One of the questions I get asked the most is, “Lisa, how do I achieve a flat stomach and get rid of the fat around my middle?” I wish there was a simple answer to this question but achieving and maintaining a flat stomach is actually quite complex and there are no quick fixes or shortcuts! In fact, the topic is so complex, I’ve written a comprehensive e-book called the Belly Book – which is all about targeting belly fat (out later this year!)
While genetics do play a role in how and where your body stores fat – ever heard of the apple or pear body shape? Some people carry weight around their belly while others carry more weight on their thighs and buttocks. However, lifestyle factors can determine how quickly you lose weight, and how prominent your abdominal muscles are, ie. whether your six-pack shows or not. Just remember that crunches alone won’t give you a flat stomach, it’s all about adopting a healthier lifestyle as a whole and dropping overall body fat.
Here are a few of my fail-proof tips to help you on your journey towards a flatter stomach:
1 Stick to a clean diet 80% of the time
When it comes to achieving a flat stomach, there’s no truer saying than “Abs are made in the kitchen”. This simply means that what you put in your mouth has a massive effect on your abs and how they look.
A clean, healthy diet is important for overall weight loss and maintenance, especially around the abdominal area. What do I mean by clean? Your diet should consist of mostly unprocessed, whole foods such as legumes, nuts and wholegrains like rice and barley or quinoa, with some lean protein, the right fats and plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Steer clear of processed, refined foods and carbohydrates which contain saturated or trans fats, excess salt, and sugar such as cakes, pastries and meals like burgers and fried chips.
This doesn’t mean you can’t ever indulge in your favourite, not-so-healthy snacks and treats. A balanced, moderate approach is key to keeping your waistline in check.
Make sure to include the following foods in your diet:
This type of fibre absorbs large amounts of water and slows down how quickly food moves through the digestive tract. It can help you feel fuller for longer. Foods high in soluble fibre include oats, berries, flaxseeds, avocado, legumes.
These are beneficial gut bacteria that help to maintain a healthy gut. The right balance of gut flora helps to reduce weight gain, particularly around the stomach area.
Good news! My organic drink mix – Super Scoop contains just the right amounts of soluble fibre and probiotics to help you achieve a healthier gut. It’s also packed with 50 organic fruit and veg extracts plus a host of superfoods to boost your immune system and fill any nutritional gaps.
Lean protein such as chicken, white fish, low-fat dairy products, eggs, and legumes has been shown to help boost your metabolism, reduce your appetite (and control cravings), and prevent fat from accumulating around your middle.
Another quick way to get in more protein is to add protein shakes to your diet – but make sure you’re still eating within your ideal calorie range for the day.
As a vegetarian, I prefer Biogen Well Plant Based Protein as it’s lactose free and made with rice and pea protein, as well as bamboo fibre to enhance digestion.
Nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil – these are all high in monounsaturated fats which are excellent for weight management (in small amounts).
Apple cider vinegar
I’ve been drinking a shot of apple cider vinegar with water – either first thing in the morning or before bed, for years! It has an impressive list of health benefits including boosting immunity, helping with digestion and assisting with fat accumulation around the stomach.
A small study on a group of obese men in Japan showed that just one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar a day for 12 weeks helped to reduce their waist circumference by 1.4cm on average.
2 Create a slight calorie deficit
You’ve heard the saying “Eat less and move more”. While this is partially true – you do need to create a slight calorie deficit to lose weight, be careful not to eat too little as this can sabotage your weight loss goals by slowing down your metabolism and encouraging fat storage. Your body needs to be in a state of harmony to lose unnecessary weight and keep it off. Who wants to be hungry all the time anyway? I don’t!
If you’re unsure how much you should be eating per day for your lifestyle, I can help! I offer online consults where we discuss your weight loss, fitness and wellness goals and I compile a personalised eating plan for you – based on your unique needs.
3 Focus on your digestion
Achieving a flat stomach isn’t only about reducing fat around your middle. It’s also about ensuring you stay regular and go to the loo often. One common cause of constipation is bloating.
“The longer your stool sits in your colon, the more time bacteria have to ferment what’s there. You’re going to get gassier and you’re going to feel a lot more bloated,” says Dr Linda Lee from Johns Hopkins hospital.
To ensure you stay more regular, drink plenty of water, move your body daily (rebounding is excellent for peristaltic movement) and eat fibre-rich foods – as I mentioned above.
4 Reduce stress
Believe it or not, stress and anxiety can be one of the main culprits of belly fat. In a study by Yale University, researchers found that “Non-overweight women who are vulnerable to the effects of stress are more likely to have excess abdominal fat and have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol.”
When commenting on the results of the study, lead investigator - Professor Elissa Epel says “Greater exposure to life stress or psychological vulnerability to stress may explain their enhanced cortisol reactivity. In turn, their cortisol exposure may have led them to accumulate greater abdominal fat.”
To combat stress, it’s important to have regular outlets. Focus on the following:
- Get enough rest and sleep
- Ask for help if you’re feeling overwhelmed
- Use music, meditation and calming activities like dancing, yoga and Thai Chi to de-stress
- Plan your days ahead so you’re in control of your schedule
5 Drink water
You can never underestimate the importance of drinking enough water. It literally helps to whittle the waistline by controlling your appetite and reducing cravings while enhancing digestion and reducing the risk of bloating from water retention.
I make sure to drink 2-3 litres of water every day without fail, and sometimes even more if I exercise and sweat a lot.
6 Strengthen your abdominal muscles
As much as it would be wonderful to lose weight around a specific area on your body, the truth is you can’t really “spot reduce” but you can tone and strengthen your abdominal muscles. What people forget is that your stomach area is made up of muscle too – so if you want to get that toned, lean, chiseled look and make your abdominal muscles more defined you need to focus on strengthening those muscles.
The best way to do it? Try weighted abdominal exercises to build the muscles, just the same as you would with your glutes, shoulders or quads.
These weighted abdominal exercises are great:
Weighted Russian twists
In a sitting position, bend your knees and lift your feet slightly off the floor, while holding a medium-weighted dumbbell in both hands. As you lean back and engage your abdominal muscles, move from left to right. Make sure to keep your neck and shoulders relaxed. Count 1 rep after you move from left to right, and repeat.
Complete 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps.
Plank with row
While this move is excellent for the shoulders and arms too, it’s also an effective abdominal exercise. Start in the plank position (which also looks like a push-up position) holding a dumbbell in each hand. Stay in this position with your back in a straight line, hips facing forwards and legs straight. Slowly lift one dumbbell into an upright row position, making sure to bend your elbow as your hand reaches your side. Slowly lower the weight and repeat on the other side.
Complete 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps.
Crunch with ball
Use a small beach ball or Pilates ball for this move. As you sit, lift your legs so that your knees are parallel to the ground, with the Pilates ball squeezed tightly between your knees. Lean back with your palms on the ground while engaging your abs. Slowly lower your feet to the ground, while keeping your abdominal muscles tight. Lift your legs back to start position and repeat.
Complete 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps.
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and a dumbbell in each hand, keeping your arms and shoulders relaxed. As you slide your one arm up (with the dumbbell reaching your waist), slide the other arm down towards your knee, making sure you feel the “pull” in your oblique muscles- the muscles on the sides of your abdominals.
Complete 2 sets of 10 – 15 reps
TOP TIP: Also, don’t forget to get enough exercise every week. You can’t burn calories and drop your body fat percentage without an adequate amount of cardio and strength training. But, you don’t need to spend hours exercising every day. Make sure that the exercise you do is high quality and gets your heart rate up! I love rebounding because it incorporates both cardio and strength training in one session but without the impact of running or other high intensity activities.