Stubborn fat deposits on your waistline can impact your self-image, your dress size, and your health. Reducing your waist size can give you more energy and lessen your risk of certain health conditions, including heart disease and diabetes.
Carrying weight around your midsection is also linked to higher mortality rates. Whittling down your waist size can be especially challenging if your body naturally stores fat in that area, but there are many exercises and small diet adjustments you can try to make it easier.
It’s important to understand how weight loss works. The idea that you can lose weight from only one part of your body without losing weight overall is a myth. So-called “spot reduction” that aims to reduce belly fat by abdominal exercise only has been proven to be ineffective.
While exercises can tone and firm the muscles underneath your belly fat, you won’t see results at your waistline without overall weight loss that affects your whole body. A combination of healthy living, eating, and exercise will give you the best results.
Most nutrition experts agree that it takes a 3,500 calorie deficit to burn off one pound of stored fat in your body. Calorie restriction can help you achieve some of the deficit.
Daily exercise can also burn between 400 to 500 calories, although it’s important to give your body at least one day of rest from exercise per week.
If your body is burning an average of 750 more calories per day than you consume, with calorie intake and exercise, you will lose 1 pound of fat every 4.6 days. Dropping weight more quickly than that would be extremely challenging and, for most people, not very healthy.
Aiming to lose 1.5 to 2 pounds per week is a good goal. Going at that rate, losing 10 pounds in 6 weeks is an attainable goal. Some of that weight would be from your waistline.
These exercises target your waist.
In a controlled study group of women with abdominal obesity, 12 weeks in an intensive yoga program significantly improved the health of study participants. Yoga also brought down the waist circumference of those who participated.
Yoga may be especially effective for trimming your waistline because in addition to burning calories, it helps you manage stress. Get started with yoga under the supervision of an instructor or by following along to a yoga workout at home.
Start in a pushup position with your hands at your sides and your feet shoulder-width apart. It might help to do this exercise on a thin yoga mat or another stable, cushioned surface.
Breathing out, lift your body with your forearms so that you are parallel to the floor. Try to stabilize your core as you hold the position for as long as you can, taking slow breaths. Be careful not to hold the stress of this pose in your neck or your knees — it’s your core that should be supporting your full weight.
Try this exercise in increments of 30 seconds, a minute, or more if you can do it, working up to multiple sets and longer lengths of time.
Standing oblique crunch
A standing oblique crunch works the muscles on your sides. Toning these muscles can give you a firmer, trimmer waist.
Start standing up, using an optional 5- or 10-pound weight. Stabilizing your left arm by touching your head, lower your right arm slowly while you keep your core stabilized. Try not to move your hips at all as you stretch toward the floor.
After several repetitions of this move, switch to the opposite side. This is a great alternative to traditional crunches if you have back pain or difficult lying on the floor.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
HIIT exercise may be more effective than traditional cardio at cutting down abdominal fat. This type of cardiovascular exercise involves brief periods of “all-out intensity,” like sprinting, biking, or running, followed by spans of lower-intensity activities while your heart rate stays accelerated.
To try HIIT, use a treadmill. Figure out your maximum intensity setting on the treadmill, and a “rest” setting that feels like 60 percent of the effort.
After warming up, aim for 30-second increments of your highest setting, offset by 60 to 90 seconds of your lower-intensity setting. Experiment with the lengths of time you sustain your higher intensity, always returning to your “rest.”
Avoiding refined carbohydrates, sugar, and processed foods whenever possible will help you cut calories and get rid of fat more quickly. Fatty fish, avocadoes, almonds, and cashews are all dietary staples that will give you a boost of healthy fat that’s better for your heart and easier for your body to digest.
Also, keep an eye on how much sodium you consume. Salt causes your body to retain water, which can swell your waistline.
Lifestyle changes can accelerate your weight loss.
Swapping out coffee for green tea can improve your circulation as well as rev your metabolism.
Taking walks every day can also help speed up your digestion. Walking outside gives you a vitamin D boost, which could help with losing weight faster.
Cutting back on alcohol consumption is a way to instantly cut calories and sugar. Easing back on how much you drink may also improve your health in other ways.
Stress hormones can cause your body to hold on to belly fat. Finding ways to manage stress so that your body is more relaxed can help you reduce the size of your waistline.
In order to keep yourself motivated, it’s important to be realistic about how much weight you can lose off your waistline. Your results will depend on many things, including if you were overweight to begin with or simply carrying a little extra fat on your waist.
One way to measure your success is the old-fashioned way: by using a tape measure. To drop a dress size, you only need to lose an inch or so off your waistline. Dress sizes are calculated using the number of inches in the circumference of your waist.
But losing a pound of fat off your waist means you’ve lost weight all over the rest of your body, too. Results will be different for everyone, and there’s no hard and fast rule for how many dress sizes you can drop in six months or a year.
Set a realistic expectation that you’d like to see your waistline diminish by one to two inches over the span of a year. This might not seem like much, but it could indicate overall weight loss of 30 pounds or more.
But be kind to yourself and remember that the results on a measuring tape don’t tell the full story about your health or appearance.
Trimming your waistline requires patience and some discipline. The best approach is to target body fat overall instead of concentrating only on your waistline. Some exercises can help tone and firm your abdomen and waistline area.
If you keep a realistic goal in mind and a positive attitude, you are more likely to have long-term success.