Most people are drawn to workout and nutrition apps like 8fit because they’ve decided it’s time to take action and change their lifestyle habits – they’re ready to start working out and eating healthier foods to achieve better physical shape. Often, the goal is how to get a flat stomach, as that part of the body tends to be one of the first to show signs of unwanted weight-gain due to sedentary living or sub-optimal food choices. Before we expand on how to lose belly fat, it’s important to know that there’s more to that belly bulge than meets the eye.
We also want to caveat that while it’s normal to have goals linked to physical appearance, if you’re looking for a quick fix or setting unattainable goals based on others’ bodies, you’re likely setting yourself up for failure down the line. If you approach your weight loss efforts by prioritizing your internal health first, you’re much more likely to see the lasting external results you’re looking for along with tons of other benefits like more energy, better sleep, improved mood and a longer, happier life. We like to think of a slimmer waistline or flatter stomach as the added bonus to all that other goodness. So, we encourage you to think about how you’re framing your goals, then give this article a read for solid, no-B.S. advice on how to achieve them.
How to get a flat stomach: Looks can be deceiving
Unless increasing muscle mass is your fitness goal, the main reason many people start (or restart) their health and fitness journey is to learn how to lose belly weight. Stomach fat can be the most immediate and noticeable area of fat accumulation, but it’s worth noting that we can’t spot-reduce fat from parts of the body – when we lose fat, it happens holistically, and we can’t pick and choose where on the body we see results (sorry, but it’s true). This is why we always recommend a holistic shift to better health and exercise habits rather than trying to “hack” your way to your ideal body.
Also good to know: a belly can be the result of other factors than just fat alone.
Anterior pelvic tilt
Anterior what-now? This is a misalignment of the pelvis and hips where the position of the pelvis tilts forwards away from the midpoint of the body, creating a protrusion of the belly and butt — imagine a posture like that of a duck. This physiological irregularity has an effect on posture, balance, mobility, and stability and actually makes your belly push forward and look larger than it actually is.
You can workout as much and as intensely as possible and eat a well-balanced, healthy diet, but if you do indeed have an anterior pelvic tilt that remains uncorrected, your quest for a flat stomach will continue in vain. Sometimes how to lose belly fat is more a case of correcting this misalignment with a few targeted postural exercises.
Another factor that may be hindering you from achieving a flat stomach may be your menstrual cycle. Most women experience bloating as they as menstruation approaches and can put on up to 2-6 pounds in water weight. Even the most slender and toned among us will look a little puffy and bloated a few days to a week before their period starts. Once the menstrual cycle begins, you will probably notice your “belly” shrinking as well.
In addition to hormones that flood the body during the menstrual cycle, some essential hormones such as cortisol and melatonin also play a significant role in packing on the pounds around the belly. When you’re stressed — be it as a result of life circumstances or even a low-calorie diet or a strenuous workout routine — your body is thrown into a state of stress too and ups the release of cortisol. If the stress is prolonged, it can actually prevent your metabolism from working correctly and make it harder for your body to burn fat. Sometimes overtraining and undereating may actually work against your efforts to lose belly fat, as cortisol can cause fat to be deposited in the adipose tissue around the belly area.
Lack of sleep
If you’re eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly and managing your stress levels, and yet you’re still wondering how to lose belly fat, then you may want to consider getting quality shut-eye. A good night’s sleep will help you increase the chances of attaining a flat stomach, as research indicates that the less you sleep, the less your fat cells tend to respond to the hormone insulin. So hit the hay early and sneak in some extra Z’s if you want to see some significant changes to your waistline.
Abs are made in the kitchen: 8 foods to eat to help lose belly fat
As you can see, there are a lot of reasons why your belly might look unfavorably round and not all of them are linked to diet and exercise. That said, there are foods to focus on if you’re looking to slim down all over.
1. Nuts and seeds
Snacking on nuts (peanuts, walnuts, almonds and cashews) or adding them to your breakfast or smoothies will do wonders keeping you satiated for longer. They are a super snack to eat on the go in comparison to high-carb options, as they’ll aid in the reduction of your belly fat over time. Sprinkle seeds like pumpkin or sunflower on your breakfast or salad and you’ll also be sprinkling added immune-boosting minerals like zinc, and fiber to help you stay satisfied.
2. Olive oil
This heart-healthy Mediterranean staple is enjoyable as a healthy salad dressing or cooking oil and it can stabilize blood sugar levels and give you that full feeling, so you don’t resort to any unnecessary snacking. Vitamin E from olive oil will also enhance the health of your hair and the suppleness of your skin. Just make sure to choose cold pressed oils, as heat treating oils can turn them from healthy to damaged and toxic.
High-protein foods like eggs are a key in losing belly fat. Hard-boiled eggs are a perfect snack – they are low-fat, packed with protein to keep you feeling fuller, longer and support muscle growth, which will subsequently help increase your resting metabolic rate.
Omega-3-packed fish like wild salmon, sardines or mackerel will keep contributes to heart health and can help if you’re working to slim down. The lean protein found in fish will also fill you up, balance blood sugar and reduce the impulse to overeat.
5. Leafy greens
Whether you’re following a plant-based diet or not, leafy greens like kale, spinach, and arugula are mineral-rich foods pulsating with potassium, which can offset any sodium-induced bloating and provided important fiber and vitamins.
Did you know that asparagus is a prebiotic wonder? Well, it is, which means it’ll help beat the bloat. It’s a versatile vegetable – enjoy it in soups, as a side to a healthy protein or on its own as crudité dipped in hummus.
7. Citrus fruits
Still wondering how to lose belly fat? You might want to squeeze potassium-packed citrus fruits into your diet. These fruits are exceptionally anti-inflammatory, and inflammation is another factor in belly fat build-up. You can add lemons, limes, oranges or grapefruits to your breakfast or let them infuse in water for some tasty hydration on your journey to a flatter stomach.
8. Herbs and Spices
Ditch the salt and add flavor to your food with herbs and spices instead. As we mentioned, sodium is one of the main culprits in bloating and water retention. Herbs like parsley or spices like ginger, are also natural diuretics and minimize inflammation. Give basil, mint, oregano, pepper, etc. a try, as they are nutritious and will elevate your meals.
How to lose belly fat? A reality check.
We hope we’ve reassured you that there are a ton of things you can do and eat to promote a happy gut and healthy overall weight — which will also result in a healthy waistline. While it can be frustrating to see images of models with perfectly flat midsections, try to remember that the most important goal is overall health and wellness. It’s normal, especially as we get older or after we’ve had children, to carry a bit more weight around our belly area. The good news: your worth is not determined by how flat your tummy is!
At the end of the day if you eat a balanced diet made up of wholesome foods, get enough regular exercise, and rest up, your improved health will have a lasting impact on your emotional well-being that no physical outcome can deliver. We’re hoping you’ll stop wondering “how do I lose belly fat” and instead consider “How can I treat my body and mind with kindness every day, so I feel content, fit and energized?”