“A moment spent on your lip-line is a lifetime spent on your waistline!” Now there’s a thought that has made even the bravest souls hastily put down a fry or a fork full of chocolate cake. Our fear of an expanding midriff isn’t be driven by vanity alone – research has shown that excess weight around the waist can also be harmful to our health. The deep abdominal fat that surrounds the organs: visceral fat – increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure and even breast cancer.
Ironically, reducing belly fat in order to build flat abs is often the toughest challenge fitness enthusiasts face. Typically, the most stubborn fat is stored in the waist area. However, as HealthifyMe fitness coach Meenakshi Subramanian points out, that isn’t always the case. “Many of my clients are desperate to get rid of ‘saddlebags’ and ‘muffin tops’”, she says, referring to the roll of fat around the hips and waist. “They ask for a routine that targets only the abdominal area because they believe spot reduction is the answer.” Calling it a myth, Meenakshi says “how you lose weight is totally based on your constitution. For some people, it shows on the face; for others, the arms.” She urges people to stick to a full body workout to achieve the best results.
Apart from showing patience, these are some lifestyle changes you can make in order to reduce belly fat and build flat abs:
Cut the carbs and pile fiber-rich foods on your plate
Avoid excess carbohydrates, bad fats and processed foods; instead, incorporate belly fat busting foods like oatmeal, fish and curd in your daily diet. Meenakshi explains, “When you eat a plate of biryani, your stomach feels stretched. That’s because you can actually gain inches around your waist if you eat the too many carbs.” Foods that cause bloating should also be avoided to prevent inch gain on the waist. Hot lemon water, apple cider vinegar and papaya help overcome that bloated/puffed-up feeling.
There’s no such thing as a flat abs diet. “All you need is a well-balanced diet with the requisite amount of carbs, protein and fat. Following a high fiber diet is a good way to lose belly fat as it boosts the body’s digestive process and metabolic rate”, says Meenakshi.
Eat at regular intervals
People with poor eating patterns – those who skip breakfast or have their first meal of the day at 11 am – often suffer from gas formation and severe bloating. So avoid long gaps between meals and have your dinner two hours before you turn in for the night. Stick to healthy snacks and be sure to keep your salt intake in check as excess sodium causes fluid build-up in the body.
Drink alcohol in moderation
Alcohol has more calories than you think, and because these calories cannot be stored, it diverts the body from its fat burning task. This fat often winds up in the waist area. Along with reducing your alcohol intake, making better choices about what you drink can help. For eg, the less sweet your drink is, the better it is for weight loss.
Get enough sleep and take less stress
When you’re stressed out, your body releases a flood of cortisol, a hormone that encourages your body to store belly fat. So find ways to de-stress. A proper sleep cycle will also keep hormones in check. Lack of sleep causes a rise in your ghrelin levels (signalling hunger); it also lowers your leptin levels, a hormone that signals you are satiated.
A full body workout
Meenakshi says a combination of cardio, strength training and abdominal exercises will help build flat abs. “Cardio is essential. You can only burn fat when your fuel machine is on. Focusing on the stomach alone won’t give you results,” she says.
These are the abdominal exercises she recommends you incorporate in your workout routine:
Benefit: Strengthens muscles in your front and core and prevents the stomach from sagging.
- Start by getting into a press up position.
- Bend your elbows and rest your weight onto your forearms and not on your hands. Your body should form a straight line from shoulders to ankles.
- Engage your core by sucking your belly button into your spine. Hold this position for a few seconds, then rest.
Benefit: Muscles in the upper and lower belly.
- Lie flat on the floor with the lower back pressed into the ground.
- Place your hands slightly either side of your head, do not lock your fingers or pull the head up.
- Lift your knees to a 45-degree angle.
- At first slowly go through a bicycle pedal motion with the legs.
- Alternately touching your elbows to the opposite knee twisting back and forth through the core, keep the elbows back rather than forward to the chest as this could strain the neck.
Benefit: Works on the lower abs and helps tone the abdominal area.
- Stand with your hand placed on a wall with your elbow slightly bent.
- Lift your leg closest to the wall up off the floor at 60-degree angle.
- Using only your hips, raise your hip closest to the wall up into the air and then lower to original position. Repeat on opposite side.
Certain yoga postures target belly fat and help build core strength. Breathing exercise like kapalbhati, combined with some posture holding practices, can help trim your waistline.