Despite the late night infomercials, there is no "secret fix" for a slim, sculpted midsection.
Blasting belly fat and tightening your core takes a few simple steps, beginning in your kitchen, and ending with basic exercises that you can do anywhere. No need for gimmicks, special equipment, or a gym membership. Here are our guidelines and exercise routines to help you achieve your fitness goals.
Food rules for a flatter stomach
Eat a breakfast high in protein.
Start your day with a high-protein breakfast. This will get your metabolism moving and keep you feeling satiated and energized until lunch.
Try blending up a green smoothie with spinach, almond butter and some fruit, or make an egg white scramble with veggies.
Make healthy substitutions.
You don't need to deprive yourself to change your body composition. Easy swaps can help you make healthier choices without losing flavor. Choose Greek yogurt in place of sour cream, honey or maple syrup in place of white sugar, and finish your meal with berries for dessert.
Use fresh herbs.
Fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro, basil and mint add flavor to a dish. They may also help you curb the desire to add sodium through salt (which contributes to bloating), and will cut down on calories since you’ll use less oils and butter.
Eat plenty of complex carbs.
Definitely eat fat.
Try making your own salad dressing by using extra-virgin olive oil and your favorite vinegar or citrus juice. Add sliced avocado to your sandwich and skip the cheese. Although these are all small changes, by consistently choosing healthier alternatives every day, you can accomplish your goals without feeling deprived or dissatisfied.
Exercises to get a slim, sculpted and toned stomach:
Thanks to Mr. Joseph Pilates, Ms. Tracy Anderson and the thousands of talented and creative exercise gurus in between, there are hundreds of variations of abdominal exercises, but when it comes to whittling down your waistline, the integrity of your movements is more important than any fancy choreography.
To achieve a strong, toned and sleek stomach, you need to connect the dots between your mind and body. We advocate keeping the exercises very simple and focusing on connecting your breath to the movement. The below exercises combined with a quick daily interval program, three to four times per week is enough to deliver visible results.
The plank is the holy grail of core exercises because it builds both strength and stability, while shrinking your midsection.
How to do a plank:
- Lie down on your stomach.
- With elbows bent to 90 degrees, place your forearms on the ground and lift the rest of your body up off the ground while maintaining a straight line in the body like a wooden board.
- Once you’re in plank, focus on working against gravity to pull your stomach muscles up toward your spine. On each exhale, pull your abdominal muscles in a little more tightly. On each inhale, hold them there. Aim to hold this position for a minimum of 20 deep inhalations and 20 deep exhalations, eventually building up to holding your plank for 80 cycles of breath.
- Modification: This exercise can be performed with your knees on the ground.
A proper sit up strengthens your transverse abdominal muscles (think about the muscles that work when you suck in to zip up a super tight pair of jeans) creating internal strength and that flat belly appearance.
How to do a sit up:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet placed flat on the floor with your heels about 12 inches in front of your knees.
- Lift your arms up overhead and then bend your elbows to interlace your fingers behind your head. Allow the weight of your head to be held by your hands.
- Make sure that you spine is in a neutral position, meaning that your tailbone and back of your rib cage are both connected to the ground.
- As you exhale, visualize steering your lowest rib toward your pelvis as you lift your upper body up off the ground.
- Hold this curled position for three inhalations and three exhalations before returning your body back to the ground.
- Repeat your situps with this same attention to quality until you hit fatigue.
Cardiovascular exercise, with all of its stress reducing and heart strengthening benefits, is part of the secret sauce for shedding stubborn excess weight from around your midsection. Although you cannot specifically target belly fat, cardio training can help change your body composition all over. But, you don't need to spend hours at the gym, cardio is 100% about quality over quantity. In fact, sprinting is one of the most effective abdominal exercises because your core engages at full effort to stabilize your body during a sprint. If you have never tried intervals before, and you are feeling up to it, try a simple interval program of alternating between moderately paced jogging and intense bursts for 20 minutes. A beginner interval program could look like this:
How to do cardio:
- Minutes 0-4: Moderate pace to warm up
- Minute 4-5: Jog
- Minute 5-6: Run (your quickest pace)
- Minute 6-7: Jog
- Minute 7-8: Walk
- Minute 8-9: Jog
- Minute 9-10: Run (your quickest pace)
- Minutes 10-12: Walk or Jog
- Minute 12-13: Run (your quickest pace)
- Minutes 13-15: Walk or Jog
- Minute 15-16: Run (your quickest pace)
- Minutes 16-17: Walk or Jog
- Minute 17-18: Final Run!
- Minutes 18-20: Recovery walk
And there you go! Follow these healthy-eating guidelines, perform plank and sit-up three to four times a week and try the daily cardio interval training.
Lori Kenyon Farley is a Certified Nutrition Consultant, specializing in wellness, fitness and anti-aging. In early 2010, Lori co-founded Ritual Wellness, Southern California’s premier purveyor of USDA certified organic and non-GMO verified, cold-pressed juices, with business partner Marra St. Clair. In 2013, the pair co-authored “The Juice Cleanse Reset Diet” and until early 2015, delivered their products and services to help people achieve optimal health, through Ritual Wellness. In March 2015, Kenyon and St. Clair merged their company with Northern California based, Project Juice, to bring their juices, cleanses and plant-based foods to a wider national audience, creating the West Coast's leading certified organic retail juicery.
Lori has been featured on numerous media outlets, including Access Hollywood, Extra and Fox News. Lori also writes regularly for magazines, blogs and trade publications, with editorial contributions featured in The Huffington Post, Livestrong, MindBodyGreen, Fitness RX and more.