It's no secret – shifting weight from your stomach isn't an easy business. It's one of the trickiest places to lose weight, as the fat around your middle is more stubborn than elsewhere. Plus, ab crunches aren't always the easiest exercises to do and, let's face it, they hurt a bit. While we'd never advocate a quick-fix diet or to lose weight quickly, there are a few things that might be causing a bloated stomach and some easy tricks to tauten that tum.
1. Drink coffee
Coffee = weight loss. Is this the best news ever? A recent study by the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham discovered that coffee stimulates 'brown fat' in our bodies, burning sugar and fat to produce body heat. So sipping on your morning Americano is actually good for you and will help keep that tum trim.
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2. Get enough shut-eye
It's true - lack of sleep DOES contribute to weight gain, so make sure you get your full eight hours a night. When our bodies don't get enough sleep, cortisol (the stress hormone) levels increase, which tells your body to save energy and get you through the day. Conserving energy means hanging onto body fat rather than burning it off, and that means a podgy stomach.
3. Hit maximum chill
First things first, chill out. When you're feeling frazzled, your body produces more of the stress hormone which has a negative effect on your digestive system – leaving you feeling and looking bloated plus, possibly, constipated. Try and relax whenever you can; even if it's for a few minutes a day, try listening to a meditation podcast, doing a few yoga poses or zoning out in front of the TV.
4. Take a bath
Get that chill time in with a bath – not just your normal Lush bath bomb scented affair but one with Epsom salts instead. Dump in a tub load (or two cups full to be precise) and it can help reduce bloating by drawing excess water from your tum. It's a great trick for those days you want your tummy to look flatter.
5. Dine on dark chocolate
Not for every meal, but a square or two of the darker variety can actually help lessen your tum. It's all down to the monounsaturated fat, which can help to speed up your metabolism. Plus, it gives you an energy boost so you might not skip that spin class after all…
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6. Work on your posture
Hunching over our desks, phones, tablets and the likes can throw your posture totally out of whack. A good posture not only makes you look slimmer, as you stand taller, but it engages your stomach muscles too. Try to sit with your back straight and shoulders back, and place both feet on the floor. If that doesn't work, set yourself a reminder on your phone or computer to sit up straight every 20 or so minutes.
7. Suck on some lemon (water)
An easy morning routine to get yourself into is to sip on warm water and lemon first thing; it can help to reduce inflammation in the gut and de-bloat your stomach.
8. Bin the gum
When you chew gum, you swallow extra air which leads to, you guessed it, bloating. It tricks your body into thinking it's about to be fed and it starts to prep itself for food – when there's no food for it to process, there’s an excess of stomach acid which again, causes bloating. So it might be time to ditch that seemingly innocent, minty habit.
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9. Ditch the salt
Cut down on your salt intake to help beat bloating tummies. According to experts, reducing salt to just 3g a day by avoiding all processed foods, will help your body release water it has been retaining to help dilute high salt levels in your body.
If you do need to use salt, try to make it natural sea salt; teaspoon to teaspoon, it is lower in sodium than table salt. And stay away from soy sauce which has high levels of sodium and will cause almost instant bloating. You can always flavour your food with other herbs and spices; cayenne pepper, cumin and tabasco sauce will also help boost your metabolism.
10. Avoid food on the go
Make sure you slow down and sit down at all mealtimes. It will help you relax and focus on what you are eating. And make sure you mind your manners. Eating with your mouth closed, and not talking while you are chewing, will reduce the amount of air that would otherwise get trapped in your stomach. You should also try to chew more – calories can be reduced by as much as 12 per cent by chewing each mouthful 40 times rather than 15, research has shown.
11. Portion control meals
According to Keri Glassman, author of the O2 Diet, the best way to eat for a flat belly is to eat "portion-controlled meals that include whole-grain foods and monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) throughout the day".
MUFAs are plant-based fats that can be found in avocado, nuts and seeds, olives and dark chocolate, and research has shown that they help target fat in your tummy. Whole grains, meanwhile, contain magnesium and chromium, two nutrients that combat cortisol, a stress hormone that directs fat to be stored around the waist, and keep insulin production down – high levels of the hormone also encourage fat to collect around the stomach.
12. Go green
Research has shown a direct link between green tea and smaller waists. Green tea contains compounds called catechins, which increase the release of fat from fat cells, help boost energy expenditure and speed up the burning of fat by the liver. Study participants drank four or five cups a day, but any amount will benefit your body.
13. Eat slower
This takes practice but eating slower can really help you to beat the bloat. If you're eating too quickly, you're likely to be swallowing larger pieces of food which slow down the digestion process and likely leaves you bloated. Meals should last about 25 to 30 minutes so use this as a ballpark pointer. And remember, some people argue that taking longer to eat your food will mean you eat less overall as your body and brain are given the time to register that you're actually full.
14. Moderate legumes and cruciferous vegetables
Legumes, beans and cruciferous vegetables (the likes of cabbage, cauliflower and brussel sprouts) are all highly nutritious and should certainly feature in your diet however, if you're not used to them, they can unfortunately cause you to become gassy. The best way to introduce them? Slowly. Give your body time to adjust to these types of carbohydrates.
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