A jelly belly can be embarrassing, but more important it can also affect your health. A large belly is a sign of dangerous visceral fat, which can amass between the internal organs and cause hormonal imbalances. Visceral fat leads to insulin resistance, which in turn leads to Type 2 diabetes. It can also cause high cholesterol, contributing to cardiovascular disease. Losing stomach fat requires all-over fat loss, as there is no such thing as spot reduction. The fastest way to get rid of excess fat is with a combination of diet, exercise and lifestyle changes.
Eating a healthy, low-calorie diet is the fastest way to shed fat from your entire body, including your belly. Use an online calorie calculator to determine your daily caloric needs, which are based on gender, age, weight and activity level. Then cut 500 to 1,000 calories per day to lose one to two pounds each week. However, don't eat less than 1,200 per day. Balance your diet with whole grains such as brown rice, barley and corn tortillas along with fruits, vegetables and lean proteins such as beans and tofu.
Cardio is your second line of defense against belly fat, and will help you keep the weight off for good. To shed pounds, you need 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio each week, or 75 to 150 minutes of high-intensity cardio. Moderate cardio activities include walking briskly, playing with children and mowing the lawn. High-intensity cardio activities include cross-country skiing and jogging. You may spread your cardio minutes out to fit your schedule, but you need at least 10 minutes per session to reap the benefits.
Strength-training exercises do not target belly fat, but can improve muscle definition for a leaner look. Crunches, V-ups, squats and lunges all tone your abdominal muscles. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends performing strength-training exercises at least twice weekly in addition to your cardio workout. To avoid overuse, allow muscle groups a day of rest in between exercises.
Although diet and exercise are key in fat loss, lifestyle changes can also help prevent belly fat accumulation. Avoid cigarettes, as smokers tend to pack on fat in the abdomen instead of the lower body. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep, but no more. According to Harvard Medical School, adults older than 40 who sleep under five hours a night are shown to have more visceral fat. The same is true of those who sleep more than eight hours a night. Removing stress from your life can also help reduce visceral fat.