A combination of exercise and the right diet will help you lose the abdominal fat that’s linked to a higher risk of heart disease. Johns Hopkins researchers explain how to shape up.
1. 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-crab approach is that it simply involves learning better food choices—no calorie-counting is necessary. In general, a low-crab 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
2. KEEP MOVING.
Physical activity helps burn abdominal fat. “One of the biggest benefits of exercise is that you get a lot of bang for your buck on body composition,” Stewart says. Exercise seems to work off belly fat in particular because it reduces circulating levels of insulin—which would otherwise signal the body to hang on to fat—and causes the liver to use up fatty acids, especially those nearby visceral fat deposits, he says.
The amount of exercise you need for weight loss depends on your goals. For most people, this can mean 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise nearly every day.
3. LIFT WEIGHTS.
Adding even moderate strength training to aerobic exercise helps builds lean muscle mass, which causes you to burn more calories each day.
4. BECOME A LABEL READER.
Compare and contrast brands. Some yogurts, for example, boast that they’re low in fat, but they’re higher in carbs and added sugars than others, Stewart says. Foods like gravy, mayonnaise, sauces and salad dressings often contain hidden fat and lots of calories.
5. 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.
6. FOCUS ON THE WAY YOUR CLOTHES FIT MORE THAN READING A SCALE.
As you add muscle mass and lose fat, the reading on your bathroom scale may not change much, but your pants will be looser. That’s a better mark of progress. Measured around, your waistline should be less than 35 inches if you’re a woman or less than 40 inches if you’re a man to reduce heart risks.
7. 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.