Lose belly fat: How to trim the different kinds of fat around your waist

What are the best ways to lose belly fat? We look at differences between subcutaneous and visceral fat, and how to beat them

Man on a run to lose belly fat
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If you're looking to lose belly fat, or searching how to get a slim waist, it's important to understand the different kinds of fat, and how to get rid of them. Visceral fat is fat that lies between the outer layers of your body and your internal organs. A little bit is important to have, but too much visceral fat tends to put a lot of pressure on your organs, contributing to all manner of health problems like cardiovascular disease, cancers and even dementia.

Subcutaneous fat, on the other hand, is the stuff that lies just below the skin, often around your middle. This is the kind of jiggly fat you can see in the mirror. It's not as damaging as visceral fat, but the two go hand-in-hand, and it's rare to see an increase in one without the other. 

Reducing your calorie intake, changing your diet and burning calories through exercise will, fortunately, reduce both kinds of fat, but there are a few things we can do to speed up the process. 

Lose belly fat tip: Get better sleep

A report from Harvard University, which looked into subcutaneous and visceral fat, examined the results of a five-year study to find adults under age 40 who slept five hours or less a night had more visceral fat than those who got a healthy eight hours. If you struggle to sleep, we recommend turning off all devices an hour before bed: blue light interferes with the body's production of the hormone melatonin, which prevents you getting a good night's sleep. 

A cup of chamomile tea was also found in one study  to aid in immediately dropping patients into a restful 90 minute sleep. However, too much sleep is no good either: adults who slept more than eight hours also added visceral fat. Try and maintain that healthy seven-to-eight hour sweet spot.

Walking up stairs as part of a workout

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Lose belly fat tip: Incorporate exercise into your day

The Harvard report also recommended moving for at least 30 minutes a day, encouraging you to find ways to burn calories and incorporating them into your day. For example, this could be taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking during your lunch break, or standing while taking a phone call. 

We're recommended to do 150 minutes of structured exercise each week in order to burn enough calories to reduce our fat stores. While this can be hard to do for time-poor individuals, especially those with demanding jobs, we can try and make up the shortfall by moving more in everyday life. For example, walking to lose weight is an incredibly easy way to start exercising: all you need is some comfortable clothing and your best shoes for walking to hit the great outdoors.

Portion size

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Lose belly fat tip: Portion control

The Japanese island of Okinawa, as well as being the birthplace of karate, is well-known for being one of the "blue zones", an area where its inhabitants tend to live to a ripe old age. Its residents are known to follow the maxim of eating until they're 80% full, which contributes to their longevity by avoiding overeating. 

A study from the International Journal of Obesity found "providing individuals with larger portions of foods and beverages leads to substantial increases in energy intake", leading to an increase in subcutaneous fat stores. 

It's best to limit the amount of "energy-dense food" containing lots of sugar and carbohydrates, such as fried potatoes, sweets and other unhealthy options, and opt for the Okinawan maxim of eating until you're mostly, but not entirely full. Our portion size guide can tell you all.