Stress wreaks havoc on every part of your body, and can lead to breakouts, joint pain, headaches, and yes, even excess belly fat. That’s because when you’re stressed, your body pumps out extra cortisol, that not-so-great hormone you keep hearing about. Studies show that cortisol not only spikes your appetite, but may also redistribute body fat to your belly area, according to a review published in the journal Obesity.
You already know that a perfect diet doesn't exist, but many of us still can't resist the urge to kick ourselves when we indulge, eat too much, or get thrown off course from restrictive diets. The problem: This only makes it more difficult, stressful, and downright impossible to lose weight. So rather than beating yourself up for eating foods you think you shouldn't, let it go. Treating yourself to about 200 calories worth of deliciousness each day — something that feels indulgent to you — can help you stay on track for the long-haul, so allow yourself to eat, breathe, and indulge. Food should be joyful, not agonizing!
It can actually help you cut back on calories. That's because capsaicin, a compound found in jalapeno and cayenne peppers, may (slightly) increase your body's release of stress hormones such as adrenaline, which can speed up your ability to burn calories. What's more, eating hot peppers may help slow you down. You're less likely to wolfed down that plate of spicy spaghetti —— and therefore stay more mindful of when you're full. Some great adds: Ginger, turmeric, black pepper, oregano, and jalapenos.
To prep his patients for success, Dr. Seltzer tells them to plan around a large evening meal by eating a lighter breakfast and lunch—NBD since most people who eat a meal before bed tend to wake up feeling relatively full, he says. Research suggests balanced bedtime meals may also promote steady next-day blood sugar levels, which also helps with appetite regulation.
There’s one thing to like about visceral fat: It yields fairly easily to aerobic exercise. Vaporizing calories via running, biking, swimming—anything that gets your heart rate up—is an effective way to whittle your middle. In fact, one 2011 study from Duke University Medical Center, published in the American Journal of Physiology, found the sweet spot: Jogging the equivalent of 12 miles a week was even more effective in reducing visceral fat than resistance training three times per week. However, both types of exercise were beneficial when it came to belly fat, the researchers say. (Don’t have time to hit the gym? Try these fun at-home cardio workouts if you’re in a pinch.)
Another healthy change that will help you look better is to cut back on salt. Sodium causes your body to hold onto excess water, so eating a high-salt diet means you’re likely storing more water weight than necessary. Check to see if you have any of the seven clear signs you’re eating too much salt. If you’re in a rush to lose weight fast, cut out added salt as much as possible. That means keep ditching the salt shaker and avoiding processed and packaged foods, where added salt is pretty much inevitable.
In what is perhaps the biggest buzzkill of all time, sex doesn’t quite count as cardio or burn a significant amount of calories: Women burn about 3.6 per minute. "It’s still a good idea," Dr. Seltzer says, citing the activity’s other benefits, like increasing the output of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which naturally reduce food cravings.
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, says Kerry Stewart, Ed.D., director of Clinical and Research Physiology at Johns Hopkins.
To banish stubborn belly fat, you have to ramp up your workouts. In a study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, people who completed a high-intensity workout regimen lost more belly fat than those who followed a low-intensity plan. (In fact, the low-intensity exercises experienced no significant changes at all.) "You need to exercise at full intensity because the end goal is to burn more calories, and high intensity exercise does just that," says Natalie Jill, a San Diego, Calif.-based certified personal trainer. High intensity workouts mean you're going all out for as long as you can. If this sounds intimidating, think of it this way: you'll burn more calories in less time.
Add resistance training. A 2006 study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism suggests that combining cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise with resistance training is more effective than cardiovascular training alone in getting rid of abdominal fat. You can do resistance training with free weights, exercise machines or resistance bands and it may also be useful to train from unstable positions due to increased muscle activity.
And while we are talking about eating at night I should bring up late night snacking. You don’t need me to tell you that this is hurting your weight loss efforts, but when should you stop eating? Make a goal to stop eating 4 hours before bedtime, if you are starving have some veggies and a big glass of water to fill up your belly. Remember your “car” is in the garage, it does not need gasoline it just wants it. Look back at how you ate today and see if there was an opportunity to eat more earlier in the day so that you don’t have those late night cravings tomorrow.
Leafy greens like collard greens, watercress, kale, and arugula may not be on your everyday list, but they all contain a compound called sulforaphane. This nutrient has been shown to act directly on the genes that determine “adipocyte differentiation”—basically, turning a stem cell into a fat cell. A healthier intake of the compound means a healthier body weight for you. And just a scant teaspoon of vinaigrette will help your body absorb the fat-soluble nutrients.
Now, instead of just nagging you to close rings, your Series 4 will keep an eye on when your heart rate spikes and your motion is consistent with working out. Recently, when I thought I started my Nike Run Club run, the Apple Workout app buzzed me a quarter mile in, asking me if I was running. When I confirmed, it filled in the first part of my run and activated to log the rest. As someone who's always grumbling that if a run isn't recorded it didn't happen, that interaction was nothing short of revelatory.