It goes without saying that every body is a bikini body, but if a flat stomach is high on your agenda for summer, you’re definitely not alone. 62% of women say their belly is the body part they’re most self-conscious of, and it doesn’t help that it’s one of the trickiest areas to shift fat fast. The reason for this is simple: Your midsection has a higher number of fat cells and they don’t respond as easily to the fat breakdown process, lipolysis. But that’s not to say your hopes for a taut midriff are completely futile, as the right combination of diet, exercise and some small lifestyle tweaks can help you see big results. You already know the basic rule—burn more calories than you take in each day—but we’re helping to kick-start your toned tummy plan with a few extra tricks.
Learn to Relax
There are two ways stress can increase belly fat. For starters, when you feel under pressure, your brain is less sensitive to food intake, so the incoming energy from eating doesn’t register and your hunger levels don’t go down. The spike in cortisol also causes cells to release a kind of fatty acid called VLDL, which ultimately gets deposited as fat in the abdominal area.
While it’s not always easy to remain calm in fraught situations, the impact of stress on belly fat is reason enough to adopt some calming techniques. Practice meditation techniques and balance busy periods with relaxing activities such as yoga, walking your dog, or booking in for an aromatherapy massage.
Don't Ditch the Dairy
Contrary to popular belief, Helen Bond, dietician on behalf of The Harley Medical Group, says that eating dairy can help you lose belly fat. “Numerous studies show that adults who consume low-fat dairy products, rich in bone-building calcium, as part of a lower-calorie diet tend to lose more weight than those who skip dairy—especially around their waist,” she says. “So enjoy low -fat semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, fat-free Greek yoghurt or skyr yoghurt and reduced-fat cheddar cheese instead of full-fat versions.”
Drink Detox Water
It’s common knowledge that drinking plenty of water is good for weight loss, but how does the trend for infused detox waters fare in the bid against belly fat? Well, according to Eat This, Not That!, sipping on a blend of mango, melon and pineapple–infused water can reduce inflammation and help to de-bloat your tummy fast. More of a quick fix than a long-term solution, add a little ginger to give this tasty drink an extra boost.
Keep It Simple With Callisthenics
Good news for those who find it tricky to fit exercise into their busy schedule: Fitness expert Diana Booty says that simple calisthenics workouts do a great job of toning up your stomach. “Calisthenics is a style of training based around pushing, pulling, lunging and lifting movements and holds (planks, squats, push-ups, pull-ups, dips) using little or no equipment,” she says. “Increasingly time-poor and mobile lifestyles and Instagram feeds dedicated to this form of exercise, have catapulted it to popularity. Although they might seem a little basic, these bodyweight exercises can be incredibly effective for building strength, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness.”
Eat Oily Fish
“Reel in the oily fish,” recommends Helen. “We know that oil-rich fish such as sardines, mackerel, salmon and trout are good for the heart, but some early research suggests that oily fish rich in essential omega-3 fats may also help us lose weight, particularly from our stomachs. So enjoy two servings (140g) of fish a week, one of which should be oily.”
Lighten Up Your Last Meal
Finish your day on a lighter note by skipping slow-burning carbs for your evening meal and opting for protein alongside “wet” carbs like cucumber or steamed asparagus. Dehydration only makes it easier for stubborn fat to gather around your stomach, but these wet carbs will help your body maintain adequate water levels while you sleep at night.
Pop a Probiotic
Consider taking a probiotic supplement like Bio-Kult Advanced Multi-Strain Formula ($23), which will help improve gut health and the way in which your body takes in calories. Helen explains, “There is increasing evidence between our weight, the health of our gut and the bacteria that are living in our gut. If our microbiome doesn’t contain enough friendly species of bacteria and a wide diversity of types, we may extract more calories from the foods we eat.” What’s more is that taking a probiotic is one of the easiest things you can do and it comes with the added bonus of bolstering your immune system and digestive tract. Win-win.