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7 best ways to get rid of belly fat: From exercise and sleep to protein and stress

Even if you're not shooting for a six-pack, dropping belly fat can be challenging.

Woman pinching belly fat around her waist.
Read on for the best ways to help lose belly fat. (Photo via Getty Images)

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.

It doesn't matter how many core workouts you find online — belly fat is stubborn and weight loss is hard.

Even if you're not shooting for a six-pack, dropping belly fat can be challenging. In fact, belly fat is known to be one of the most difficult fats to lose.

Stomach fat is tough to shed because of the difference between subcutaneous and visceral fat. Subcutaneous or "pinchable" fat is found directly underneath the skin. Visceral fat, however, attaches itself to the internal organs in your abdomen.

Visceral fat can be dangerous for your health. Studies have shown that visceral fat produces more inflammatory proteins, narrows blood vessels and can lead to severe health conditions such as:

  • Heart disease

  • Diabetes

  • Chronic kidney disease

  • Fatty liver disease

  • Increased cancer risk

Both subcutaneous and visceral stomach fat is often caused by poor diet and/or lack of exercise. So if you're making weight loss a goal this year, read on to learn the best ways to get rid of stubborn belly fat.

Red, white and rose wine in glasses on wooden background and collection of wine bottles, copy space
Drinking alcohol is a major cause of belly fat. (Photo via Getty Images)

Change your drinking habits

Drinking alcohol is a major cause of belly fat. Consuming empty calories in any form can lead to weight gain. However, alcohol is particularly fattening as it's full of carbohydrates and sugar that add to your stomach fat.

Another source of empty calories and excessive sugar is pop. Consuming too much added sugar is linked to several health risks, such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

If you want to change your drinking habits to lose belly fat, consider beverages lower in sugar and calories, such as green tea and water.

Person eating fried chicken and french fries
Saturated and trans fats can make losing belly fat difficult. (Photo via Getty Images)

Switch to good fats

Unfortunately, many enticing meals contain foods rich in saturated and trans fats, which can add to the stomach fat you're looking to lose. You need some fat in a healthy diet, but saturated and trans fats aren't the way to go.

Instead, eliminate the bad fats in your diet and replace them with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These good fats can be found in some delicious foods and ingredients such as:

  • Avocado

  • Salmon

  • Peanuts

  • Sunflower seeds

  • Trout

  • Olive oil

Look to replace butter with olive oil, processed meats with fish, and chips with nuts or seeds to get the healthy fat you need while decreasing belly fat.

Young woman with eye mask sleeping in her bed and relaxing in the morning
If you're trying to lose weight, getting enough sleep is essential. (Photo via Getty Images)

Get enough sleep

If you're trying to lose weight, getting enough sleep is essential. Studies show that sleep deprivation can cause weight gain in several ways.

Lack of sleep makes it harder for you to resist temptation, so if there's something tasty sitting on the kitchen countertop at two in the morning, you're much more likely to give in.

Not getting enough sleep also disrupts the balance of hormones that regulate your appetite, and research has shown that those who sleep less consume an average of 385 more calories per day than those who get more sleep.

So, how much sleep should you be getting for weight loss? Seven to nine hours of sleep per night is ideal.

Mature cyclist riding bicycle on coastal path, Kent, United Kingdom
If you're trying to lose weight, getting enough sleep is essential. (Photo via Getty Images)

Stay active

When it comes to getting rid of belly fat, staying active is key. Not just crunches and sit-ups, but a combination of exercises like running, swimming and cycling will also help you burn off stubborn belly fat.

If you're not used to doing aerobic workouts, start slowly — walking for 30 minutes daily is a great place to begin. Additionally, dancing and hiking are fun ways to complete an aerobic workout. Either way, the key is to keep active.

It's not just cardio that's good for dropping belly fat — weight training and resistance workouts are other great options. Weight and resistance workouts like deadlifts, lunges and seated rows can all cut down on unwanted stomach fat.

Raw whole rice background.
Brown rice and quinoa are great substitutes for refined-carb dishes. (Photo via Getty Images)

Replace refined carbs with whole grains

Monitor the carbs you're consuming. Like fat, your body needs some carbs for energy, but the wrong carbs will add fat to your waistline.

Work on replacing refined carbs with whole grains. Whole grains like barley and oatmeal slow digestion, which makes you feel full for longer — plus, they're great sources of fibre. This means they can help with weight loss when eaten instead of processed foods like white bread or pasta.

Brown rice and quinoa are great substitutes for refined-carb dishes. Take a look at some of these easy-to-make dishes to get your daily dose of healthy carbs.

smoked salmon and egg on toast
Protein, found in eggs and fish for example, is a key nutrient for weight loss. (Photo via Getty Images)

Eat protein

Protein is a key nutrient for weight loss. It helps you feel full and avoid overeating, builds muscle and it's an important building block for healthy skin and hair.

In addition to satiating your appetite, protein helps you burn belly fat by having a higher thermic effect — TEE. This means that it burns more calories to digest than carbs or fat. So, by consuming more protein in your diet, you're actually burning calories.

It's not just lean meat like chicken that's a great source of protein in a fat-burning diet. Foods like edamame, lentils and eggs are all great sources of protein to keep you full throughout the day and can help you reach your weight loss goals.

Person sitting cross-legged with hands in the lotus yoga pose
Various forms of exercise like yoga and walking help ease stress levels. (Photo via Getty Images)

Reduce your stress

Research shows that chronic stress increases belly fat by causing hormonal changes that increase appetite. How? Stress produces cortisol — also known as the stress hormone. Research has shown that high cortisol levels increase your appetite — especially for tasty foods that cause belly fat.

To stop stress from contributing to your waistline, look for activities that relieve your stress. Various forms of exercise like yoga and walking help ease stress levels while also contributing to your daily calorie-burning exercise.

Trimming belly fat isn't just about changing your appearance — it's about building a lifestyle that improves your health and happiness. This lifestyle can be challenging at first, but if you commit to it, you'll soon feel the changes and be thankful that you changed your life.

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