What you eat is only half the equation. The other half is your attitude toward food. Follow these simple rules for trimming that tummy!
The idea that fat can help you slim down isn't new to the Flat Belly Diet. In 2001, Harvard researchers reported that a moderate-fat diet actually produced better weight loss results in the long run than a low-fat diet. But not until the Spanish study did researchers uncover the notion that a single type of dietary fat targets such a specific area of the body.
Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs for short, pronounced MOO-fahs) come from the healthy oils found in plant foods such as olives, nuts, and avocado. MUFAs have been linked to overall weight loss in previous studies, including a report published in the British Journal of Nutrition, which found that a MUFA-rich diet helped people lose small amounts of weight and body fat without changing their calorie intake. Another report found that a breakfast high in MUFAs could boost calorie burn for 5 hours after the meal, particularly in people with higher amounts of belly fat.
However, it's the additional health benefits that make this type of dietary fat so unique. Not only can it prevent and control type 2 diabetes and reduce the risk of heart disease (by lowering "bad" LDL cholesterol levels and boosting the "good" HDL), but a 3-year Italian study found that a diet high in MUFAs from nuts and olive oil also helped reduce markers of inflammation, a known trigger for aging and disease.
Using this arsenal of data, Prevention's nutrition director, Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, constructed a weight loss eating plan that incorporates MUFA-rich foods into every meal (exercise is optional). Our goal: to make this a reduced-calorie diet that's easy to stay on because these good fats are satisfying and filling. To ensure our Flat Belly Diet delivered, we also tested it on readers. The results were impressive. In a 4-week period, our 11 panelists lost a total of 91 pounds and 83 inches. Not only did each lose an average of 2 inches of belly fat, but they lost fat all over their bodies and felt more energized than they had in years.
The Way to Eat
The Flat Belly Diet follows a few basic weight loss rules:
Include a MUFA at every meal Incorporate a serving of one MUFA-rich food every time you eat to reap the benefits of this amazingly healthful belly-flattening fat. For a list of MUFA-packed foods, read Meet the 5 Flat Belly Foods.
Have a clear calorie goal Consume four 400-calorie meals a day. Significant weight loss requires calorie control. For the average woman, 1,600 calories per day is ideal because it's low enough to create weight loss while maintaining energy and preserving calorie-burning muscle.
Eat often Have a meal every 4 to 5 hours to help control your blood sugar and hunger and keep your metabolism in high gear.
The Way to Think
What you put in your mouth is only half the Flat Belly Diet equation. The other half is your attitude toward food and eating. Put these tips into practice:
Manage stress This emotion causes a spike in the hunger-stimulating hormone cortisol, sending you straight for the sweets. And when cortisol is high, extra calories are deposited directly as belly fat.
Ask for help Among people who have permanent weight loss, 70% reported having strong social support, compared with only 38% of those who lost and regained weight. Recruit others to join you (or encourage you), or sign up for an online support group.
Beat emotional eating Keep a food diary, but don't just record what and how much you eat. Journaling about your feelings can help you identify what triggers you to eat and why, so you can break unhealthy habits for good.
Get menu plans, stress-busting tips, and more from the new Flat Belly Diet! book and online program.