Belly Fat - #1 Predictor of Chronic Disease + Mortality
In the context of working extensively with anti-aging, I always address often how longevity and health span cannot be achieved without a healthy weight. In last week newsletter I brought the details and challenges of the Physiology of Weight Loss. I can't cover everything with those newsletters and all my plans are unique and individualized. It remains that clients who enroll in my anti aging program have to attain healthy weight for the other components to be effective. Why work on anti aging and remain obese. I mentioned that BMI was a central measurement of obesity and I know it's controversial for some (mostly people with out of range BMIs...). Because abdominal fat (both visceral and subcutaneous) is a top indicator of chronic disease (present and future) and mortality you can always use this to gauge your fat content level. We use the waist to hip ratio: measure the circumference of your abdomen (usually around the belly button, don't squeeze too hard to get a better reading...) and divide by your hip measurement (where your hips are the widest. Healthy results are under 0.8 for women and 0.9 for males. Anything over 1.0 is considered unhealthy and you will be prone to chronic disease from diabetes 2 to CVD to cancer etc. And years of life lost. Below I offer you the best advice to lose that belly fat. It's not easy and it requires focus and discipline but everyone can do it. Let me help lose that muffin top! 

NOTE: Remember that 85% of Americans think their diet is healthy while actually it's not! Denial is quite potent with diet aspects so don't hesitate to discuss your diet with a healthcare professional.

1. Eat Plenty of Soluble Fiber

Soluble fiber absorbs water and forms a gel that helps slow down food as it passes through your digestive system.

Studies show that this type of fiber promotes weight loss by helping you feel full, so you naturally eat less. It may also decrease the number of calories your body absorbs from food. An observational study in over 1,100 adults found that for every 10-gram increase in soluble fiber intake, belly fat gain decreased by 3.7% over a 5-year period . Excellent sources of soluble fiber include:

  • Flax & Sunflower seeds
  • Black, Kidney & Lima beans
  • Brussels Sprouts & Broccoli
  • Avocados, Turnips & Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Pears, Figs, Nectarines, Apricots, Apples, Guavas
  • Hazelnuts, Oats and Barley

2. Avoid Foods that Contain Transfats

Trans fats are created by pumping hydrogen into unsaturated fats, such as soybean oil. They’re found in some margarines and spreads and also often added to packaged & processed foods. These fats have been linked to inflammation, heart disease, insulin resistance, and abdominal fat gain in observational and animal studies  A 6-year study found that monkeys who ate a high trans fat diet gained 33% more abdominal fat than those eating a diet high in monounsaturated fat. To help reduce belly fat and protect your health, read ingredient labels carefully and stay away from products that contain trans fats. These are often listed as partially hydrogenated fats.

3. Limit or Eliminate Alcohol (Critical)

Alcohol in small amounts is ok although it’s still a poison! It’s seriously harmful if you drink too much. Research suggests that too much alcohol can also make you gain belly fat. Observational studies link heavy alcohol consumption to a significantly increased risk of developing central obesity. Cutting back on alcohol may help reduce your waist size. You don’t need to give it up altogether, but limiting the amount you drink in a single day can help. One study on alcohol use involved more than 2,000 people: results showed those who drank alcohol daily but averaged less than one drink per day had less belly fat than those who drank less frequently but consumed more alcohol on the days they drank.

4. Eat a High (Quality) Protein Diet

Protein is an extremely important nutrient for weight management. High protein intake increases the release of the fullness hormone PYY, which decreases appetite and promotes fullness. Protein also raises your metabolic rate and helps you to retain muscle mass during weight loss. Many observational studies show that people who eat more protein tend to have less abdominal fat than those who eat a lower protein diet. Be sure to include a quality protein source at every meal.

5. Reduce your Stress Levels

Stress can make you gain belly fat by triggering the adrenal glands to produce cortisol, which is also known as the stress hormone. Research shows that high cortisol levels increase appetite and drive abdominal fat storage. Also women who already have a large waist tend to produce more cortisol in response to stress. Increased cortisol further adds to fat gain around the middle. To help reduce belly fat, engage in pleasurable activities that relieve stress. Practicing yoga or meditation can be effective methods. And so is maintaining good sleep hygiene. 

6. Eliminate Sugary Foods (Critical)

Sugar contains fructose, which has been linked to several chronic diseases when consumed in excess. These include heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and fatty liver disease. Observational studies show a relationship between high sugar intake and increased abdominal fat. It’s important to realize that more than just refined sugar can lead to belly fat gain. Even healthier sugars, such as real honey, should be used sparingly. Or eliminated altogether if you have starting a belly fat reduction program. 

7. Do Aerobic Exercise (Critical)

Cardiois an effective way to improve your health and burn calories. Studies also show that it’s one of the most effective forms of exercise for reducing belly fat.  In any case, the frequency and duration of your exercise program are more important than its intensity. One study found that postmenopausal women lost more fat from all areas when they did aerobic exercise for 300 minutes per week, compared with those who exercised 150 minutes per week. I recommend over one hour per day in zone 2 (click here for a HR guide). You will have to burn the glycogen in your muscles and liver before you start burning fat.

8. Limit Carbs — Especially Refined Carbs

Reducing your carb intake can be very beneficial for losing fat, including abdominal fat. Diets with under 50 grams of carbs per day cause belly fat loss in people who are obese, those at risk for type 2 diabetes, and women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). You don’t have to follow a strict low carb diet. Some research suggests that simply replacing refined carbs with unprocessed starchy carbs may improve metabolic health and reduce belly fat. In the famous Framingham Heart Study, people with the highest consumption of whole grains were 17% less likely to have excess abdominal fat than those who consumed diets high in refined grains.

9. Perform Resistance Training (Lift Weights)

Resistance training, also known as weight lifting or strength training, is important for preserving and gaining muscle mass. Based on studies involving people with prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, and fatty liver disease, resistance training may also be beneficial for belly fat loss. In fact, one study involving teenagers with overweight showed that a combination of strength training and aerobic exercise led to the greatest decrease in visceral fat. If you decide to start lifting weights, it’s a good idea to get advice from a certified personal trainer.


Sugar-sweetened beverages are loaded with liquid fructose, which can make you gain belly fat. Studies show that sugary drinks lead to increased fat in the liver. One 10-week study found significant abdominal fat gain in people who consumed high fructose beverages. Sugary beverages appear to be even worse than high sugar foods.

Since your brain doesn’t process liquid calories the same way it does solid ones, you’re likely to end up consuming too many calories later on and storing them as fat. If you want to lose belly fat eliminate all forms of liquid sugar.

11. Get Plenty of Restful Sleep

Sleep is important for many aspects of your health, including weight. Studies show that people who don’t get enough sleep tend to gain more weight, which may include belly fat. A 16-year study involving more than 68,000 women found that those who slept less than 5 hours per night were significantly more likely to gain weight than those who slept 7 hours or more per night. The condition known as sleep apnea, where breathing stops intermittently during the night, has also been linked to excess visceral fat. In addition to sleeping at least 7 hours per night, make sure you’re getting sufficient quality sleep (this includes eliminating caffeine and alcohol which can severely disrupt REM sleep). If you suspect you may have sleep apnea or another sleep disorder, speak to a doctor and get treated.

12. Track your Food Intake and Exercise (CRITICAL)

Many things can help you lose weight and belly fat, but consuming fewer calories than your body needs for weight maintenance is key.  Keeping a food diary or using an online food tracker or app can help you monitor your calorie intake. This strategy has been shown to be beneficial for weight loss. In addition, food-tracking tools help you to see your intake of protein, carbs, fiber, and micronutrients. Many also allow you to record your exercise and physical activity. I do not work with clients for weight loss if a food journal isn’t kept and I need to analyze exercise records (Apple watch, fitbit etc).

13. Eat Fatty Fish Every Week (And Take a Omega 3 Supplement)

Fatty fish are incredibly healthy. Well, provided they don’t contain mercury (so avoid fishes like tuna). They’re rich in high quality protein and omega-3 fats that protect you from disease. A study from the University of Kansas showed that supplementing with Omega 3 fatty acids (EPA at least 1000mg and DHA) can help depression patients reduce or even eliminate anti-depressant meds. Some evidence suggests that these omega-3 fats may also help reduce visceral fat.

Studies in adults and children with fatty liver disease show that fish oil supplements can significantly reduce liver and abdominal fat. Good choices include:

  • salmon
  • herring
  • sardines
  • mackerel
  • anchovies

14. Stop Drinking Fruit Juice (And No Celery Juice Will Do Anything for You!)

Although fruit juice provides vitamins and minerals, it’s just as high in sugar as soda and other sweetened beverages. Drinking large amounts may carry the same risk for abdominal fat gain. An 8-ounce (240-mL) serving of unsweetened apple juice contains 24 grams of sugar, half of which is fructose.  To help reduce excess belly fat, replace fruit juice with water, unsweetened iced tea, or sparkling water with a wedge of lemon or lime.

15. Add Apple Cider Vinegar to Your Diet

Drinking apple cider vinegar has impressive health benefits, including lowering blood sugar levels. It contains acetic acid, which has been shown to reduce abdominal fat storage in several animal studies. In a 12-week controlled study in men diagnosed with obesity, those who took 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of apple cider vinegar per day lost half an inch (1.4 cm) from their waists. Taking 1–2 tablespoons (15–30 mL) of apple cider vinegar per day is safe for most people and may lead to modest fat loss. However, be sure to dilute it with water, as undiluted vinegar can erode the enamel on your teeth. I can also be used as salad dressing.

16. Eat Probiotic Foods

Probiotics are bacteria found in some foods and supplements. They have many health benefits, including helping improve gut health and enhancing immune function. Researchers have found that different types of bacteria play a role in weight regulation and that having the right balance can help with weight loss, including loss of belly fat. Those shown to reduce belly fat include members of the Lactobacillus family, such as Lactobacillus fermentumLactobacillus amylovorus and especially Lactobacillus gasseri. It is better to eat fermented foods than supplement with a probiotic pill. Food include:

  • Sauerkraut
  • Kefir
  • Yogurt
  • Kimchi
  • Kombucha
  • Pickles 

17. Try Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting has recently become very popular as a weight loss method. It’s an eating pattern that cycles between periods of eating and periods of fasting. It’s also called time restricted eating. One popular method involves 24-hour fasts once or twice a week. Another consists of fasting every day for 16 hours and eating all your food within an 8-hour period.

In a review of studies on intermittent fasting and alternate-day fasting, people experienced a 4–7% decrease in abdominal fat within 6–24 weeks. There’s some evidence that intermittent fasting, and fasting in general, may not be as beneficial for women as for men. Although certain modified intermittent fasting methods appear to be better options, stop fasting immediately if you experience any negative effects.

18. Drink Green Tea and/or Gynostemma pentaphyllum (Jia Gu Lan)

Green tea is an exceptionally healthy beverage. It contains caffeine and the antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), both of which appear to boost metabolism. EGCG is a catechin, which several studies suggest may help you lose belly fat. The effect may be strengthened when green tea consumption is combined with exercise. Jai Gu Lan is known to be an AMPK activator and will help burn fat, control blood sugar and cholesterol. 

19. Change your Lifestyle and Combine Different Methods

Just doing one of the items on this list won’t have a big effect on its own. If you want good results, you need to combine different methods that have been shown to be effective. Interestingly, many of these methods are things generally associated with healthy eating and an overall healthy lifestyle. Therefore, changing your lifestyle for the long term is the key to losing your belly fat and keeping it off. When you have healthy habits and eat real food, fat loss tends to follow as a natural side effect.

20. Chewing and Portion Control

This might seem obvious but it’s rarely implemented. One should chew any mouthful at least 20 times and one should stop eating when feeling 70% full (because it takes time for satiation hormones to kick in so if you stop when you feel 100% or more full your are probably 125% full!). Use smaller servings of whole foods. Your belly will thank you and you won’t get sick prematurely.

How Long Does it Take to Burn Belly Fat?

My rule of thumb is: how long did it take to grow that belly? Most likely it will take as long to reduce it!

You have to burn about 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound. This is because 3,500 calories equals about 1 pound of fat. To lose 1 pound a week, you have to eliminate 500 calories from your diet every day. At that pace, you could lose about 4 pounds in a month. Increasing physical activity will help you burn more calories. Exercise also builds muscle mass. Muscle is heavier than fat, so even though you’re looking and feeling leaner, it might not show on the scale. I don’t recommend using a scale anyway.  Everyone is different. There are many variables in how much physical activity it takes to burn a calorie. The larger you are, the more calories you burn doing anything. Males have more muscle than females of the same size, so that helps males burn more calories. Also remember from last week newsletter that in the initial stages of weight loss base metabolism changes and diet and exercise need to be adjusted to keep getting results.

The bottom line

There are no magic solutions to losing belly fat.  Weight loss always requires some effort, commitment, and perseverance on your behalf. Successfully adopting some or all of the strategies and lifestyle goals discussed in this article will definitely help you lose the extra pounds around your waist. I am always available as a weight loss coach. Rare are those who get results on their own (I keep accountable!)

Sorry another long read! But everyone asks for tip and I like sharing. I know everyone is looking for the magic pill or diet or protocol. If they existed no one would be overweight or obese. Like an athletic endeavor such as running a marathon or climbing a mountain losing abdominal fat takes time, focus and discipline. If you are motivated book an appointment to discuss your weight loss goals. Again if your BMI is over 30 and your waist / hip ratio is above 1 you are at risk of chronic disease and there is no use working on other longevity protocols if healthy weight isn’t achieved first! 

Dr Arno Kroner

2001 South Barrington Suite 220
West LA CA 90025
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