Jan. 11, 2013 at 5:43 PM ET
Fight fat with fat
If you’ve been cutting down on fat, stop! If you eat the right kind can actually help you lose fat faster. “Fat is satiating, so cutting it too low can lead to constant hunger,” says registered dietitian Cynthia Sass, author of S.A.S.S. Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches. “When you cut fat too low, your carbohydrate intake generally increases, which can result in a surplus of unburned carbs that wind up feeding fat cells.” Fats also boost the absorption of antioxidants, which emerging research has linked to weight control. Monounsaturated fats like those found in almonds, omega-3 fatty acids (salmon is great source) and medium chain triglycerides (found in coconut oil) play a key role in fighting inflammation, a known trigger of premature aging and diseases including obesity, Sass says.
Sleep 'em off
If you’ve been burning the midnight oil lately, extinguish the flame and turn in early. Sleep may be as important to weight loss as diet and exercise. Lack of sleep can lead to increased snacking, according to research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. And researchers from the University of Chicago found that not getting enough shut-eye could actually impair the function of the fat cells in your body. Without enough sleep, the body doesn’t respond as well to insulin, which can promote fat storage.
Beat more belly fat with beans
What’s one of the best foods you can eat to beat belly fat? Beans! “Becoming a bean lover can help you lose weight and whittle your middle,” says Sass. Regular bean eaters have smaller waistlines and a 22 percent lower risk of obesity. “Beans are loaded with soluble fiber, which promotes good bacteria in the gut, thus lowering inflammation linked to belly fat,” Dr. Oz says. He recommends eating 1 cup at every meal -- even breakfast! Try this delicious recipe for fat-burning chickpea muffins. Also add beans to chili, salads and try edamame instead of meat in a stir-fry.
Up your calcium intake
Dieters who increased their daily calcium intake by eating 6 ounces of yogurt lost 81 percent more belly fat than those that didn’t, according to a University of Tennessee study. Increasing calcium reduces the amount of calcitrol in your body, the hormone that promotes fat storage. Since dietary sources of calcium are about 50-100 percent more beneficial than supplements for body fat reduction, eat as many naturally calcium-rich foods as you can, like yogurt, cheese, milk, turnip greens or kale.
Eat slow carbs
You don’t have to eliminate carbs to lose those love handles. Instead, swap out processed and refined carbohydrates for ‘slow carbs’ says weight-loss specialist and endocrinologist Scott Isaacs, M.D., author of Hormonal Balance: How to Lose Weight by Understanding Your Hormones and Metabolism. “They are the healthiest type of carbohydrates because they take a long time for your body to digest and include most vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes and dairy products,” Dr. Isaacs says. Approximately 40 percent of your diet should come from eating healthy carbs like bananas, oranges, sweet potatoes, lentils and brown rice.
Burn more fat with vitamin C
Vitamin C is a major fat burner. Getting enough of it helps the body use fat as a fuel source, both during exercise and at rest, says Sass. Those with low levels of vitamin C burned 25 percent less fat during a treadmill test, according to a recent study. To get more vitamin C eat oranges and strawberries, and especially red bell pepper. “In addition to having less than 30 calories per cup, these ruby gems are one of the best sources of vitamin C,” says Sass, who recommends pairing fresh slices of red bell pepper with hummus.
Pare down with a pedometer
Women who wore a pedometer ended up walking an extra seven miles per week and lost about 60 percent more weight than those who didn’t, according to a University of California, Los Angeles study. Pedometers are Hollywood trainer Harley Pasternak’s secret weight-loss weapon (he trains celebs Jessica Simpson, Lady Gaga and Kim Kardashian). Invest in a pedometer (most are under $10) and gradually increase your steps each week, aiming for a goal of at least 10,000 steps per day (about 5 miles).
Drink more to eat less
Drink a 16-ounce glass of water up to 20 minutes before meals to eat less, recommends Dan Giuglianotti, M.D. a primary care physician and certified health and fitness specialist. Studies show that this simple step could help you lose 44 percent more weight in just 12 weeks. "By drinking water before each meal you are pre-activating the fullness centers in your stomach that help you avoid overeating. This can save you from eating a ton of extra food that your body doesn't even want," he says.
Ditch the ‘diet food’
Do you fill your shopping cart with reduced-calorie, low-fat or fat-free foods in hopes of shrinking your belt size? It turns out that a diet full of frozen diet dinners, fat-free cheese and reduced-fat cookies could be causing weight gain, or at the very least, keeping you from reducing your calorie intake. Skip processed, packaged food and focus on filling your plate with fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and healthy grains. Steer clear of diet soda, too -- a 10-year study at the University of Texas found that people who drank two glasses per day gained 70 percent more belly fat than those that steered clear of diet soda. Create a new shopping list filled with Dr. Oz’s picks for the healthiest foods at the supermarket.
Burn more calories with total body workouts
“Don't try to reduce your love handles by only doing exercises that target that area,” says Nick Tumminello, a certified fitness expert who specializes in fitness education and personal training and the owner of Performance University. “Love handles are body fat and training the muscle underneath the fat does not burn the fat above,” he explains. Instead, Tumminello recommends adding total body workouts to your weekly routine in order to burn more calories and build more muscle. "Muscle is the physical place where fat is burned,” he says. No equipment? No problem! Turn your living room into a gym with these muscle-building moves you can do in your living room.
Concentrate on cardio in intervals
When it comes to cutting your waist down to size, cardiovascular exercise is king. Lynn Anderson, Ph.D., a naturopathic doctor and certified fitness instructor recommends intervals cardio workouts (alternating between difficult and easier intensity) to really help get rid of unwanted love handles. "Since you also need to work the obliques (love handles) to make the muscles firmer and slimmer, do some abs-focused moves during your recovery time,” says Anderson. Create your own cardio core interval workout by alternating one minute of a higher intensity cardio move, like jumping jacks, skipping or running in place with one minute of your favorite ab moves (here are a few ab exercises to try). For the best result, do at least 30-45 minutes of cardio exercise, 4-5 days per week.
Fill up on figs
Figs help slow the absorption of sugar in the small intestine, according to Japanese researchers. That can help reduce post-meal blood sugar spikes by up to 43 percent. Those spikes result in low blood sugar levels, leading to fatigue and sugar cravings, explains nutritionist Rania Batayneh, author of the 1:1:1 Diet. “Maintaining steady blood sugar levels keeps high-sugar and high-calorie cravings at bay,” she says. At 47 calories and 1.9 grams of fiber per fig, these naturally sweet and delicious fruits make a great snack or addition to a meal. (Fig Newtons don't count!)
Put protein on your plate
This one is easy: “Add protein to every meal,” says Lori Shemek, Ph.D., author of Fire-Up Your Fat Burn! Protein helps preserve muscle and releases a hormone that encourages fat to be used as energy. Shemek recommends aiming for one gram of protein per pound of your body weight. For example, if you weigh 120 pounds you would require 120 grams of protein daily. Great sources of naturally occurring, high-protein foods include beans, lean meats, lentils, nuts and seeds.
Sip slimming green tea
“Green tea boosts metabolism when you're resting and specifically targets the release of stored fat,” explains Shemek, who recommends sipping three cups a day to tap into this tea’s fat-burning potential. “Green tea has been found to be a thermogenic food meaning it causes the body to release more heat and burn more calories while in a resting state. It also prevents the generation of new fat cells and the formation of fatty tissue.” Can’t sip that much tea on a daily basis? Shemek says green tea supplements are just as effective.
Add some zest to eat less
Looking for an inexpensive appetite suppressant? Try sprinkling grated lemon zest onto foods like shrimp, chicken, rice or sorbet, recommends Shemek. “The fibrous pectin in the lemon peel turns into a gel in your stomach to help stop cravings and hunger,” she says. Lemon peel also prevents your body from absorbing too much fat, helps the body release fat and is an appetite suppressant, she says.
Follow the ‘250 Formula’
Forget fad diets and hours of exercise. “Focus on what I call the '250 formula.' Cut back 250 calories a day from your diet, and burn an extra 250 calories a day with exercise,” says Rick Richey, a certified personal trainer and owner of R2Fitness in New York City. That daily 500-calorie deficit will help you lose a realistic and maintainable one pound per week. Try these 20 easy ways to help you start slashing 250 calories today.
Ask your love to handle you
Research at the University of Miami found that physical touch -- like a massage from your partner -- can lower cortisol levels by 31 percent while increasing the feel-good chemicals dopamine and serotonin about the same amount. High levels of cortisol have been linked to excess belly fat, but dopamine and serotonin help you feel happier and more relaxed, which may make you less likely to raid the fridge later on. Single? Hug a friend or kids, or play with your pet.
Stop telling yourself you’ve earned that splurge
Don't be your own worst enemy -- when you reward yourself with food you're undoing the hard work you've been doing to reach your weight-loss and fitness goals. According to one study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, women who were made to feel like they'd worked harder on a task than the control group (they all worked the same amount of time) indulged in about 130 calories more than the other subjects did. Don't sabotage your weight-loss success because you feel you deserve that extra treat. Get a massage or take yourself to the movies instead.
Add in apple cider vinegar
Forget diet pills. This fat-burning secret weapon is right in your pantry. The acetic acid in apple cider vinegar may switch on the genes your body needs to pump out fat-burning proteins, according to Dr. Oz. It may help curb your appetite, too. Subjects who consumed apple cider vinegar before a carbohydrate heavy meal ate about 275 fewer calories during the remainder of the day, according to a University of Arizona study. If you can’t handle it as a straight no chaser, try it mixed in Dr. Oz’s secret slim-down drink or even a cup of tea.
Take a yoga class
Yoga is a form of exercise that burns calories (the more vigorous the style, the more calories you’ll burn) and helps build lean muscle, both of which can reduce belly fat, says Tamal Dodge, a certified yoga instructor and star of the Element: Yoga for Energy & Relaxation DVD. In addition, most forms of yoga also help to reduce stress and anxiety levels, reducing cortisol levels and, possibly, stress and emotional eating. “Yoga has been shown to shut off the fight-or-flight response,” says Dodge, who recommends fitting in 30-45 minutes of your favorite type of yoga about 2-3 times per week for the best belly-blasting results.
Stop eating so much salt
You may associate cutting back on salt with high blood pressure, but it’s important for losing weight, too. Excess sodium causes bloating and water retention, and that can make your spare tire appear even bigger, says Batayneh. Ninety percent of Americans consume way too much salt, with the average daily intake clocking in at about 3,300 milligrams (about 1,000 milligrams above the recommended amount). But it’s not the salt shaker you need to worry about; it's processed foods such as canned soups, sandwich meats, frozen and fast foods and even some cereals. You can easily reduce your sodium intake by eating as many fresh, whole and unprocessed foods as possible on a daily basis, says Batayneh. Check nutrition labels, too, to keep track of how much salt you're consuming.
Avoid too much sugar
“Added sugars are enemy number one for belly fat and love handles,” says Julie Upton, a registered dietitian for AppforHealth.com. Excess sugar finds its preferred storage spot as fat in your belly. "So diets rich in added sugars are linked to metabolic syndromes, which are defined in part by excess belly fat,” she explains. And while you may know to steer clear of candy, cakes and doughnuts, watch out for surprisingly high-sugar foods such as dried cranberries, fruit-flavored yogurts and bottled juices.
Get support from a weight-loss program
Have you been struggling for years to lose weight? Don’t suffer alone -- ask for help! If changing your eating habits is a challenge, consider joining a weight-loss program, particularly one where you can get support from peers as well as professional guidance. Patients who were referred to Weight Watchers by their doctors lost twice as much weight than those who weren't referred to a weight-loss program, according to a study published in the medical journal The Lancet. If joining a group isn't for you, consider making an appointment with a registered dietitian who can assist you with improvements to your diet.
Click here for the ultimate ab exercises.