Most people have issues with their jelly belly. No matter how hard they try to get rid of it, that fat pouch around their lower stomach stubbornly stays put.
So how can you get it to budge, minus the gruelling, celebrity-worthy, work-out regime? With a little bit of exercise, a simple food plan and lots of clever tips, you'll have a flatter stomach in no time.
Beating the bulge
It's an unfortunate fact of life that as we age, we get thicker around the middle. This is partly due to changes in weight distribution, but it's also because a certain type of fat visceral fat becomes more prominent as we get older and collects around our organs. This fat is potentially dangerous if it gets out of control and can cause high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
So why is it so hard to get rid of? It's very difficult to spot reduce certain parts of our body. This means that while you may be able to lose weight overall, targeting certain areas like your tummy is tricky. Our abdomen is also where we store a lot of the 'the baddies' when it comes to weight loss stress, bacteria, bloating and inflammation can all add to the fat concentration around our middle.
Women's menstrual cycles and food allergies also contribute unnecessarily to rounded stomachs, so if you are experiencing severe stomach cramps, constipation and diarrhoea in conjunction with either of these, see your doctor.
The other reason jelly bellies are so hard to ditch is because there are a lot of misconceptions about how to lose excess stomach weight. Contrary to popular belief, sit-ups and abdominal work-outs are not the answer. While they will add to the overall tone and shape of the area, the only way to get rid of the bulge is with cardio exercise.
So to set you on the right track, we've put together a general program to help you target your jelly belly. Try and stick to it for at least eight weeks and then reassess your goals.
Related video: Fitness expert Shannon Cleary joins the show with some hints on shedding belly fat.
What exercise should I do
Cardio: Ideally three cardio work-outs a week for 40 minutes each is the way to go. Whether you choose to hit the treadmill, swim, walk, do an aerobics class or jump on a bike is up to you. Try and mix up your work-out routine though, so you don't get bored.
Strength: This is where the abs workout comes in. While sit-ups are great, there's no point in doing 30 of them a day for six weeks because your muscles need to be challenged. We suggest doing two of the below exercises after your cardio workout and alternating them weekly.
Your strength exercises
Lie flat on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Put your hands behind your head for support only, not to take any weight. Using your stomach muscles only, rise a few inches off the ground, hold for three seconds and return to your starting position. Do three sets of 15.
Standing twist: Stand tall and hold a towel or resistance band high above your head so your arms are straight. Slowly draw a large, wide circle over your head using your stomach muscles to move only the upper half of your body. Do three sets of 15. To make it harder, use a weight instead of a towel.
Feet lift: Lie flat on the ground and keeping your feet together and legs straight, raise your legs three inches off the ground. Hold for five seconds, lower them an inch and hold for five again. Don't let your feet touch the ground at any time. Do three sets of 15.
Hanging knee raises: Hang from a high bar, like a chin-up bar. Bring your knees up to your chest, hold for three seconds, then bring your legs back down. Only use your abdominal muscles to lift your legs, keep your body still and use controlled, slow movements.
Slow bicycles: Lie on your back with your left knee bent towards your chest and your right leg extended a few inches off the ground. Place your hands behind your head and lift your shoulders slightly. Swap your legs slowly, keeping your feet and shoulders off the ground. Do three set of 15.
Other options: The rowing machines at the gym, sit-ups on exercise balls, belly dancing, Pilates and yoga are all great for toning and reducing your stomach. Mix up your workout routine by replacing one of the staples with one of these each week.
What should I eat?
The yes list:
- Water and cranberry juice will flush out toxins.
- Rice, corn, gluten-free products and potato.
- Protein. Go for organic chicken and meat because they have less hormones and bacteria.
- Low-GI foods. Look for the label on foods in supermarkets.
- Fibre. It regulates your bowel movements so include wholegrain bread, cereal and nuts in your diet.
The no list:
- Too much fruit, wheat and dairy can cause bloating. Don't cut these out of your diet altogether, just reduce your servings to two a day.
- Alcohol, caffeine and fizzy drinks.
- Salt makes you retain water unnecessarily so stay away from processed (takeaway, packet) foods which are high in sodium.
- Chillies and spices. While they can kick-start your metabolism, they can also upset your stomach, so just monitor your body's reaction to spicy foods.
Tricky tips to a flatter tummy
As well as exercise and healthy eating, there are a few small things you can do to reduce your jelly belly…
- Stand up straight: be conscious of your posture and pull your stomach in, it'll force your middle muscles to work 24/7.
- Breathe: it's perhaps the most important, yet most neglected, aspect of ab-training. Deeply exhale through your mouth and inhale through your nose as often as possible.
- Laugh: having a good giggle works all the muscles in your stomach.
- Get a good night's sleep: lack of snooze time will lead to poor digestion and weight gain.
- Eat early: the later you eat dinner, the harder it is for your body to digest so the food just sits around your stomach.
- Colonic irrigation: some people swear by the process of flushing bacteria out of your stomach with pressurised water. It will flatten your belly, however, it's a tad uncomfortable and not for everyone so do some research.
- De-stress: we hold stress in our tummies so find an outlet for your worries like Tai Chi, boxing, reading, swimming, painting or writing.
- Moisturise: supple, tanned skin gives the illusion of a tighter tummy so invest in a good moisturiser and fake tan.
- Dress right: certain fabrics cling to our skin more than others so if you want to play down a jelly belly, opt for softer, more flexible fabrics like cotton, silk and chiffon.
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