With the holiday season coming up, you may find yourself feeling a little bit heavier (or maybe a lot!) than earlier this year. For most of us, this weight gain goes to our hips, thighs, butt, breasts, and—perhaps most of all—our bellies. The bad news about belly fat is that it’s especially dangerous: it is associated with higher rates of heart disease, diabetes type II, high cholesterol, and other chronic health problems. The good news, however, is that belly fat is usually the first fat to burn off when you start losing weight.
The best way to beat belly fat is the hard way: diet and exercise.
Dieting can be tough during the holidays. Do your best to keep your eating in moderation: avoid eating too many sugary or salty foods, which are known contributors to fat around the belly area. Focus your attention on eating foods that make you feel good, both before and after eating. Try to structure some healthy meals complete with complex carbohydrates, colorful fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins. If you absolutely need to eat sweets or salty foods, see how much self-control you can exercise by only eating a sliver of cake, two bites of a cookies, or a few chips and absolutely no more.
Make a commitment to do some moderately vigorous cardio training. Although moderate exercise (think brisk walking and biking) has long been the prescription for weight loss, more recent studies have shown that vigorous exercise may be better for weight loss. If you have a gym membership, hit the cardio room: cycle it up on the elliptical machine, do some high-intensity intervals on the treadmill, or take a spinning class. If you can’t get to a gym, try to get outside to jog or take a brisk walk with jogging or power walking intervals if it’s not icy.
Vary your workouts in front of your home television. With the weather getting colder, try having fun with kickboxing, dancing, and weight training DVDs. For a calmer workout, try yoga or pilates. These DVDs are often short—some are only 15-20 minutes—help you break a sweat, and allow you to have fun learning a new routine.
Finally, remember to relax! The holidays can be stressful, so be sure to take care of yourself by eating right, working out, and sleeping well. Your body will thank you come January when all your friends are hitting the gym with those ambitious New Year’s weight loss goals.