Obesity is a serious problem in the western world, but increasing awareness of good nutrition and lifestyle choices has helped many people to become more aware of their health, ensuring that they either take control of their weight before they become overweight, or that they get back to a healthy weight if they had put on some pounds after leaving college.
Some people are lucky in that they are genetically predisposed to gain weight all over their bodies. Others tend to deposit any extra fat on their thighs or on their stomach, while they tend to lose it first from other areas of their body. This means that while they may be able to get back into the “normal” range of BMI, they still have some belly fat. Getting a flat belly can take some time.
The Best Diet for a Flat Belly
Unfortunately, there is no simple shortcut to getting a flat belly. As much as we would love to get a flat belly by using an ab machine for five minutes a day, or wrapping ourselves in clingfilm, these techniques do not work. To get a flat belly you will need to eat at a calorie deficit consistently for a prolonged period of time, losing body fat in the process.
If you are already at a healthy BMI – in the range of 20-24, then you will have to think about weight loss carefully. If your BMI is at the higher end of that range, then you can lose more weight, and as long as you do it slowly and in a sustainable fashion it should mostly come from body fat, hopefully around the belly. If you are at the lower end of that range then you should combine diet and exercise so that you can lose fat and build muscle – keeping your BMI in the healthy range while shedding fat.
The best diet to get a flat belly is one that is high in both protein and healthy fats and that contains complex, high fibre carbohydrates. If you were previously overweight then you may have a belly that is not flat because you have become accustomed to eating large portions of food, and your stomach has stretched. Eating smaller portions will allow your stomach to gradually shrink, and this will make your belly flatter.
Eating lots of fibre will help your digestive system to function properly, and this could stop any bloating that is preventing your belly from being as flat as it could be.
If you are struggling to remain in a calorie deficit, aim to eat filling, but not calorie-dense foods. Foods such as celery and broccoli are good choices in that they fill you up and give you a feeling of satiety for a long time. Healthy fats are a good choice here too. While fats are more calorie dense, they are filling and satisfying and they leave you feeling full for longer than simple carbohydrates such as white bread or cakes.
Hydration is also important if you want a flat belly. Some people experience bloating and water retention if they do not drink a lot of water, and this can contribute to having a stomach that is not as flat as is desirable. It may seem counter-intuitive, but if you drink lots of water then your body will be more willing to flush out the water that you are taking in.
You must be patient while you are working to get a flatter belly. Do not crash diet – while you may see rapid results you will be more likely to regain the fat around your belly when your eating habits return to normal, and you may find that you experience cravings and feel tempted to binge eat. it is much more sensible and sustainable to focus on changing your eating habits in the long term. One good idea, if you do not have a lot of weight to lose, is to eat the number of calories that is the maintenance figure for the weight that you want to be. This will produce slow, sustainable weight loss and means that you will already be in the habit of eating that number of calories, and can simply stick with that in the long term.
You can leave room for treats, including alcohol and desserts or cheat-meals such as fast food and pizza, but these should be eaten in moderation. Aim to eat clean, living on a diet of fruit, vegetables, lean meats and whole grains, as well as lots of water and the occasional treat. In the long term this will do you just good both in terms of health and weight loss than a strict diet that involves starving yourself for the vast majority of the time.