Which is why it pays to keep your cool. One way to do so: practicing mindfulness. According to a 2011 Journal of Obesity study, women who experienced the greatest reduction in stress by effectively mastering stress-reduction techniques tended to lose the most deep belly fat. So go ahead and take some deep breaths, hit the mat for some anxiety-relieving yoga, or open up one of those guided-meditation apps. Your belly will thank you in the long run.
"Your body needs a healthy balance of exercise and rest. Doing too much prevents the body from shifting excess fat. Exercising without rest can impact our levels of the steroid hormone cortisol and cause an increase of stubborn fat stored in the belly. Not allowing your body to recover can increase the risk of injury too, so make sure you factor in rest days to your plan."
If you’ve been eating fast food for years, get real about your approach: You’re probably not going to stick to an organic, gluten-free, paleo overhaul for very long. "You want to change as little as possible to create calorie deficit," says Dr. Seltzer, who insists the best way to support sustainable weight loss is to incorporate small changes into existing habits. So instead of giving up your daily BLT bagels in favor of an egg-white wrap, try ordering your sandwich on a lighter English muffin. Or say you eat a snack bar every afternoon: Swap your 300-calorie bar for a 150-calorie alternative. "Your brain will feel the same way about it, so you won’t feel deprived," he says.
We often make the wrong trade-offs. Many of us make the mistake of swapping fat for the empty calories of sugar and refined carbohydrates. Instead of eating whole-fat yoghurt, for example, we eat low- or no-fat versions that are packed with sugar to make up for the loss of taste. Or we swap our fatty breakfast bacon for a muffin or donut that causes rapid spikes in blood sugar.
Even if you do meet your goal, it's nearly impossible to keep off the weight over the long term: "The amount of restriction required [to maintain that number] will make you so hungry that you’ll eat everything in sight—it’s survival instinct," Dr. Seltzer says. And since calorie restriction gradually slows your metabolism, your body will be less prepared to burn the foods you binge on, he adds. That could mean gaining more pounds than you lost in the first place.
In reality, losing belly fat takes time. Although you probably won't completely transform your physique in two months, you can see progress in just a matter of eight weeks. Eric Bowling, an NASM-certified personal trainer at Ultimate Performance in Los Angeles who helps clients with weight loss, told POPSUGAR you can achieve "drastic and tangible improvements" in eight weeks.
The researchers hypothesize that participants who abstained from animal products dropped significantly more pounds since plant-based foods include loads of filling fiber and slow-to-digest complex carbs. Though more research is needed to confirm these results, the study authors write, "Vegetarian diets appeared to have significant benefits on weight reduction compared to non-vegetarian diets."
Eating less does more for weight loss than exercising more. Consider putting the money you’d spend on a gym membership toward healthy groceries, instead. “Trying to exercise your way out of your weight problem is very difficult (because) it’s very hard to exercise that much,” explained Dr. Aronne. Burning about 3,500 calories equals one pound; someone weighing 150 pounds walking for an hour would burn around 250 calories. “You really need to cut down on calorie intake to lose the weight. Exercise is better at preventing weight gain.” The recommended daily diet is around 2,000 calories, but if you want to lose weight, Dr. Avigdor Arad, the director of the Mount Sinai Physiolab, suggests that women consume between 1,200 to 1,500 calories a day on average, and men between 1,500 and 1,800 calories. But visit your doctor to see how your own metabolism, family history and any medications you’re taking could be influencing how easily you gain and lose weight, and what your nutritional needs are. “There is a lot of variation,” he said.
"It’s easy to become impatient and frustrated when you’re trying to lose weight and haven’t seen the results yet. But be realistic – you won’t see the affect overnight. Your brain’s wiring plays a huge part in resisting changes in lifestyle, and it takes time to establish new habits – up to 12 weeks. Stick with it for at least eight weeks and you should notice a change."