With more than 70 percent of the U.S. population overweight and almost 40 percent considered obese, the prevalence of belly fat is more common than you might think. And while it stinks that your jeans fit tighter, the bigger problem is that belly fat and obesity put you at risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and various forms of cancer.

Belly fat is estimated by measuring your waist circumference. Anything above 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women is considered abdominal obesity. Wondering if this is you? Simply take out a tape measure and assess your risk.

While it’s easier said than done, there are some proven ways to lose body fat and improve your health. Here are five ways to start!

Cut the Sugar

Added sugar is a huge source of calories in the American diet. “Added” means sugar that it is not naturally occurring and has thus been added into sweeten a food. Foods containing natural sugars like fruit, milk and plain yogurt don’t count. However, the sugar (aka honey, agave, high fructose corn syrup, cane and coconut sugars, etc.) added to bread, baked goods, breakfast cereals, granola bars, and other processed foods, is considered added sugar.

While many people forget to count their liquid calories, added sugar is prevalent in fancy coffee beverages, sweet tea, soda, fruit beverages, smoothies as well as many juices. Excess calories from added sugar gets converted to fat. This can cause an increase in belly fat and liver fat, which can lead to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance increases your risk for type 2 diabetes. So, look for ways to cut the sugar from your diet as soon as you can!

Pump up the Protein

When it comes to losing weight, protein is the most important macronutrient. Not only does it help you get full faster and stay full longer, but also takes more calories to digest. So, you actually burn more calories eating protein than when you eat carbohydrate or fat.

Research suggests protein consumption can also help reduce cravings. Consuming 25-30 grams of protein at breakfast has been shown to help women feel satisfied with less food later in the day. So, if you are looking to burn belly fat, add lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy, legumes and nuts to your meals and snacks throughout the day.

Fill up on Fiber

While both insoluble and soluble fiber are important for health, filling up on soluble fiber is most likely to help you drop the fat. Soluble fiber found in oats, other whole grains, fruits where you can eat the skin, nuts, beans and legumes bind to water and form a thick gel that “sits” in the gut. This gel causes food to move slower through the digestive tract, prolonging your feeling of fullness and reducing appetite.

Get that Body Moving

Hours of abs will not solve your belly fat issues, but cardiovascular exercise can sure help! Not only does cardio burn calories, it also helps with other metabolic abnormalities associated with belly fat by helping lower blood pressure and blood sugar, as well as helping decrease inflammation.

Exercises like walking, running, biking and swimming are great ways to get moving and burning calories. It is recommended to exercise at least an hour a day, most days of the week, to promote weight loss. If you’re short on time, interval training (bouts of intense and moderately intense exercise mixed) can help you burn more calories per minute, as well as keep your metabolism elevated longer after the workout.

No matter what mode of exercise you choose, just get moving!

Reduce Your Stress Levels

While it’s impossible to eliminate stress, lowering your stress could help your health! Stress can make you gain belly fat by increasing your levels of cortisol, known as the “stress hormone.”  Research shows that high cortisol levels can increase appetite and drive abdominal fat storage. What’s more, women that already have a large waist circumference tend to produce more cortisol in response to stress.

To help decrease stress, consider yoga, meditation and looking at ways to simplify your schedule. A combination of things can get you feeling better and losing belly fat!

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If you are interested to hear more and receive personalized nutrition, check out STYR’s app, fitness tracker and suite of connected smart devices. Through the platform, you can track and log activity, food, hydration, sleep, nutrition, mood and more to personalize your nutrition needs based on data, science and access to registered dietitians, nutritionists and personal trainers.

Please note that this information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. We insist that you always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical/health condition or treatment and before initiating a new health care regime. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on the STYR app or on www.MyNutritioniQ.com.

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