My Top Flat Tummy Tips
The sayings (usually by those in the fitness industry) are true: “Abs are made in the kitchen”, and “You can’t out-train a bad diet”, so to see results, it’s all about what goes into your mouth – NOT how many crunches or sit-ups you do! Endless stomach exercises are not the way to get a flat, toned tummy; rather it’s all down to careful, intelligent nutrition. So, I’m here to share my top tips on how to transform your tummy with some simple changes to your diet and eating habits!
1. Chill out
Scientists have found a direct link between fat around the stomach area and increased levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Anxiety causes the body to produce extra cortisol, which is a hormone that encourages the body to store fat (especially in the abdominal region!). While we can’t always avoid getting stressed, following a healthy meal plan and incorporating the right foods can help regulate your cortisol levels.
2. Incorporate these top flat-tummy foods
Good quality carbohydrates
Foods that are high in refined carbohydrates and sugars cause a spike in blood sugar levels, followed by a CRASH shortly after. This causes our bodies to go into “fight or flight” mode and cortisol levels to soar! Swapping refined, processed carbs and sugars for fruit and unprocessed whole-grain carbohydrate sources keeps your insulin levels balanced, which in turn helps regulate cortisol levels. Fruits, such as apples and berries, and high-fibre whole-grain breads, cereals, pulses, oats and quinoa are your best flat-belly food friends here. As well as preventing the body from storing fat, whole-grain, fibre-rich foods also fight against obesity, cancer, high blood pressure and heart disease and are good for the digestive system – keeping you regular (which also helps keep your tummy flat)! 🙂
Lean protein (e.g. eggs/ fish/ pulses/ cottage cheese/ chicken/ turkey breast)
A diet high in protein, veggies and good complex carbs (as mentioned above) provides a powerful combination that helps stabilise your blood sugar levels, prevent hunger and cravings and regulate cortisol levels. Lean protein also helps build muscle, burn fat, strengthen the immune system and keeps you feeling full! The more muscle we have, the more energy we burn at rest. This means less of the food we eat getting stored as fat and more being burned as fuel – score!
Broccoli (and other dark green veg)
High in chromium, which helps control blood sugar levels and also prevent sugar cravings – a real belly fat buster!
This fruit is one of the richest sources of Vitamin C. Research has shown that those who have high levels of Vitamin C burn 30% more fat when they exercise. Not a fan? Try oranges, grapefruit or even red peppers instead!
Nuts and/ or Nut Butter
Almonds and other nuts/ nut butter (for example peanut butter) are your superheroes when it comes to building muscle, keeping you satisfied, reducing cravings and burning fat! They’ve also been shown to prevent against obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, muscle loss, aging, wrinkles and cancer. You can read all about the benefits of eating nuts and how they help keep you slim in my Nuts About Nuts post HERE.
Apple Cider Vinegar/ Lemon Juice
These are both known to boost your metabolism, aid digestion and prevent bloating. Start your morning with a mug of warm water and lemon juice or AC Vinegar. Add one Tablespoon of lemon juice (the juice of half a lemon), or Apple Cider Vinegar into a mug of warm water (add good quality honey/ agave syrup to sweeten) and drink this first thing in the morning. This will hydrate you, cleanse your digestive system and is the perfect way to both de-bloat your body, and set it up for its daily food intake ahead. Both are also great for drizzling onto salads!
Fennel/ Green Tea
Green tea has an antioxidant in it called EGCG, which helps boost your metabolism and gets your body to utilise fat! Fennel tea is a natural diuretic that helps get rid of excess stored water and bloating, promoting a flatter tum! For best results, drink 2-3 cups of either Fennel or Green tea a day.
3. Drink plenty of water (& avoid fizzy drinks!)
Often when we think we’re hungry, we’re actually just thirsty. Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day, as well as 1-2 glasses BEFORE every meal or snack you have. Water aids weight loss by keeping your cells functioning at their fat-burning best, and also helps your kidneys flush out excess toxins and chemicals, which may be slowing down your metabolism. If you have difficulty drinking enough plain water (around two litres a day), herbal teas, green tea (hot or iced) or lemon in hot water are all just as good! Fizzy drinks (even “Diet” ones), on the other hand, are a sure-fire way to promote bloating and a rounded belly, so stay away!
4. Slow down your eating, chew slowly & enjoy your food!
When we eat too fast we don’t give our brains enough time to realise we’re full and usually end up eating way more than we need in the process. Focus on the food you’re eating and don’t just wolf it down! Avoid eating dinner in front of the TV, lunch in front of your computer or doing anything else distracting while eating. Take time out to enjoy your meal and actually pay attention to what you’re having. Chewing your food properly will aid efficient digestion, stop you from overeating and reduce any uncomfortable bloating you may experience from eating too quickly (which causes you to swallow excess air). It will also ensure your brain actually registers when you’ve eaten enough food – before it’s too late! Try putting down your cutlery after each mouthful and only going in for the next when you have completely swallowed the last.
6. Eat a (good!) mid-afternoon snack
For most people, mid-afternoon is their weak spot. They either find themselves suddenly REALLY hungry so they reach for the most satisfying thing that they can find – which is usually found in the vending machine, if at work, or a bar of chocolate, bag of crisps or those biscuits lying around at home! These foods cause your insulin and blood sugar levels to spike and then CRASH shortly after, leaving you feeling tired, lethargic, and even HUNGRIER for MORE sugary junk food!
Towards the other extreme are those that either find themselves too busy, or just try NOT to eat anything mid-afternoon, in an attempt to “hold out until dinner”. The problem with this is that when you’re ravenous, anything and everything looks and tastes delicious and it takes a lot more food to feel satisfied! Having such a large gap between lunch and dinner causes your metabolism to slow down and your blood sugar levels to drop – causing your body to actually HOLD ONTO FAT! Eating small, healthy snacks between meals will help keep your blood sugar stable and your metabolism going strong. Always carry healthy snacks with you if you know you’re going to be out and about for a while or working long hours and there’s a risk of this happening. Snacks should be 200 calories or less and a combination of fibre, healthy fats and protein for optimum satisfaction and blood sugar stability – such as a portion of nuts, seeds and dried fruit, an apple and a tablespoon of peanut butter or whole-grain crackers with hummus.
7. Reduce Sugar
Eating a large amount of refined sugar just contributes to ‘empty’ calories and raised insulin levels. As insulin increases fat storage, consuming large amounts of sugar (usually through processed, packaged foods and drinks) makes it harder to lose belly fat! The best thing to do is to carefully read all labels of food you consume and, if you want to look your best, stick to natural, wholesome foods while avoiding packaged, processed foods as much as possible. This means eating foods that are close to, if not the same as, their natural state – i.e. fresh fruit, vegetables, whole-grains, nuts, eggs, dairy and fish. The shorter the list of ingredients on the package of food, the better it is!
By incorporating (even a few of) these easy tips into your everyday routine, you’re guaranteed to notice results, and, most importantly, get a flat tum that stays! 🙂
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