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7 tips to reduce belly fat

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Do you have to peer over a portly midsection to see your shoes? Does the thought of swimsuit season looming near have you on the search for a stylish one-piece bathing suit?

Aside from aesthetics, belly fat is among the most dangerous types of fat. It is a significant indicator of disease, and getting rid of it takes more than a few sit-ups every morning. Weight gain around your middle is a sign that your levels of cortisol (your stress hormone) are too high and that deadly inflammation is infecting your body. Changing a few simple habits can reduce the weight around your waistline, making you your very best from the inside out.

1. Interval training. You can do crunches all day long, but you will never see that six-pack if it is buried under layers of fat. To achieve a truly flat stomach, work in some cardiovascular exercise between sit-ups, crunches, planks and other abdominal exercises. Try jumping rope, running on a treadmill or even do jumping jacks for 30 seconds to one minute between each set. You will shred fat while building a solid core.

2. Don’t skip meals. Skipping meals is an easy way to earn a round waistline. When you skip meals, your body responds by raising cortisol levels, increasing cravings and storing fat, especially in the abdomen. Consuming small meals and snacks throughout the day can pacify cravings and rev up your metabolism to prevent fat storage.

3. Skip the sweets. Sugar is the mortal enemy of a flat tummy. Sugar causes unnecessary spikes, crashes of your blood sugar levels and, when consumed in excess, gets stored as fat. If you crave sweets, keep fruits like blueberries, raspberries and strawberries accessible to pacify your sweet tooth.

4. Increase vitamin C. Vitamin C, found in abundance in citrus fruits, broccoli, kale and bell peppers, can aid in keeping cortisol levels under control. Plus, vitamin C is essential in the production of carnitine, which the body uses to convert fat into energy.

5. Boost intake of healthy fats. Although you should still moderate your intake, healthy fats like avocados, walnuts and olive oil can improve satiety. These foods will also rev up your metabolism thanks to high doses of omega-3.

6. Sleep. Statistically, when people get busy, sleep moves down on the list of priorities. However, sleep is so important to weight management and optimal health that you can’t afford to skimp on it. Multiple studies have proven that too little or poor quality sleep leads to weight gain, junk food cravings and increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. Getting more sleep is an easy way to keep your body trim and healthy.

7. Relax. Cortisol is the stress hormone. When you’re stressed, levels of cortisol rise. In cases of chronic stress, like tight deadlines at work, financial crises, injury or illness, your cortisol levels can reach extremes or impair the function of your adrenal system all together. This can lead to weight gain or the inability to lose weight, decreased immunity and increased levels of inflammation. Making time to relax and meditate each day – even for only five minutes – can help you keep cortisol levels balanced.

If you find that you are struggling with stubborn belly fat coupled with fatigue, moodiness and poor sleep despite your best efforts at a healthy lifestyle, you may be suffering from a hormone imbalance. Conditions of hormone imbalance, like adrenal fatigue, can be caused by chronic stress but may be corrected with hormone therapy and healthy lifestyle changes.

Dr. Jennifer Landa is Chief Medical Officer of BodyLogicMD, the nation's largest franchise of physicians specializing in bioidentical hormone therapy. Dr. Jen spent 10 years as a traditional OB-GYN, and then became board-certified in regenerative medicine, with an emphasis on bio-identical hormones, preventative medicine and nutrition. She is the author of "The Sex Drive Solution for Women."  Learn more about her programs at www.jenlandamd.com