02/09/2012 11:20 EST | Updated 04/10/2012 05:12 EDT

4 Steps to Slim Your Waistline and Beat Belly Fat

Whether you are aiming for that all elusive six pack or just want to flatten your stomach, the path to getting there requires that you balance your hormones. Here's a quick list that will not only de-bloat your belly but can also drop inches off your waistline (and let's face it, spring is around the corner!).

Step 1: Calm chronic stress and cortisol. Not only can excess cortisol increase appetite and cravings, it can cause abdominal fat even in people who are otherwise thin. It can also cause loss of memory, muscle mass, libido and bone density. In other words, chronic stress can make us soft, flabby and feel much older than we truly are. If your blood sugar levels are on a rollercoaster all day, you can bet your cortisol is as well. You can reduce the stress associated with blood sugar imbalance by eating a high protein breakfast within one hour of rising and avoiding more than a three to four hour gap between meals or snacks. Use stress management techniques such as meditation and sufficient sleep. The herbal formula relora lowers cortisol, assists with abdominal fat, helps restore healthy sleep patterns. I recommend two pills in the evening before bed and one pill upon waking.

Step 2: Eliminate extra estrogen. In both men and women, excess estrogen is associated with water retention, poor libido, difficulty in losing belly fat and weight gain around the hips in pre-menopausal women or in the breast and abdomen area in both men and postmenopausal women. If any of these symptoms are an issue, you need to increase the elimination of harmful estrogen by increasing your fiber intake (to 35 grams per day) and supplementing daily with a probiotic to replace healthy bacterial balance in the gut, which is essential for supporting belly fat loss. You may also consider a product called indole-3-carbinol or formula that provides the nutrients involved in the breakdown and elimination of estrogen such as magnesium, B complex, calcium d-glucarate, turmeric and green tea.

Step 3: Lower your insulin. Insulin is the only hormone that instructs the body to store energy as fat. Released mostly in response to the sugar and carbohydrates in our diet, it is one of the main reasons why carbs fuel more belly fat, cravings or an incessant appetite as we age. The best way to decrease insulin along with your belly fat is to increase your healthy fat and protein intake while lowering your intake of all starchy carbohydrates (breads, grains, potatoes, rice, etc) and to enjoy a protein rich afternoon snack. For example, instead of cereal for breakfast, opt for a smoothie with whey protein isolate, berries, ground flax seeds and almond butter. Not only will you have more energy and stable blood sugar levels, you will also notice a reduction in body fat. In addition to a hormonally balanced diet, some of my favourite supplements for lowering excess insulin include: Conjugated Linolenic Acid (CLA), Resveratrol, Chromium Picolinate and Alpha Lipoic Acid. Select one and try it for a period of three months.

Step 4: Ditch the sugar and artificial sweeteners. The typical adult consumes 15 to 20 teaspoons sugar a day, which works out to an average of 60 lbs over a one year period! While it is often easy to spot in common treats like cakes, cookies, and candy, sugar is also lurking in foods that we may not recognize. For instance, did you know that a tablespoon of ketchup contains a full teaspoon of sugar? Avoid table sugar (sucrose) and all products with sugar and artificial sweeteners. This includes rice syrup, maple syrup, honey, agave syrup, foods/drinks containing high-fructose corn syrup, packaged foods, candies, soft drinks, juice, etc., as well as sucralose, aspartame, saccharin and all other forms of artificial sweeteners. Remember that fructose-sweetened foods or foods containing high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) tend to increase appetite and cravings, while foods containing aspartame and artificial sweeteners raise insulin and contribute to weight gain. Select products that are sweetened with xylitol or Stevia instead.