If you tend to put on fat around your tummy, it's even more important to watch your weight. Visceral fat laid down around your internal organs is more dangerous to your health than other kinds, say experts. There's more to losing weight than just cutting calories though!
See also: Six reasons why you can't lose weight
See also: Top five common myths about weight loss
1. Reduce calories – but not too much
You know that cutting calories is the best way to lose weight – but be careful how low you go. While reducing your calories to 1,000 a day can help you lose weight fast, it's also likely to reduce your metabolism, the rate at which your body burns calories.
One study found that people who consumed 1,100 calories per day slowed their metabolic rate more than twice as much as those who ate 1,500 calories a day over a four-day period.
And the effects don't just stop with the diet. Your metabolic rate is likely to remain lower, even once you start eating normally again. Even if you reach your target weight, your metabolism will be lower than it was before you started the low-calorie diet. In other words, lose weight fast and it will be hard to maintain – lose weight slowly, and you'll find it much easier to keep your new slim physique.
2. Get more protein in your diet
Eating protein helps to keep you fuller for longer, plus, the body burns more calories digesting protein than it does fat or carbs. Studies suggest that a high-protein diet may account for an extra 80–100 burned calories per day.
Eating a high-protein diet – along with doing resistance exercises - may also help you retain your muscle mass as you lose weight.
As a general guide, aim to get 20–30% of your calories from protein each day, making sure you include some form of protein with each meal. Replacing a meal with a protein shake may help.
3. Cut back on the carbs
Scientists used to point the finger at fat-intake as the cause of weight gain. Research now suggests that it's sugary foods and refined carbs that cause us to pack on the pounds, especially the dangerous "visceral" abdominal fat.
Cutting out sugary treats is the first step. Eating fewer carbs and switching to wholegrains (brown bread, rice and pasta) is also a good idea. Studies suggest that people with the highest intake of wholegrains are 17% less likely to have excess tummy fat compared to those who eat a lot of refined carbs.
4. Eat more soluble fibre
You know that you need fibre in your diet for the sake of your gut health, but if you want to lose weight, increase the amount of soluble fibre you eat.
Soluble fibre foods, such as oats, flaxseeds, blackberries, Brussels sprouts, and avocados, absorb large amounts of water, which slows down food in the digestive tract. The longer it takes the stomach to empty, the more full you will feel. Not only that, but eating more soluble fibre can reduce the number of calories your body absorbs from food.
5. Eat more "good fats"
Studies show that eating monounsaturated fatty acids can help to prevent the accumulation of abdominal fat. Eating a Mediterranean diet (complete with olive oil, fatty fish and nuts) is the best way to go.
Health experts recommend switching vegetable oil for coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil and to eat avocadoes, almonds, and fatty fish that's rich in omega-3s. If you don't like fish, you may want to consider taking an essential fatty acids supplement.
6. Take probiotics
Some experts believe that gut microbiota affect how many calories and nutrients are taken from food and absorbed by the body. It's also been suggested that some intestinal microbes may change your sensitivity to insulin, encouraging the body to burn fat rather than store it.
A recent study published in the journal Cell found that people who are slim have a greater abundance of one type of bacteria called Christensenellaceae, whereas those who are obese have less of the bacteria.
Another study from Washington University School of Medicine found that obese people have 70 percent fewer and less diverse microbes in their stomach compared to people who are slim.
Taking a probiotic supplement can also help to improve the health of your gut and encourage the growth of good bacteria.
7. Combine cardio with resistance training
Finally, one of the best ways to lose weight from around your middle is to exercise. You don't need to pound a treadmill or the pavements to see results. Research shows that regular brisk walking is one of the best ways to lose abdominal fat.
A brisk walk for 30–40 minutes per day is all it takes to help trim down your tummy. Don't forget to do some resistance work too. Lifting weights will help to prevent the loss of muscle mass, which in turn will help to improve your metabolic rate. Combining resistance training with aerobic exercise (along with a healthy diet) is the best way to slim your waistline.