The muffin top. The spare tire. The baby belly that has stuck around for 18 years. Whatever you call it, the mid-section tends to be a trouble spot for most women, and a topic I get questions about all the time! A flat stomach is possible at any age, but I want to emphasize that there are no quick fixes, spot-reducing cures, or magic pills that will shred abs overnight (But wouldn’t that be nice?). Instead, beating belly fat and bloat is all about daily choices, behavior tweaks, and hard work. Therefore, I’ve complied my best tips to get you the stomach you’ve always wanted in a healthy way. But start today! Not next week or even tomorrow.
A major player in the flat belly battle isn’t always fat, it’s bloating. A puffy stomach adds the look of extra weight in your mid-section but can be conquered by changing a few habits and eating the right foods.
1. Get Your Fiber Fix
When your pipes are clogged, bloating is bound to happen and too little fiber may be the culprit. Get things running smoothly by eating foods high in fiber like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Women should aim for 25 grams of fiber per day while men should aim for 38 grams.
2. Never Forget Your Water Bottle
Another way to stop constipation and the bloat that follows is to make sure you are drinking at least eight glasses of water a day. Water aids in digestion and gets things moving. Keep that water bottle close (here’s one of my favorite water bottle hacks) and start the morning with a big glass of lemon water to set a healthy tone for your day.
3. Slow Your Chew Time
When you gobble down your food and barely take a second to chew, you swallow air, which can cause bloating. Turn off the TV, sit at the table, and take the time to enjoy your meal instead of mindlessly eating. Slowing down your chew time will not only help stop the intake of excess air, but well-chewed food is easier for digestion which means less gas and bloating, too. PS – Chewing gum also leads to swallowing air and bloat!
4. Cap The Fizz
That afternoon trip to the vending machine for a Coke is not doing your middle any favors. Carbonated drinks like soda and sparkling water cause gas to get trapped in your stomach. Debloat and get those jeans to zip up easier by ditching most bubbly drinks. If a flatter stomach isn’t a big enough push, know that swapping your daily can of Coke for a glass of water will save you 51,000 calories a year. That’s equivalent to 15 pounds! To spruce up water and help you sip all day, add fruit and herbs for a fun and tasty twist.
5. Skip The Sodium
Simply put, sodium is killing your waistline. Since sodium causes your body to retain fluid, you’re left feeling bloated, puffy, and uncomfortable. The recommended daily amount of sodium is 1,500 grams, but the average American consumes 3,400 grams. That’s more than double! Instead of flavoring your food with salt, use herbs, fresh ground pepper, cayenne pepper, or salsa. But more importantly, beware of sodium lurking in surprising places. It’s clear that chips and fast food fries are sodium bombs, but did you know condiments, salad dressings, bread, canned goods, lunchmeats, cheese, cereal, soup, and pasta sauce are dripping in sodium? Always read the labels before putting an assumingly healthy food in your cart. Your future flat belly will thank you!
6. Bloat-Fighting Food
You already know that beans, beans, the musical fruit might not be the best food in the battle of the bloat, but what foods are a good choice? Start with probiotics. Yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha will stimulate your digestive juices and enzymes and help reduce bloat. Foods rich in potassium like bananas, kiwis, avocados, and pistachios can help prevent water retention and bloating caused by sodium. Ginger, peppermint tea, cucumbers, asparagus, and parsley are also powerhouse bloat-fighting foods!
7. Pick The Right Moves
If the sit-up is the only move in your ab repertoire, your abs are being cheated of their potential. To flatten your stomach, you need to work all four main abdominal muscles often. The rectus abdominis runs vertically and is the muscle used to flex the core. The transverse abdominis is a deep muscle that runs horizontally around your body that stabilizes your low back and low abs, a common “trouble spot” for women. Finally, the external and internal obliques run diagonally on the sides of your torso and help you turn side-to-side. The sit-up has the rectus abdominus covered, but does a poor job of hitting the others. Time to mix it up!
You should be working your abs three to four days a week. These workouts will challenge all four core muscles:
8. Be A Cardio Queen
If you’re really serious about losing your belly, you need to get serious about taking your current workout up a notch. Since you can’t spot-reduce fat on your stomach, you need to lose fat all over your body to reveal the in-progress abs underneath (see above tip!). You should be doing heart-elevating, sweat inducing workouts three to four times a week.
Here are a few of my favorite fat-burning cardio workouts:
9. Munch on MUFAs
Fat is not foe. Fat is friend. Studies have shown that monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) may target belly fat. Nuts, seeds, olive oil, olives, avocadoes, and dark chocolate all make the cut. Aim to have at least one MUFA in every meal! These recipes are MUFA heavy and delicious:
10. Aim To Eat Clean
I’ve saved the most important tip for last. You can do all the cardio you want, but if aren’t eating a healthy diet filled with lots of clean and wholesome foods, your hard work at the gym is almost pointless. What does “clean” mean? Fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and unprocessed complex carbohydrates. Skip the artificially flavored, the boxed, the packaged, and anything with an ingredient you can’t pronounce. Eating clean helps your body run more efficiently and keeps your metabolism revved which is crucial for burning fat and getting a flat stomach. If you need more guidance to eat clean, check out my eBook Get Started With Clean Eating. I provided you with a 14-day meal plan and lots of advice to help you turn your diet around!
Now you have enough flat belly tips to fit on all 10 fingers! When are you going to put them into practice? (I say start today. Summer is just a few months away!)