1. Don’t starve yourself: Cortisol—that stress hormone that causes your body to store more fat—is elevated from circumstances of high stress, including extreme dieting, Seedman says. “If you start dropping calories excessively, your body goes into starvation mode and it becomes stressed. You’re in caloric deprivation, but that elevated cortisol causes you to gain body fat in your stomach—it’s a vicious cycle,” he adds.
"Self-monitoring" refers to observing and recording some aspect of your behavior, such as calorie intake, servings of fruits and vegetables, amount of physical activity, etc., or an outcome of these behaviors, such as weight. Self-monitoring of a behavior can be used at times when you're not sure how you're doing, and at times when you want the behavior to improve. Self-monitoring of a behavior usually moves you closer to the desired direction and can produce "real-time" records for review by you and your health care provider. For example, keeping a record of your physical activity can let you and your provider know quickly how you're doing. When the record shows that your activity is increasing, you'll be encouraged to keep it up. Some patients find that specific self-monitoring forms make it easier, while others prefer to use their own recording system.
Do this: Limit your total carbs on two consecutive days every two weeks or so to less than 100g per day. This will require you to know how many grams of carbohydrates are in the foods you eat and have the discipline to be very strict on your intake. Your diligence will be rewarded with a noticeable difference in body fat. After two days, you can return to a more normal, though not excessive, carb intake.
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.
Sure, calories and hormones can determine whether your body deposits food into muscle or as body fat, but meal frequency, or how many times you eat each day, affects your overall metabolism. Every time you eat, the body's calorie-burning engine, also known as metabolism, slightly increases. This is especially true for meals that contain protein. So if you eat six times a day, you'll experience six metabolic surges a day, rather than just four if you eat only four times a day. And, of course, eating seven or eight times per day would be even better than six. This is one way to lean out without having to drastically reduce calories. Frequent feedings tend to increase the chance that what you eat will make its way into muscle tissue rather than being packed away as body fat.
3. Stand up more: By now, we all know sitting for too long increases your risk for most diseases, including obesity. But it also shuts down your body’s ability to metabolize fat. According to a study from Missouri University, certain enzymes in the blood vessels of muscles that are responsible for burning fat are “shut off” if you sit still for too long. The good news? The researchers say standing and moving just lightly will re-engage the enzymes.
"With all the different tips out there, it can be tricky to understand exactly which exercises work the best. HIIT is great for fat burning and will get your heart rate up, but I’d also recommend including strength (resistance) exercises too. Try lifting weights, using resistance bands or using the weight machines at the gym as these will increase your metabolism to help with weight loss, and increase your muscle strength. It’s important to mix-up your whole-body workouts so you don’t get bored."
At its core, burning fat comes down to the process of lipolysis—the breaking down of fat lipids, explains Seedman. This happens in the mitochondria of the muscles, or the powerhouses of the cells, responsible for generating the energy our cells need to do their jobs. Exercise has been shown to improve mitochondria function, which then promotes fat breakdown, Seedman adds. Plus, working out helps regulate pretty much all the hormones that optimize fat loss.