I approach these tips below with tried and tested results from myself, friends and family’s positive feedback as well as nutritional knowledge I am learning about from my nutrition studies. Using my psychology background also helps to understand how there is a mind-body connection and that if we want to make changes in our life we need to support our mental health as well. We must therefore consume foods that not only help us stay trim but also boost our mood and brain function as we don’t want to have dementia or Alzheimers in the future and aspire to have a strong sharp mind from a young age right into old age.
However, as always it is important that if you are embarking on a weight loss plan or new exercise regime you must always check with your healthcare provider before beginning anything, or you can always book an appointment with a nutritionist/nutritional therapists to find the best suitable plan for you. Most importantly start slow, don’t just jump into any health/exercise regime, as you may lose motivation very early on, it needs to be something you can bring into your lifestyle to improve your health by reaching goals in smaller steps. For example some people find it easier to cut something out of their diet that isn’t good for them (e.g junk food) by reducing the portion (but not avoiding it completely), then each week eating less and less of it until they don’t feel they need that food anymore, or they will include it only once a month at most. They can also replace it with something much more wholesome and healthier.
Lets take a simple example that if you were craving chocolate and biscuits you could have a bar of dark chocolate (70% cocoa and above is healthiest) or make your own coconut chocolate balls by using coconut flour to replace the white flour. There really are so many ways to make your diet interesting, exciting, varied and delicious whilst avoiding junk processed foods as much as possible (or keep it to a minimum) because this type of food will only make us feel ill, moody, irritable and sluggish in the long run, and to be healthy you want to feel energetic, happy and in top form.
Now before you embark on reading this post I have to warn you it is quite long and informative, a bit like an ebook, so you don’t necessarily need to read it all in one go but can come back to it whenever you have time.
Andrea’s top 10 tips on how you can reduce belly fat, keep the weight off, gain energy and become really healthy and happier along the way:
1. Firstly you need to love your body no matter what your size and just say to yourself you want to be healthy! Once you replace it from ‘I’m fat I need to lose weight’ to wanting to feel good you automatically program your brain to being more positive and making that change. Why? Because you are replacing the stress with wanting to lose weight quickly, and over time once you start eating healthier your mood will improve, you will feel better, more energetic and will see yourself in a different way. Feeling good and healthy=healthy happy weight-loss.
Now lets go straight into this infographic below which shows you the top 8 foods that help to reduce belly fat but also put you in a great mood, now thats a perfect combination. They are also the foods perfect for feeling fuller for longer and providing vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids giving you the amazing benefits for the skin and reducing and preventing wrinkles. Whats not to love? Try and include these in your diet as much as you can.
2.Move your body-get some light form of exercise at least twice a week and aerobic exercise at least once or twice per week. If you power walk every day and it adds up to 30mins-40mins then you are already quite fit and are getting enough exercise, although adding aerobic exercise is also recommended. You could also add some weight lifting (which can be done in the comfort of your own home). Get your friend or partner to join in with you so you can motivate each other and will be far more likely to stick to it.
3.Eat lean healthy protein and essential fatty acids (called MUFAS which reduce belly fat) and reduce intake of processed meat and red meat. Try to eat more lean poultry, fish (at least twice a week and fish and chips don’t count sorry!), olive oil, flaxseed oil, coconut oil (check the infographic below on the amazing uses of coconut oil) eggs, beans, legumes, avocados, nuts and seeds (e.g almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin and flaxseeds), which are also packed with healthy protein. Quinoa is a great grain which has more iron and zinc as well as protein (1-2 cups) than a steak! Not only this but 2 cups of spinach has almost twice the amount of protein than chicken!
4. Drink water!! By George if you don’t get enough H2O how can you stay hydrated and allow all bodily functions to work well. Studies have shown the number 1 reason of migraines in people is the lack of water consumption. Drink 1-2 litres per day of clean mineral water and even filtered tap water is fine. You can try increasing your water consumption by drinking herbal teas which are also good for you such as green tea, and the added bonus is that green tea boosts your metabolism helping you burn fat. But if you find it hard to drink enough, don’t worry you can also make your water more interesting and I have provided an excellent recipe for you to try (see below):
Flat belly detox water recipe: (you can add it to a jug or a large bottle to take with you to school, college or work).
-4-6 cups filtered water.
-1 cucumber sliced.
-1 lemon sliced.
-1 tbsp (tablespoon) of grated ginger.
-A handful of mint leaves.
Directions: Now you just add all the ingredients together to the water and leave in the fridge overnight. You can drink it in the morning to boost your metabolism or if it is too cold wait until lunch time to drink a glass. The more you drink from this the better.
5.No white carbohydrates: Try to avoid white breads, pastas and potatoes. These still need to be a part of your diet as they can help you relax, BUT it is best to stick to the wholegrain variety as they make you feel fuller for longer and they don’t give you that sugar spike in your insulin levels which makes you feel tired after and weak. These can be found in oats, wholegrain breads with seeds in them (for that extra protein boost), brown rice, wholewheat pasta, bulgur wheat, buckwheat which is one of the best grain-sources of magnesium, the miracle mineral we really need in our diets (Check my article on magnesium), quinoa (see my article on this amazing grain), amaranth (which is an exceptionally healthy grain full of protein and vitamins) and even corn. Whole-grains are full of complex carbs which makes them high in fibre essential for our digestive health, they also reduce cholesterol, prevent our chances of getting diabetes (as they stabilise our blood sugar levels) and can balance our hormones which improve our mood (most helpful to women for PMS).
6. Start the day well! I cant stress this enough. My best recommendation to start your morning with is a warm glass of lemon water. Squeeze half a lemon into a warm glass of water before breakfast. This revs up your metabolism and helps to flush out the toxins which have built up in your system. Then after 20 minutes you need to have some breakfast to provide your body and brain fuel to start your day well and put you in a good mood. The best option I would recommend is wholegrain oats (porridge) topped with banana, berries and chia seeds. Studies show that those skip breakfasts are more overweight or obese or struggle with their weight than the regular breakfast eaters. It is also very well known that if you skip breakfast you end up eating more during the day. Even a toast with tea and coffee can help you feeling more energetic.
7.Increase your intake of green leafy vegetables. As hard as it may be for everyone we can all do our bit to help our digestion and clean out our bodies with regular consumption of salads, preferably with every dinner. You can experiment with sauces to add to the salads to make it taste better such as adding balsamic vinegar with olive oil with garlic, and even adding pomegranates, walnuts and flaxseeds which can give you some extra liveliness as well as a healthy kick to the salad recipe. I would recommend to include spinach in your diet and kale which can easily be consumed by juicing them or blending it into a smoothie with avocado (to add creaminess and healthy fats such as omega 3 +6 in the recipe).
8. Try some new superfoods which boost your metabolism, and are excellent for immunity, weight loss (they also reduce bloating which is a bonus!), skincare and also for brain health. Spirulina, Wheatgrass, Baobab, Moringa, acai, barley grass, aloe vera juice, lucuma etc. are so helpful to reducing free radical damage from pollution, stress and the foods we eat. There are many more but these are the best and most studies have shown excellent benefits in boosting our health as they remove and prevent our body from becoming toxic, reducing inflammation (which is the cause of all known diseases). Some studies even demonstrated that wheatgrass reduced the size of a tumour in a cancer patient and can be a great preventative tool for cancer, but more studies are needed to find more evidence to this. However by consuming these superfoods you are also helping to prevent yourself from getting any diseases and illnesses in the future as you are providing your body with high levels of antioxidants which strengthen your immune system.
Spirulina and Wheatgrass supplements and/or powders are also really good for belly fat because they get rid of the toxins (which hinder nutrient absorption) and the cortisol which has built up over time. If you are of slim build but have a bloated looking belly then for us women it is unfortunate we tend to accumulate fat in this area due to our hormones not being in balance and our stress levels increasing cortisol (check the infographic below) It is hard balancing so many things in life, however we need some help to cope with demands and pressure and superfoods are your best bet in helping with this, as they can adapt to the changes very well keeping you in top-form.
9. Following on from number 8 it is very important to reduce our stress levels as these are the main culprits for a lot of health ailments such as headaches, IBS, sadness and weight-loss difficulties. Doing something you love helps as it takes your mind of work, pain and other demands, so any hobby is essential to keep you happy and mentally stable. To add more benefits trying yoga, meditation or mindfulness (i.e the psychological idea of being in the present moment) are all excellent relaxation techniques for improving our mood and mental wellbeing. Have you also ever considered booking yourself for a spa day or a massage? these are the best ways to unwind and reduce all the tension and stress accumulated in your life as touch is an important part of feeling relaxed, happy and cared for. You can also have a bath before bedtime and add some candles, lavender oil and epson salts all of which help you sleep better, but most importantly reduce bloating of your belly and get rid of the toxins. Your body is a temple so keep it safe, supported and loved.
We are living in a world were everything needs to be rushed, we are always too busy to do the things we love and work can take up most of our time, but it is so important to take time out and really look after yourself, because we all need a work life balance. You need to take the time to relax, even a small break where you can stretch, drink some water and take some deep breaths is excellent for reducing stress or if you have a full hour break listen to some music during that time, go for a power walk to get the blood pumping or just read your favourite book, anything to take time out. The more movement you also include in the day then the better it is for you to achieve your health and weight goals.
A healthy mind=healthy body which equates to a fit body (alongside regular exercise activity/movement). All forms of relaxing exercise or cardiovascular activity such as running release feel good endorphins in our body and makes us feel happy, optimistic, energetic and healthy. An added bonus is your sleep will improve tremendously and you will be able to cope with life’s ups and downs much more calmly.
10. Reduce sugar!! It’s actually one of the biggest health pitfalls for anyone looking to feel healthy and lose weight. I’ve found out 9 times out of 10 times from friends and family friends how they are eating quite healthily and eating their veg and fruits but not shifting weight or feeling any better. Once I’ve asked them about how many sweets and sugary drinks they are consuming they look at me with a sigh realising what is the problem and after a few weeks shift the weight once they limit their sugar. Sugar can also accumulate in the stomach area and can cause bloating and will store it as fat if it is not burned off. But I have a great tip for you and that is to include cinnamon with your breakfast such as porridge, on your toast with bananas or you can add it to your tea, this is because it reduces your cravings for sugary snacks.
Sugar can also accelerate ageing in all aspects of our mind and body if consumed regularly. Studies have shown how sugar can disrupt our hormones, cause memory problems and can even make us get addicted to the stuff just like cocaine addicts as the same reward system processes are happening in the brain! Shocking but true (see the mean cycle above in the image). One more important thing we often forget about is alcohol, which is actually full of sugar and even if you are eating well, drinking very often or bingeing (which can be hard to resist especially in the party season) is the other major factor that leads to belly fat which is hard to get rid of as well as creating other health problems in the future. But rest assured you don’t need to cut it all out! We can also eat dark chocolate more often (70% cocoa and above) which is loaded with polyphenols known to aid in weight loss and also the magnesium in chocolate improves our mood making us happy and regulating the hormonal changes for women. We can also consume more fresh fruit (natural sugars) as well and aim to get our 5 a day if possible.
With this in mind everything in moderation is the key! You really are what you eat, so be more mindful with food but don’t ever stress about it and count calories. Just enjoy the food you eat and be in the company with fun people who are not afraid to try new things and experiment with recipes and who also share your passion for food. ☺
11. Something that people often overlook is sleep (see the infographic on the benefits of sleep) , as this is in fact one of the most important parts of staying healthy and reducing our chances of getting various diseases but also for maintaining and losing weight. Its also not called beauty sleep for nothing because the less sleep you get the faster you age and it will show up on your skin as wrinkles will appear sooner.
If you are regularly getting under 6-7 hours of sleep your body cannot function to its optimum potential, the same with your brain and in the longer term you will suffer emotionally which could potentially affect your work and relationships, memory problems can ensue, its a very bad road to take with sleep deprivation. In fact more sleep deprived people have had accidents on the road and lost their jobs due to not being able to concentrate and making the wrong decisions.
The sooner you can improve your sleep the better for your health and wellbeing. Its also very unfortunate that because our society is so work orientated and stressed out all the time lots of people are insomniacs, but there are lots of ways of sorting out sleep problems, some people may have more severe sleep problems which needs to be addressed by sleep experts while others can follow some tips and see great results by making changes in their life.
I wont go into too much detail as I am making a separate article on sleep but below here are a few sleep tips which are helpful for helping you get a good night sleep and you can see the infographic below on the benefits we get by sleeping well:
- Tip 1: I would advise to try set yourself a good bedtime routine whereby you go to bed earlier between 10-11pm and set yourself some time to relax 45mins-1 hour before bedtime to help you fall asleep. This can be done by writing in a journal how your day went and what you need to do the next day, then read your favourite book or try some breathing exercises or meditation.
- Tip 2: Try to avoid stimulants after 4pm and don’t eat anything too heavy after 8pm as it will take longer to digest during the night making you feel irritable during your sleep and keeping you up most of the night.
- Tip 3: Avoid technology before bedtime such as mobiles (switch them off at night), ipads, computers, TV etc as these all disrupt your biological circadian rhythms.
- Tip 4: You can also use some essential oils to relax you like lavender to help you fall into a deeper sleep as they reduce anxiety, worry and stress. So if you are suffering from sleep I will be posting a new sleep tips article this coming week and in the very near future show you how effective essential oils are for your mind and body from treating acne, stress, all the way to improving focus, the possibilities with essential oils are endless. 🙂
- Bonus tip 5: You can also try taking power naps during the day (30 minutes-40 minutes) to catch up on sleep if you have a chance during the day, although we may not all have that luxury such as how it is in Spain and Portugal. They have a siesta every afternoon so workers are much more productive when they come back to work and if they didn’t get enough sleep the night before they can catch up with a nap maximum 1 hour to make them feel more refreshed when they wake up.
12. Last but not least Number 12: avoid at all costs going on fad diets (I’ve never dieted as they make you put on more weight in the long run), eating diet foods, low fat products (with the exception of low fat cheese and plain bio yoghurt being fine), breakfast bars, processed foods and shop bought smoothies. As we discussed in number 1o these all have to replace fat by adding sugar instead which make them very bad for the waistline and clearly not the best option if you want to stay healthy, slim and to feel fuller for longer. Choosing healthy fats like avocado, nuts seeds, olive oil, coconut oil are the healthiest fats (check number 3 in the article) you can consume that actually help you lose weight and help to flatten your stomach.