50 Ultimate Flat-Belly Secrets for Summer
You don't have to say goodbye to carbs and dessert to lose weight.
We all want to look our best for the summer months. But if you're dreading the idea of dusting off your swimsuit and baring some skin, we're here to help. What follows are the 50 greatest tips and tricks you can do to shave off the pounds between now and June 21—and finally get that beach-ready body of your dreams. So read on, and don't forget to lather on the sunscreen! And if you're looking for some great fitness advice, as well, don't miss The 4 Best Ab Workouts for Getting That Summer Six-Pack.
Eat a Big Breakfast
It's not just what you eat that boosts your weight loss, but it's also when you eat it—and how you eat it. In a study at Tel Aviv University, people who ate a large, high-energy breakfast followed by a medium-sized lunch and small dinner lost more weight than those who ate six small meals throughout the day.
"A slice of bread consumed at breakfast leads to a lower glucose response and is less fattening than an identical slice of bread consumed in the evening," study author Dr. Daniela Jakubowicz explained to Medical News Today. In fact, while the big breakfast group lost an average of 11 pounds after 3 months, the small meals group gained an average of 3 pounds.
Get Some Sunlight
Coincidentally, summer is the perfect time to shed some pounds. Researchers at the University of Alberta found that the sun's blue light, which is visible and plentiful during the day, helps shrink "bad" fat cells that store calories and lead to disorders like obesity and heart disease.
"When the sun's blue light wavelengths… penetrate our skin and reach the fat cells just beneath, liquid droplets reduce in size and are released out of the cell," study author Peter Light explained. "In other words, our cells don't store as much fat." And while you're in the sun, make sure to use these 15 Hacks to Apply Your Sunscreen More Easily.
Use a Blue Plate
If you really want a flat belly, then you may want to invest in some blue dinnerware. According to a study published in Contact, people who ate in a blue room ate 33 percent less food. That's because the color alters the look of your meal to make it less appealing. The study authors also suggest avoiding warm colors like yellow, as they have the opposite effect.
Exercise in the AM
The last thing we need is another task to add to our morning routine, but it's a small price to pay for rapid weight-loss results. Research published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that 45 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise can curb hunger, thereby decreasing cravings throughout the day. (And fewer cravings = fewer calories.) If you're looking for new exercises to switch up your gym routine, you'll want to check out these 30 Workouts That Burn More Than 500 Calories An Hour.
Keep a Food Diary
Writing down what you eat will only take a few minutes every day, but the simple task has the potential to catalyze your weight-loss efforts. When scientists from Kaiser Permanente asked 1,700 study participants to keep a food journal in addition to following a healthy diet and working out 30 minutes a day, they found that the journal helped subjects to double their weight loss.
Savor Your Food
After going without food for a long period of time, it's easy to see something delicious and devour it in one bite. But new research is giving us second thoughts about chowing down too quickly: According to findings published in BMJ Open, those who consumed their food at a slower speed were 42 percent less likely to be obese compared to those who categorized themselves as fast eaters. And for some things you may or may not want to do, consider the 20 Craziest Weight Loss Tips from Around the World.
Take Some Probiotics
There may not be a secret weight loss pill (yet), but there is something that women can take to drop a few pounds. One study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that women who consumed 2 probiotics daily lost 4 more pounds than those who took a placebo. Researchers hypothesize that these probiotics help reset the intestinal flora in favor of healthy bacteria.
Drink Some Oolong Tea
Oolong is a rich, floral tea that's as healthful as it is delicious. The soothing sip is loaded with catechins, which boost the body's ability to burn fat. In fact, one study published in the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine found that subjects who drank oolong regularly lost six pounds in six weeks. If all you have to do to lose weight is drink tea, then count us in. Need something to pair with your cup of tea? Try these 20 Best Foods for Your Thyroid.
Keep the Cheese Coming
Eating cheese for weight loss? Surely it's too good to be true, but alas, researchers from the University of Kansas Energy Balance Laboratory found that men who exercised and took 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day lost 50 percent more weight after nine months than the men who only exercised. The study authors believe that this is because calcium helps the body burn stored fat for energy during exercise. And for more great health advice, read up on the 15 Things That Happen to Your Body When You Don't Get Enough Sleep.
Chewing gum isn't just good for bad breath and cute Instagram photos. People who chew gum after lunch experience fewer hunger pangs and eat 36 fewer calories during the rest of the day, according to a study published in Appetite. Thirty-six calories might not seem like much, but that small number can translate to more than three pounds of weight loss a year.
Share Your Progress Online
Oversharing can get annoying in the age of the internet, but in the case of weight loss, it could be the secret to getting a flat belly fast. "The sharing of intimate information and photos about weight loss goals in virtual space is a key factor in motivating behaviors that fulfill that new thinner identity and thus helps people reach their goals," the researchers wrote. The authors believe that sharing progress online helps keep people both accountable and supported.
Snack on Prunes
Dried fruit tends to be controversial as a flat-belly-promoting food, but research has found that dried plums—better known as prunes—can actually reduce hunger cravings and control appetite. In a study at the University of Liverpool, subjects who consumed prunes every day shed 0.8 more centimeters from their waist after 12 weeks compared to dieters who ate healthy snacks.
Skip the Sausage
Carnivores aren't going to like this one: Findings published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition concluded that those who followed a vegetarian diet heavy on vegetables, grains, beans, fruits, and nuts lost twice as much weight as those who stuck to a traditional anti-diabetic diet. Not only that, but the vegetarian dieters effectively reduced muscle fat and improved metabolism. "Vegetarian diets proved to be the most effective diets for weight loss," study author Dr. Hana Kahleova told Science Daily.
And Put Down the Soda
Our weight loss efforts can just as easily be sabotaged by what we drink as they can by what we eat. Since 1965, the number of calories we consume via drinks has increased by a staggering 93 percent, according to a study published in Obesity. These findings estimate that the average person consumes 222 calories per day from beverages alone, with zero nutritional benefits to boot. Your safest bet is to stick to good old water—you can even throw some fruit in for flavor.
Say Goodbye to Artificial Sweeteners
Diet beverages and low-calorie foods tout artificial sweeteners as weight loss wonders, but the reality is that these zero-calorie substitutes are only packing on the pounds. One study at Purdue University found that artificial sweeteners like saccharin and sucralose promote weight gain rather than prevent it. The scientists hypothesize that these sweeteners may affect how we view sugar, viewing it as something associated with healthy foods rather than fattening sweets.
Eat in Front of a Mirror
Everyone loves to stuff their face with chocolate cake, but nobody wants to watch themselves do it. That's precisely the idea behind University of Central Florida professor Ata Jami's research, which studied how much people enjoyed food when they ate it in front of a mirror compared to sans visuals. With the mirror present, people enjoyed their brownies 1.4 taste points less; for dried fruits, the numbers remained about the same. "The presence of a mirror can make unhealthy food less tasty by increasing self-awareness," Jami concluded. And for more brilliant health hacks, here are 15 Science-Based Tricks to Boost Your Happiness Every Day.
Eat The Apple Peel
Don't throw away your apple peels! According to research in PLoS ONE, the ursolic acid found in apple peels helps increase muscle and brown fat, both of which torch calories like crazy. But remember: don't get sick from tainted fruit: This Is the Best Way to Wash an Apple.
Get a Good Night's Sleep
Working out is important for weight loss, but you should never sacrifice your seven hours for a late-night cardio session. Why? One study published in the International Journal of Obesity determined that losing out on sleep causes the body to produce more cortisol—the hormone that triggers the body to store fat. Need help falling asleep? Try these 11 Doctor-Approved Secrets for Falling Asleep Faster—Tonight.
Get Your Spouse on Board
Dieting is never fun, but the process is made that much more bearable when your significant other is doing it, too. Plus, one study published in Obesity found that when one person in a relationship went on a diet, the other person ended up losing 5 pounds without even trying. Imagine what those results would look like if both partners were intentionally slimming down together!
Sip on Sparkling Water
Sparkling water is a flat belly favorite. Not only does the carbonated beverage satiate flavor cravings, but a study in the British Journal of Nutrition also found that the drink increases satiety and decreases overall calories consumed. Looks like La Croix might just be our new summer staple.
Watch a Funny Movie
What does watching a funny movie have to do with slimming down? Well, laughing can create a 10 to 20 percent increase in basal energy expenditure and resting heart rate, per a study in The International Journal of Obesity. In other words, just 10 to 15 minutes of chortling can burn anywhere from 40 to 170 calories. Laughter really is the best medicine! For a barrel of laughs, check out the 50 Dad Jokes So Bad They're Actually Hilarious.
Spice Up Your Meals
Curcumin—the polyphenol in turmeric—has long been known to promote weight loss, but combine it with pepper, and you might just have the perfect fat-blasting formula.
When researchers at Tufts University gave mice a combination of curcumin and piperine (found in pepper), they lost more fat and had lower plasma inflammatory markers compared to the control group rats. "[The] combination of curcumin and piperine has [the] potential to enhance caloric restriction effects," the study authors wrote. If you want to try curcumin and piperine for weight loss, the ingredients come together in capsule form, or you can easily incorporate them into your diet.
Work In Those Whole Grains
Diets that advise you to stay away from carbs have it all wrong. While processed carbs are bad, others like whole grains actually help to promote weight loss. Whole-grain foods (not to be mistaken for foods with isolated fibers like maltodextrin) are high in fiber, which allows them to move through the body without spiking hormone levels or promoting fat storage.
"In the form of whole grains, the fiber encapsulates the carbohydrate, slowing its absorption," says Walter Willett, M.D., a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Work Hard, Rest Hard
A little bit of work goes a long way at the gym. People who did just five 30-second bursts of all-out cycling followed by four minutes of recovery burned 200 extra calories that day, according to research published in Physiological Reports. That's barely any work for a fat-burning effect that will last all day.
If you don't already have a standing desk at work, you may want to invest in one. According to one study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, standing burns 0.15 more calories per minute than sitting. For a 143-pound adult, this adds up to 54 more calories burned in 6 hours just by standing, and 5.5 pounds lost in one year.
Don't Be Afraid of Fat
Fat is not the enemy; on the contrary, it is a friend of the flat belly, just like protein. Case in point: When researchers at Georgia Southern University had people eat either a high-protein, high-fat snack or a high-protein, low-fat snack, they found that the high-fat snack increased the metabolic burn rate of normal weight individuals for up to three-and-a-half hours after eating. Have you ever wondered where fat goes when you lose weight? We have the answer.
Sprinkle Some Cinnamon
Tomorrow morning, try having your bowl of oatmeal with a dash of cinnamon. Why? According to researchers from the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute, the spice contains a compound called cinnamaldehyde that causes adipocytes to burn the fat cells they had previously been storing.
Put the Prepared Food Down
Prepared foods in the frozen section are an easy alternative to home cooking, but they're not exactly ideal for weight loss. While many ready-made meals tout nutritious benefits, a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that eating these meals is linked to an increased risk of excess belly fat and increased rates of obesity. It's not just prepared meals, either: These are The 40 Unhealthiest Foods if You're Over 40.
Turn Down the Thermostat
In the summertime, you're probably already doing this secret slimming trick. Sleeping in a room set to 66°F for 10 hours a night can increase healthy brown fat by 42 percent and increase metabolic activity by 10 percent in just one month, according to researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University. That's because when the temperature drops, "bad" white fat cells take on the characteristics of brown fat cells that burn energy.
Got milk? If you want to slim down, then you should! According to one study funded by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, drinking milk after a workout can help burn twice as much fat compared to a sports drink. "With milk being a source of nine essential nutrients, it's a no-brainer: Milk is the ideal post-workout drink for recreational exercisers and athletes alike," study author Stuart Phillips told Science Daily.
Start Your Morning with Coffee
We're not just telling you not to give up your caffeine addiction—we're encouraging it! The caffeine in coffee increases levels of epinephrine—or adrenaline—in the body, which signal the fat cells to break down fat for energy. So long as you aren't loading your coffee with artificial sweeteners, your coffee habit can only help you. And for more reasons to grab a cuppa, check out these 75 Amazing Benefits of Coffee.
Take a Bath
After the gym, soak in the tub for an hour instead of taking a quick shower. Why? A British study found that taking an hour-long bath burns 140 calories—about as much as you would burn walking for half an hour. It is believed that passive heating—or taking a hot bath—can reduce inflammation, thereby aiding our weight-loss efforts.
Find a Workout Buddy
Carving time out of your day to go to the gym is one thing, but actually getting there is a whole other struggle. Luckily, researchers might have found the secret to actually making it to the gym. One study from the University of Aberdeen found that when people worked out with an exercise partner, it increased the amount of exercise they did. And that number was further increased when the person enlisted to help was emotionally supportive. Once you find the perfect workout partner, you can even Steal A-Rod and J-Lo's Killer Couples Workout.
Snack on Smaller Dishes
We Americans have a tendency to eat more than we want or need, and that may have something to do with the size of our plates. In one study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, doubling the size of a person's plate while they were serving themselves correlated with a 41 percent increase in the amount of food they took.
Try Resistance Training
Looking for the right workout at the gym? You may want to look into some resistance training classes. An Australian study found that subjects who completed a resistance training session had 56 percent higher Human Growth Hormone (HGH) levels than those who did cardio. HGH oxidizes fat and builds muscle, plus more muscle = more long-term calorie burning. Win/win!
Hide the Sweets
Out of sight, out of mind: that's the theory behind one weight loss hypothesis tested by scientists at Cornell University. In their study, they found that individuals who kept fruit on display in the kitchen had lower BMIs, and individuals of an average weight were less likely to keep snack foods like cupcakes on their counter compared to obese individuals.
Invest in a Nice Gym Wardrobe
Need some motivation to get to the gym? Try picking up a snazzy new pair of running sneakers. According to research published in the Journal of Experimental and Social Psychology, what we wear can psychologically affect what we do. Translation: good workout clothes will lead to a good workout.
Indulge in a Glass of Wine
In the evening, why not relax (and slim down) a little with a glass of red wine? According to researchers at Oregon State University, sipping the dark drink in moderation helps slow the growth of fat cells and prevents the formation of new ones, thanks to a chemical called ellagic acid.
Have Excellent Short-Term Memory
After a good day of eating well and exercising, we have a tendency to want to reward ourselves with a small dessert or even a cheat meal. This phenomenon, known as licensing, is a huge thorn in every dieter's side, which is why it should be stopped before it begins. The next time you want to reward your healthy lunch with an indulgent dinner, remind yourself of how bloated you felt the last time that happened, and steer clear of any temptations.
Dim the Lights
Dimming the lights sets the mood for a romantic dinner, with the added benefit of slowing our eating down. One study from Cornell University found that lower lighting reduced the calories subjects consumed while increasing time spent at the table eating by 4.7 percent.
Play Jazz at Dinnertime
Surprisingly, the music we listen to while we eat has an effect in how much we consume. Researchers at Cornell University studied the effect of different music on how people ate and found that calm music like jazz correlated with a reduced caloric intake. Bring on the Miles Davis!
When you're on a weight-loss journey, it's exciting to take a picture every day and watch your body change—not to mention that it may actually get you one step closer to a flat belly!
One Colombian study found that people who routinely took photos of themselves during their weight loss plan were more likely to finish the plan than those who skipped the selfies. Plus, over 71 percent of those who took a photo every day met their goal weight!
Mentally Binge Before You Literally Do
When you find yourself craving a big bag of Swedish Fish, try picturing yourself eating them instead of actually doing it. One study found that participants who were asked to visualize eating the most candy ended up consuming the least when they were invited to indulge.
Eat With Your Guy Friends
We all know that women tend to eat smaller portions than men, but what may surprise you is the effect that dining with men can have on women—and even other men. According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, women opted for dishes with 15 percent fewer calories when dining with dudes as opposed to their girlfriends. Surprisingly, men who dined with other men also ordered 22 percent fewer calories. Researchers believe that the results correlate with how we think we should eat and behave when out with friends.
Cruise Past the Commercials
In the battle of the bulge, everything is out to get us—even our beloved television. Research from the Montreal Neurological Institute suggests that food-related commercials can increase our appetites, so skip past the candy commercials when you're trying to shed belly fat. In addition to skipping commercials, these 20 Easy Health Hacks Will Make You Feel Better Every Day.
Serve from the Stovetop
Food has a way of tempting us when it's in arms-length, so the best way to avoid overeating is to keep the food as far away as possible. "Leave serving dishes on the stove instead of at the dining table," Brian Wansink, PhD, director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University suggested to Health. "You'll eat nearly 10 percent less."
Start Your Morning Off Sweet
Dieting doesn't mean skipping dessert—it just means having it earlier in the day. One Israeli study found that dieters who consumed a large, sweet breakfast lost 37 more pounds over an eight-month period and showed a 15 percent greater drop in hunger hormone ghrelin than those who started the day with a small, low-carb breakfast.
Stick To Three Meals A Day
Contrary to popular belief, eating smaller meals does not contribute to weight loss. One study presented to the Dietitians Association of Australia concluded that eating more than three meals a day does nothing in the way of slimming down; the researchers found no difference between those who ate three normal meals and those who ate three small meals and three snacks.
Ditch the High-Fructose Corn Syrup
It's not just how many calories we eat that controls our weight—it's also what makes up those calories that has an effect on our slim-down efforts. Researchers at Princeton University found that when rats consumed fewer calories made up of high-fructose corn syrup compared to their counterparts who received a sucrose solution, they still became overweight.
Drink Water Before Every Meal
Water has a satiating effect that helps us consume less over the course of a meal. In fact, research from the University of Birmingham found that drinking two glasses of water before a meal helped subjects lose 2.87 pounds more than those who went right for their plates. Looking for even more weight loss tips? These 30 ways to boost your metabolism after 30 should do the trick.
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