Actually, your genes are, but you can fine-tune your metabolism. Pound-for-pound, muscle burns more calories than fat, explains Diana Thomas, Ph.D., director of the Center for Quantitative Obesity Research at Montclair State University. The best way to increase muscle and decrease fat is with high-intensity interval resistance training (HIRT), says Thomas. HIRT builds muscle and burns fat—and continues even after you leave the gym. In one recent Italian study, lifters doing HIRT burned 18 percent more calories 22 hours after exercising than guys who did traditional strength training.

Maybe you had a particularly stressful month, leading to sky-high cortisol levels and overeating. Maybe you went on the Italian vacation of a lifetime and decided pasta was going to be a main food group for that period of your life (duh). Or maybe you’ve simply been sticking to healthy habits but still feel like there’s just a little bit of extra weight that won’t budge.

Nuts. It’s very easy to eat until the nuts are gone, regardless of how full you are. A tip: According to science, salted nuts are harder to stop eating than unsalted nuts. Salted nuts tempt you to more overeating. Good to know. Another tip: Avoid bringing the entire bag to the couch, preferably choose a small bowl instead. I often eat all the nuts in front of me, whether I’m hungry or not.
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Add a cup of low-fat milk, a part-skim mozzarella stick, or a half cup of low-sodium cottage cheese to breakfast, and you may have a belly-busting win. While lots of research links calcium with lower body weights, results from a 2014 study suggest that calcium-containing foods may reduce waist circumference in those genetically predisposed to carrying weight in their midsection.
"If your diet consists of lots of sports drinks, sugar-sweetened drinks like fizzy pop and flavoured waters, or sugary foods like chocolate and cakes, it will make losing weight harder. While whole fruits and vegetables are undoubtedly good for you, they can also sometimes cause weight gain if you eat too much, as they have high levels of natural sugars in them. Low-fat food options might have high amounts of added sugar in there too, so make sure to check the food label.
Skimping on sleep sets you up for a host of health problems, such as increased risk for depression, type 2 diabetes, and stress. Here's one other benefit to spending enough time in bed: You're more likely to be a healthy weight. University of Chicago research revealed that dieters who were well-rested lost more fat than those who were sleep deprived.
Try this interval-training trick on the elliptical trainer: Ride for 30 seconds as fast as you can, then immediately reverse your direction and ride for 30 additional seconds just as fast in the opposite direction. Rest 60 seconds, and repeat. The force of stopping your momentum, as well as going from a dead stop to full speed twice in the same interval, will give your fat-burning efforts a massive boost, says Alwyn Cosgrove, C.S.C.S.
The zero-calorie tag is particularly tempting when you’re desperate to drop fat, but honestly you’ll see better results if you avoid any artificial sweeteners in your diet. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, when your brain registers something as sweet but fails to get those calories associated with it, it causes your body to seek them elsewhere, leading to excess calorie intake. In addition, popular sweeteners like Splenda are 300-600 times sweeter than real sugar on average, and consuming them may send your sweet cravings through the roof, potentially leading to poor food choices. Steer clear of the fake stuff and reach for the real stuff in moderation if you absolutely need something sweet. However, if you’re really serious about getting rid of your excess fat it would serve you best to avoid added sugar at all costs.

As my colleagues have reported (here and here), when it comes down to it, it’s not the body or the metabolism that are actually creating overweight or obesity – it’s the brain. We all know intuitively that poor decisions are what make you gain weight and better ones are what make you lose it. The problem is that over time, the poor decisions lead to significant changes in how the brain governs – and, amazingly, responds to – the hunger and satiation processes. Years of any kind of behavior pattern lay down neural tracks, and overeating is no exception.

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. More: Good Fats, Bad Fats: How to Choose
Vegetarians are generally thinner and healthier than meat-eaters, according to a 2013 study published in the American Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics. While going totally vegetarian may not be realistic for you, one way to slim down your meals is to replace some meat with plant protein. Black beans, for example, give you 15 grams of protein per serving, and mushrooms are rich in umami flavor, and can be used to replace half the ground beef in most recipes.

But don’t lose hope just yet. You can still incorporate strategies that help you lose total body fat, which will benefit your belly. At the end of the day, nothing sheds belly fat like diet, exercise, and everyday changes to your lifestyle. The slimmer stomach of your dreams is always within reach, but it takes time and dedication. Commit to these habits, and you’ll start dropping pounds before you know it.
“Eating directly out of a box or bag (almost always leads to overeating. Serve your food on a plate or in a bowl to keep portion sizes in check and to get used to what one serving looks like. Also, when we take the time to sit down during meals versus standing or driving, we tend to feel more satisfied with our meal. In fact, research shows that you will eat up to 30% more food at the next meal if you ate standing up! Serve yourself, sit down, and enjoy!” — Jennifer McDaniel, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD, food and nutrition expert

Don’t let extra hours lounging in bed stand between you and a flatter belly. While getting enough sleep can help boost your metabolic rate, sleeping in may undo any benefit you’d enjoy from catching a few extra winks. One study reveals that late sleepers who snoozed past 10:45 in the morning ate nearly 250 more calories over the course of the day, despite eating half as many fruits and vegetables as their early bird counterparts. Even worse, they chowed down on more salty, sugary, and trans fat-laden fast food than those who woke up earlier. If you happen to head out of the house early, you’re in for an additional metabolic boost; researchers at Northwestern University have found that people exposed to just a short period of early morning sunlight had lower BMIs than their late-waking counterparts.