The Flat Tummy Myth

When we’re completely relaxed, it’s natural to notice roundness in our stomachs from above or from the side. This pudge isn’t just about body type or body fat but can be affected by a host of things like anterior pelvic tilt, certain foods, fluid retention and the way your body responds to exercise.

But for some, knowing those factors still isn’t always enough to silence the negative self-talk or to quench the desire for flat abs. When photos of flat tummy physiques are plastered all over the media, we find ourselves making slim stomachs our wellness final goal. That being said, it’s beneficial and empowering to learn more about why your stomach sticks out at the bottom and how to use that knowledge to achieve your goal physique.

flat-tummy-girl-kitchen-cooking

 Anterior pelvic tilt

Let’s start with how anterior pelvic tilt affects your stomach’s appearance. Anterior pelvic tilt is when your pelvis tilts forward towards your toes, rather than straight up and down. This tilt causes both your butt and stomach to stick out, enlarging the appearance of each.

For most, anterior pelvic tilt can be corrected over time since it is caused by tightness in the hip flexors, quadriceps and spinal erectors or weakness in the glutes and hamstrings. With this in mind, integrating stretching and strength exercises into your workout routine should help improve those areas. Here’ is a quick anterior pelvic tilt correction routine:

  • Start with a warm-up
  • Lunges (3, 30-second holds on each leg)
  • Prone quadricep stretch (3 x 30-second holds on each leg)
  • Cat and cow tilt (3 sets of 10 repetitions)
  • Glute bridges (3 sets of 10 repetitions)
  • Plank (3 sets of 10-30-second holds)
watermelon-banana-smoothie

Nutrition matters

Have you ever finished a meal and thought, “Why does my stomach stick out like I’m pregnant?!” Hey, don’t get mad at us, we know that the majority of you are asking questions like this, Google says so. However, please ignore this sentiment if you are indeed pregnant. Anyways, post-meal bloat happens when you eat a large meal regardless whether it’s healthy or not. It’s a sign that your body is working hard to digest.

It’s important to mention that this kind of bloat can also be the way your body reacts to certain foods. Some foods cause bloating (salty snacks like chips, pretzels and popcorn) and water retention, which makes the stomach area appear larger than it actually is.

In order to prevent unwanted bloat, we suggest you avoid the following groups of food when heading out for a day at the beach or when you’re going to be in a situation where you want to look and feel your best:

  • High-sodium foods: Large quantities of sodium prompts your body to hold onto water. This fluid retention can make your muscles look less defined and cause your stomach to appear bigger than it really is. Drink plenty of water to counteract this.
  • Dairy: Some individuals are lactose-intolerant without realizing it. If you are, the lactose (sugar composed of galactose and glucose) in milk, yogurt and cheese can bloat you, making your stomach appear more rotund.
  • Soda: The gases from the carbonation in these drinks can build up in your stomach, leading to bloat and gassiness.
  • Sugar-free foods: In some cases sugar-free is better than sugar-filled, but not when it comes to gut health. Sugar-free foods are often sweetened with sugar alcohols, which can lead to an upset stomach and — you guessed it — bloating.
  • Allergies or sensitivities: Some people may have sensitivities to foods such as fish, shellfish, nuts, soybeans, wheat and eggs, which can trigger inflammation and digestive issues. If you’re wondering whether or not you might have food sensitivities, log meals in your 8fit app or keep a food journal.
  • High fiber foods (beans, lentils, vegetables): Fiber is very good for your gut but if your body isn’t used to it, it can take some time for your digestive system to adjust. Try increasing it slowly, cooking fiber-filled veggies and drinking plenty of water.
  • Bad bacteria: Excessive use of antibiotics, processed foods, and sugar can cause unhealthy bacteria in the gut to run amok. The result is bloating and frequent bathroom runs. Try adding prebiotics to your meals (raw garlic, leeks, onion, asparagus, wheat bran) to fuel the healthy bacteria, and probiotics (unsweetened yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso) to add more healthy bacteria to your diet to keep your gut happy.
plank-exercise-flat-tummy

How exercise impacts stomach appearance

Another one of those frequently asked questions is, “Can ab exercises make your stomach stick out?” The answer is, yes. It might seem counterintuitive since most people exercise to look and feel slimmer, but exercise can sometimes be the hidden culprit behind a bulging tummy.

When you first begin exercising, this bulge is often inevitable. Exercise breaks down muscle fibers through hypertrophy and then builds them back up bigger and stronger. This isn’t something to fear. As long as you keep your calorie intake at or slightly below your bodyweight maintenance level (the 8fit meal plan does this for you), your abs won’t swell or grow significantly.

If your goal is to lose fat, caloric intake becomes more important. For example, if you eat more calories than you burn, fat will continue to sit on top of your abdominal muscles. While we don’t recommend obsessively counting calories here at 8fit, what you put in your body does matter. Consider dropping your calorie range slightly below maintenance level and follow your meal plan to experience fat loss.

The key to a flat stomach

When you download the 8fit app, our first objective is to understand your goal. Your options include lose fat, get fitter and gain muscles. Achieving a “flat stomach” isn’t an option because a) it’s not that easy and b) the 8fit focus is on creating a healthy lifestyle, and a flat stomach doesn’t always correlate with health and well-being — as such, we don’t believe it should be your end goal. Our very own Coach Marife has experience with this. She says, “The phrase ‘abs are made in the kitchen’ is 100% true. You can work on your core and build muscle, but if your diet is full of refined carbs and sugar instead of healthy whole foods, you will not see your hard work. Remember, you can’t out-exercise a bad diet.

What’s more important is that you feel good — mentally and physically.

Here are some flat tummy myths busted:

  • Myth #1: Performing 1,000 crunches will lead to flat abs.
    Reality: No amount of crunches will lead to a flat tummy, but they will help strengthen your core.
  • Myth #2: Muscle growth in the abdominal region also reduces fat in that region. Reality: As you get stronger your muscles grow, but this doesn’t lead to fat loss.
  • Myth #3: A flat stomach can be obtained from fitness alone. Reality: Nutrition accounts for 80% of results.
  • Myth #4: Everyone can have a flat stomach. Reality: Many factors impact the look of your abdominal area such as genetics, disciplined diet and stress.

Keep in mind that we all have different body shapes and it’s about making the most of — and embracing — what you’ve got. Practice self-love, self-kindness, and prioritize your overall health and wellbeing instead of chasing that elusive flat tummy.