Tight deadlines, bills, your kids—whatever your source of stress, having too much of it may make it harder for you to drop unwanted pounds, especially from your middle. And it's not just because you tend to reach for high-fat, high-calorie fare when you're stressed, though that's part of it. It's also due to the stress hormone cortisol, which may increase the amount of fat your body clings to and enlarge your fat cells. Higher levels of cortisol have been linked to more visceral fat.
When you drink liquid carbs, like the sugar in soda, your body doesn't register them the same way as, say, a piece of bread, according to a review of studies published in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care. That means, even though you're taking in calories, your fullness cues aren't likely to signal that you're satisfied once you finish off a can. And that can lead to consuming more overall.
It makes scientific sense, also: A recent study found that antioxidants in cocoa prevented laboratory mice from gaining excess weight and actually lowered their blood sugar levels. And another study at Louisiana State University found that gut microbes in our stomach ferment chocolate into heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory compounds that shut down genes linked to insulin resistance and inflammation. Why the berries? The fruit speeds up the fermentation process, leading to an even greater reduction in inflammation and weight.
“Extreme diets where you're cutting out entire food groups like carbs should be monitored by a doctor or a professional,” says Cara Clark, a certified clinical and sports nutritionist in Orange County, Calif. “This is not usually good for most people. My favorite thing to tell them is if you're cutting carbs to lose weight, expect to be tired and dumb. Our brains thrive with using carbs as fuel. They are essential to our health.”
A 2012 study also showed that people on a low-carb diet burned 300 more calories a day – while resting! According to one of the Harvard professors behind the study this advantage “would equal the number of calories typically burned in an hour of moderate-intensity physical activity”. Imagine that: an entire bonus hour of exercise every day, without actually exercising. A later, even larger and more carefully conducted study confirmed the effect, with different groups of people on low-carb diets burning an average of between 200 and almost 500 extra calories per day.
Say cheese! Adding some extra calcium to your diet could be the key to getting that flat stomach you’ve been dreaming about. Over just 12 months, researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville found that obese female study subjects who upped their calcium intake shed 11 pounds of body fat without other major dietary modifications. To keep your calcium choices healthy, try mixing it up between dairy sources, calcium-rich leafy greens, fatty fish, nuts, and seeds.
Indulging in delicious food is a core principle of Zero Belly Diet. It was the balanced, “zero sacrifice” approach that helped test panelist Jennie Joshi finally lose her pregnancy weight. In just over a month on Zero Belly Diet, Jennie lost 11 pounds, “and the pregnancy pooch is leaving!” she said. “I couldn’t believe I was indulging in dark chocolate—and finally getting results! It’s a lifestyle, not a diet. It’s easy to stick with, and it makes sense.”
The biggest reason we can’t stick to our workouts? No time. Trying to squeeze a trip to the gym, with a shower and change of clothes, into a hectic schedule—especially around the holidays—can make even the most dedicated fitness buff into someone, well, less buff. But scientists in New Zealand recently found that men and women who engaged in three 10-minute exercise “hors d’oeuvres” before breakfast, lunch and dinner saw lowered blood glucose levels—a fat-busting benefit these folks showed all day long!
Sure, you certainly need to drink plenty of water to help expedite the process of ridding your body of excess sodium, you can (and should!) also consume high-water content foods. Reach for cucumbers, tomatoes, watermelon, asparagus, grapes, celery, artichokes, pineapple, and cranberries — all of which contain diuretic properties that will also help you stay full due to their higher fiber content.
Rather than a long and low-intensity cardio workout, try the HIIT method of cardio: intense, fast-paced intervals that leave you completely exhausted after only a 20- to 30-minute session. This form of cardio training increases the afterburn effect, allowing your body to continue burning calories long after your workout is over. You can rotate between 30 seconds of your favorite exercises, with rest in between, as long as they work different muscle groups—such as squats, push-ups and kettlebell swings.
On the face of it, skipping meals seems like a path to losing weight — if you don’t eat as much, you’ll drop fat. But in practise, it doesn’t work out like that. A 2015 study from Ohio State University found that skipping meals messes up your metabolism and your hormones (specifically insulin), which results in an increased likelihood of abdominal weight gain. Researchers recommended eating several small meals throughout the day as opposed to one or two big ones.
Cortisone as an oral drug is another common culprit (e.g. Prednisolone). Cortisone often causes weight gain in the long run, especially at higher doses (e.g. more than 5 mg Prednisolone per day). Unfortunately, cortisone is often an essential medication for those who are prescribed it, but the dose should be adjusted frequently so you don’t take more than you need. Asthma inhalers and other local cortisone treatments, like creams or nose sprays, hardly affect weight.
Nuts, the second food to watch, contain a fair amount of carbohydrate, and it’s very easy to unwittingly scarf down large quantities. Cashew nuts are among the worst carb-wise – you’ll find that they contain around 20% carbohydrate by weight. For someone following a strict keto diet with a 20 grams of carbs per day allowance, this means that consuming 100 grams (which happens in a flash!) will have filled their daily quota. Peanuts tend to be around 10-15% carbohydrate – not putting them in the clear either.
Are you finding it difficult to fit into your little black number? Is belly fat giving you sleepless nights? If your answer is yes, you need to make some lifestyle changes to get the figure of your dreams. No doubt, belly fat looks aesthetically displeasing. It can assume serious proportions and affect long term health, if not curbed at the right time.
Keep a calculator handy. To calculate your waist-to-hip ratio accurately, measure the narrowest point of your waist and the broadest part of your hip. Divide the values you obtained from the measurement and you have your ratio. The waist-to-hip ratio is a more accurate parameter to measure BMI. Those with a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.8 are susceptible to cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Avocados are a double-whammy to belly fat. First, they’re packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats that dim your hunger switches; a study in Nutrition Journal found that participants who ate half a fresh avocado with lunch reported a 40 percent decreased desire to eat for hours afterwards. Second, healthy fats like the unsaturated fats found in avocados seem to prevent the storage of belly fat.
You don’t have to go low-carb to ditch those extra pounds around your waist in a short period of time. In fact, opting for more whole grains might just get you there faster. Researchers at Tufts University have linked eating three or more daily servings of whole grains to as much as a 10 percent reduction in visceral body fat, the kind that ups your risk for chronic diseases, like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
If your doctor has recommended a diet and exercise plan for a medical reason (i.e. to lower your blood pressure, to control your diabetes, anemia, etc.) you can use your UT Flex account to pay for Get FIT. You must pay with cash, check or credit card and get reimbursed. Our online store does not accept payflex cards. You must provide signed documentation from your doctor for approval. You can use the Letter of Medical Necessity Form (PDF File) to obtain a signature from your doctor. If you have additional questions, please contact Human Resources.