How to actually get a flat tummy, according to a nutritionist
We’re going to prefix this by saying that your self worth isn’t measured by how ‘flat’ your tummy is—beauty comes in all shapes and sizes and social beauty standards are, largely, irrelevant. That said, there’s nothing wrong with trying to get a stronger, healthier core. The belly is a notoriously difficult area to tackle, but with a little advice and some real effort, you’ll get there.
That’s why we talked to nutritionist and yoga instructor, Delphine Lim (you might recognise her from this fun little beauty spread). All things diet and exercise are right up her lane, so if you’re looking for good, reliable advice, you’ve found it.
Ahead, she explains everything from the causes of bloating to the best gut-busting exercises to get you fitter.
Beat the bloat
Newsflash: Sometimes your belly isn't chubby at all—it may very well be a simple case of the bloat.
Bloating is a rather common issue for a lot of people, but there are, fortunately, a few changes that a particularly bloaty individual can make in their diet and lifestyle to reduce the discomfort.
Here's what Lim says:
"There are several causes of bloating but here are some common causes:
1. Food intolerances
“See a doctor for a test if you think you may have a food intolerance or sensitivity. Bloating usually improves within 4-6 weeks of eliminating trigger foods.”
2. Eating too quickly
“This causes excess air to be swallowed. Try to eat slowly and allocate enough time to eat.”
3. Too much fatty food
“Fat takes the longest to digest compared to protein and carbohydrates which can cause indigestion. Reduce your saturated (bad) fat intake and eat unsaturated (good) fat in moderation.”
“Stress slows down digestion because it activates your body’s ‘fight-or-flight’ response. Try to take time out to de-stress.”
5. PMS (premenstrual syndrome)
“Hormonal changes before a woman’s period can lead to bloating. This is perfectly normal!”
6. IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
“This is a common disorder that affects your digestive system. Symptoms flare up when triggered by certain foods. You may see a registered nutritionist or dietitian to help improve your symptoms.”
Eat right, not less
The majority of weight loss comes from diet, so if you're working out constantly and still not seeing any results, your diet may be the culprit.
Think of it this way—if your energy intake exceeds your energy output, you're storing away more than you burn; therefore gaining weight.
Here are a few dietary changes you can make, according to Lim:
“Unfortunately, it is not possible to target weight loss in specific body parts. So, to lose belly fat, you will have to lower your overall fat percentage. My top three tips will be to:
1. Have more fruits and vegetables
“Packed with fiber and chock-full of nutrients, fruits and vegetables are not just food for your overall health. Its high-fiber content will help to regulate your appetite and make you feel more satisfied after a meal,” Lim explains.
2. Eat fats, but in moderation
“One tablespoon of oil is easily 120 kcal! While fat is good for you and important to maintain healthy bodily functions, too much can lead to weight gain. Try to opt for unsaturated (good) fats instead of saturated (bad) fats,” says Lim.
3. Swap sugary drinks for water, infused water or plain tea
“Sugary drinks such as juices, soft drinks, and sweetened tea can easily add extra calories to your diet and contribute to weight gain,” she adds.
Get your cardio down pat
With all that said, the right diet can only get you so far—you've got to put in the effort to see some real results. That means "150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (such as brisk walking) a week", according to Lim.
“If you have a sedentary lifestyle, walking is a great way to start. You can slip a short 30-minute brisk walk five times a week whenever you have time. If not, you can exercise 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening.”
Tip: Another easy way to slip in some cardio during the day is to take the stairs instead of the lift!
Crunch out the core exercises
So we know that diet and exercise are necessities—but why not go the extra mile? If you want to tone up, you're going to need to bash out a few core conditioning reps.
Here are Lim's personal favourites:
1) Bicycle crunches
2) Planks (front and side)
3) Leg raises
At this point, we feel it's important to clarify that all of this will take time. Don't be discouraged if you're not seeing immediate results—everyone's body is different, and some bodies just need a little more TLC than others. Plus, remember to set yourself realistic expectations; listen to your body and don't push it too far in pursuit of a flat tummy.