7 A.M. – Wake Up at the Same Time You Did Yesterday
How it fights belly fat: Sleep-deprived people ate an average of 385 extra calories a day, according to a meta-analysis of studies published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Tired people tended to reach for higher fat and lower protein foods, while other research on the effects of too-little sleep on appetite found that subjects were drawn toward typical snack foods high in fat, sugar and salt. Either way, those unneeded calories end up right around your waist. The advice? You won’t be surprised: Practice good sleep hygiene to get a good night’s sleep every night, which means staying on the same sleep/wake schedule every day.
7:30 A.M. – Do a Different Workout Than the One You Did Yesterday
How it fights belly fat: A fitness regimen that combines strength training and cardio gets rid of more belly fat than just doing one or the other, found a large review of the research. Make sure you’re including at least one or two high-intensity interval training (HIIT) sessions per week, since research shows it’s an effective way to shed belly fat.
8:30 A.M. – Put an Egg (or Two) on It
How it fights belly fat: A high-protein morning meal sets you up for a waist-whittling day because protein helps you feel full (so you’re more likely to eat less overall) and it builds lean muscle that burns calories even when you’re say, sitting in your desk chair, says Marina Chaparro, MPH, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Use breakfast to make headway on your daily-protein goal: 1 gram of protein for every 2.2 pounds you weigh. (If you weigh 145 pounds, you’ll need about 66 grams.)
1 P.M. – Eat Lunch—Even If You’re Beyond Busy
How it fights belly fat: Skipping meals can lead to weight gain specifically in your stomach, according to research conducted on mice. We know, you’re not a mouse, but animal studies like these can provide useful insights for us humans, too. Plus, eating every few hours will keep your metabolism humming along—always a boon for belly-fat loss.
4 P.M. – Practice the Thing You’re Always Hearing About
How it fights belly fat: Paying attention to what you’re thinking and feeling right now (what researchers call dispositional mindfulness) is linked to having less belly fat, according to research in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine. People who scored higher on a scale asking how much they agreed with statements like “I find it difficult to stay focused on what’s happening in the present moment” had about a pound more belly fat than their more in-the-moment counterparts. The study showed a link, not cause and effect, but the researchers believe that being mindful can help you avoid giving into cravings and eating out of boredom rather than actual hunger.
6:30 P.M. – Avoid Dinnertime Traps
How it fights belly fat: Suppertime can be a land mine of foods and nutrients linked to larger waistlines. Specifically, saturated fat (cheese plate for dinner, anyone?), trans fats (often found in things like frozen pizza) and refined carbs (white bread or pasta-heavy meals, or white-rice sushi). Fill your plate with whole grains, high-fiber picks (like veggies, legumes and lentils), and foods high in poly- and mono-unsaturated fats instead (olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds), all of which are linked to less abdominal fat. While you’re at it, be picky with your desserts, too. Added sugars are a known contributor to belly fat.
8 P.M. – Find Your Stress Reliever
How it fights belly fat: When you’re on edge, your cortisol levels increase, and that can lead to fat storage in your stomach, says Michael Jensen, MD, an endocrinologist and obesity expert at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. (It’s not clear why cortisol has this effect.) Making an effort to keep stress levels in check is a good idea, whether it’s through meditation (here’s a quick one you can do anywhere), reading or adult coloring books—bonus points if your activity of choice also helps you wind down before bed.