I didn’t want to spoil the good mood, so I didn’t tell Gary the truth: Having even a small beer belly like his makes you twice as likely to die of any cause as actually being obese—not to mention, sabotaging any chance of rapid weight loss. That was the recent finding of a study involving more than 15,000 adults, which also discovered that people with round guts were more likely to have heart disease, and more likely to have lost valuable muscle tissue, than those who had fat in other places.
Why is a big gut so deadly? When you carry weight around your belly, you have a high percentage of what’s known as visceral fat, meaning it’s right up there inside your abdomen, cuddling next to your liver and other internal organs. Unlike the unsightly but mostly innocuous fat found in other parts of the body, visceral fat is a living, toxin-spewing organism, one that climbs up into your lap and stays there, causing diabetes, heart disease, liver failure and all sorts of other problems.
That’s why fighting belly fat is so important. If you’re feeling stretched at the waist, there’s nothing more important you can do for your health than to start losing your belly today. Here are 14 ways to flatten your belly in 14 days, ripped straight from my new Zero Belly Cookbook.
Don’t Be Afraid of Starch
Say the word “starch” to most diet gurus and their heads will start to spin. But 24-year-old firefighter Morgan Minor relied on the convenience and belly-filling power of sweet potatoes and black beans to drop 7 pounds in just one week. They’re super effective because they both pack plenty resistant starch, one of the big buzz terms in nutrition right now.
Resistant starch from root vegetables and legumes helps to feed your “good” belly bacteria. According to a 2015 study in the Journal of Functional Foods, when you eat resistant starch, your gut biome gets stronger—healthy bacteria literally get a workout digesting the healthy starch, becoming more dominant and leading the way to a healthier gut.
Blast Belly Fat With Green Tea
In a Swedish study that looked at green tea’s effects on hunger, researchers divided up participants into two groups. One group drank water while the other group drank green tea. Not only did the tea sippers report less of a desire to eat their favorite foods, but they found those foods to be less satisfying, and hence ate less when they did indulge. We’ve seen the results for ourselves when developing our brand new THE 17-DAY GREEN TEA DIET. Test panelists lost up to 10 pounds in one week!
And a Glass of Red Wine
It could help you burn belly fat better, according to a 2015 study in Nutritional Biochemistry. Over a 10-week trial, mice that got the human equivalent of about 1 ½ cups of red grapes a day accumulated less abdominal fat, and had lower blood sugar, than those that didn’t. Red wine is the best possible source of a micronutrient called resveratrol, which works on the genes responsible for belly fat.
Eat Fruit for Breakfast
Slim people eat breakfast every day, according to a recent study from Cornell University. When researchers surveyed 147 slender people who said they’d never had to struggle with their weight, they found that a whopping 96 percent of them ate breakfast nearly every day. (Among the general population, about 28 percent of men and 18 percent of women ages 18 to 34 skip breakfast every day, according to a study by The NPD Group.) Fifty-one percent of the slim people surveyed said that on a typical day, their breakfast included a serving of fruit. Part of the reason why fruit is so powerful is that it’s packed with insoluble fiber, which helps feed the healthy bacteria in your gut, triggering the production of a fatty acid that reduces fat-causing inflammation throughout your body. And in a Canadian study, researchers discovered that those whose diets were supplemented with insoluble fiber had higher levels of ghrelin—a hormone that controls hunger. Speaking of fruit, don’t miss the fat-blasting 21 Amazing Things Bananas Do To Your Body!
Leave Notes for Yourself
Subtle, even subliminal, messages may be more effective at helping us stick to a healthy eating regimen than even ongoing, conscious focus, found a 2015 study in the Journal of Marketing Research. The study found that people who receive reinforcing notes urging them to eat healthy were more likely to make smarter choices than those who tried to keep their goals top of mind at all times. Simple reminders—keeping a bowl of nuts on your kitchen counter, for example, or putting reminders into your phone—will keep you on the winning side, so you can lose your love handles while your mind is busy tackling other things.
Swap Your Protein Shakes
The new trend in dietary supplements is vegan protein powders, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The more plant protein you eat, the less likely you are to get belly fat and the diseases that come with it, according to a recent study in the Journal of Diabetes Investigation. A second study in Nutrition Journal found that plant protein could play a key role in preventing obesity. My Zero Belly shakes are made with vegan protein for just this reason. “I loved the Zero Belly drinks,” says Isabel Folek, who dropped 13 pounds in six weeks. And Bryan Wilson, who lost 19 pounds and 6 inches off his waist, counts the drinks as a key to his success: “I’m a sweets craver and can’t get enough ice cream, ever. These were a far better alternative.” For the complete recipes, check out Zero Belly Cookbook!
Upgrade Your Eggs
Eggs are “ZERO BELLY” Powerfood for a reason: They’re the single best dietary source of a fat-fighting nutrient called choline, which has been shown to help turn off the genes related to fat storage. And they’re packed with muscle-building, fat-fighting protein. But you can improve their belly-flattening powers even more by choosing omega-3 eggs. Omega-3-enriched eggs are laid by hens that are fed flaxseeds, chia seeds, and fish oil, giving you more inflammation-fighting fatty acids that work directly on belly fat.
Get to Work Early and Leave on Time
When deadlines pile up, add work hours to the beginning of your day, not the end. When you work later you also eat later and go to sleep later, both of which lead to unwanted pounds. A study in the journal Nutrition Research found that those whose last meal was closest to bedtime took in more calories overall throughout the day than those who gave their bodies time to recover before heading off to bed.
Hit the Road, Not the Sugar
One of the causes of a beer belly is a loss of muscle mass, and one of the reasons you may be losing muscle mass is that you’re eating too much sugar. In animal studies, the more sugar an animal ate, the faster its muscles eroded with age. To bring your round belly back into line, cut sugar calories where you can while focusing on calorie-burning cardio workouts. Cardio workouts, because they burn 67 percent more calories than weight workouts of the same duration, are more effective at burning off belly fat, according to a study at Duke University. Speaking of sugar, artificial sweeteners are making you fat. Find out how with this essential list of 38 Top Diet Sodas—Ranked!
Trade in Your Peanut Butter
Almonds may be the single best dietary source of vitamin E, and E might as well stand for “extra-slim.” But as much as 92 percent of the American population doesn’t get enough. Worse, people struggling with obesity actually have a harder time absorbing E than lean people do, according to a 2015 study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. A spoonful of almond butter gives you three times as much vitamin E as the same amount of peanut butter.
And a Side of Beans
In a study in the journal Lipids, researchers compared men who ate a “healthy American diet” to those who ate the same diet, but supplemented with fiber from legumes. (That’s anything that grows in a pod, like peanuts, beans, lentils, or those giant cockroaches from Alien.) They found that the high-fiber, high-legume diet improved serum lipid profiles in men compared to a healthy diet with less fiber. The reason: fiber binds to bile acids in the intestines. Bile is like the dishwasher gel of the body: it breaks up the oil you’ve eaten. When fiber hijacks these acids and strips them out of your digestive system, it’s like you’ve turned on the dishwasher’s rinse cycle. All the bile goes down the drain, removing toxins from your bloodstream and forcing your body to start burning off belly fat. Beans are just one of the 50 Ways to Lose 10 Pounds—Fast!
Throw Out Your Vegetable Oil
In a review in the journal Nutrition, researchers reported that linoleic acid, which comes from soybean and corn oil, has been shown to promote fat storage. Swap vegetable oil for canola, olive or coconut oils.
Eat Raspberries And Cream for Dessert
The darker the fruit, the more powerful its nutritional punch, but even among dark red fruits, raspberries stand alone as the single best source of insoluble fiber. A cup of the little ruby jewels has 8 grams of fiber, compared to less than 3 grams in the same amount of strawberries. Studies show that a fiber-rich meal stimulates the release of a hormone called CCK. Sounds like a new fragrance from Calvin Klein, but it’s actually short for cholecystokinin, and it works within our bodies to help us feel satiated by slowing the flow of food through our bodies. It also regulates sleep, so if you feel satisfied and sleepy after a meal, you have CCK to thank. Sprinkle on some chia seeds for extra fat burn.
Then Get to Sleep
When you’re short of sleep, ghrelin, the “I’m hungry” hormone, shoots up; leptin, the “I’m full” hormone, decreases. In a recent study, researchers analyzed more than 500 participants’ weekday sleep diaries and found that losing a mere 30 minutes of shut-eye each day increased their risk of obesity by 17 percent. Go to bed early, and don’t miss these 30 Things to Do 30 Minutes Before Bed to Lose Weight!
And Don’t Miss the Original 14! Here they Are!
Take a Brisk Walk Before Breakfast
Zero Belly Diet panelist Martha Chesler did just this as part of her Zero Belly program, and the results were astonishing. “I saw changes immediately,” she reports. In less than six weeks on the program, Martha dropped over 20 pounds and an astonishing 7 inches from her middle by combining the Zero Belly Foods with a pre-breakfast walk.
This easy a.m. ritual works on two levels. First, a recent study found that exposure to sunlight in between the hours of 8 am and noon reduced your risk of weight gain regardless of activity level, caloric intake, or age. Researchers speculate that the morning light synchronizes your metabolism and undercuts your fat genes. And burning calories before you eat means you’re exercising in a fasted state—the energy you burn comes right from your fat stores, instead of the food you ate. But what really stunned Martha was the improvement in her heart health. Before starting Zero Belly Diet, Martha’s heart rate would typically soar to 112 beats per minute (bpm) within moments of starting her exercise bike workout. “After the first week and a half I could not raise my heart rate over 96 bpm with the same workout. It was great to see change in the mirror, and even better to know good things were happening that I couldn’t even see.”
Start with Some Oatmeal
Naturally sweet oatmeal recipes in Zero Belly Diet were the key to test panelist Isabel Fiolek’s dramatic 13-pound weight loss. “I happen to have a big sugar addiction,” Isabel admits, “But the recipes have been surprisingly satisfying for my sweet tooth.” Isabel also made dramatic health strides: A checkup after her six weeks on Zero Belly Diet revealed she’d dropped her total cholesterol by 25 percent and her blood glucose level by 10 percent.
So cook up some oatmeal—try making overnight oats, if you’re short on time in the morning—and top it with some fruit. What’s so magical about this combination? Each provides insoluble fiber that helps reduce blood cholesterol and feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut. By doing so, you trigger your gut to produce butyrate, a fatty acid that reduces fat-causing inflammation throughout your body. In a Canadian study, researchers discovered that those whose diets were supplemented with insoluble fiber had higher levels of ghrelin—a hormone that controls hunger.
Choose Red Fruit Over Green
It’s the best fruit for weight loss. That means Pink Lady over Granny Smith, watermelon over honeydew, red grapes over green ones. The higher levels of nutrients called flavonoids—particularly anthocyanins, compounds that give red fruits their color—calm the action of fat-storage genes. In fact, red-bellied stone fruits like plums boast phenolic compounds that have been shown to modulate the expression of fat genes.
Make Some Guacamole
For test panelist June Caron, incorporating fresh produce like avocados was a life-changing lesson from Zero Belly Diet. The 55 year-old lost 6 pounds in the first week on the program. “Learning to eat real, chemical free, fresh foods has been the best thing that ever happened to me. I am never hungry. And the weight just keeps coming off!” Glowing skin, healthy nails and better sleep were Zero Belly bonuses, June said. “I’m well on my way to getting my sexy back. Everyone says I look much younger!”
Avocados are a double-whammy to belly fat. First, they’re packed with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats that dim your hunger switches; a study in Nutrition Journal found that participants who ate half a fresh avocado with lunch reported a 40 percent decreased desire to eat for hours afterwards. Second, unsaturated fats like those found in avocados seem to prevent the storage of belly fat.
Mix Up a Plant- Protein Smoothie
Test panelist Bryan Wilson, a 29-year-old accountant, lost 19 pounds and an astounding 6 inches from his waist in just six weeks on the program, and he attributes his success to the Zero Belly shake recipes in the program. “I love the shakes. I added them to my diet, and almost immediately I lost the bloat,” Bryan said. “I’m a sweet craver, and the shakes were an awesome alternative to bowls and bowls of ice cream I would have had.”
Protein drinks are great ways to get a monster dose of belly-busting nutrition into a delicious, simple snack. But most commercial protein shakes are filled with unpronounceable chemicals that can upset our gut health and cause inflammation and bloat. And the high doses of whey used to boost protein levels can amplify the belly-bloating effect. The Zero Belly solution: Try vegan protein, which will give you the same fat-burning, hunger-squelching, muscle-building benefits, without the bloat.
Power Up with Eggs
You’ll find lean, satiating protein in every single bite you take on Zero Belly Diet. The muscle-building macronutrient is fundamental to the plan, and eggs happen to be one of the easiest and most versatile delivery systems in the universe. Not only that, they’re also the number-one dietary source of a nutrient called choline. Choline, which is found also in lean meats, seafood and collard greens, attacks the gene mechanism that triggers your body to store fat around your liver. One Zero Belly Diet recipe—a breakfast hash with sweet potatoes and fresh farm eggs—became test panelist Morgan Minor’s go-to breakfast, and after just 3 weeks on the program, the female firefighter lost 11 pounds and 4 inches from her waist! The more eggs you eat, the less egg-shaped you get.
Mix Up a Magic Elixir
Start each day by making a large pitcher of “spa water”—that’s detox water filled with sliced whole lemons, oranges or grapefruits—and make a point of sipping your way through at least 8 glasses before bedtime. Citrus fruits are rich in the antioxidant d-limonene, a powerful compound found in the peel that stimulates liver enzymes to help flush toxins from the body and gives sluggish bowels a kick, according to the World Health Organization. And then shed belly flab—rapidly—with one of the 4 Teas That Melt Fat!
Make Your Own Trail Mix
The three major ingredients of a perfect Zero Belly meal or snack are protein, fiber and healthy fats, and all three can be found in abundance in a good trail mix. Sadly, most commercial mixes are made with extra oils, salt, and sugar. Mix up your own high-protein snacks from a selection of nuts, seeds, unsweetened dried fruit, and dark chocolate pieces. Make sure to include peanuts: they’re a top source of both genistein and resveratrol, two nutrients that help diminish the action of your fat-storage genes.
The biggest reason we can’t stick to our workouts? No time. Trying to squeeze a trip to the gym, with a shower and change of clothes, into a hectic schedule—especially around the holidays—can make even the most dedicated fitness buff into someone, well, less buff. But scientists in New Zealand recently found that men and women who engaged in three 10-minute exercise “hors d’oeuvres” before breakfast, lunch and dinner saw lowered blood glucose levels—a fat-busting benefit these folks showed all day long!
The short circuits in Zero Belly Diet offer a variety exercises that blast your core without relying on traditional sit-ups—easy enough to squeeze in before dinner in the comfort of your living room. Within six weeks of incorporating the mini circuits, test panelist Krista Powell lost 25 pounds—and she was finally able to dress in a way that reflected her true sense of style: “I’d avoided wearing high heels because the extra weight made my knees hurt so bad. I can actually wear my heels with confidence and without pain!”
Rethink Your Supplements
If you’re taking lots of vitamins and probiotics each day, you may want to reevaluate your strategy. Increased levels of B vitamins have long been associated with a higher prevalence of obesity and diabetes, perhaps because megadosing triggers our fat genes. A daily multivitamin is probably fine, but don’t try to convince yourself that more is better. And a recent study by ConsumerLab.com found that most commercial probiotics have far less healthy bacteria than they claim. Your better bet is to focus on the Zero Belly foods to ensure your belly is getting plenty of love—and your fat genes are being cut off at the pass.
Have Dark Chocolate & Berries for Dessert
Indulging in delicious food is a core principle of Zero Belly Diet. It was the balanced, “zero sacrifice” approach that helped test panelist Jennie Joshi finally lose her pregnancy weight. In just over a month on Zero Belly Diet, Jennie lost 11 pounds, “and the pregnancy pooch is leaving!” she said. “I couldn’t believe I was indulging in dark chocolate—and finally getting results! It’s a lifestyle, not a diet. It’s easy to stick with, and it makes sense.”
It makes scientific sense, also: A recent study found that antioxidants in cocoa prevented laboratory mice from gaining excess weight and actually lowered their blood sugar levels. And another study at Louisiana State University found that gut microbes in our stomach ferment chocolate into heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory compounds that shut down genes linked to insulin resistance and inflammation. Why the berries? The fruit speeds up the fermentation process, leading to an even greater reduction in inflammation and weight.
Swap Farmed Salmon for Wild Salmon
Lean protein like fish is a great way to fight fat and boost your metabolism. But the farmed salmon you get at the local market might not be the best bet for your belly. The cold-water fish has a well-deserved reputation for packing plenty of heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids—1,253 mg of the good stuff, and just 114 mg of inflammatory, belly-busting omega 6s. But the farmed variety—and 90 percent of what we eat today is farmed—has a very different story to tell. It packs a whopping 1,900 mg of unhealthy omega-6s.
Eat a Better Peanut Butter
Real peanut butter is made with two ingredients: peanuts, and maybe some salt. You already know that peanuts give you belly-slimming monounsaturated fats, tummy-filling fiber, and metabolism-boosting protein. But peanuts have a hidden weapon in their weight-loss utility belt: Genistein, a compound that acts directly on the genes for obesity, helping to turn them down and reduce your body’s ability to store fat. (Beans and lentils have the same magic ingredient, albeit in slightly less delicious form.) But be careful of the brand you buy: if you see ingredients like sugar, palm oil, or anything you can’t pronounce, put it back. They’ll undermine any good the peanuts might do.
Pre-game Lunch and Dinner with Greens
High-volume, low-calorie greens will fill you up, without filling you out. Test panelist Kyle Cambridge says regular salads turbocharged his success: “My wife Stacie and I decided to add salad to each meal, and the pounds started melting off.” Kyle lost 25 pounds and four inches in just six weeks on the program. “I even had to buy a new belt!” he said. “But the best was when Stacie came up to me in the kitchen, and gave me a hug. She laughed and smiled and said ‘I can wrap my hands around you again.'”
Leafy greens like collard greens, watercress, kale, and arugula may not be on your everyday list, but they all contain a compound called sulforaphane. This nutrient has been shown to act directly on the genes that determine “adipocyte differentiation”—basically, turning a stem cell into a fat cell. A healthier intake of the compound means a healthier body weight for you. And just a scant teaspoon of vinaigrette will help your body absorb the fat-soluble nutrients.