When you’re looking to lose those last five or ten pounds, that weight that doesn’t seem to want to leave is often found around your belly. That stubborn belly fat can be tricky to target with typical weight-loss strategies, and you might soon find yourself feeling frustrated. While it does take some time, it’s not impossible. There are ways to hit that abdominal area to flatten it out. And it can start with some easy flat belly hacks.
“The scale and BMI are data points, but don’t tell us a lot about assessing health or disease risk,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, and author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club. Yet, we do this know this. “People who store fat in their hips and thighs are at less risk of metabolic-related diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes than those who store fat in their belly,” she explains. So if you’re really trying to get rid of that belly fat—which is better for your long-term health, too—it’s time to try out these easy flat belly hacks.
See, certain strategies can definitely assist in losing belly fat and minimizing additional gain, as long as you aim for consistency, focus on keeping your diet clean, and make time to have a more active lifestyle. Here are 10 easy flat belly hacks to incorporate into your daily routine for greater fat loss around your belly. And while you’re at it, be sure to try out these 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time.
“Probiotics are the good bacteria we want more of in our gut to keep it healthy,” says Maggie Michalczyk, MS, RD. Probiotics are super beneficial, as they keep your immune system healthy, which can ultimately help reduce belly fat. One study even found that taking probiotics resulted in a small percentage of belly fat reduction.
Incorporating prebiotic fiber into your diet is an easy way to keep your digestive system running smoothly.
“Prebiotics found in many fruits and vegetables contain fiber and resistant starch that are not digested by your body, so they pass through the digestive system to become food for the good bacteria (probiotics) in your gut,” Michalczyk explains. This working relationship with probiotics ensures that things are running smoothly and that the particular probiotic strain can work to help you lose weight.
Most people often think that cardio is the best way to burn fat and rev up their metabolism, but lifting weights actually burns more calories and can have a greater impact when trying to lose stubborn belly fat.
“It can help better than cardio can for weight maintenance when trying to keep it off,” says Michalczyk.
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If you’re really trying to shed that belly fat, it’s time to start skipping the booze.
“Alcohol, unfortunately, adds up to empty calories and added sugar depending on the type of spirit,” Michalczyk says. Plus, heavy alcohol consumption can significantly increase the risk of fat storage around the waist. Michalczyk’s tips for dealing with alcohol if you’re really determined to lose the weight?
“Drink in moderation, choose lower-sugar options when you can or stick to a low sugar mocktail when trying to lose belly fat,” she says.
When trying to lose belly fat, you may want to rethink your sources of carbs and cut back in portions, too.
“Cutting back on foods that are rich in carbohydrates like pizza and pasta and swapping them for their lower carb counterpart like zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash, and a homemade pizza [topped] with some veggies once a week, for example, may help you lose fat,” says Michalczyk. Excess carbohydrates from a big pasta dinner, for example, get stored as fat in the body.
It’s not all about calories, but also managing your hormones, too. And the amount of sleep you get plays a role in your hormones.
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“Too little sleep can cause your cortisol to spike and also increase your hunger hormone, ghrelin, as well as decrease your satiety hormone, leptin,” says Harris-Pincus. The combination of your body conserving energy and increasing hunger leads to weight gain. You’ll want to make sure you aim for 7-9 hours of sleep nightly.
“Too little or too much is problematic,” she says.
Plain and simple—it’s important to make time to just chill out.
“Stress increases cortisol levels which can lead to weight gain and more belly fat,” says Harris-Pincus. Stressed out people also tend to indulge in comfort foods, which often means they’re eating higher calorie foods.
“Try to manage your stress levels through meditation, deep breathing, exercise, and doing activities that bring you joy,” Harris-Pincus suggests.
“Foods like blueberries, strawberries, and cranberries are packed with antioxidants and fiber that can help decrease insulin resistance, and also help to fill you up on fewer calories to assist with weight management,” Harris-Pincus says. Add them to yogurt, oatmeal, salads, or just eat them on their own as a snack.
Your best bet for truly trying to say goodbye to excess belly fat is by limiting foods with added sugar, especially soda.
“Consuming foods and beverages with lots of added sugars can lead to weight gain and this is especially true of sugar-sweetened beverages and foods with high fructose corn syrup,” says Harris-Pincus. This extra fructose can cause increased storage of belly and liver fat, leading to insulin resistance and an increase in blood sugar. The American Heart Association recommends men should have no more than 36 grams, or 9 teaspoons, of added sugar per day, and women should only have 25 grams per day, or about 6 teaspoons.
Eating foods high in soluble fiber—such as fruits, veggies, and whole grains like oats and legumes—has been shown to help decrease belly fat.
“Soluble fiber dissolves in water and can form a gel which goes slowly through your digestive tract to keep you full and may help to regulate cholesterol and blood sugar,” says Harris-Pincus. Foods you most likely have in your kitchen that act as great sources of soluble fiber include beans, oats and oat bran, barley, citrus, apples, berries, peas, potatoes, and carrots. So you have a lot of options! Harris-Pincus says you’ll want to try for at least 25-30 grams of fiber per day with at least a quarter coming from these soluble fiber-rich foods. Now, time to try out these easy flat belly hacks!