduce that annoying tummy flab now - and forever...

We've looked to scientific studies and nutritionists for all the answers. Proven methods that work. And they are a lot simpler than you think. In fact, many of them just involve tiny little tweaks to your diet or lifestyle. Combine a few of the following different tips to find out which works best for you to get a flatter tum in no time at all...

Tip #1. Kill That Sweet Tooth

You already know that sugar is the absolute worst culprit leading to weight gain - right? And like the rest of us you have diligently cut back on the obvious culprits like sweets, cakes and soft drinks and even the amount you put into your tea and coffee. So you think you’re in the clear. Unfortunately, it's not that simple.

For example, did you start using honey instead of sugar? Or turn to those yummy healthy snack bars to satisfy your sweet tooth? And what about frozen yoghurt? And drinking fruit juices instead of cooldrinks? While these are definitely much healthier options than the obvious culprits, all of them are still full of sugar, even if it is in a less refined form. In fact, you'll probably fall over when you find out that 250ml of unsweetened apple juice has 24g of sugar - exactly the same as a fizzy soft drink of the same size. The same amount of grape juice packs in a whopping 32g of sugar! And because the brain doesn't 'register' liquid kilojoules the same way as solid food, you land up consuming even more. Not so good.

Now for the science bit. Numerous studies have shown a link between excess sugar intake and weight. The bottom line is that excess sugar overloads the liver which then basically converts it all into more of that nasty fat we don't want. The good news? By cutting down sugar you are also reducing your risk of other health problems like heart disease, diabetes and fatty liver disease.

Still not convinced? One study where overweight people were put on a diet to maintain their weight found that those who consumed 25% of their kilojoules as fruit juices had an increase in belly fat and a decrease in insulin sensitivity. A second similar one found a reduction in fat burning and metabolic rate. So excess sugar not only converts to fat but also reduces the ability of your body to burn fat you already have.

What you can do

Aside from the obvious 'don’t drink fruit juices', you need to become a little fanatic about reading food labels to find out exactly how much sugar is in each product you buy. Even a prepared 500ml pack of tomato soup can have 20g of sugar or more. And read the labels on those health snack bars - you’d be uncomfortably surprised about how much sugar they can contain, even if it is in the form of honey.

The bottom line is that if you do nothing else, the most important thing is to cut down on sugar. It will not only help you lose weight but also improve your general well-being.

Tip #2. Fibre Facts

Eat your greens! Ring a bell?  Since childhood many of us have had that drummed into our heads. So we should all know about how important fibre is to our diet (particularly soluble fibre - more on that later) but maybe you haven't gone much beyond swopping white bread for fibre rich whole grain.

It turns out that most of us probably don't know how much fibre can influence our weight and tummy fat. One study showed that for every 10g increased intake of soluble fibre there was a 3.7% decrease in belly fat. Another showed that an additional 14g of fibre per day lead to a 10% decrease in kilojoule intake (it makes you feel fuller) which translates into a weight reduction of 2kg in four months. Imagine that - just by taking in an extra 14g of good fibre per day, you will automatically lose weight! The reverse is also true - diets low in fibre can actually increase belly fat.

What you can do

Before you go running off to scoff up on your fibre, one word of warning. Turns out that there are both good and not as good fibre rich foods to help lose weight. The trick is to look for rich sources of soluble fibre. This type absorbs water and forms a gel that helps slow down food as it passes through your digestive system. You feel full so naturally eat less.

Some excellent and yummy sources of soluble fibre include flaxseeds, shirataki noodles (you can buy online), Brussel sprouts, avocados, legumes and blackberries (see box at end).

You can also take your fibre in supplement form. Natures Choice Wheat Bran and Health Connection's Psyllium Husks are both right up there on masses of soluble fibre so are good supplement options. It's as simple as eating your porridge. Have a bowl of Jungle Oats mixed with 3 tablespoons of psyllium husks each morning to get your full recommended daily dose.

Read More. Why You Are Feeling So Bloated (And How to Beat It)

Tip #3. Look After Your Gut

A happy gut is a happy life. Hundreds of bacteria live in your gut - most are good but some are bad. Any imbalances between the two can seriously affect your metabolism. And even worse, when you have more of the bad bacteria it can cause all sorts of health issues, including weight gain (and the dreaded acne).
Scientific studies on twins and their mothers have found that there is a common "core" of shared flora among families that influences weight gain, including where the weight is stored (that’s why you may share a rounded belly with your mom - so you may have to blame this one your genes).

What you can do

The good news is that there is a lot you can do to correct these imbalances: -
  • Meet apple cider vinegar - the super-duper beauty multitasker which all nutritionists recommend. Including this supertonic in your diet is a great way to balance acid/alkaline levels and cleanse your digestive system, which will leave you with a flatter tummy. It can also kill bad stomach and intestine bacteria and promotes good gut bacteria.
    One study found that by drinking one tablespoon of ACV per day for 12 weeks you could lose up to 1.4 cm from your waist. Kick start your day with one tablespoon of Natures Choice Apple Cider Vinegar in one cup of warm water, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and a drop of stevia to taste. It’s also delicious thrown over a fresh salad. 
  • Eat probiotic foods or take a probiotic supplement. If you want to go natural, the best is to seek out organic yoghurt which still includes 'live' bacteria. Both Activia and Woolworths include probiotics in their yoghurts - check labels but watch for added sugar. Other foods that naturally contain probiotics are sauerkraut, kimchi or bone broth. Otherwise go for a probiotic supplement like the one from Solal. A big plus - probiotics give you glowing skin and can also help acne.
Other pro tips from nutritionists which can help you achieve good tummy health and also reduce bloating: -  
  • Drink fennel tea. If you ever want to fit in a tight dress fennel tea is the answer. Fennel tea is a natural diuretic and has long been known to provide relief from bloating, flatulence and indigestion. The bonus - you will notice results in just a few days. 
  • Eat garlic. Whenever this wonder clove is digested, the chemical, allicin, reacts with blood to create a product capable of killing off the nasty bacteria which cause bloating and excess gas in your gut. Bad news - you have to eat it raw (bad breath alert!). Good news - you can chase it down with parsley which is a natural breath freshener. 
  • Ginger. This super-root contains an enzyme which helps digest proteins making it an excellent digestive aid.  It also has two chemicals - gingerols and shgaolsm - which relax and ease inflammation and prevent the formation of excess gas. Bye-bye bloating.
Read More. Why a Healthy Gut Is the Key to a Happy Skin, Body - and Life

Tip #4. Up that Metabolic Burn

Calories in; calories out. A balance between the two keeps your weight constant. If you want to lose some of that belly fat you need to ensure that you are burning up more kilojoules than you are eating. Most of us automatically turn to exercise to ramp up the burn (more on that later). But did you know that there are some very simple tricks you can try to actually improve your metabolism without exercise?

What you can do
  • Have dinner 3 hours before bed. Most of us make this mistake. What you may not know is that when we sleep, our metabolic rate slows. If you eat just before bed, your body just collects all the additional nutrients and turns them into fat. If you go to bed at 10 then eat no later than 7.
  • Drink water. Did you know that cold water helps increase the metabolic rate of your body? An easy peasy way to burn off more calories. When you feel a little peckish it’s more often than not thirst that’s causing those hunger pangs. Drinking water throughout the day not only staves off any food cravings but also gives you a full feeling. And a big glass of lemon water is an easy way to kick start your metabolism in the morning.
  • Green tea. If you find water boring, then green tea may be right up your street. It also has a compound called EGCG that boosts metabolism and supports fat burning. Studies suggest that this effect may be strengthened when you combine drinking green tea with exercise.
  • Intermittent fasting. Recently made popular by a number of celebs, this combines eating with fasting. Studies found a potential 4-7% decrease in stomach fat within 6-24 weeks. The most recent trick is to fast every day for 16 hours and then only eating in an 8-hour period. Sounds hectic? Not really. Eat your last meal at 7pm and then only start eating at 11am the next day.
  • Eat smaller meals. If going too long without food is not your idea of fun, then try eating 4-5 smaller meals 3 hours apart. This helps maintain a healthy metabolic burn rate throughout the day. The mistake a lot of people make with this method is the size of those meals. They have to be small - like one boiled egg and a small fruit for breakfast - to avoid eating too many kilojoules.
  • Thermogenic foods. Turns out that there are certain super-foods which raise the body's temperature, and for it to get warmer it needs to burn up more energy (kilojoules). These foods can contribute to approximately 10% of your fat burning ability by simply speeding up your metabolism. And even better, you probably already have them in your kitchen - chilli’s, cayenne pepper, black pepper, green tea, turmeric, ginger and lean proteins like turkey. 
  • Eat pineapple.  Pineapple is one of the richest sources of an enzyme called bromelain. This super enzyme boosts metabolism, helps absorb nutrients and makes you more efficient at burning fat. Try and eat a quarter of a pineapple a day - fresh, in a fruit salad, smoothies or with your probiotic yoghurt.
  • Try MCT Oil. So what exactly is MCT? Medium-chain triglycerides are a unique form of fat that requires less energy to be digested. The best part? MCT’s don’t get stored as fat in the body - rather, they get burned for energy and increase your metabolism. In a 12-week study, it was found that MCT oil resulted in an additional one kilogram weight loss.  Time to add a tablespoon of Lifematrix Pure MCT Oil to your morning smoothie for a fat-burning boost.
Read More. How to Fix Your Metabolism to Achieve a Healthy Weight

Tip #5. Time to Chill!

You can make all the changes you want to your diet and exercise routine but the bottom line is that if you are constantly stressed, you probably won't lose weight. Anxiety causes the body to produce extra cortisol (the stress hormone) - this not only increases appetite, but you don't digest your food properly. A little cortisol is healthy but a build-up in the long term is the worst possible enemy to any form of flat stomach.

In many cases, stress can also lead to overeating. But instead of the excess kilojoules being stored as fat all over the body, all that extra cortisol just sends it directly to the belly. To make it worse, studies have found that women who have a high waist to hip ratio (the stomach is big compared to the hips) produce more cortisol than normal when stressed - so they are more prone to weight gain.

What you can do

If you are permanently running high on cortisol, you need to take a long hard look at your day and work to dampen those trigger points. Skip the morning coffee and take up yoga if you are perpetually under stress. Keep going with those strength and cardio exercise programmes. Also avoid doing extremely intense forms of exercise, not eating after a workout and chronic sleep deprivation.

A few supplements can help to blitz that stubborn stomach fat caused by high levels of cortisol. Solal’s Burnout Adrenal Support (cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands) is a good option for burnout and exhaustion caused by stress. You can also go natural and try single herbal tinctures with Siberian ginseng, tulsi, rhodiola or liquorice root.

Tip #6. Protein Plus

Now we come to the real super food.

If you want to lose weight, then adding protein is perhaps the single most effective change you can make to your diet. Studies have found it to be the most important element when it comes to getting rid of flab. It has been shown to reduce cravings by 60%, boost metabolism by 300-420 kilojoules a day and help you eat up to a massive 1850 less kilojoules per day. High protein intake increases the release of the PYY hormone which in turn decreases appetite and promotes fullness. It also raises your metabolic rate and helps retain muscle mass during weight loss. Impressive stuff.

Some of you may have concerns about the high kilojoule content of many proteins so may reduce your intake when you are trying to lose weight. But what you may not know is that another hormone called neuropeptide Y (NPY) increases your appetite and promotes weight gain. And guess what? Your levels of NPY increase when you eat too little protein. So stop worrying about the kilojoule count - protein gives your fat burning ability a huge boost and that basically means bye-bye weight.

What you can do

Stock up on all the good proteins - whole eggs, fish, seafood, legumes, nuts, meat, chicken, dairy products and some whole grains. But don’t go overboard. Remember that a recommended portion per meal is about 100 grams - that’s about the size of your palm. And protein should comprise about 25-30% of your total kilojoule intake. If you struggle to get up to the recommended levels, consider Solal Pure Whey Protein as a supplement to boost your intake.

Because proteins are such a super booster, it's also not a bad idea to start off your day with a protein rich breakfast. Instead of stocking up on low quality carbs, consider some good carbs, fats and a healthy dose of protein. Eat eggs and bacon with mushrooms/tomatoes (or try some yummy smoked salmon with scrambled eggs) finishing off with a glass of milk. This will truly kick-start your metabolism for the rest of the day...

Tip #7. Exercise Right

When we have a little bit of a tummy the first thing we think of is to try spot reduction and start endless rounds of crunches. Wrong. Turns out this is will not help you lose that flab. In one study, 6 weeks of training just the stomach muscles found no effect on the size of the waist circumference or the amount of fat on the tummy.

However, exercise is very effective in helping to lose that flab. In fact, a study which compared women who watched more than three hours of TV per day to those who watched less than one hour found that the couch potatoes had almost twice the risk of severe belly fat. Bottom line - you need to get moving.

It's just the type of exercise that's important.

What you can do

Focus on aerobic exercise (cardio), but strength and resistance training will also help. Aerobic exercise has been shown to lead to major reductions in stomach fat in a number of studies. Something as simple as running is one of the best cardio for burning body fat. If running doesn't quite float your boat, try walking (or a run/walk mix), swimming or cycling.

While the type of exercise is important, you won't get good results if you just go for a 15-minute walk a day. Studies suggest the optimum is 5 hours a week.

Don't forget that any activity is good for you. If you know anything about Fitbit and other activity trackers, the reco is that you should aim for 10 000 steps a day (roughly 7.5kms) to keep fit. And if you are constantly running around during the day at work or home, you'd be surprised just how quickly you can clock up these numbers.

Read More. 9 Healthy Ways to Quickly Lose Extra Weight - Without Dieting

Tip #8. Fats - The Good vs. The Bad

Time to clear up any myths. Fat doesn't make you fat. In fact, fat can help you maintain your weight. What's more it packs twice the amount of energy than either protein or carbs. When you don't have any fat in your diet, it's like not having any fuel to burn off all those kilojoules you eat.

One study found people who consumed the most unsaturated fatty acids have lower BMI's and less tummy fat than those who consumed the least. Why? It's been found that fatty acids are little super boosters for your metabolism. Plus, research has found you actually need 'new' fat to help burn off the 'old' fat stored in your tummy, thighs and butt. And because it takes longer to burn off, you feel fuller for longer.

But - and it's a big BUT. Not all fats are created equal. For starters, trans-fats are absolute no-nos. They are the unhealthiest fats on the planet. Also known as partially hydrogenated oils, they are used in marg, spreads, fried foods and processed packaged foods like baking mixes, muffins and certain biscuits. One study showed that after a period of 6 years, those fed with a high trans-fat diet had 33% more stomach fat than those who ate a diet high in monounsaturated fat.

What you can do

Firstly, add whole foods full of healthy fats to your diet - think avocados, legumes, nuts, seeds, olives, vegetable oils and fish.  You will also get a healthy dose of saturated fats from your primary protein sources like meat and dairy. Your body needs both proteins and fats to work at its best. Even more important, healthy fats are essential when trying to lose weight, especially from the belly.

Eat more fish - particularly oily fish like salmon herring, sardines, mackerel and anchovies. These contain omega-3 fatty acids which not only protect you from disease, but can boost serotonin levels (your 'happy' hormone) and along with exercise, also increase muscle mass. Certain evidence also suggests that these omega-3 fats help reduce tummy fat.

Think of changing your current vegetable oil to coconut oil which is the healthiest of the bunch. Or take it as a supplement. To boost fat loss, it's best to take about 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of coconut oil per day. Or you can try boost your fatty acid levels with Revite capsules packed full of both Omega 3 and 6.

Read More. Curious to Try the Keto Diet? Here's All You Need to Know

Tip #9. Alcohol Alert

Okay - now for some good and bad news.

Alcohol can be both healthy and harmful. It's healthy if you drink it in moderation - one glass of wine (preferably red) three or four times a week. But it's not so good when you save it all for that party on the weekend. A study found that people who drank alcohol daily but averaged less than one drink a day had less stomach fat than those who drank less frequently but drank more on the days they did drink.

Other research has shown that alcohol actually reduces the burning of fat. When the alcohol gets sent to your liver for processing, the fat burning process is reduced by up to a mammoth 73% while the liver does its work (bang goes the higher metabolic rate you've worked so hard on). And even worse, excess alcohol kilojoules are then partly stored as belly fat - hence the well-known 'beer gut'!

What you can do

Red wine (in moderation) and weight loss can go hand in hand. It contains resveratrol which converts 'white fat' into 'beige fat' and which is easier to burn off and so speeds up the metabolism. But there are also easier (and healthier) ways to get your stock of resveratrol - try some blueberries, grapes or strawberries.

So you don't have to stop drinking if you want to lose weight - you just have to put on the brakes a little...

Tip #10. Get Your Zzzz...

One of the biggest concerns doctors have had in recent times is the increasing number of people who are struggling to get a good night’s sleep. And it’s no wonder - in our fast paced, hectic and stressful lives, together with the 'always on' lifestyle we follow, our brains are constantly wired into alert mode. No wonder we are always so tired...

However, a good night's sleep is one of the most important elements we need to maintain our health - both mental and physical.  And bad news for your weight loss programme - too little or interrupted sleep has been definitively linked to weight gain. A 16-year study found that women who slept less than 5 hours per night were significantly more likely to gain weight (up to 15kgs!) than those who slept 7 hours or more a night.

It's not only the amount of time you are asleep but also the quality of that sleep that counts. Interrupted sleep or sleep apnoea (where breathing stops intermittently during the night) has also been linked to weight gain - particularly around the tummy. So if you suspect you might have a problem like this, go see your doctor to get it sorted.

What you can do

Firstly, ban all TV's, tablets and cell phones from your bedroom. It has been proven that the blue light emitted from these devices tricks your brain into overload so it doesn't want to go asleep. Then make your room as dark and quiet as possible. Darkness is necessary as the eye can pick up light even through closed lids - and as soon as this happens the brain thinks that it’s daylight and time to wake up.

Finally, get into a routine which calms you before you go to bed. Here there are no hard and fast rules - just find things that help relax your body and mind.  It could be a bath, some meditating time, reading a book, hot milk, lavender on your pillow, etc. - whatever works for you.

Read More. How Too Little Sleep Can Mess with Your Skin, Body - And Day

Tip #11. DO Eat Carbs

Just don't eat bad carbs. You should know all about these - right? Generally, all bad carbs are white - white flour, white bread, rice, pasta, potatoes - so it's pretty easy to spot and eliminate them.

Common wisdom suggests you should cut all carbs when you are trying to lose weight. However, the opposite is actually true. Not all carbs are bad. In fact, healthy carbs keep your blood sugar stable and help reduce cortisol levels (the stress hormone) which is linked with stomach fat. Studies suggest that just by substituting good for bad carbs can actually reduce belly fat. And people with the highest consumption of whole grains have been found to have 17% less tummy fat than those who eat refined carbs.

It has also been found that cutting out carbs completely can actually slow down your metabolism and reduce its fat burning ability. And then when you start eating carbs again, you can end up piling on all the weight you lost.

What you can do

Do without your white bread and potatoes. Substituting the baddies for healthy carbs such as brown rice, sweet potato, quinoa and whole grain bread will naturally help flatten your tummy - without cutting back on your intake.

However, if you want to lose a little of that flab, studies have found that a low carb diet does specifically target tummy fat. In fact, low carb diets are generally quite effective - overall, they result in 2-3 times more weight loss compared to low fat diets. However, nutritionists recommend that you don't go below 50 grams of carbs per day. This level will put your body into ketosis, killing your appetite and making your body start burning fats for fuel. Just don't drop your protein intake while you are on diet.
You probably now realise that losing that unwanted weight and belly fat is not just about a diet or supplements - it's about making healthy food, exercise and lifestyle choices. Pick up a few good habits and get rid of the bad ones, and you will see that the fat will disappear a lot quicker than you think. If you do just one of the items on this list, it won’t have a big effect on its own. If you want results, you need to combine different methods that have been shown to be effective.

And if you are prone to bloating, there are some quick fixes which can help you fit into that form fitting dress you've planned for your next big night out. Just avoid certain foods to temporarily reduce that bump. Or try detox water which will not only kick start your metabolism but also help you to de-bloat.

Read More. How You Can Lose Weight Fast WITHOUT Counting Calories

Sources: Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE, Kris Gunnars, BSc., Nutritionist Michelle Storfer founder of the, Rhian Stephenson; Elissa el Hadj, founder of FORM Studio; Alexandra Samit, Be Well health coach at Dr. Lipman's Eleven Eleven Wellness Center; Nicole Granato, a women's health specialist.

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