Visceral fat is a particularly dangerous “active” fat stored deep in the abdomen, linked to dangerous health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease—and studies show there are no surgical shortcuts for getting rid of it. “It is not the loss of fat that’s important, but how you lose the fat that’s important,” says Samuel Klein, M.D., professor of medicine and nutritional science and director of the Center for Human Nutrition at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “When you remove fat by eating less and being more physically active, you shrink your fat cells to a smaller size and you eliminate fat in other organs like muscle tissue [and] liver tissue, as well as reducing visceral fat. When you remove fat by liposuction, you remove billions of subcutaneous fat cells without changing any of the other parameters, and some of those other parameters are probably important to improve metabolic function.” Here are five scientifically-backed ways to lose belly fat, fast—no scalpel needed. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
Eat More Fiber
Eating more soluble fiber from vegetables, beans and fruit can help get rid of belly fat, according to a study published in the journal Obesity. “There is mounting evidence that eating more soluble fiber and increasing exercise reduces visceral or belly fat, although we still don’t know how it works,” says Kristen Hairston, M.D. “Although the fiber-obesity relationship has been extensively studied, the relationship between fiber and specific fat deposits has not. Our study is valuable because it provides specific information on how dietary fiber, especially soluble fiber, may affect weight accumulation through abdominal fat deposits.”
Studies show exercise is far more effective than medicine for fat loss in the abdominal area. “Visceral fat can affect local organs or the entire body system. Systemically it can affect your heart and liver, as well as abdominal organs,” says cardiologist Dr. Ian J. Neeland, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “When studies use weight or body mass index as a metric, we don’t know if the interventions are reducing fat everywhere in the body, or just near the surface. The location and type of fat is important. If you just measure weight or BMI, you can underestimate the benefit to your health of losing weight. Exercise can actually melt visceral fat.”
A study from Brown University shows that people who practice “dispositional mindfulness”—where a person pays keen attention to their present thoughts and feelings—are less likely to have belly fat or be overweight. “This is everyday mindfulness,” says lead author Eric Loucks, assistant professor of epidemiology in the Brown University School of Public Health. “The vast majority of these people are not meditating.”
Focus on Healthy Weight Loss
“There is no magic formula. You must lose weight,” says Daniel Allan, MD. “It takes consistent attention to a balanced diet and appropriate portions, combined with regular physical activity… Doing crunches, sit-ups or planks will not speed the process beyond just burning calories associated with that activity. Weight loss via physical activity for losing belly fat is most effective by combining both strength and cardio fitness programs. The good news is that when the weight does start to come off, you will likely notice it disappear in the midsection first, because visceral fat can be broken down quicker than other types of body fat.”
Prioritize a Healthy Sleep Schedule
Sleep—both quality and the right amount—is essential for getting rid of belly fat quickly.
“Our findings show that shortened sleep, even in young, healthy and relatively lean subjects, is associated with an increase in calorie intake, a very small increase in weight, and a significant increase in fat accumulation inside the belly,” says Virend Somers, M.D., Ph.D., Alice Sheets Marriott Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine. “Normally, fat is preferentially deposited subcutaneously or under the skin. However, the inadequate sleep appears to redirect fat to the more dangerous visceral compartment.”