And contrary to what a lot of people think, the belly is not a stubborn fat zone. "Unlike fat in other places, belly fat is earmarked to provide quick energy in the event you need to fight, flee, or endure a famine," Dr. Wheeler says. "When you engage in moderate activity (akin to fleeing or fighting) and cut calories (as in a famine), most of the fat you lose first will come from your belly."
It’s ready to come off; now give it a kick-start with these strategies.
Slipping into that waist-cinching pencil skirt (the one pushed to the back of your closet) requires exercising more and making smart food choices so that you’re burning more calories than you’re taking inno surprise. What is surprising, though, is just how easy it is to make that happen. Try this: Every day, aim to get 30 minutes of exercise, spend no more than six hours sitting down, and keep your calorie count in the 1,500 to 2,000 range. "A woman who is moderately overweight (about 15 to 25 extra pounds) should lose 2 inches in the first two weeksmost will lose more," says Dr. Wheeler.
Also helpful: eating more of the following, which target belly flab in particular.
Getting your fill helps keep your stomach sleek, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Compared with people who only cut calories, those who also ate four to seven daily servings of whole grains (such as a slice of whole-wheat bread or half a cup of brown rice) lost significantly more belly fat.
That’s one more reason to be a (healthy) carb lover: "Not only does the fiber in whole grains help flush the digestive tract, leading to a flatter stomach due to less constipation, but it also helps you feel more satisfied," says Tammy Lakatos Shames, RD, the author of The Secret to Skinny.
Soluble fiberthe kind found in oatmeal and applesappears to be an especially effective fat fighter. For every 10-gram increase in your daily consumption of the stuff, belly fat drops nearly 4% over five years, suggests research from Wake Forest University. "For the most benefit, get 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day," advises Dr. Wheeler.
Milk products do a belly good, helping it retain lean muscle and store less fat. Take it from the dieters in a University of Tennessee study who ate 6 ounces of fat-free yogurt with every meal and lost 81% more abdominal fat than those who cut calories alone. "Increasing calcium suppresses calcitriol, a hormone that promotes fat storage," explains lead author Michael Zemel, PhD. Quashing calcitriol also lowers your fat tissue’s production of cortisol, the hormone known to increase visceral fat.
What’s more, a recent Harvard University study makes the case for vitamin D and calcium as weight-loss aids. Researchers gave one group three daily glasses of orange juice containing calcium and vitamin D, while another group drank the same amount of unfortified OJ each day. After four weeks, the vitamin-D-and-calcium group lost nearly 10 times as much belly fat as those who drank regular juice. For that get-slim boost without all the calories in three glasses of OJ, supplement daily with 450 IU of vitamin D and 1,500 milligrams of calcium.