Ah, the über-popular “know your why” strategy. One Brown University study found that when people are motivated to lose weight for appearance and social reasons, they stick with their weight-loss habits for significantly less time than those who are motivated by their health. After all, these external motivators (like looking a certain way or fitting into a cultural ideal) aren’t going to get you going when you’re feeling down, have had a bad day, or are frustrated with a plateau, Albers says.
The key to losing belly fat with exercise, though, is making sure your sweat session is intense. You’ll want to be working at 85% of your max heart rate at least, says Olson. “The higher your heart rate, the higher the release of epinephrine into the bloodstream and cells,” she explains. “A positive side effect of epinephrine is that it also activates greater release of abdominal fat into the bloodstream to be used for energy.”
Try on clothes and pay attention to the fit. A great way to identify weight loss is if your clothes become too big or fit loosely. Stay positive, even when the numbers on the scales increase. When building muscle, you may experience weight gain -- lean muscle tissue -- but as long as your body fat percentage is decreasing, you’re on the right track.
"Anytime you’re stressed, you probably go for food," Dr. Seltzer says. (Have we met?!) That’s because cortisol, the stress hormone, stokes your appetite for sugary, fatty foods. No wonder it’s associated with higher body weight, according to a 2007 Obesity study that quantified chronic stress exposure by looking at cortisol concentrations in more than 2,000 adults’ hair.
Work indulgence foods into your calorie plan. If you do want to have something that is a little higher in calories, then make sure that you work it into your overall calorie goal for the day. For example, if you are following an 1,800 calorie plan, and you want to have a brownie that is 300 calories, then you would only have 1,500 calories left for the day.
"Protein is great for fat loss. It helps build and preserve lean muscle tissue and can increase the amount of calories you burn. It’s also a great source of energy that helps you feel fuller for longer, so you’re less tempted to snack. Good sources include chicken breast, tuna, eggs, milk and chickpeas. And if you’re finding it difficult to avoid snacks that are high in carbohydrates, try substituting them for protein shakes or bars. Remember also to opt for the lean sources of protein because some sources can be high in saturated fat."