Image: Shutterstock While shopping online, I came across those beautiful fitted cocktail dresses – pretty, short and oh-so feminine! I browsed
While shopping online, I came across those beautiful fitted cocktail dresses – pretty, short and oh-so feminine! I browsed through a few and put them in my cart, but I had a nagging doubt in my head, “will my tummy shows in them”? Most of the women have this fear when they dress up for a special occasion. Dressing up is fun put sometimes painful as tummy fat or belly fat shows easily.
Belly fat is one of the most common problems, especially with Indian women. In fact, it has been observed that even those who have slim bodies are troubled by bulging belly. Even after doing intense workouts, this stubborn fat refuses to budge even an inch. A bulging belly not only diminishes your appearance, but also increases the risk of diseases like stroke, diabetes, heart disease and cancers. Some people even go to the extent of taking diet pills or fat burners for reducing belly fat.
Spot reduction involves losing weight from a particular body part of the body and your belly is one of those areas where most of the fat tends to get accumulated. Unfortunately most of us are unaware of the type of work out and other lifestyle changes that are needed to get rid of the flab from our tummy. To lose this fat effectively, you need to focus on those exercises that specifically target your belly rather than indulging in a full body workout. Apart from this, there are certain natural ways such as dietary and lifestyle changes which can help you get those flat and sexy abs.
Exercises to Reduce Belly Fat:
There are plenty of exercises and food items that can go a long way in helping you get flat abs. All it takes is a little bit of discipline and perseverance. Exercises are one of the best ways to achieve your desired weight loss and the same is true with reducing belly fat. Given below are a few exercises that help you in getting rid of a bulging belly.
1. Side Plank:
This is a great abs work out. It is different from traditional plank in the sense that it enables you to support your body weight on two points of contact instead of four, helping you work out your core muscles.
- You can start off by lying on your elbow placed directly beneath your shoulders and your legs stacked together. Now place your right hand on your left shoulder or right hip.
- Brace your abs and lift your hips off the floor so that you are balancing on your forearm and feet. Your body should form a diagonal line. Hold on to this position for 30 to 45 seconds or as long as you can if you are a beginner. Switch sides and repeat the procedure.
2. Exercise Ball Crunch:
This exercise is done with the help of an exercise ball crunch and is great for working out your abdomen muscles. In this exercise, the abdomen gets exerted while the rest of the body is stabilized throughout the routine.
- To start off, lie on the ball with your lower back fully supported and your hands placed behind your head.
- Now lift the torso off the ball by contracting the abs to pull the bottom of the rib cage towards the hips.
- Curl up, keeping the ball stable and then lower back down to stretch the abs. Do at least 1 to 3 sets each with 12 to 16 reps.
3. Reverse Crunch:
This exercise has been considered more effective than regular crunches in strengthening the core muscles.
- You can start off by lying flat on your stomach with your arms at your sides.
- Crossing your feet, lift them off the floor to create a 90-degree angle with your knees.
- Now contract your abs muscles and lift your hands and shoulders off the ground, exhaling when you contract and inhaling when you lower your back down.
- Try doing 1 to 3 sets with 12 to 16 reps each.
4. The Bicycle Exercise:
Cardio exercises are one of the best exercises for burning body and belly fat. Exercising on the bicycle is one of those which are great for body rotation, abdominal stabilization and more abdominal muscle activity.
- Start off by lying on your back with your hands behind your head.
- Now slowly raise your knees to your chest while lifting your head and shoulders off the floor.
- Bringing your right elbow towards your left knee, straighten your right leg.
- Now switch sides, bringing your left elbow to your right knee and straightening your left leg.
- While doing this exercise, keep your breathing relaxed and even. Do 1 to 3 sets with 12 to 16 reps each.
5. Vertical Leg Crunch:
This exercise is similar to leg crunch except that your legs are straight up, working out your abs and adding intensity to the routine.
- To start off, lie down on the floor with your legs straight up, your knees crossed and your hands placed beneath your head for support.
- Contract your legs, lifting your shoulders off the floor and keeping your legs in a fixed position to crunch.
- Do at least 1 to 3 sets with 12 to 16 reps each.
6. Long Arm Crunch:
This exercise has been derived from the traditional floor crunch where the arms are held straight behind you such that a lever is added to the move, making it a challenging exercise.
- Start off by lying on the floor or a mat. While doing so, extend your arms straight behind, keeping them clasped and next to your ears.
- Contracting your abs slowly, lift your shoulders off the floor to keep your arms straight.
- Do 1 to 3 sets with 12 to 16 reps each.
7. The Captain’s Chair Leg Raise:
As evident from its name, this exercise involves a captain’s chair and a rack with padded arms to allow the legs to hang free. It is commonly found in gyms and racks.
- Start off by standing on the chair and griping hand holds.
- Pressing your back against the pad, raise your knees to the chest to contract the abs.
- Then lower the back down.
- Perform 1 to 3 sets each with 12 to 16 reps.
8. Interval Workout:
An interval workout is a workout where a high intensity exercise is followed by a lower intensity exercise. This is done to enable your body to workout at a good pace and then give it enough time to recover. For example, you can try jogging for the first 5 minutes to warm up. Then sprint for the next 2 minutes. After that, you can slow down to the spot where you are running at a jogging pace and then indulge in a full sprint for 2 more minutes. You can end up by jogging for the final 5 minutes.
9. Running and Walking:
Running and walking are the best fat burning exercises. This is quite simple as all you need is a good pair of shoes. Running burns more calories but walking is also quite effective in this regard. You can try brisk walking for 30 minutes at least 5 days in a week. This will cause you to breathe harder and your heart rate to become faster than usual. To get the same results in half a time, you can try jogging for 20 minutes in a day, at least 4 days in a week.
Diet to Reduce Belly Fat:
In addition to exercise, there is a need to make certain changes in your dietary pattern to reduce belly fat. All kinds of junk foods, processed snacks and aerated drinks might seem pleasing to your taste buds but they cause more harm to your tummy both internally and externally, causing fat to accumulate in your mid section.
A balanced diet not only improves your overall fitness but also prevents your belly from bulging up. Besides, there are certain food items that can help reduce your belly fat naturally. Given below are a few dietary tips for reducing belly fat:
1. Restrict your Caloric Intake:
As we all know, the key to weight loss is consumption of fewer calories than you normally consume. Spot reduction is rather impossible but when you start losing overall body weight, you tend to lose belly fat first. Thus, there is a need to restrict the intake of sugar and starch as these types of foods get stored in the body as fat if the calories are not burnt off immediately and do not provide much nutrition. Instead, it is advisable to consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins like chicken, fish, turkey and tofu. Processed foods and sweetened beverages also contain hidden fructose apart from fruits. Make sure to limit your fructose intake to less than 25 grams per day.
2. Avoid Late Night Snacking:
Late night or in between meals snacking should be avoided. If you feel hunger cravings in between meals, go for healthy foods like carrots, celery, fruits or nuts.
3. Eat Smaller Portions:
Reducing portion sizes can greatly help in weight loss including belly fat. Ensure to consume all kinds of foods in moderation to reap their health benefits.
4. Keep Yourself Hydrated:
Staying hydrated is extremely important. Drink plenty of water as it keeps you full in-between meals. You can drink one full glass of water before every meal as this will fill up your stomach and you are likely to eat less. Replace the sugary sodas and fruit juices with water to prevent the consumption of unnecessary calories. Ensure to drink at least 8 glasses of water every day.
5. Eat Fewer Carbs:
Carbs are an important source of energy. But most of us tend to consume more carbs than are need. These carbs get stored in the body as fat resulting in the appearance of belly fat.
6. Eat More Protein:
Increase the consumption of lean proteins like fish, skinless chicken and eggs. Since protein has a higher thematic effect than other foods, your body burns more energy while processing proteins than it does while processing carbs and fat. Thus, a high protein diet is more effective in burning belly fat.
7. Cut Down on Alcohol Consumption:
Alcohol is loaded with sugar which leads to fat. Even if you cut down your sugar consumption but continue consuming alcoholic beverages, you are no better off. Alcohol also places stress on your liver which is forced to overwork to remove toxins consumed. This adversely affects the building of muscles. Alcohol greatly contributes to belly fat so it is advisable to refrain from consuming it.
Foods that Reduce Belly Fat:
As stated earlier, there are certain foods which are especially effective in reducing belly fat. The foods given below should be included in your diet as they can provide you with a flat belly along with a rich boost of nutrition.
1. Fruits and Fruit juices:
Among fruits, cranberries are especially effective in reducing belly fat. They have a high content of organic acid which act as a catalyst for enzymes. These enzymes help in reducing the fatty deposits. Ensure to include 100% cranberry juice in your diet. Cran-water also helps to lose belly fat. Dried fruits like raisins, apricots and figs are also quite nutritious and beneficial for weight loss.
2. Fish Oil/ Omega-3 Fatty Acids:
Omega-3 fatty acids help you to lose belly fat by directly targeting tummy fat. Fish oil is another great option to lose belly fat. Ensure to consume at least 6 grams of fish oil or eat mackerel, salmon at least twice a week. You can also munch chia seeds as they are high in protein and an excellent source of B vitamins. They also contain calcium and high quantity of antioxidants.
3. Linolenic Acid (GLA and CLA):
Conjugated Linolenic Acid (CLA) and Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) help reduce belly fat by activating the brown fat in overweight people. You can obtain this GLA from precursor vegetable oils like sunflower oil. Otherwise you can also use GLA supplements. CLA helps in reducing fat by helping the body to utilize and access stored fat.
4. Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA):
Monounsaturated fats like omega-9 fatty acids also play an important role in a flat belly diet. Certain studies have shown that MUFAs help to burn body fat in the belly. The American Heart Association recommends using MUFAs instead of trans-fats and saturated fats. To get the recommended amount of MUFAs, you can use olive, sunflower or safflower oil for cooking. Other sources of MUFA include filberts, olives, macadamia nuts and avocados.
5. Lemon or Lime:
For a flat belly, try to drink lime juice in normal water daily in the morning. You can also sip lemon juice or use it in salads or in your diet. Lemon provides more energy to the liver to liquefy fat so that it gets flushed away more quickly from the system. Besides you should drink plenty of water to accelerate this process. Dehydration can cause your kidneys to take help from the liver, thereby reducing the liver’s speed to burn fat.
6. Herbal Teas:
Herbal teas can be beneficial in this regard as they are prepared from spices and herbs that have been proven to speed up metabolism, reduce stress and cleanse the body’s internal organs. You can also consider using green tea as it has a load of antioxidants which are great for your body, skin, hair and brain. It contains EGCG which can help you lose belly fat naturally. Try having 3 to 4 cups of green tea in a day without adding milk or sugar. An effective way to lose belly fat is to replace the sodas, juices and other sugary foods with herbal teas.
Apart from a healthy diet and regular exercise, it is important to incorporate certain changes in your lifestyle to accelerate the process of losing belly fat and be able to maintain the fitness level in the long run. To start off, it is important to maintain a positive attitude. If you believe that you will be able to do it, you can actually do it. In fact, you have to be patient enough as you cannot expect to get instant results. You need to make the following changes in your lifestyle:
1. Get Proper Sleep:
Getting proper sleep is perhaps one of the best and easiest things that you can do to bring your body into shape including reduction of belly fat. Science has shown a link between getting deep sleep on a consistent basis and having less belly fat. Sleep deprived people tend to feel sluggish, causing them to eat more to compensate for the lack of energy. The deepest and most sound sleep comes from going to bed early in the evening. When you are awake till late in the night, you are tired and your body produces more Ghrelin, which increases cravings for sugar and other fat-building foods. Lack of sleep can also alter your hormone production, thus affecting your cortisol levels that cause insulin sensitivity which is one of the causes of belly fat. It is advisable to get at least 7 hours of sleep at night.
2. Manage your Stress Levels:
Stress is a part and parcel of life today. But too much stress can increase the level of cortisol in the body which leads to excess fat storage. Stress can be managed by indulging in regular exercises, staying away from stress inducing people from your life and time management. You can try yoga, meditation or other mind-body building activities that improve breathing, posture and provide relaxation too. If your job is the cause of your stress, consider changing your careers to be better off and alive. Being late or constantly running out of time can also lead to stress. Try to manage time by making a list of things that you need to accomplish on a given day. This might help in reducing your stress levels and consequently the fat accumulated in your belly.
3. Slow Down your Breath:
This is an effective method that you can try even if you are busy doing something else. Whenever you find that you are feeling tensed, try and check your breathing. When people are stressed out, they often alternate holding their breath with short breaths or take rapid shallow breaths. When you become aware of your breathing, relax your belly and try to slow down your breathing. To get the best results, focus on slowing down your exhalation rather than inhalation. This method is quite simple but extremely effective.
4. Be Persistent:
It is our tendency to look for quick results in every aspect of life, fitness is one of those. Often when we are trying to lose belly fat or simply lose weight, we expect to see results within a short span. When we fail to see the difference, we end up feeling disappointed and giving up on the fitness regime.Another reason is that some people feel monotonous following a particular routine or are simply unwilling to make the requisite changes.
So the most important thing that you need to keep in mind while trying to lose belly fat is to be persistent. As we all know, nature is persistent, time keeps on moving no matter what. Like nature, you have to be persistent enough to take steps each day to eat the right foods, do your regular exercises and nourish yourself. You need to give some time to yourself before you can see positive results. Avoid pushing yourself while trying to lose belly fat as things take their own time to work out. And last but not the least, you have to maintain a positive mood and be happy. Make sure to measure your progress to know where you are heading.
So if you really want to look good in your favourite saree or a perfectly fitted dress and if you think that belly fat is incurable, you need to change your thinking. Just go ahead and adopt the simple yet effective ways given above. Though you cannot reduce fat, you can definitely lose belly fat by decreasing your total body fat percentage.
Remember a step taken in the right direction is always better than standing still on the wrong path. Go ahead and make those small changes in your life. We hope this article will surely help you. Do share the life changing steps you adopt and share your views in the comments section below!