How to lose belly fat

Maya Aboukhater
Specialist Dietitian at Cromwell Hospital
11 August 2022
Next review due August 2025

A larger waist measurement can mean that you have too much visceral fat. This is the fat stored around internal organs like your liver and pancreas, which is commonly referred to as ‘belly fat’. If you want to lose belly fat, you can find some tips in this article.

Working out at the beach

What belly fat tells you

Whether you’re overweight or not, carrying more belly fat is linked to a number of serious health problems such as:

Even if you have a healthy weight for height, anyone can have this type of deep of visceral fat around their inner organs. Eating fruit, vegetables and healthy fats such as those found in the Mediterranean diet can help you stay healthy and prevent the build-up of visceral fat.

How belly fat develops

As you get older, you’ll need less calories to keep your body working well. Changes to your hormones during this time mean that you’ll start to lose muscle and gain fat. This makes it harder for you keep to a healthy weight, but it’s not impossible. In fact, people aged 65 and over are generally healthier than their ancestors and tend to live longer.

Although you can’t escape the ageing process, when it comes to managing your weight there are other factors you can control. This includes your lifestyle habits, choices, and behaviours, (especially around diet) and how active you are.

Regardless of your height or BMI, you should aim lose weight if:

  • you are a man with a waist measurement of 94 cm (37 inches) or more,
  • you are a woman with a waist measuring 80 cm (31.5 inches) or more.

And, your risk of serious health problems will greatly increase if:

  • you’re a man with a waist measurement of 102 cm (40 inches).
  • you’re a woman, with a waist measuring higher than 88cm (34 inches).

If your tummy weight is in the higher risk category, then see a doctor for some advice. You might also want to see if you can be referred to a dietitian. They can help you to develop a personal plan for a healthier lifestyle.

Which foods burn belly fat?

If you want to reduce your belly fat, you will need to burn more energy (calories) and eat the right kinds of food. Make sure you eat a balanced diet. Try and include the following:

  • At least five portions of fruits and vegetables per day
  • Choose high fibre starchy foods such as oats, brown rice and wholegrain breads.
  • Reduced fat dairy or soya drinks fortified in calcium
  • Beans, pulses, fish, and eggs
  • Eat small amounts of unsaturated fats such as olive oil
  • Drink six to eight glasses of water each day

Finally, cut out sports drinks, sugar sweetened drinks and other foods that have a lot of added sugar in them. Avoid adding salt or sugar to your meals. Be aware that low-fat options might have high amounts of added sugar in them.

Increase protein in your diet

Protein can be a helpful way to lose weight because it makes you feel fuller than carbs and fat do. By including a lean source of protein in your meals you may find that you’re not as hungry, and so eat less.

Make sure you include protein with each meal. Good sources include:

  • chicken breast
  • tuna
  • mackerel
  • salmon
  • eggs
  • milk

Good plant based sources include:

  • red lentils
  • chickpeas
  • brown bread
  • nuts
  • soya

And remember that a portion of protein is about as big as the palm of your hand.

Go for foods that are rich in protein and low in fat. These are known as lean sources as some sources of protein can be high in saturated fat. Alternatively, there are lots of protein products on the market, such as supplements and powders. But if you decide to use these make sure you have a trained dietitian or nutritionist supervising your diet.

Which exercises reduce belly fat ?

Any form of exercise for at least 30 minutes a day is good for you. Use every opportunity to move your body more, whether you are at home, work or with friends. This could include cycling to work or getting off the bus or train one or two stops early.

The best types of belly fat exercise combines resistance exercise (such as strength training) and cardiovascular exercise. Resistance exercise can help maintain your muscle mass and your glucose metabolism (the way your body processes sugar and uses it for fuel). This is important for managing your weight. Resistance training has also been shown to reduce fat around your tummy area.

If you would like a boost for your exercise regime, then why not try some high intensity interval training (or HIIT for short)? This will really get your heart rate up and help you to burn some fat. HIIT basically means that you go all out and give it everything you’ve got for a short burst. You then follow with lower intensity exercise or rest – and then repeat. This form of training is good for people with very busy lifestyles as they can get maximum health benefits in a shorter amount of time.

Putting it all together

A few small changes in your lifestyle can make a big difference and reduce your waist size. Try to reduce your portion sizes and cut out sweet treats and alcohol. Also increase the amount of physical activity you do, and eat more fruits and vegetables. Try to do some strength training exercises at least twice a week.

And if you want to lose extra weight or meet specific fitness goals, you might need to exercise even more.

Do you know how healthy you truly are? Bupa health assessments give you a clear overview of your health and a view of any future health risks. You'll receive a personal lifestyle action plan with health goals to reach for a happier, healthier you.

Maya Aboukhater
Maya Aboukhater
Specialist Dietitian at Cromwell Hospital

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