Still, it’s a worthy goal to lose belly fat because it’s “unfortunately the most dangerous location to store fat,” says Lawrence Cheskin, MD, chair of the department of nutrition and food studies at George Mason University and director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center. Because belly fat—also known as visceral fat, or the deep abdominal fat that surrounds your organs—is more temporary, it circulates throughout the bloodstream more regularly and is therefore likelier to raise the amount of fat in your blood, increasing your blood sugar levels and putting you at a greater risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
To stay motivated and deal with cravings, Juge has a couple of great recommendations. First, schedule a cheat meal on every seventh day. "Many of my clients have their cheat meal on Sunday, so then they're ready for Monday and the week to come," he says. If you feel deprived during the week, concentrate on the cheat meal to come, knowing you can eat absolutely anything you want to—pizza, lasagna, doughnuts, beer, chips, you name it. Remember, though, it's just one cheat meal, not an entire day of cheating. Afterward, get right back on the wagon with your next scheduled meal.
Grains get a bad rap when it comes to weight loss, but that's because refined grains (read: processed foods!) are linked to wider waists. 100% whole grains are bloat-busting superstars, however, as they're packed with minerals and de-puff by counter-balancing salt. Stick to brown rice, quinoa, wheat, barley, millet, farro, sorghum, and amaranth for the biggest benefits.
Don't go it alone when it comes to weight loss—unless you want to make things harder on yourself. Research shows that changing and maintaining healthy behaviors is made easier with support from others. Most friends and family members want to be supportive of your weight loss efforts, but may be unsure how to help you, so help them help you. Be specific about the support you need. Rather than saying, "Help me eat healthier and exercise more," say, "Could you go for a 20-minute walk with me after dinner on Mondays and Wednesdays," or "It would be great if you could offer me a small bowl of popcorn rather than a bowl of ice cream as an evening snack."
Sometimes, to whip your body into shape, you have to get a little nutty. While nuts are high in fat, it's that very fat that makes them such powerful weapons in the war against a ballooning belly. In fact, a study published in Diabetes Care revealed that study participants who consumed a diet rich in monounsaturated fats, like those in nuts, over a 28-day period gained less belly fat than their saturated fat-consuming counterparts while improving their insulin sensitivity.
Have a small, protein-heavy breakfast. Kickstart your day with a protein filled breakfast that will give you energy (and keep your blood sugar up) for the rest of the day. Aim for a breakfast that is 400 calories and eat it every morning at around the same time. Go for variety and rotate two to three options. Pair your breakfast with unsweetened tea or a glass of water with lemon.
Keep stocked in your refrigerator or freezer a box of veggie burgers (look for low-sodium varieties). Veggie burgers are a much better choice for your waistline and heart than ground meat. Veggie patties have only about half the calories of regular red meat patties, and zero heart-hurting saturated fat. Plus, they’re so easy to cook – just one or two minutes in the microwave. While toasting your whole-wheat bun, take from your pantry a jar of roasted red bell peppers and top your veggie patty with a couple of luscious slices. Smear your bun with a little low-sodium Dijon mustard.