If you’re like a lot of people you’ve worked hard for years to attain a leaner, flatter, toned stomach. Have you been on crazy diets and done tons of crunches, or maybe even considered lipo? All for the sake of that glorious, flatter, toned and tight tummy?
Here are just a few of the reasons for a flabby tummy:
Pregnancy – Having gone through three pregnancies and gaining a significant amount of weight each time, this has always been one of my biggest obstacles.
Age – Starting in our 30‘s our metabolism slows down.
Stress – Stress and lack of sleep elevate cortisol levels which leads to excess fat around the middle. (Check, this applies to me, also).
Hormones – For both men and women this can be an issue.
Not enough exercise – You’ve got to stoke that metabolism to burn that belly fat.
Poor nutrition – Eating too much junk and not enough healthy, whole foods.
5 Steps to Help Flatten That Belly:
1. Cardio Exercise –
Warm up for several minutes then move into at least 30-45 minutes of cardio (biking, hiking, power walking, jogging, running, aerobics class, etc.) Start at a comfortable pace but when you’re ready to push yourself past your comfort zone. This means you’ve got to break a sweat, get your heart-rate up, release those feel-good endorphins, dig deeper! Once you’re able to do 30 minutes without feeling overwhelmed, up the intensity. On a scale of 1-10 (1 sitting watching tv and 10 being ready to pass out from exhaustion), you want to be around 7-8. To shed fat you’ve got to step up your game!
My personal favorite Cardio:
Kickboxing! This is popular with both men and women and has the added benefits of improving power, balance and coordination. Kickboxing helps work out stresses and frustration, enhances confidence and burns a ton of calories. The moves also target multiple muscle groups, especially the core.
2. Ab Work –
The basic crunch is a great place to start. Lie on your back, knees bent and feet shoulder width apart. Place hands behind your ears, but don’t hold onto or pull on the neck. Keep your eyes focused up to the ceiling, elbows wide and slowly raise your shoulders off the ground. Exhale as you come up, pulling your belly button down toward your spine, engaging the abs. Inhale as you come down, keeping abs tight. Start by doing 20-30 with a short break in between. Aim for 3-4 sets.
Leg drops -(Lie on back, palms flat with finger tips under your butt, spine pressed into the mat, legs straight up to the ceiling/sky). Slowly lower legs, keeping abs engaged, then raise back towards the ceiling. Try to keep face, shoulders, and neck relaxed. Do 10-15, take a quick break and repeat for 2-3 more sets. (Note: bend knees slightly if needed)
OR Full Sit-ups:
On your back, either leg straight or slightly bent at the knees, hands by your ears, (hardest) overhead (hard) or crossed over your chest. You can also anchor your feet underneath the edge of a sofa for more stability. Exhale as you roll up as far as you can, then slowly roll back down toward the floor. These are more advanced so go slow at first and add on when you’re ready. Aim for 2-3 sets of 10.
3. Good Nutrition:
It doesn’t matter how much you exercise or how many crunches you do if you have poor eating habits chances are you have excess belly fat. This is really simple, clean up your diet!
Stay away from Sugar, empty calories, fried foods, fast foods, diet soda (the aspartame can actually lead to weight gain) and eating late at night. Opt for whole, fresh organic fruits and veggies and a palm size portion of lean, organic protein. Use whole or gluten free grains. (If you like a bit of sweetness, try coconut sugar or xylitol.)
Incorporate into your diet: Lots of water with lemon/citrus, green teas, fresh, colorful veggies and fruits, lean proteins, whole grain bread, cereals, and pasta. Eat more salads with some lean protein thrown in (careful with the dressing, which can be loaded with calories, opt for oil and vinegar or light dressings.)
Most Important: Cut down portions! Use a smaller plate, chew more slowly and put your fork down between bites!
4. Reduce Stress –
This is probably one of the hardest to achieve, but one of the most important. When you’re stressed out you eat more, and make poorer decisions. This all leads to raised cortisol levels which lead to fat accumulating around your mid-section.
What to do: Make some downtime a priority. Create a “quiet zone” every day, even for just 15 minutes.
Turn off your gadgets, read a book, take a cat nap, meditate, or just chill out. Pamper yourself from time to time (why not? you deserve it.) Buy a bunch of pretty flowers to enjoy. Clean out a drawer or sift through your closet. This helps take your mind off of eating and you’ll feel better and in more control shedding excess accumulation. When you feel super stressed, take a deep breath, try to re-focus on what’s truly important.
Whatever your heart fancies, just make sure you allow time for yourself each day!
5. Get Enough Sleep –
Much like excess stress, not enough sleep leads to poorer eating habits, not enough energy to exercise, and those raised cortisol levels.
Tips for the Bedroom: Make sure your room is cool and dark and there are no annoying lights from phones, the television, computers or clocks. Turn the gadgets off an hour before bedtime. Take a warm bath, have some chamomile tea, sprinkle some lavender oil on your pillow, listen to soft, calming music, and reading a book can help you ease into a more relaxed state.
If you begin to incorporate any or all of the above, you’ll start seeing a flatter stomach in no time. It’s also very important to THINK POSITIVE! The experts have found that people who are positive and optimistic enjoy long-term benefits of good health, are less stressed, and feel better on a daily basis.
Laura McDonald is a busy mother of three, a musician, writer, foodie, an ACE-certified Personal Trainer and Holistic Health Coach in NYC. She loves training her clients outdoors, writing rock songs, working on her yoga skills and creating recipes full of love. Her successful Slim Down programs are now available on her web-site and her unique fitness program has been featured on NBC. Laura is on a mission to help busy men and women of all ages create a leaner, sexier, stronger, body and mind.