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It’s not easy to get a flat stomach. To lose belly fat and reduce waist size, you’ll need to be serious about exercising, eating right, and taking care of your body.
While it’s not necessary or realistic for everyone to develop rock-hard abs, trying to cut down on excess abdominal fat can still come with health benefits. And there are many proven strategies to do it — though it will take time.
Here are 20 tips to help you get a flatter stomach.
1. Create a calorie deficit
By eating less and exercising more, you can create a calorie deficit — when you burn more calories than you take in. That will cause you to lose weight all over your body, including in the belly.
“The way to achieve fat loss is very straightforward: you reduce the amount of calories you consume and you increase the amount of calories you burn, and this will create weight loss over time,” says Jillian Michaels, celebrity trainer and creator of The Fitness App. “That said, those two habits, while simple, are not easy for most.”
How many calories you should eat is highly individual, but being mindful of your calorie intake is key. “Don’t eat more than your body burns in a day,” Michaels says.
2. Exercise regularly
Exercise helps create a calorie deficit that can lead to weight loss and can also help strengthen the core muscles, which help your stomach look flatter.
While certain exercises like HIIT workouts will burn more calories, the most important thing is to just get moving. “The key is to make absolutely sure you get no less than four thirty-minute training sessions in a week,” Michaels says.
3. Work your whole core
Most people think about crunches to get a flat stomach, but working your entire core — including your back, your sides, and chest — is essential.
“Developing an exercise routine that includes a well-rounded core exercise routine is critical for eliminating belly fat,” says Brian Quebbemann, MD, weight-loss expert and bariatric surgeon with The NEW Method Weight Loss Clinic in Orange County, California.
Try incorporating the following exercises into your core workout routine:
4. Break a sweat
When it comes to exercise, not all workouts are created equal. Exercise that is more vigorous tends to burn more fat, including in the abdomen, Quebbemann says.
Try the following high-intensity workouts to burn more fat:
5. Choose whole foods
Eating whole foods, rather than processed ones, will help you avoid excess salt and increase your fiber intake.
Whole foods that are high in fiber take longer to digest and cause you to feel more full, allowing you to eat healthier and achieve a calorie deficit.
Reach for an apple rather than juice, whole-grains rather than white bread, and wild-caught fish over lunch meats, Michaels says.
6. Skip the salt
Salt can contribute to water retention, which might leave your stomach looking bloated, Michaels says. The FDA recommends limiting sodium consumption to less than 2,300 mg per day, or about 1 teaspoon.
Try to avoid high-sodium processed foods like:
- Deli meats
7. Eat more fruits
Most fruits are high in fiber and can help you feel more full throughout the day, preventing frequent snacking. In particular, berries are also high in antioxidants like quercetin, which can reduce inflammation and bloating.
8. Go without processed grains
Processed grains, like white bread and pasta, take less time to digest and are quickly converted into sugar — and eventually fat.
“By frequently eating highly processed grain products, even in moderate amounts, you will be signaling to your body to store the high levels of sugar as fat,” Quebbemann says.
9. Try a plant-based diet
And you don’t need to go fully vegetarian to see these benefits. To start a plant-based diet, you can try cutting meat out of one meal — like having a tofu scramble or avocado toast for breakfast.
10. Grow a healthy gut
When your gut microbiome is healthy, your stomach will appear flatter. “Abdominal bloating will not only feel uncomfortable, but will make your belly protrude,” Quebbemann says.
Feed those good bacteria with plenty of fiber and probiotics, he recommends. Eat fiber-rich foods like fruits and vegetables, and those with live cultures, like yogurt or kefir.
11. Keep water close by
Another way to keep bloat from building up is to drink plenty of water.
Again, the amount is individual, but drink water “until your pee looks like lemonade,” Michaels says. “That’s how you know you are hydrated.”
12. Avoid alcohol
“Alcohol is simply the worst when you are trying to lose weight,” Michaels says. When you drink, you consume lots of extra calories, but the problem is deeper than that.
With alcohol in your system, your liver focuses on metabolizing alcohol, not metabolizing body fat, Quebbemann says. That can cause belly fat to accumulate.
13. Limit sugary foods and drinks
Consuming a lot of sugar — like soda, candy, or sweetened coffee — can spike your blood sugar.
In turn, that signals your body to store fat, especially in your belly. Too much sugar can also create an inflammatory response in the body, and when that happens, belly fat will accumulate. Cutting back on your sugar intake can help you avoid this storage of belly fat.
14. Manage stress
The stress hormone cortisol causes the liver to convert protein into sugar, which is then stored as fat if it’s not used up for energy by your body, Quebbemann says.
It’s important to find healthy ways to manage your stress — like journaling, going for walk, or talking to a friend — as opposed to eating unhealthy foods or getting less sleep.
15. Practice mindfulness
In addition, practicing mindfulness with intuitive eating can help you make better food choices and feel less stressful than a restrictive diet, allowing you to lose belly fat more effectively.
16. Get enough sleep
17. Stand tall
Having a flat stomach is about your body fat, but having better posture can instantly make you look more tall and slim.
Don’t overlook the importance of the muscles in your legs, back and shoulders that contribute to good posture, Quebbemann says.
Plus, good posture can work your core muscles and keep them strong, helping you cut down on belly fat and get a flatter stomach.
18. Be patient and stick with it
Achieving a flat stomach takes time. Go in with a long-term outlook. “Going for the immediately perfect result is unrealistic and, when you fail, you will likely quit,” says Quebbemann.
Instead, commit to these lifestyle changes for a period of several weeks or months and enlist the support of a friend who can help hold you accountable.
19. Focus on your health
In order to keep yourself motivated, focus on your health, not just your washboard abs.
“All the things you need to do to get and maintain a flatter tummy are things that increase your quality of life,” says Quebbemann.
20. Know your body
Aiming for a flat stomach is great, but some people are just biologically likely to have rounder tummies, no matter how healthy they are. “We all store body fat differently,” Michaels says.
In fact, Quebbemman says that men often store stomach fat internally, which means it may be easier for them to maintain a flat stomach, even with fat stores. Women, on the other hand, tend to store their fat at the surface, making it easier to spot.
You can still work toward a flatter stomach, but know that “flatter” for you might not be the same as for others.
Having a flat stomach can be appealing, but the most important thing is to focus on your well-being, says Michaels.
Many of the steps that can lead to a flat stomach — like eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep — are critical for overall well-being, and a good idea for everyone.
“This isn’t about perfection. No one needs to look like a sports illustrated model. This is about health,” Michaels says. “And while a flat stomach is associated with health, it doesn’t mean you aren’t healthy if you have a little roll on your tummy.”
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