Has your waist gotten wider over the years? Join the club! As we get older, it’s normal to put on a few pounds — and after menopause, that extra weight tends to settle around your midsection. But a few simple lifestyle tweaks can help diminish the visceral fat that sits between organs, as well as the “jiggly” layer of fat directly under the skin, for a dramatically flatter stomach.
Read on to find out how to melt away that unwanted belly fat!
Have an afternoon snack.
If you typically crunch on a handful of nuts in the morning, try moving your snack to sometime between lunch and dinner instead. Researchers reporting in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that when women made this simple timing swap, they dropped 57 percent more weight than those who didn’t. Since there’s typically a larger time gap between lunch and dinner, an afternoon nibble can quash hunger pangs and prevent overeating in the evening.
Use an app instead of a notebook.
You’ve likely heard how jotting down what you eat can help dramatically curb calorie intake for a trimmer waist. And the good news is you don’t have to take notes! Instead, try a free calorie-counting app like MyFitnessPal. University of South Carolina scientists say dieters using mobile apps consumed 612 fewer calories per day than those relying on paper journals. Apps make it easier to record foods in the moment and review your progress over time, which motivates you to keep striving toward your goal.
Pay attention to calorie counts.
Getting takeout? Before ordering off the regular menu, ask to see the nutrition menu (or look online). Dartmouth scientists say seeing calorie counts dials back activity in the reward center of the brain, while upping activity in the control center. The result: You’ll find it easier to say “no” to unhealthy fare.
Sip green tea instead of herbal.
Whether you prefer it iced, hot, or blended in a smoothie, green tea not only speeds weight loss, it targets belly fat! According to a study in the journal In Vivo, sipping three 12-ounce mugs or glasses of the brew daily (mixed with 1 teaspoon of lemon juice in each sip) increases your abdominal-fat burn by as much as 76 percent! Potent compounds found in green tea boost levels of the appetite-taming hormone leptin while prodding your muscle cells to burn more belly fat for fuel. And the splash of lemon juice helps flush out excess fatty acids.
Fill up on brown rice.
Trade the white rice you typically eat with dinner for brown, and you’ll melt inches even faster. Researchers reporting in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine found that women who ate 3⁄4 cup of brown rice daily for six weeks trimmed 2.8 inches from their waistlines (plus two inches from their hips), thanks to the grain’s combination of filling fiber and blood sugar-balancing magnesium.
Give yourself a cheat day.
Good news: You don’t have to continuously diet to keep excess fat off your midsection. In fact, research in the Journal of Consumer Psychology shows having a “cheat day” once a week where you savor your favorite foods helps you shed just as much weight as dieters who never take a break. That’s because looking forward to a cheat day supercharges willpower to outsmart temptations the rest of the week, so your calories balance out, plus you never feel deprived.
Have dessert at breakfast.
Eating dessert in the morning (paired with a healthy breakfast) rather than at night helps you lose up to 37 pounds a year, Virginia Commonwealth University scientists say. Sugar activates cells’ energy engines, helping them burn fat for fuel.
Buy groceries with cash, not credit.
If you usually use your credit card at the supermarket, decide ahead of time to pay in cash. Doing so can help you dodge calorie-laden impulse buys. According to a study in the Journal of Consumer Research, the “pain” of paying with cash makes you significantly less likely to splurge on junk food and more likely to fill your cart with healthy, waist-cinching foods, like fresh produce.
Make a shopping list.
Australian scientists say women who plan their meals ahead of time by using a weekly shopping list (instead of deciding as they shop) lose 50 percent more weight over six months than those who shop sans list. Noting what you need helps you better gauge your calorie intake and stick to a well-balanced diet.
Choose red plates instead of white.
Because we subconsciously associate the color red with stop signals and traffic lights, when you dine off of a plate in that hue, you’ll automatically eat up to 30 percent less than if you’d used a blue or white plate, according to an Italian study. What’s more, researchers say the vibrant shade creates more of a visual contrast between your meal and the dish, helping you better gauge how much you’re actually eating.
Use a salad fork instead of a dinner fork.
Opting for a salad fork (in place of a dinner fork) forces you to take smaller bites. And British scientists say when you eat slowly, you give your body time to activate satiety hormones that cut calorie intake by up to 29 percent.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.