Loving yourself is an integral part of any wellness plan and usually where to start when you decide to commit to any type of wellness journey. This means loving your whole self, even the belly fat that may drive you crazy. Why is this so important? Areas within ourselves, or on our bodies, that we criticize are often areas that, even with lots of effort, are going to take some time to improve. When you practice self-love and compassion first, you learn to accept yourself for who you are- love handles and all- without self-resentment.
Loving yourself will make it easier to commit to the habit changes you will need in order to burn belly fat- nutrition, hydration, exercise, stress management, and patience all play roles in your success. The stomach is often the most stubborn area on our bodies to lose fat, so none of this will happen overnight; but by committing to the following habit changes consistently, you will be able to create results that you can be proud of.
Habit change # 1: Nutrition: Specifically cutting out most, if not all, highly processed foods. Fast food, traditional "junk food" (chips, candies, soda, etc.), bakery items, ice cream, anything breaded or fried are all considered highly processed foods. You want to reduce these as much as possible by swapping in whole, natural foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, lean protein, and healthy fats (avocados, nuts, and seeds). Not only will these nutrition swaps help you burn belly fat (many of these whole and natural foods are considered "metabolism boosters"), you'll also feel ten times better from cutting all that junk out of your life- and body. In addition, upping your consumption of prebiotic-rich foods like kefir, Greek yogurt, kombucha, or kimchi can help support overall gut health making it easier to lose fat around your midsection.
Habit Change # 2: Sleep: Ever have trouble going to sleep and start to feel hungry? Or, start to have hunger pains as it gets closer to bedtime? Trouble sleeping or staying up too late can be a signal to your body that it's time to eat and because your body is tired from being up all day (even if your mind isn't) you often crave higher-calorie foods during evening hours. Sleep better at night by ensuring that your room is dark, you commit to a regular bedtime, and/or you practice a mindful way to unwind by reading, meditating, or practicing yoga- something that doesn't involve a screen- at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
Habit Change # 3 Reduce Stress and/or anxiety: Easier said than done, right? Although a difficult habit to commit to, this one is probably one of the most important for your overall health. When you're stressed or anxious, your cortisol levels rise which can lead to an increase in appetite. In addition, high cortisol levels during times of prolonged stress and anxiety can lead your body to believe you're always in danger. Whether you like it or not your body will hold on to extra fat believing that it is somehow saving your life. Daily exercise or regular movement (like brisk walking for 10-15 minutes), meditation, engaging in your favorite hobbies, or spending time with friends/loved ones that make you feel good, are all ways to help you reduce stress in your life.
Habit Change # 4 Hydration: Staying fully hydrated works miracles inside and outside of your body- including reduced belly fat. Not only does drinking plenty of water help you feel more energetic during your workouts (increase in calorie burn!), it may also help lipolysis (your body's process of burning fat for energy). Lipolysis needs H2O in order to work properly, so dehydration could potentially slow this process down. Water also helps the body get rid of waste products, which can lead to a less bloated feeling -and looking- tummy.
Habit Change # 5 Exercise: Last, but definitely not least is exercise. In order to get the best belly fat loss results, working out is vital. A study published in Cell Metabolism found that a 12-week exercise program consisting of regular 45-minute workouts reduced participants' belly fat by a whopping 8%! Similar results can be achieved in the real-world by committing to an exercise routine that leaves room for both cardio and strength training 2-6 days per week.
By breaking these habits into small chunks that you can practice daily belly fat loss is possible. Start by replacing a few nutrition choices for healthier options (whole grain bread instead of white bread is a good example), cut television out of your nightlife 30 minutes before you go to bed, practice meditation for 3 minutes daily, consistently drink at least 64 oz's of water every day, and exercise for at least 10 minutes most days of the week. Small habits like these add up over time and will result in not only a healthier midsection, but a healthier life.