First, the good news, when you lose fat, it’s not just your belly, you’ll lose fat wherever it sits in your body, including your chest, waist, thigh, arms, etc.
What follows is the result of years of experience and a lot of failures! Losing fat is hard and there are a lot of myths. I’ve tried many and failed, taken the time to do the research and find out what really works.
So, no theory, only real-life strategies that work. These are the things that I follow.
Here are 8 strategies:
(1) Take at least 20 minutes to eat your meal.
If you do nothing else from this list, do this! Why is this so important? Once you start eating, it takes your body about 20 minutes to tell your brain that you are full. Once that message is sent, you don’t feel like eating anymore. Sadly, most of our meals don’t last that long, so we tend to overeat – because we eat fast.
So – slow down. Ways to do this:
Put down your fork/spoon after every bite.
Chew your food at least 20 times.
Don’t eat while watching TV as you will not pay attention to how fast you eat.
Set a timer for 20 minutes.
(2) Fill a half-your plate with veggies.
This is a simple rule. Every time you sit down to eat, fill half the plate with vegetables. Which one? Any will do, so long as you like it. The only exception is the potato family as they tend to be high in carbs. Any other veggies are ok.
This strategy will make sure you fill yourself with healthy food that gives you a lot of nutrients, will keep you full because of the water and fiber in the veggies and you’ll find that it slows down your meal because veggies need a fair bit of chewing. Here’s a visual that should help:
(3) Eat veggies and protein first, carbs after.
Put veggies on your plate first, then put protein. The last thing on your plate should be carbs (like rice, roti, tortilla, pita bread, etc).
Why does this work? Because you are putting the most nutritious foods first and leaving the worst (nutrient-wise) for last. Now, remember that it’s not bad to eat carbs, it’s just that we tend to eat too much and then not enough veggies and protein. By following this strategy, we fix that.
If you want to skip the carbs sometimes, that’s perfectly ok. I am not suggesting zero-carb or very low carb, but lower’ carb compared to where most people are today – which is very high carb.
(4) Have a glass of water before the meal.
This is a great tactic to use before each meal. By doing this, you’ll be a little bit full before starting to eat. So when you eat, you will not be starving and choose silly foods. You’ll make better decisions and will also not be able to stuff yourself.
And no – this will not dilute stomach acid. Given the acid levels in your stomach, you will need more than 20 liters of water to dilute your stomach acid to a point where it interferes with digestion.
(5) Get 45mins of activity every day.
Does not matter what it is, pick something you enjoy and will do regularly. Don’t pick something that you think is a ‘punishment’, that will backfire as you’ll then end up eating more to reward yourself for the punishment.
Regular activity (preferably outdoors) is excellent for health. You should remember that fat-loss is mostly about food, so don’t expect too much from exercise alone. But it does help, so doing it regularly will definitely help. Even walking is perfectly fine. You don’t need a gym membership.
Also, many people think that stomach crunches will reduce belly fat. That is not how the body works. When you lose fat, you lose it wherever the fat is on your body and the fat goes away in sheets (or layers). So you don’t need to (and cannot) target specific body parts. Just get an activity that is mild to moderate intensity, which makes you sweat and leaves you a bit out of breath.
(6) Sleep at least 7hrs every night.
This is the most underrated element of fat loss. If you don’t get enough sleep, your body will store fat. This is the opposite of what you want! You want to burn fat. But to do that, your body must not be under stress. Not getting enough sleep = stress. So, stop stressing your body and get more sleep. For most adults, the recommendation is 7hrs or more every day.
And you cannot catch-up just over the weekend, consistency matters. Try naps if you cannot get enough at night.
(7) Eat fruit, don’t drink it (ie no juices).
It’s very easy to get too much sugar through juices, so best to avoid them. Here’s an example – a glass of orange juice has 4–6 oranges. You can drink that juice in 2mins. Can you eat that 4–6 oranges in one go? I guess not!
Fruits are rich in fiber so it’s very hard to eat too much. That’s nature’s way of keeping you in check. But when you juice it, you take out the fiber so it’s mostly sugar and water. This is why you can overdo it and drink a lot of calories very quickly.
So, avoid juices – have the fruit instead.
(8) Eat nothing from a packet or box (ie no processed foods).
Processed foods are really not very good for you. They have many added ingredients. These are there for 2 reasons:
To give the food a long shelf life.
To trick your brain into wanting more (remember ‘no one can eat just one’?).
These foods have a specific mix of salt, sugar, and fat that tricks your brain into wanting more, it’s like an addiction. And these flavors are developed in a laboratory by scientists. Is that the kind of food you want to eat?
So be smart about such foods and give them a miss. Your body will thank you.
How NOT to try and lose belly fat?
Don’t rely on:
magic fixes like lemon water/teas/detox diets.
Count calories and not pay attention to food quality.
Overwork yourself with too much exercise (that is bad stress).