21 Ways to Lose Belly Fat For Teens Based on Science

weight loss Jun 06, 2022
Lose Belly Fat Teens

How to Lose Belly Fat for Teens

One of the most common questions I have to answer everyday is "How can I lose my belly fat?" Surprisingly, it's not just my older patients that ask me this question, a lot of times it's their teenagers.

As a cardiologist and certified personal trainer, I spend a lot of time counseling patients, friends, family, and my own teenagers on how to lose belly fat. 

In fact, I had to write a book, Actual Weight Loss, on how to actually lose weight without dieting and while eating food you love! My teenagers loved and it makes a great gift.

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What is belly fat?

Belly fat comes in two varieties. You have the fat under the skin, known as subcutaneous fat. You also have visceral fat, which is fat deep inside your abdomen surrounding your organs. Visceral fat is the one that poses the most health risks. It has been associated with diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol, elevated blood sugar, colorectal cancer, and increased cardiovascular disease.


Why is belly fat so dangerous?

Belly fat is known in the medical community as "visceral adiposity". This is fat that is located in the abdominal area, mainly surrounding your internal organs like your intestines, stomach, and liver. This fat is more dangerous than "subcutaneous fat", fat that is located just under your skin, because it is more pro-inflammatory and correlates highly with inflammatory diseases like atherosclerotic heart disease. People with too much visceral fat have increased risk for heart attacks and strokes.

The American Heart Association has issued countless guidelines and policy statements on visceral adiposity. Here is a quote from one of their latest publications: 1

"More recent data highlight abdominal obesity, as determined by waist circumference, as a cardiovascular disease risk marker that is independent of body mass index. There have also been significant advances in imaging modalities for characterizing body composition, including visceral adiposity. Studies that quantify fat depots, including ectopic fat, support excess visceral adiposity as an independent indicator of poor cardiovascular outcomes."

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What people should know about belly fat?

The most important thing to know about belly fat is that it is very metabolically active and very pro-inflammatory. Atherosclerosis and diabetes are worsened by a pro-inflammatory state. Fat that is located in the abdominal area is more hormonally active and leads to worse cardiovascular outcomes. 2 We know that obesity in and of itself is the most pro-inflammatory state, regardless of any other conditions you may have. The question becomes, what can we do about it?


21 Ways to Reduce Belly Fat Based on Science


1. Reduce Overall Body Fat

One of the most effective ways to reduce inflammation, insulin resistance, and cardiovascular mortality is to reduce overall body weight. Studies have shown that regardless of what diet you want to follow, if you lose weight, your cardiovascular mortality and inflammatory markers all improve. In other words, if you lose weight, you will live longer. Regardless of which diet you want to follow. It's important to follow the diet that feels the least restrictive to you. 3, 4, 5


2. Increase Activity

Increasing activity levels will reduce inflammation, insulin resistance, cardiometabolic syndrome, and reduce cardiovascular mortality. This happens even in the absence of weight loss. Studies have shown that overweight individuals can reduce their cardiovascular risk to that of their lean counterparts when they began an exercise program, even if their weight doesn't change. 6


3. Exercise for Fitness not Fatness

It is very important to exercise for fitness, not fatness. You will be disappointed if decide to start a new exercise program thinking it will cause a tremendous amount of weight loss, but then you don't lose any weight. We need to focus on the health benefits of exercise, as opposed to weight loss. Physical activity has been shown to independently reduce the rates of heart attacks and strokes.


4. Eat Wholesome Foods

Adopting a more wholesome, less processed diet will help reduce cardiovascular mortality, regardless of anything else. The Mediterranean diet has been shown in multiple studies to lower cardiovascular mortality, as well as reduce the incidence of approximately 12 different types of cancer. 7, 8


5. Start Slowly

You should start making changes slowly. Radical, sweeping changes are very difficult to adopt and maintain long term. Start by increasing fruit intake, then add nuts, in a few weeks eliminate pop and sugary drinks. If you do this gradually you will notice a huge difference. If you make sudden, radical changes, you will not be able to make this a lifelong change. It doesn't matter if you eat whole grains or white bread, it just matters that you are not eating as much as before. Food quality matters, but food quantity is the most important factor when it comes to weight loss.


6. Calorie Deficit

Unfortunately you can't spot reduce belly fat. You can't target belly fat by doing 200 crunches a day. You have to reduce body fat everywhere. Lower belly fat can be very stubborn and difficult to reduce in men and women. The good news is that visceral fat that surrounds your organs can be reduced faster, and won't push your belly out as much. The toughest belly fat to lose is the subcutaneous (just under the skin) belly fat. The physique athletes I coach have to get incredibly lean to finally see the bottom two abs. The good news is, you don't need to get that lean to appreciably reduce belly fat. You will start to notice a difference in 8-12 weeks. Get yourself into a calorie deficit and watch the magic happen.


7. Name Your Diet

The name of your diet doesn't matter. A calorie deficit will cause weight loss regardless of which macronutrients you choose to emphasize. 9 You can eat more carbs, no carbs, only fat, only protein... whatever your heart desires. As long as you are eating less calories, you will lose weight and all of your cardiovascular markers will improve. When you control your calorie intake, you will see the difference over time. Fat loss depends on the calorie deficit only and not exercise.


8. Lift weights

Focus on resistance training and not just cardio. Lifting weights will slowly increase your basal metabolic rate because you will be carrying around more lean body mass (muscle). This is one way to increase metabolism. As a bonus, you will like the way you look when more fat comes off. Increased lean body mass has also been shown to be more protective and showed reduction in all cause and cardiovascular mortality. 10 This will increase your muscle mass and increase your metabolic rate. Strength training will help mitigate weight gain.


9. Fruits and vegetables

You may not like these, but they are good for you. Fruits and vegetables contains tons of antioxidants and are incredibly nutritious. If you add in one fruit and one vegetable per day, you will slowly transform your diet and make it more wholesome and more healthy.


10. Aerobic Exercise

Start by walking. Do this every evening when you get home from school or work. Try to get at least 7500 steps per day. This is the step count needed to be considered moderately active. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes or aerobic activity per day. If you get in 7500 steps per day, you are meeting this basic requirement.


11. Eat Slowly

It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your body that you are full. I tell my patients and teenagers to eat half their plate, wait 20 minutes, and then decide if they want to eat more. Most of the time, they are full and don't need to eat more.


12. Track It

Tracking your caloric intake with an app like MyFitnessPal helps you stay on track. Others use food journaling to help them be more aware of how much they are actually eating. Tracking calories by itself has been shown in studies to subconsciously cause people to eat less. This is one really easy way to find out how much you are eating so that you have more data to decide if you should eat more.


13 Sleep

Sleep is highly underrated, but it has been shown to enhance recovery and promote health. Studies have shown that a lack of sleep increases stress hormones, which in turn increases fat storage. 11 Make sure you are getting enough sleep to help get rid of that stubborn belly fat. We recommend that teens get 7+ hours of sleep and adults get at least 6 hours of sleep. Reducing stress levels helps with weight loss and prevents weight gain.


14. Meal Prep

If you are having trouble controlling cravings and food intake, then it may be necessary to prep your meals ahead of time. For example, some people will cook 5 chicken breasts and 2 cups of rice and prepare them in small serving containers to take to work. This helps you keep your calories in check.


15. Stay Hydrated

When your stomach stretches out from water intake, you are likely going to eat fewer calories from other calorie dense foods. Plus the stretch of the stomach fires the vagus nerve and other signaling pathways that make you feel full and turn off hunger signaling.


16. Skip Sugary Drinks

One of the easiest ways to reduce caloric intake is to eliminate all calorie based drinks. Whether it's pop, Gatorade, apple juice, mocha lattes, or any other drink that is full of calories. Liquids just don't fill you up as much and it's easy to over consume calories from liquid drinks.


17. Follow The 80/20 Rule

Dieting is hard enough, don't punish yourself for not being compliant all the time. You had a pizza party? You ate ice cream? Too much stir fry? Don't worry about it. Tomorrow is another day and you can easily get back on track. Don't beat yourself up about it! You nee to have a healthy relationship with food. Not use food to punish yourself. Don't go starving yourself the next day!


18. Play Keep Away

If you have issues with binge eating or can't stop yourself once you see a bag of Doritos, then keep the Doritos out of the house. There is nothing wrong with enjoying Doritos. But if that is a trigger food for you and will cause you to eat the whole bag or consume too many calories, then it's best to leave it at the store.


19. Eat Breakfast

A lot of teens (and adults) think that skipping breakfast will cause weight loss. It can in some cases, but it isn't necessary. Your body is usually depleted from your overnight fast and the extra calories will give you a boost of energy and fuel you the rest of the day. If you workout, it's even more important.


20. Lean Protein

You nee to make sure you are consuming enough protein to prevent loss of muscle while dieting. The best way to increase protein intake is to find sources of lean protein. Things like egg whites, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, protein powder, protein shakes, chicken, tuna, turkey breast are all great sources of lean protein.


21. Cut the Fast Food

Sure, you can lose weight eating fast food. Absolutely! But it's harder. Mainly because it's denser and full of calories. A cheeseburger and fries at Five Guys can be about 1500-1600 calories without the drink. And that's only one meal. Lifestyle changes are important and you might as well start now. A healthy diet should be full of fruits, vegetables, nuts, lean meats, olive oil, and other nutritious and tasty foods.


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Free Weight Loss Mindset Course

Many influencers and celebrities state that body image and body dysmorphia led to their terrible relationship with food and body image. They wanted a change, so that they could accept their current body. I highly recommend taking my Free Weight Loss Mindset Course to help with body image and body dysmorphia. This will also help you prepare for a real weight loss journey and transformation. It will be your LAST transformation!

Overall, you have to choose foods that you enjoy and can eat for a very long time. It makes no sense to eat kale and quinoa for the rest of your life if you hate those foods. If you actually enjoy more wholesome food choices, then by all means, go ahead and add those foods to your diet. If you don't enjoy those foods, it may be hard to sustain this long term.

Studies on heavily restrictive diets have not shown good long term outcomes. You should follow a diet plan that feels the least restrictive to you. 

If you want to learn more about sustainable, long term weight loss without restrictive diet plans, you need to grab my Actual Weight Loss book. I cover all of these topics in depth and even give you a free exercise program with video demonstrations as well as a comprehensive diet strategy based on science and research!

If you want the short cut, grab my 5 Step Quick Guide to Weight Loss. It's a two page cheat code to weight loss!




1 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33882682/ 

2 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19656312/ 

3 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35068076/   

4 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19858860/ 

5 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21092228/ 

6 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24438729/ 

7 (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30817261/  

8 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24105622/ 

9 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2763382/ 

10 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35068076/

11 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28849612/


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