Belly fat—also known as visceral fat and abdominal fat—is an extremely unhealthy "active" fat stored around vital organs such as the liver and intestines. "Visceral fat is very bad for you," says Richard N. Bergman, Ph.D. "It seems to have a more negative outcome on health than overall fat." Here are five habits that will melt away your belly fat. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Make the Right Moves
Exercise can make a huge impact on burning belly fat—just don't expect to do crunches and nothing else. "Endless crunches won't do much if your abdominal muscles are buried under excess body fat," says certified personal trainer Stephanie Mansour. "Cardio is key to burning calories and losing weight. Cycling and walking are two low-impact forms of cardio that I often recommend to clients. Walking is one of the most underrated forms of exercise when it comes to burning calories and losing weight… Riding a bike or using a cycling machine is another great calorie-burning exercise. When you cycle, you use your core and lower body while also increasing your heart rate. If you have access to a spin bike, try interval training by switching up the incline and speed. If you want to go on a bike ride outside, look for a path with hills and play with your speed for some variation."
Bye Bye, Carbs!
Research shows that reducing carbohydrate-heavy foods can lead to loss of deep belly fat, even with no significant change in weight. "For individuals willing to go on a weight-loss diet, a modest reduction in carbohydrate-containing foods may help them preferentially lose fat, rather than lean tissue," says Barbara Gower, Ph.D, professor of nutrition sciences at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "The moderately reduced carbohydrate diet allows a variety of foods to meet personal preferences."
Soda Is Giving You a Beer Belly
High sugar consumption is linked to belly fat—and sugary sodas are especially dangerous. "When we drink our calories, especially with soda or juice, we don't feel as full or satisfied compared to chewing those calories," says psychologist and registered dietitian David Creel, Ph.D. "For instance, you may eat three oranges for the same amount of calories as a large glass of orange juice and feel much fuller for a longer period of time."
Don't Neglect Your Sleep Health
It's not a coincidence that you want to eat everything in sight the day after a bad night's sleep.
"One thing that we know is when we don't sleep well or we're sleep-deprived, it can actually impact hunger hormones," says Dr. Creel. "There's actually a biochemical response to sleep deprivation, which makes us want to eat more."
Studies show that stress and belly fat are closely linked, even more so for women—so don't skip any more yoga classes or meditation sessions. "We found that women with greater abdominal fat had more negative moods and higher levels of life stress," says Elissa S. Epel, Ph.D. "Greater exposure to life stress or psychological vulnerability to stress may explain their enhanced cortisol reactivity. In turn, their cortisol exposure may have led them to accumulate greater abdominal fat."