Keep middle-aged spread away with these expert-approved pointers. Here are the nine best ways to get rid of belly fat after 50, according to experts.
Belly fat is not good for you at any age, but it can really harm your health as you get older. “Visceral fat coats some of your internal organs and hangs down like an apron from your large intestine,” says gastroenterologist Samuel Klein, chief of the Division of Geriatrics and Nutritional Science at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “It’s associated with an increased risk of metabolic diseases, including insulin resistance, high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and fatty liver disease.” Here are the nine best ways to get rid of belly fat after 50, according to experts.
1. Find an active hobby
Anything that gets you moving every day is great for keeping belly fat at bay. You don’t need to join a gym or run for miles—just make sure you’re getting exercise in a way that is fun and sustainable. “Exercise is key to weight loss and to maintaining that weight loss,” says endocrinologist Bartolome Burguera, MD, Ph.D. “Generally, however, people who successfully lose weight and keep it off tend to be physically active — up to an hour per day. Engaging in some form of exercise three times per week is highly recommended.”
2. Make sensible dietary choices
The older you get, the more important it is to make good choices when it comes to diet. “It’s not just about preventing deficiency diseases. It’s about keeping our systems optimal as we age,” says Katherine Tucker, director of the Center for Population Health at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Protein is especially important due to age-related muscle deterioration. “Muscle mass is linked with everyday functionality,” says Rosilene Ribeiro, a nutritional epidemiologist at the University of Sydney. “It affects normal things like gardening and walking long distances. When you can no longer do things you once could, it creates a snowball effect.”
3. Lay off the alcohol
Not only does alcohol increase your risk of belly fat, our bodies become far less efficient at processing it as we grow older, which can lead to other serious health conditions. “It’s about age 50 that these biological processes start happening,” says Alexis Kuerbis, an associate professor at Hunter College of the City University of New York. “Just like our eyesight might fail or hearing might fail, our perceptions are failing. We can’t sense that we’re getting more intoxicated as we age. We think we’re fine.”
4. Eat more fiber
Foods that are high in refined carbs and sugar don’t actually tame your hunger, so you end up reaching for more. Instead, eat more fibrous foods like whole grain breads, oats, vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, and chia seeds. They fill you up more as fiber helps slow your digestion.
A 2015 study from the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that for those who have a hard time following a strict diet, simplifying the weight loss approach by just increasing fiber intake can still lead to weight loss. Women should aim for at least 25 grams of fiber per day (based on a 2,000-calorie) diet, according to the most recent U.S. Dietary Guidelines. Start with our high-fiber diet plan.
5. Try to limit your stress
Stress can mess with every part of your body—but how you deal with it can make or break your weight loss goals. Most of the effect of stress is behavioral rather than neurochemical. It makes us eat more, because we use food as a substitute for dealing with stress.
The truth is, eating food to make yourself feel better is usually a whole lot easier than actually facing the stress head-on. People gravitate toward something that doesn’t require anybody else to do it, is immediately satisfying, and doesn’t take a whole lot of effort, especially if you’re just opening up a package or box.
Stress-eating can only lead to one thing: growing your belly rather than whittling it. If you find yourself stress eating, take a step back and think: What’s causing my stress, and what can I do about it? Find a way to remedy the solution or talk through it with a therapist rather than turning to a bag of Doritos.
6. Prioritize quality sleep
Sleep is huge when it comes to your weight loss success—and that’s both if you sleep too much or too little. Sleeping too much is probably not great for you healthwise, but sleeping too little is worse.
Case in point: One 2017 review and meta-analysis from the U.K. found that people who slept 5.5 hours or less per night ate an extra 385 calories the day after compared to those who snoozed for at least seven to 12 hours. On top of that, they preferred to munch on fatty foods full of empty calories, like chips.
7. Avoid sugary foods
Research has found a link between eating a lot of sugar and having higher amounts of belly fat. Added sugar is a very large contributor of excess calories. If you’re not replacing it with other sources of calories, it can help contribute to a healthy calorie deficit—and that will help you lose weight.
Having too much sugar can also cause spikes and crashes in your blood glucose levels. And, when you have those crashes, it can make you feel tired and hungry, raising the risk that you’ll overeat.
8. Skip processed foods
Processed foods cause a lot of the same issues with weight loss as sugar in that they can lead to excess calories. A lot of packaged foods have been shown to contribute to bodily inflammation, which is a big driver of belly fat.
Recommends trying to have as many whole foods as possible and keeping processed foods to a minimum.
9. Cook more often
Spending more time in the kitchen can help you shed belly fat, as long as you’re cooking with the right foods, according to a 2017 study. After analyzing data from more than 11,000 men and women, U.K. researchers found that people who ate more than five homemade meals per week were 28 percent less likely to have a high body mass index, and 24 percent less likely to carry too much body fat than those whole only downed three meals at home.
The researchers explain that people who cook their own meals may simply have other good-for-you habits, like exercising more. However, they also concluded that home cooks ate more fruits and vegetables (along with a wider variety of foods), have healthier methods of prepping their food, and splurge less on foods high in calories and sugar. Consider any of the healthy eating books below to get started.