The midsection, aka the belly, is the prime area of concern for both men and women who want to lose weight. It should be slim, toned and preferably come with a six pack (or at least a line in the middle of the abs!).
Now I have both good and bad news for all you flat tummy chasers out there. The good news is that we all have abs. Every single one of us! The bad news is that we often can’t see them due to the body fat which covers it.
If you can’t see your abs right now, the first question to ask is, “why does fat gather in that part of the body in the first place?”
Belly fat - a part of human evolution?
The fat that is stored in the midsection is easier and faster to use in comparison to the other parts of the body. This all made sense years ago, when we lived in a world when we didn’t know where our next meal would come from, but nowadays, we can get our hands on food 24/7.
While you can’t change how your body works, there are a few things that you can do to put yourself in the best position to get a flat tummy.
1. Give your digestive system a rest
Most people eat their three main meals, and then have a coffee, tea, juice or soft drink in between. While this habit keeps our minds and our mouths busy, it also means that our body is constantly being supplied calories, never needing to use its own resources.
Give your digestive system a rest by leaving four hours between meals and a minimum of twelve hours overnight (it’s okay to drink plain water though). Try it and you will notice the effect that constant eating has on your body!
2. Manage your stress the right way
Stress is a common cause of big bellies. When you are stressed out, your cortisol and adrenaline levels go up, while your digestive and immune systems and sexual organs slow down and release more free radicals (the bad stuff that destroys your cells!). Your adrenals then have to work harder, forcing your heart rate to increase (your body goes into fight or flight mode). This would have been helpful thousands of years ago if you had to escape from a tiger or hunt for your next meal, but these days, there are no tigers roaming around on your doorstep, and you get most of your food from the supermarket or the local markets.
Instead of being stressed out in short bursts by physical threats, our modern lifestyles are increasingly leading us to being stressed out all the time. We then revert to our survival skills of eating more sugar and coffee in an attempt to destress, which only leads to more belly fat, bad sleep, adrenal fatigue and ultimately, burnout.
How do you currently manage your stress? Is it helping or hindering your health?
3. Get enough sleep
We all need sleep - that’s a fact. But most of us do not get enough, and this leads to less leptin and more ghrelin (two super hormones which tell our brain if we have eaten enough food) in our body, which again increases our body fat and bodyweight.
If you struggle with getting enough hours of sleep each night, it’s an area that you really must focus on. Sticking to a healthy sleep schedule will not only help you get the tummy you want, but will also decrease your stress levels and increase your happiness levels (have you ever noticed how people who don’t sleep enough are often the grumpiest?!).
4. Be aware of what you eat
Most of us underestimate how much and what we eat throughout the day. This can obviously lead to overeating and unhealthy eating. The first step to better eating habits is being aware of what we are feeding ourselves in the first place, and this is where apps like FatSecret can help.
Once you have tracked your diet for a few days, review how much you have been eating, and then remind yourself by making a picture of everything that you put into your mouth. As always, we encourage you to eat whole, natural foods without refined carbohydrates (the “white” stuff), sugar and all the nasty artificial colours, flavourings and other chemicals, but tracking what you are currently eating is the first step.
5. Pair healthy eating habits with exercise
Last but not least, if you want to lose one pound of fat, then you will have to use up the equivalent of 3500 kcal. Aside from following the above tips, you will need to train (but first check with your doctor that your body is okay to do that).
Losing your belly fat is possible, but it will take time and effort. Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to having the flat tummy you deserve!