Belly fat is like an uninvited, rude party guest: you never wanted it to arrive in the first place, and once it’s there, it’s harder than you ever imagined to get it to leave.
It often feels like there’s no way around the weight gain that comes along with getting older; no matter how many anti-aging creams you may buy, the waist size on your jeans keeps growing right alongside the number of candles on your birthday cake. While it may seem as though getting bigger is a foregone conclusion as you age, these 20 ways to lose your belly when you’re older can help you whittle that middle and start looking as young as you feel in no time. And while you’re making healthy changes, check out What Happens to Your Body When You Drink a Smoothie Every Day.
While many people assume that carbs have to be off-limits to effectively shed belly fat, choosing the right carbs, like bananas, can actually expedite your weight loss efforts. A study published in Nutrition & Metabolism reveals that pre-diabetic subjects who supplemented their diets with inulin, a prebiotic fiber found in bananas, shed significantly more weight and more fat than those without. They also lowered their glucose levels, potentially reducing their risk of future weight gain and diabetes, too. Need more incentive to add bananas to your meal plan? The amazing things that happen when you eat bananas will have you convinced.
Those refined carbs on your menu might be the very reason you can’t ditch that belly fat. Fortunately, sliding back into those skinny jeans doesn’t mean you need to turn up your nose at every carb that crosses your plate. Researchers at Tufts University’s Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging found that people who ate three or more servings of whole grains each day and limited their intake of refined grains had approximately 10% less harmful, organ-enveloping visceral belly fat than those who had larger proportions of refined grains in their diet.
You don’t need to be a record-breaking runner to ditch that jiggle around your middle. Even a relatively short jog a few days a week can make all the difference when it comes to your weight and health. Researchers at Duke University found that jogging only 12 miles a week—that’s just 1.7 miles a day—can significantly reduce belly fat.
Want to shed that jelly belly? Think outside the gym. Starting your day with an outdoor workout can help you blast through that stubborn belly for good. Researchers at Northwestern University found that people who were exposed to early morning sunlight had significantly lower BMIs than those who caught their rays later in the day. Outdoor morning exercise may also help regulate your circadian rhythms, making it easier to get a good night’s sleep and wake up energized and ready to face the day.
Skinny jeans aren’t the only enemy of a ballooning belly; fiber can deliver a crushing blow to your belly fat, too. Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found that an increased fiber intake is significantly linked to reductions in visceral fat, the harmful stuff that surrounds your organs and is linked to an increased risk of everything from diabetes to colorectal cancer. In fact, every 10 gram increase in daily soluble was linked to a 3.7% reduction in visceral fat over a 5-year period. When moderate activity was added to the equation, that visceral fat loss jumped to a whopping 7.4%.
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Researchers at Maastricht University in The Netherlands found that adding just 2.56 milligrams of capsaicin—the compound that gives spicy foods their heat—to subjects’ meals significantly increased their ability to burn fat without spiking their blood pressure. Need some cooking inspiration? The spicy recipes that will fire up your metabolism will make it easy to slim down.
A little protein goes a long way when it comes to shaving those extra inches off your waistline. Research published in the Journal of Nutrition followed a group of overweight, premenopausal women over a four-month period. During this time, the women did aerobic exercise five days a week and resistance training twice a week, and were either put on a high protein, high dairy diet, one with moderate amounts of protein and dairy, or one with moderate protein and low dairy. By the end of the study, those who had adhered to the high protein, high dairy diet shed the most visceral fat and gained more muscle than those on the more moderate protein and dairy plans.
The best way to lose weight is by lifting it. While, as nice as it would be, you can’t actually train your body to shave pounds off specific places, you can increase your full-body fat-burning potential by adding some resistance exercise to your routine. In a study published in Obesity, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that men who stuck to a routine of just 20 minutes of weight training a day significantly reduced their risk of gaining belly fat as they aged when compared with men who did a comparable amount of aerobic exercise.
This may sound nutty, but adding some monunsaturated fats to your diet, like those found in nuts, can actually help you ditch those extra pounds you’re packing around your middle. Researchers at Reina Sofía University Hospital in Córdoba, Spain found that after a 28-day study period, study subjects whose diets were high in monounsaturated fats were less likely to have gained belly fat when compared to groups following a high-carbohydrate meal plan or one rich in saturated fats, reducing their risk of insulin resistance along the way.
A little chocolate on your menu can make a big difference when it comes to shedding that muffin top for good. Research published in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences reveals that normal weight women with excess belly fat who added 100 grams of high-flavonol dark chocolate to their diet over a weeklong period reduced both their waist circumference and their cholesterol.
Increasing your calcium intake does more than just improve the strength of your bones—it’s also an easy way to keep those extra pounds from congregating around your waist. Researchers in Shanghai found that college students with low calcium intakes who increased their calcium and vitamin D consumption and engaged in moderate exercise lost more visceral fat than the control group. While many people assume that dairy is the best way to boost your calcium intake, there are plenty of vegan-friendly ways to do that very thing, too. Sunflower seeds, oranges, almonds, beans, and green vegetables, like kale, watercress, and broccoli, are all easy non-dairy ways to add calcium to every meal.
While people who claim that vinegar can do everything from cure headaches to clean glass without leaving a single streak may be overstating its benefits, adding some to your meal plan can actually help you shrink your belly. The results of a 2009 study published in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry reveals that obese study subjects who added vinegar to their diet over a 12-week period lost significantly more weight and belly fat than those in the control group. If drinking straight vinegar is a less-than-appetizing proposition, try adding just a little apple cider vinegar to your favorite smoothie or mixing some with olive oil, mustard, and garlic for a flavorful salad dressing.
Our hectic lives can make it hard to de-stress, but finding just a few minutes to relax each day can help you live a longer, healthier life and shed that big belly, too. When you’re stressed out, your bloodstream floods with cortisol, a hormone that’s linked to the storage of belly fat. Fortunately, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco have found that all it takes is a little stress relief to temper that reaction; overweight study subjects who meditated and practiced mindfulness reduced their emotional eating behaviors, lowered their cortisol levels, and shaved off more belly fat than the control group.
Instead of your usual starchy side, try adding some asparagus to tonight’s dinner—your belly will thank you. Asparagus is a good source of inulin, a prebiotic fiber that’s been linked to reductions in waist circumference and belly fat accumulation. Research also suggests that inulin can help support the growth of healthy gut bacteria, giving your immune system a boost in the process.
It probably comes as little surprise that soda’s far from a weight loss-friendly drink, but many weight watchers don’t realize that diet soda can be just as bad when it comes to your belly. A review of research conducted at the University of Texas Health Center at San Antonio found that individuals over 65 who drank the most diet soda were also at the greatest risk for increasing their abdominal fat, with daily diet soda drinkers adding an additional 2.2 inches to their waistlines over a four-year period when compared with those who shunned the stuff.
Practicing yoga gives you more than just an excuse to wear stretchy pants all day — it’s also a great way for older individuals to shed that belly for good. Yoga is a great, low-impact exercise that’s easy on the joints, builds lean muscle mass, and can burn upwards of 300 calories an hour, even in a gentle practice. Research conducted at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in Bangalore even found that practicing yoga can help lower cortisol levels, limiting the risk of belly fat storage and reducing stress, too.
Whether you’re sipping sangria on a hot summer day or toasting with a daiquiri on a tropical vacation, those sugary cocktails are only giving you two things: a hangover and a big belly. The human body prioritizes the metabolization of alcohol over food, slowing your metabolism in the process. When you add in the high sugar content of most cocktails, like the whopping 60-plus grams of the stuff you’ll get in a piña colada—you’ve got a recipe for weight gain.
The easiest way to shave off your belly this summer is also one of the most enjoyable: take a few laps in your local pool. Freestyle swimming can burn upwards of 600 calories per hour for an average-weight person, and even more for those who are overweight or obese. Even better, it’s a low-impact exercise that’s perfect for anyone eager to get strong but doesn’t want to risk the wear-and-tear on their joints that activities high-impact exercise can cause.
The first step toward a slimmer belly starts on your plate. Researchers at the New York Academy of Sciences found that rats fed a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids reduced their visceral fat stores by 30% by the conclusion of the study when compared to those on a low-fat diet. While fatty fish, like salmon and tuna, are among the easiest ways to load your diet with omega-3s, you can still enjoy similar effects if you’re a vegetarian; both walnuts and flaxseeds are packed with inflammation-fighting omega-3s, too.
Even a minor lack of sleep can contribute to a major gain in belly fat, so if you’re eager to keep your belly slim as you age, there’s no time like the present to get serious about your sleep. Research published in the aptly-named journal Sleep reveals that people who skimped on sleep gained 32% more visceral fat over a five-year period than their well-rested counterparts. Now, who’s up for a nap?