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7 Ways to Slim Down Your Waistline

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Love handles, muffin top, spare tire—whatever you call it, extra weight around the waistline is one of the most common trouble zones for those who are overweight or obese. And even people who are already at a healthy weight may tend to carry more fat in the abdominal area.
While most are primarily concerned with the physical appearance of their midsections, there are also some serious health concerns linked to excess belly fat.
Lauren Popeck, registered dietitian at Orlando Health, says that abdominal fat can pose a significant health risk. "There are two types of belly fat: subcutaneous fat below the skin and visceral fat around the vital organs,” she notes. “Visceral fat poses the highest risk because it actually produces inflammatory compounds, which can increase LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and insulin resistance."
According to information from Harvard Medical School, visceral fat cells are dangerous because they release fatty acids directly into the liver, and can also build up in the heart, pancreas and other organs. This excess fat can prevent organs from functioning properly, leading to a higher risk of heart disease, elevated blood sugar and high cholesterol.
That means slimming down your waistline won’t just achieve aesthetic results, but could also help you live a healthier life. That said, it’s important to remember that it’s not possible to "spot reduce" specific areas of the body. Just as you can’t squat your way to a perfect rear end, all the crunches in the world won’t make your belly flatter—although they will strengthen the underlying muscles. The key is overall fat loss, which will showcase the muscles you’ve worked so hard to develop.
“Although you can target specific parts of the body to gain muscle and strength (like when you do a chest press that works your chest muscles), the same isn’t true for fat loss,” Coach Jen points out. “Your body decides for itself where and when it wants to take the fat off, so crunches aren’t going to help you lose belly fat and leg lifts won’t make your thighs smaller. Eventually, through a healthy diet and regular exercise, you’ll lose fat in the areas where you carry excess. You just have to be patient, because it might not happen in the places you want at the rate you’d expect.”
But don’t throw in the towel and resign yourself to life with love handles just yet. Although you can’t bust belly fat with targeted exercises, there are some things you can do to help strengthen your stomach, reduce bloating and accelerate overall fat loss, all of which will help you create a slimmer, stronger abdomen.

1. Limit sodium intake.

Sodium is a naturally occurring mineral that we all need—in moderation, of course. Too much sodium can increase the risk of not only high blood pressure and heart disease, but also bloating. Many highly processed foods are high in sodium, so even if you’re not piling on the salt yourself, you could be unknowingly bloating your belly when eating crackers, deli meats, bread, cheese, soups and other sneaky sodium sources.
As Coach Jen points out, the recommended limit for sodium is 2,300 milligrams daily, but the average American consumes about 3,300 milligrams per day, not including any additional salt they add to their food. To reduce your sodium intake and cut down on bloating, she suggests looking for low-sodium alternatives and trying to eat a diet lower in processed foods and high in fruits and veggies.

2. Avoid carbonated beverages.

Popeck suggests steering clear of bubbly beverages and choosing water, instead. According to WebMD, the carbonation in fizzy drinks can send gas bubbles into your belly, causing bloating and discomfort. This can occur even with zero-calorie drinks. If you don’t like plain water, try adding some freshly cut fruit for natural flavor, or switch to flavored tea.
Another perk of upping your water intake is that it will help prevent overeating during meals and curb cravings for unhealthy snacks.

3. Eat smaller and slower.

Another way to reduce the size of your stomach, Popeck says, is to stick to sensible portion sizes and eat foods slowly and mindfully. Chew each bite thoroughly and take the time to savor the taste. The end result will be less food volume consumed, which will prevent that uncomfortable swollen feeling that comes with overeating. As a bonus, you’ll also likely cut your calorie intake, which will help to speed up weight loss if that’s your goal.

4. Beef up the probiotics.

Probiotics are “friendly” bacteria that help to promote a healthy digestive system. In addition to being linked to a bevy of health benefits—including improved immunity, reduced cholesterol levels and a decreased risk of certain cancers—they’ve also been shown to reduce bloating. Some prospective studies have found that participants who used probiotics “found an improvement in bloating severity” compared to groups who did not use them.
According to SparkPeople’s registered dietitian, Becky Hand, some common food sources of probiotics include yogurt, kefir and fermented milk. You can also take probiotic supplements in the form of capsules, liquids or powders, though Hand says it’s important to exercise caution before using a probiotic supplement, as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate them in the same way that it regulates medication.   

5. Consider reducing FODMAPs.

For her clients who struggle with bloating, Popeck recommends limiting consumption of FODMAPs— Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols—which are short-chain, indigestible carbohydrates. Instead of being digested, FODMAPs hang out with the gut bacteria, producing gas and bringing liquid into the intestine. According to Healthline, studies have linked FODMAPs to gas, bloating, stomach pain and other digestive issues.
FODMAPs may include fructose (found in many fruits, veggies and added sugars), lactose (found in many dairy products), fructans (found in wheat, rye, barley and other gluten grains), galactans (found in legumes) and polyols (sugar alcohols found in some fruits, veggies and sweeteners). Consult this list of foods to eat and avoid on a low-FODMAPs diet.

6. Include core exercises in your routine.

As Coach Jen mentioned earlier, you can't spot reduce. However,  you can strengthen your core muscles through targeted abdominal exercises. Combined with a healthy diet and fat-burning cardio, core work will help those underlying muscles look their best.
While there are hundreds of exercises designed to get those abs burning, personal trainer Rui Li finds Pilates leg lifts to be particularly effective at sculpting the waist and building basic strength in the abdominal area.
  1. Lie down on your back on a mat with your legs up in the air, perpendicular to the floor. Press your lower back firmly into the mat to eliminate any space.
  2. Slowly lower your legs while maintaining a flat back until it becomes difficult to hold the position.
  3. Scoop your tailbone in and bring the legs straight back up, never losing the flat back.
  4. Repeat for three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions. 

7. Don’t expect a shortcut.

Although some of these strategies might help to reduce bloating and make your belly feel smaller, there is no quick fix to shrink your waistline. “Exercise combined with a healthy diet is the best way to reduce overall weight and, in turn, waist circumference,” says Popeck. “Although reducing calories is necessary, in my experience, some patients see results with lower carbs and some do better with lower fat. It’s just a practice of finding what is right for each body and lifestyle.”

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LGRIF22 12/7/2020
Interesting... Report
My body gains weight around the middle first and lets go of it last. Genetics I'm thinking. Report
Very good information
Great article! Report
Great article! Report
Helpful article Report
Thank you, great info Report
Excellent article. Good need-to-know information. Report
Great information. Thanks. Report
I realize when I do a total body makeover, it includes my abdomen area. This allows me to feel the burn and helps me concentrate on that area, specifically. Thanx, SparkFriend. Report
Thank you I had not heard of FODMAPs. Report
I have always have a bit of belly and sometime you cannot changed genetics no matter how hard your try. Report
Companies that make the probiotics are the ones paying for the studies, so you can not believe their “research”, it’s baloney, making them millions! Report
Eat less Report
Stuff hangs around in my intestines? What utter nonsense. The fiber coming behind it would push it out before it had a chance to ferment. Somebody must think their gut is a bunch of rooms instead of one long tube. Report
this is good info Report
Great article. Report
Love all the ideas! Report
Great ideas! Report
Good information and workout tips, thanks! Report
This article is not well written at all. First she says you can't get rid of belly fat by exercising, then she has exercises to get rid of belly fat. First she is talking about belly fat, then she is talking about bloating. Those are not even remotely the same thing. You need to get better at researching your ideas and being consistent with what you are talking about. I think it's really irresponsible to add to people's confusion about how to lose weight. It's hard enough as it is. Report
Interesting blog Report
Good information! Report
Thanks for the article Report
Great article Report
Great article! Thanks for sharing! Report
Sodapop is only a rare thing for me! Core exercises are something I need to do more of! Report
Good reminders. Thank you. Report
Thanks. Report
221789 While I like the idea of fasting this isn't for everyone. I'm currently on coumadin therapy and screwing around with my food intake is a great way to get my INR levels out of whack. It took quite a bit to get this to work as I eat a lot of veggies that are mod to high in vitamin K. I wish I could do this but alas out of my reach for now. Report
You have to dream before your dreams can come true. - A.P.J. Abdul Kalam ~ 4/4/18 Report
We just read this on 4/04/2018. Fast repeat or am I confused? Report
It took this many years to get the weight on... it will take time to get the weight off... :) Report
Thanks Report
I do need more core work. Report
Excellent article and good workout tips! Report
Thank you for sharing Report
This article is bunk....Caloric restriction and exercise will not remove that visceral fat around the middle. The cause of that belly fat is a hormonal imbalance of insulin and/or cortisol. Insulin resistance is mainly caused by too many refined carbs and sugar. However, every time we eat our insulin rises. It is best to eat no more than three meals a day. Snacking between meals will increase insulin which is not allowed to lower before the next meal/snack. This is other cause of insulin resistance. It does not matter if you keep your calories in reduction with your between meal snacks, your body will react to the continued insulin spikes and start to resist it. While exercise will increase your insulin sensitivity in your muscles it will not do so in your liver where most body fat resides. A rise in cortisol also comes from eating but stress and/or lack of sleep will raise it even more. There is no mention in this article to manage your stress or getting the proper 7-9 hours of sleep daily. One good strategy for reducing insulin resistance and getting rid of belly fat is intermittent fasting. Do some research on fasting and see if it is something that may be added to your toolbox for better health. Report
You still cant beat heredity LOL I have never had a waist and most of the women in my family have not had one either. ....Even when I only weighed 116 lbs when I got out of high school (I was 5'7") I didn't have one then either. Report
Take what you need and leave the rest. Report
Grwat Stuff, M! Report
I want a shortcut, please! Report
Some conflicting advice up there: Eat probiotics (i.e. yogurt etc) but reduce intake of FODMAP foods (includes dairy e.g. yogurt). Report
Thanks for the tips Report
I read it some good points some not so good we must remember this is only 1 view point Report
I read it some good points some not so good we must remember this is only 1 view point Report
I read it some good points some not so good we must remember this is only 1 view point Report
very helpful Report
Core exercises are a double edged sword because when you build up the muscle it helps to increase girth so if you don’t lose fat you end up looking more wide Report