One look in the mirror can tell you that the many crunches and situps you've been doing aren't effective. That roll of fat around your waistline won't budge by just doing abdominal-strengthening exercises. You might strengthen the muscles underneath that layer of fat, but to see real results, you must take on a whole-body approach and give up the dream of spot reducing one problem area. Once you start losing weight, that annoying excess belly weight will also come off, and in time, you'll notice that your tummy appears tight and toned and your efforts are paying off.
Don't Starve Yourself
Drastically cutting calories or entire food groups might seem like a quick way to lose that bothersome belly fat, but in addition to being unhealthy, this short-term solution leaves you feeling deprived and slows your metabolism. Instead, use a healthier approach that still allows you to enjoy a treat every now and then, but won't interfere with your weight loss -- eat strawberries instead of strawberry ice cream; choose low-fat dairy over full-fat dairy. If you crave a cookie, have one, but don't eat cookies all day long.
Feel the Burn
To help you burn calories and slim down your body including your belly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend one hour of moderate cardio on five days of the week. If you're not a gym rat, go bike riding or speed walking outside. In case of bad weather, use an exercise DVD. Cardio doesn't have to be boring -- walk through the mall if you have to, or play your favorite tunes while you work up a sweat. Getting your friends to join you might also motivate you, because it makes exercise a social engagement.
Lift, Lift and Lift
If you think that working out with weights is going to leave you looking like the Hulk, think again. Whether you use machines, free weights, resistance bands or just your body weight, strengthening exercises can help you burn calories, because they build muscle tissue, which speeds up your metabolism even when you're at rest. This is where tummy-toning exercises such as crunches, planks and situps come in. Try to schedule strength training on at least two days of the week, as recommended by the CDC.
If you're eating sensibly and exercising according to plan but aren't losing any weight from your belly, try to reduce stress in your life. Believe it or not, stress can increase your waistline. It releases cortisol in your body, which triggers uncontrollable cravings for sugary, fatty foods. According to Dr. Marilyn Glenville, founder of The Natural Health Website For Women, the fat you gain settles around your waistline so it's near your liver in case it has to be converted into energy. Storing fat around your middle is dangerous, because it's mostly visceral fat, which increases your risk of health conditions such as high cholesterol, breast cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Glenville suggests getting enough sleep, delegating tasks and taking time for yourself to keep your stress level low.
Kimberly Caines is a well traveled model, writer and licensed physical fitness trainer who was first published in 1997. Her work has appeared in the Dutch newspaper "De Overschiese Krant" and on various websites. Caines holds a degree in journalism from Mercurius College in Holland and is writing her first novel.