Many women I speak to tell me that the main area of their body they want to see a difference is their stomach. They usually want to lose weight but mainly want to shed the body fat around their mid and tone up the muscles there to give them more of a defined look when wearing their favourite dress or top.
If you look on the Internet for toning your stomach muscles, you will get inundated with information, tips, workouts, fad diets and so on. There is a lot of stuff out there. The thing is, who do you trust and more importantly, what is the best advice?
As I’ve worked with women for a lot of years, I know what works and what doesn’t. For example, doing 200 Situps every day won’t get you a flat stomach if you don’t make other changes in your life too. I would say the ratio of what you should be concentrating on is: diet 70-80% and exercise 20-30%. So, making sure that the food you eat is clean and healthy is crucial. What I mean by ‘clean’ is by cutting out (or cutting down drastically) processed foods, sugar, gluten, dairy and wheat (in a lot of cases) and alcohol. Follow my tips below and you should see a massive difference.
- Avoid dieting and diet pills altogether and don’t follow the latest weight loss diet which appears on the front cover of a magazine. Most of those diets are extreme and it’s usually when some Hollywood star has needed to lose weight very quickly for a TV show or film. The reality is that only 2% of weight loss diets (eat less, exercise more principle) are successful for long-term health [all diets have their benefits but the reality is that they are all high-fad diets where the weight loss is not sustainable].
- There is no diet or healthy eating plan that is going to be the perfect fit for everybody. Try different foods and recipes and see what works for you and your body type.
- Look at what you are eating – look at your plate before you start eating. Why do we become obese? Generally, it is to do with ALL of the following:
- The quality of food we eat – always try to have leafy green vegetables with every meal
- The amount and type of calories – don’t pile the food up on your plate
- The type of fats and carbohydrates – avoid sugary foods especially.
- What does your meal consist of? Think about ALL of the following:
- The type, balance and quality of carbohydrates, protein and fats
- The amount of fibre
- The type of phytonutrients (plant chemicals), i.e. leafy green vegetables
- The vitamins and minerals
- The timing of meals and portion sizes
- The frequency of meals – eat little and often for more stable energy levels throughout the day.
- Control your stress levels. If you don’t subdue stress, you’ll have more visceral fat (fat around your mid) due to an increase in the stress-hormone cortisol, which means more inflammation and therefore more obesity. The body shuts down your digestion under stress and the blood goes to the muscles, brain, heart and lungs for the fight or flight response. Learn to relax when you’re eating and chew slowly.
- Exercise correctly and progressively and avoid long endurance cardio if you can. Build up your muscle by incorporating strength training into your workouts. Muscle burns 70 times more calories than fat so when you lose weight (i.e. on a restrictive diet), you lose muscle and fat – when you put the weight back on, it is just fat and this burns 70 times fewer calories than muscle so you need fewer calories to maintain the same weight. Also, interval cardio training, i.e. running/cycling/rowing etc is much better than long endurance cardio training. It has the ‘after burn’ effect, which will help to reduce your belly fat.
- Don’t waste time doing abdominal crunches and situps – the priority should be to reduce your body fat by incorporating healthy eating and a progressive exercise programme.
- Don’t buy gadgets for abdominals such as those ab rollers – they are a waste of money.
- Avoid ‘bad’ foods, i.e. obesity additives – you’ll find them in most processed foods, ketchups, salad dressings, sauces, cakes, biscuits etc. They all contain hidden sugars, which are then stored as body fat.
- Eat ‘good’ foods 90-95% of the time, i.e. fresh, natural foods, wholegrains, fruit, vegetables, lean cuts of meat, fish, nuts, seeds, healthy oils, legumes, natural yogurt, eggs, dark chocolate, organic nut butters, coconut milk, tubers etc.