"Refined grains like white bread, crackers, and chips, as well as refined sugars in sweetened drinks and desserts increase inflammation in our bodies," says Patton. "Belly fat is associated with inflammation, so eating too many processed foods will hinder your ability to lose belly fat." Natural foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are full of antioxidants, which have anti-inflammatory properties and may therefore actually prevent belly fat, Patton says.
To encourage ketone production, the amount of insulin in your bloodstream must be low. The lower your insulin, the higher your ketone production. And when you have a well-controlled, sufficiently large amount of ketones in your blood, it’s basically proof that your insulin is very low – and therefore, that you’re enjoying the maximum effect of your low-carbohydrate diet. That’s what’s called optimal ketosis.
Carbohydrates are a touchy subject: while some blame them for all fat gain, it’s the type of carbs you eat that’s key. A 2011 study out of the University of Alabama found that a diet that slightly cut back on carbs, and which comprised mostly low-GI carbohydrates, lost more deep abdominal fat than those who ate a lower-fat diet. GI stands for glycemic index, a measure of how fast carbohydrates supply your body with energy: high-GI foods make you spike then crash, while low-GI foods provide a slow burn.
If you want to lose weight fast, your best bet is the HMR Program, according to the health experts who rated the diets below for U.S. News. While these diets enable quick weight loss for those with a short-term goal – there's a strong chance you'll drop significant weight within the first 12 months – keep in mind that this is markedly different from long-term weight loss, which is more important for your health.
Lean protein like fish is a great way to fight fat and boost your metabolism. But the farmed salmon you get at the local market might not be the best bet for your belly. The cold-water fish has a well-deserved reputation for packing plenty of heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids—1,253 mg of the good stuff, and just 114 mg of inflammatory, belly-busting omega 6s. But the farmed variety—and 90 percent of what we eat today is farmed—has a very different story to tell. It packs a whopping 1,900 mg of unhealthy omega-6s.
Parsley has many, many health benefits, including reducing effects of diarrhoea, improving digestion, regulating the menstrual cycle and increasing the rate of urination, which means that more matter is expelled from the body, including more calories and thus reducing weight loss. The diuretic aspect of parsley juice also means that it detoxifies the body faster than other drinks, and acts as an appetite suppressant making you feel fuller than you are.
So how does this work? A quick run-through: The first tip was to eat low carb. This is because a low-carb diet lowers your levels of the fat-storing hormone insulin, allowing your fat deposits to shrink and release their stored energy. This tends to cause you to want to consume fewer calories than you expend – without hunger – and lose weight. Several of the tips mentioned above are about fine-tuning your diet to better this effect.
While many people turn to artificial sweeteners in a misguided attempt to whittle their waistlines, those fake sugars are likely to have the opposite effect. According to researchers at Yale, artificial sweeteners are actually linked with an increased risk of abdominal obesity and weight gain, possibly because they can trigger cravings for the real stuff and spike insulin levels in a similar fashion to real sugar.
"Anytime you’re stressed, you probably go for food," Dr. Seltzer says. (Have we met?!) That’s because cortisol, the stress hormone, stokes your appetite for sugary, fatty foods. No wonder it’s associated with higher body weight, according to a 2007 Obesity study that quantified chronic stress exposure by looking at cortisol concentrations in more than 2,000 adults’ hair.
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.
While it’s often assumed that bread is off-limits when you’re trying to lose belly fat, the right bread may actually expedite the process. Switching to sprouted bread can help out carb-lovers eager to get their fix without going up a belt size, thanks to the inulin content of sprouted grains. The results of a study published in Nutrition & Metabolism reveal that found that pre-diabetic study subjects whose diets were supplemented with inulin shaved off more belly fat and total weight than those whose meal plans didn’t pack this healthy prebiotic fiber.
A University of Michigan study found that lab rats who nommed on a diet enriched with powdered blueberries had less abdominal fat after 90 days than rats who ate a standard diet. The researchers suspected that blueberries are so good at targeting belly fat because of their high levels of phytochemicals, a naturally occurring antioxidant. FYI, blueberries are also an excellent source of fibre.
The body doesn't react to all fats in the same way. Research correlates high intake of saturated fat (the kind in meat and dairy) to increased visceral fat, says Patton. On the other hand, monounsaturated fats (the kind in olive oil and avocados) and specific types of polyunsaturated fats (mainly omega-3s, found in walnuts, sunflower seeds, and fatty fish like salmon) have anti-inflammatory effects in the body, and if eaten in proper portions may do your body good. But Patton warns that eating too much fat of any kind increases your calorie intake and could lead to weight gain, so enjoy healthy fats in moderation.
The final possible culprit behind stubborn weight issues may be the stress hormone, cortisol. Too much cortisol will increase hunger levels, bringing along subsequent weight gain. The most common cause of elevated cortisol is chronic stress and lack of sleep (see tip #10), or cortisone medication (tip #9). It’s a good idea to try your best to do something about this.
Start each day by making a large pitcher of “spa water”—that’s detox water filled with sliced whole lemons, oranges or grapefruits—and make a point of sipping your way through at least 8 glasses before bedtime. Citrus fruits are rich in the antioxidant D-limonene, a powerful compound found in the peel that stimulates liver enzymes to help flush toxins from the body and gives sluggish bowels a kick.