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Have you ever considered a tummy tuck?

You have a friend who went under the knife because she wanted a flat stomach. You admit the initial results were impressive. But you noticed that it didn’t take long for the belly baring shirts to go back in the closet. She started to talk about her body just as she did before, complaining of a muffin top and wanting to lose 10 pounds.

I won’t bore you with the technical details of abdominoplasty or liposuction. What I will say is that cosmetic surgery is often a band aid. You’re treating the symptom not the cause. If you don’t change the behaviors, fat stores can and will come back.

For most women to have visible abdominal muscles body fat needs to drop between 16-19%. This is not a guarantee; some women have to get even leaner for definition. This can be mentally and physically unhealthy as well as unsustainable. Fueled by unrealistic fitspo and overly edited images, the quest for a six pack is an unrealistic goal for most of us. But is it unreasonable to want a flat stomach?

flatter stomach
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Here I am…the photo that got me named a Future of Fitness in Oxygen Magazine! Truth…I don’t walk around looking like this all the time.

Welcome to Triple T Part One: How to get a flatter tummy

Let me be clear: we cannot spot reduce. A flatter stomach is possible but it requires a long-term plan for long term results.  It requires your basics to be in order first. Only then can you set your healthy striving focus on improving the appearance of your midsection. Your flatter stomach plan should be focused on three things: reducing stress, dialing in your nutrition and targeted functional core training.

Your flat stomach x-factor: stress

If you listen to the commercials you would think cortisol is all bad. The truth is in times of acute stress, like running through the airport to catch your connection, cortisol is very important. It stimulates the release of glucose into the blood stream for the energy you need to sprint through the terminal. As part of the inflammatory response it helps to heal an injury, in case you sprain your ankle running to your gate.

The problem is when you are constantly and chronically under stress. Constant production of too much cortisol will cause increased levels of the fat storing hormone insulin in the blood stream to combat the increase in blood sugar levels. The likely place for that storage is the belly.

Working on stress reduction strategies is a healthy and sustainable first step in working towards a flatter tummy. Here are my top 5 stress reduction techniques.

  • Have a cup of tea. My current favorites for the end of the day are Yogi Bedtime tea and Sleep from Amoda Tea. Plus this is better than wine, which will add to your tummy troubles.
  • Take an Epsom salt bath.This time honored recovery trick will help your muscles and mind relax. Add some lavender or rose oil for a real treat.
  • Journal about what you are grateful for.
    A gratitude practice is a great way to put away the stress and focus on the joy in the day. It can be as simple as listing three things you are grateful for in your planner or create a dedicate gratitude journal to make it really special.
  • Find a quiet place (even if it is in the car before you walk in the house) to rest with your breath.
    If you need help quieting your mind, try a guided meditation from the Budhhify app. Let your body be still for ten minutes.
  • Grab a grown-up coloring book.
    Staying in the lines helps me let go of whatever is stressing me out. You can also do this while listening to a podcast or audio book to really block out the world.

Here’s a bonus tip from traditional Chinese medicine: get to bed before midnight. If you do this you’ll avoid disrupting the natural rhythm of cortisol and melatonin in the body. You’ll feel more rested and allow cortisol to drop properly in the overnight hours.

What you need to change about your diet if you want a flatter stomach

You may have heard me say that abs are made in the kitchen. The truth is we all have a six pack, it’s just most of us can’t see those muscles. We make them appear via body fat reduction. Good nutrition and listening to your body – not a quick fix fad diet –  is the big factor in reducing fat anywhere and everywhere on the body.

For my clients interested in fat loss, we start with two key habits: learning to eat slowly and practicing the art of 80% full. Not only will this help you manage portions you’ll also notice how certain foods effect your body. You’ll be able to see if things like dairy make your belly bloated and transition them out of your diet if necessary.

Fat loss comes from a consistent commitment to eating foods that nourish your body and paying attention to portions. Losing the last five to ten pounds that are hanging around your midsection requires a dialed in focus on the quality of foods you eat. We have to move from 80/20 to 90/10. There is a time and place for everything. If you’re in search of a really flat stomach, you need to be really honest with is THIS the time or place?

Normally I like to focus on what you need to eat. In this case, we need to focus on reducing certain foods. Here four things to rethink in your diet if you want a flat stomach.

  • High and Medium Glycemic Index carbs: Even if the flour is gluten free or the rice is brown, it will still cause a release of the fat-staring hormone insulin. You must have carbohydrates for energy but your selection needs to focus on the most nutrient rich and colorful ones as possible. That means eating mostly low glycemic index selections like most veggies, beans and fiber rich fruits like blueberries and apples. Try cauliflower rice for your favorite stir fry and make the next burrito a naked bowl with a lot of greens.
  • Natural sugars: I love date syrup with bananas on my pumpkin protein pancakes and the occasional dollop of honey in my tea. Yes, they are from natural sources but they are still sugar. Now is the time to learn to take your tea unsweetened and say no to the paleo muffins.
  • Canned soups and beans: Soup and beans are great for you but the sodium in your canned goods will cause you to retain water and bloat. This won’t impact fat reduction but it will impair your results. The same applies to any fast food or restaurant meal. Anything not made in your kitchen may be pumped full of hidden salt.
  • Alcohol: Not only does alcohol slow down your metabolism, it can also alter your ability to make better food choices and disrupt your sleep. If you’re eating is in line with your goals but you are enjoying a few glasses of wine a week, you may want to start rethinking your beverage habits.

Workout plan for a flatter stomach

To build a strong and beautiful foundation, you need to keep your core engaged during the entire workout. Keep good form always and add a core challenge to exercises you already do. Unilateral training is a great way to do this.

If you do a basic dumbbell squat with only one weight on one side you now have to work against gravity to stay upright. This requires engaging your core more than a squat with weight on each side. The same concept applies with lunges, overhead presses and lateral raises. Using the unilateral principal is a great way to add a little more “ab day” to a normal strength workout.

Here are two things I want you to stop doing from an exercise perspective: crunches and five-minute planks. Crunches are hard on your back. Planks are better but holding one for a longer than a minute is really an exercise in diminishing returns. If you’re plank form is spot on for 60 seconds it’s time to add some instability. A great way to do this is with a stability ball (for a basic plank) or stir the pot. You can also do a marching plank (lifting one arm at a time) or a leg lift plank (extra glute work!).

Don’t forget rotation exercises too! I love wood chops and side planks for oblique work.

Remember, this is the advanced class if you want a flat stomach. If you’re a beginner or haven’t mastered your basics yet, let’s talk. I’ve got a complete program waiting for you.

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