Look, I know that the title almost sounds too good to be true, as you’ll find a huge number of similar tips online. However, I’m not here to give you unrealistic expectations and sell you my special brand of fat-destroying snake oil, nor am I here to hold your hand and tell you that you should ease into it slowly. I’m a guy that’s been very skinny, bulky, fairly fat and eventually nice and proportional for my height and skeletal structure, so I tend to be a realist.
I’ve also had a number of friends who struggled with weight, and some of them managed to shed anywhere between 45 and 65 pounds, and none of us did it using a dramatically different method than the rest. In fact, all our lifestyle changes were fairly similar, and there was one constant – we all ate healthier foods, consumed less calories overall and trained our butts off.
You have to commit to a radically different lifestyle and have some patience, as belly fat is the last to go for a vast majority of people, and you can’t “target” it. All you can do is follow a few effective guidelines and wait for your body fat percentage to drop low enough for your body to finally start to let go of those last reserves of belly fat.
1. Switch to diet soda and eat fruit when you crave something sweet
Cutting calories can be a tricky task, because it’s difficult for most people to gauge portion size and realize just how many calories they are actually consuming. However, one aspect that contributes to at least 1/4 or 1/3 of most people’s daily calories are sugary drinks and candy. By giving these up you can easily drop some 800-1600 calories or even more, depending on how much of it you consume on a daily basis.
A 2 litre bottle of Coke or similar drink is about 800 calories, while a 100g bar of chocolate has about 500 calories. As a comparison, diet sodas have zero or close to zero calories, a medium-sized banana has 100 calories, 100g of strawberries have about 33 calories and a medium-sized apple has just under 100 calories. When you feel a need for something sweet, go with some fruit and a handful of nuts, or a bowl of muesli and some milk.
2. Opt for healthier foods and do your own cooking
Here are a couple of facts that you need to keep in mind when losing weight:
You will mostly eat foods that are readily available in your home
Most of the time, you’ll just eat what’s quick and convenient to prepare
When we understand these important points we can come up with easy solutions:
Fill up your freezer, fridge and pantries with healthy foods
Cook for the next few days or the entire week and have your meals ready to go
Not only will cooking your own food help you stick to a healthier diet, but it will also save you a lot of money. Restaurants and fast food joints are a problem, so instead of eating out you can have a nice dinner at your house from time to time, or go for a walk and have a picnic. You can bring your food to work in plastic containers. This way you won’t be tempted to go with high calorie foods.
3. Take the time to stretch and meditate when stressed or fatigued
Static stretches should be done after each workout, be it weightlifting or running, but they can also be used whenever you feel a bit agitated. Not only will some 10-15 minutes of stretching help alleviate joint pain and muscle soreness, but it will also help relax your mind. You essentially occupy your mind with the task at hand and forget about your worries for a while.
End these short stretching bouts with another 10 minutes of slow breathing in a comfortable position, and try to clear your mind and focus on counting every breath – once you get to ten, start over from one, and visualize the numbers appearing on a big white screen as you count. Effective stress management is very important for keeping your body and mind in good health, and will prevent things like emotional eating.
4. Walk at least 1-2 hours total each day
This is the easiest good habit to get into, and it is actually great for both your heart and weight loss. It doesn’t burn much calories compared to running, hitting the heavy bag or circuit training, but since it is much easier you’ll be less likely to skip a session, and won’t mind doing it for a couple of hours at a time.
A simple way to get more walking done is to park a little further away, use the stairs more often, take your dog out to the park, go shopping with some friends or just put on an audiobook or some music and make a few circles around the block. A good substitute can be household chores – some 30-60 minutes of vacuuming, dusting and washing dishes will burn enough calories to make a difference.
5. Do cardio while watching TV
Walking is good for your cardiovascular system and shedding a few extra calories, but nothing beats an intense cardio workout where you keep your heart rate elevated for some 10-20 minutes. Running is great and can be fun, but it tends to be a little hard on the joints, and it’s easy to find an excuse not to do it. This is why I would recommend getting an exercise machine and placing it in your living room, so you can get in a quick session while you watch some TV or listen to an audio book.
As far as home devices go, a rowing machine is an excellent choice, as it takes up little space, doesn’t waste electricity and gets your entire body involved in the movement, particularly the pulling muscles of the back and the abdominals, which most people neglect when training. Just be sure to make certain you’re using it properly, as you can hurt yourself with bad form!
6. Build a solid strength base
Pumping up those muscles a little bit serves several important purposes:
It gives you something to show off when the fat comes off
The training helps you burn some extra calories
The added muscle tone increases the amount of calories you burn when resting
Building strength will build a good amount of muscle as well, and the more muscle you have the more calories your body will need just to maintain the same weight, so you don’t have to cut your calories too low or go insane with the cardio exercises. It also makes you feel more agile and energetic, which will cause you to move around more throughout the day, burning yet more calories in the process.
7. Go to bed earlier and get a solid 8 hours of sleep
Getting enough sleep will help you reduce stress, improve concentration and allow your body to regulate its complex biochemistry and keep your metabolism high. If you fail to get adequate rest, you will have trouble pushing hard at the gym or staying consistent with your rowing or treadmill sessions. As an additional benefit, the less you stay awake at night, the less cravings you’ll experience – you can’t eat if you’re asleep.
These are proven methods that can help you cut your calories, improve digestion, burn a good amount of energy and increase your metabolism, all of which are needed to shed that persistent belly fat. It takes commitment and patience to get the results you want, but as long as you don’t make too many mistakes and stay consistent with these new habits, expect to see a sexy flat belly in a few months.
By Nemanja Manojlovic
Originally posted on lifehack.org