Obesity Rates May Be Leveling Off—but How to Shed That Fat?

The bad news is that most of us are still overweight. 6 ways to lose the stubborn belly fat.

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3. Eat a snack before and after a workout. This will give you energy for your activity and will keep your blood sugar levels from plummeting afterward, which can leave you feeling famished and likely to overeat, says Lyons. On his fat-shedding plan, he suggests having a light breakfast an hour before you exercise: two poached eggs on a whole-wheat English muffin, a serving of oatmeal mixed with soy milk, or 1 cup of whole-grain cereal mixed with 1 cup of Greek-style yogurt. As a post-workout snack, he suggests having a piece of fruit and a serving of starch: a slice of multigrain toast with 1 cup of strawberries, perhaps, or a 1-cup serving of cooked oat bran with 1 cup of blueberries.

4. Think six mini-meals a day. You can do 1,000 crunches a day and still have that dreaded abdominal "pooch" if you don't find an effective way to stop overeating. "Diet is 85 percent of the deal when it comes to shedding belly fat," says Lyons. He recommends eating six small meals a day every two hours to keep hunger at bay and reduce the midafternoon or before-bed binges. Following the pre- and post-workout meals comes lunch, which should consist of a lean serving of protein (4 ounces of grilled chicken breast or tuna, 6 ounces of baked tilapia, or 1 cup of beans) and 2 cups of chopped vegetables. A midafternoon snack on his plan consists of a serving of fruit: one apple, a cup of fresh berries, one fourth of a melon, a grapefruit half. Dinner is similar to lunch, with a protein such as grilled steak and steamed vegetables. And a nighttime snack can be a handful of nuts with some dried apricots, a smoothie made with skim milk and 1 cup of strawberries, or a ½-cup serving of cottage cheese with one fresh sliced peach.

5. Get adequate amounts of sleep. Too little sleep (less than six hours) or too much (more than eight hours) results in excess production of the stress hormone cortisol. This hormone promotes the storage of fat in the belly. A possible reason: Your body, knowing it's in a state of stress, shuttles fat off to a storage place where it can be easily burned off for fuel in an emergency. Fat on the hips and thighs isn't released from cells as quickly, which is why we often refer to it as "stubborn fat."

[Here are 10 ways to get better sleep and maybe cure insomnia.]

6. Find ways to de-stress. Live in the present moment, recommends psychologist Jon Kabat-Zinn, founding director of the University of Massachusetts Medical School's Center for Mindfulness in Medicine. This practice, called mindfulness, will help relax you and lower your cortisol levels. Don't think about that candy bar you ate yesterday—likely to increase your levels of stress hormones—or make promises to run 3 miles tomorrow. Instead, Kabat-Zinn says, think of every moment as the "ability to learn, grow, and change." That will allow you to be truly present when you indulge in, say, that rich Godiva truffle or a 10-minute shoulder massage at an airport kiosk. And you'll also appreciate those small, bright moments in your day: a joke from a coworker, conversing with the lady in front of you at the supermarket, a good-night hug from your child—all of which lower cortisol levels and thus help to keep stubborn belly fat at bay.

[Here's how to practice mindfulness meditation.]