I get asked this a lot. And I am going to give you a straight answer, one that will actually help you and that you can apply immediately.
When it comes to “losing your belly”, whether you’re a man or a woman, we’re all looking for the same thing essentially:
- No flab hanging over our pants
- No folds in the belly when we sit down
- Ability to wear tight shirts over tight pants without seeing flab folds
- Ability to lift top up accidentally and not be embarrassed
- Nobody thinks we’re pregnant when we’re not, OR vice versa!
Basically, you want to lose visceral fat (abdominal fat) and if you can have some nice definition (those lovely ab lines) peeking through, then bonus! Am I right or am I right?
Here, my dear readers, is how to do it:
1. Fix Your Posture
Suck it in. NO, THIS IS NOT CHEATING. This is how you are supposed to look because this is how you are supposed to be standing.
Do yourself a favour: stand sideways in front of a mirror. Now let your belly out, let it all hang. Notice how your pelvis automatically goes into an anterior tilt, that is, your bum tilts up. This causes compression in your lower back (you can feel it, I’m sure) and over time, leads to back pain and all sorts of problems related to poor posture.
Now pull your belly in, that is, draw your navel towards your spine. Notice how your pelvis returns to neutral. Imagine that your pelvis is a bowl and it’s full of water; don’t allow the water to spill forward or back – keep it in neutral, always. If you take Yoga or if you work out at all, you likely already do this so now, just translate it to everyday living (which is the point!).
The first time you do this, it’s going to feel annoying and it will feel like cheating because you will actually have to do some work throughout the day to keep your belly in. That’s only because you’re not used to it. Stick with it, and you will get used to it.
Actually, stick with it, and your transverse abdominis (the “TA”), the core muscles responsible for pushing your belly in and out, will start to develop more tone and strength and will “automatically” hold your belly in. As it’s doing this, it is getting a mini-workout throughout the day, so it’s kind of like you’re working your core all day (but safely).
When you have a strong centre, you will move more gracefully, have more balance, eliminate back pain, and your movements will be stronger or faster, as needed. Don’t forget: feet evenly planted on the ground, shoulders over the hips, shoulders down and back, neck long, and head floating on top of the spine.
Fixing your posture is the quick fix that WORKS. No wraps required! 😉
Do it now. There. Your waist is already 3 inches smaller! You’re welcome.
2. Reduce Bloating
If you’re bloated, one of the first places you’ll notice it is in your belly. The remedy for bloating depends on why you’re bloated, which could be for a number of reasons, including: poor digestion (gassiness), constipation, water retention, too much salt, gluten intolerance/sensitivity, inflammation, etc.
Bloating may very well be a symptom of an underlying health condition, which is something that you’d need to address right away.
Please note, that I’m not referring to feeling “stuffed”, like after you’ve just enjoyed a very happy, celebratory, special family meal. If you’ve overeaten, I’d recommend sitting as upright as you can and allowing your body to digest properly by doing restful activities, i.e., chatting with the family instead of playing touch football.
3. Strengthen Your Core
No, I’m not referring to “spot reduction”, nor am I implying that all you need to do are a series of ab exercises and your belly will magically disappear.
However, it’s important NOT to discount the importance of building core strength! When your entire core, including your lower back and pelvic floor, are strong, you can stand up straighter (posture!) and are better able to control how your body moves in space.
Yes, you may already have a killer six-pack underneath some visceral fat; but just because nobody can see it (yet!) doesn’t mean you should ignore it. Muscle burns calories, and the muscles in your core are no different than the muscles in your arms and legs.
When you build core strength, you change the shape of your torso and are better able to keep your transverse abdominis engaged (keep your belly pulled in). This will make a difference, even if you have a layer of fat surrounding your abs. Besides, you’re on the path to a healthier lifestyle anyway, right? It won’t be long before your muscle striations will be revealed 😉
The most efficient and effective core strengtheners are functional, incorporate the entire body, and are applicable to daily living. Think planks, wood chops, and exercises + yoga poses that challenge your balance.
4. Eat Clean and Exercise
You already knew that, right? This solution will work 100% of the time, the catch being that the results will not be as immediate as say, standing taller. But there’s no way around it.
Eating clean means eating real food (veggies, fruits, organic + high quality meats) and reducing your processed food intake (packaged foods, refined grains, junk food, etc). You can eat clean on a vegan diet and on a Paleo diet; you can also do both horrendously wrong and end up doing more harm than good. Use your common sense, or seek professional guidance if needed.
Exercise doesn’t just refer to the structured activities you do at the gym or at home via DVDs or online programs. It’s important to consider your overall activity level as you live your life – what is your main mode of transport? Do you walk or bike when you can? How many hours a day do you spend sitting or standing? Staying active throughout your day, even for short periods of time, makes a world of difference.
Important: Know Your Belly
Maybe you’ve had children – you may or may not be able to eliminate that “pocket” of flab entirely. This is true whether or not you’ve had a c-section! If this is the case, it’s important for you to be kind to yourself and to know that our bodies change as we become mothers, and while we may never learn to love some of the changes, we can at least learn to accept them.
Are you generally in good health? Or do you have underlying health issues? If it’s just a matter of cleaning up your diet and moving more, that’s one thing. But if you’ve got other chronic conditions that have yet to be diagnosed, it’s so important to take that into account before you start criticizing yourself over how you look.
“How do I lose my belly?”. Sigh. This really is the million dollar question.
I get it a lot, especially after class (here’s a hint: keep coming to class, my lovelies!). And while I certainly never feel I can do the answer justice in under 5 minutes, it’s really not that complicated: stand tall, strengthen your core, eat well, and stay active.
Aim to develop small habits over time. The cumulative effect will ensure great results based on healthy practices (rather than dysfunctional eating patterns), and will be more sustainable in the long run.
I hope that answers your question, love!
Take care + stay fit,