A flat stomach:
It’s not just about looking great in your favorite body-hugging outfit. Having a smaller waistline cuts your risks of heart disease, diabetes type 2, and other health problems. Check out these 25 tummy-shrinking tips—including some quick fixes for fitting into those skinny jeans tonight.
At the gym
Training. Women who hit the gym and watch calorie intake reduced ab fat-cell size by about 18%, making them more successful at tummy trimming than those who just dieted, according to a Wake Forest University study. The more weight-bearing the exercise, the more calories torched from your midsection. So walk, run, or add some jump roping to your usual routine. Research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that women who did full-body strength-training twice a week decreased overall body fat and didn’t gain as much ab fat as those who didn’t.
Work in intervals. Women who did 20 minutes of interval training three times a week lost more belly fat than women who logged 40 minutes of moderate cardio three times a week, according to an Australian study.
Crunch time. Doing crunches? Pull in your abs before curling up to work your muscles twice as hard.
Do the bicycle to target other ab muscles (crunches work only the rectus abdominus, aka your six-pack): Lie with your hands behind your head; alternate touching each elbow to the opposite knee.
Don’t neglect your midback muscles (the lats). They work with your core to help you stand straighter, minimizing your pooch. Try Lat Rows: Bend at the waist and hold a dumbbell in each hand; bend elbows and pull weights up until elbows are level with torso.
To really challenge your abs, crank out crunches on a stability ball. You’ll engage more muscles than you will doing traditional crunches, according to a study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
Before a big event
Avoid carbonation. Fizzy drinks are full of gas—and you will be, too, if you drink them. The result? A not-so-svelte profile.
Cut back on energy drinks. Your body turns sugary, caffeine-laden drinks into fat faster than caffeine-free ones, spelling danger for your waistline, one New Zealand researcher notes.
Don’t sip through a straw—you’ll swallow extra air, which will show up on your middle.
Pass on the gum. Not only can chewing it make you swallow air, but sugar alcohols in sugar-free gum and mints can cause a blown-up belly.
At the table: Choices matter
Eat well, eat more. Women in the Framingham Nutrition Studies who ate 360 more calories of healthier foods per day were less prone to ab fat than those who ate fewer calories, more saturated fat, and less fiber. Obese adults who cut calories and increase whole-grain intake zapped more tummy pooch than those who stuck to refined grains, Penn State researchers found.
Pick lean protein. Moderate servings—about 40% of your daily calories—in your diet may lead to overall weight loss, particularly in the tummy, a study from Skidmore College reveals. Research out of Spain shows that a diet rich in monounsaturated fats, like a Mediterranean diet, can prevent belly fat.
Up your calcium. Dieters who got 1,200 to 1,300 milligrams of daily calcium saw three times the belly trimming as those consuming the same calories but less calcium, University of Tennessee researchers said. Get your daily dose from yogurt, rather than other dairy sources or supplements; its calcium may help whittle your middle, an International Journal of Obesity study points out. But …
Choose yogurt wisely. Rats who ate saccharin-sweetened yogurt gained more weight and body fat—including around the waistline—than those who ate sugar-sweetened yogurt, Purdue University researchers found.
Get your C. Women who took in 56 milligrams or less per day (the recommended dietary allowance is 60 mg) were more likely to accumulate belly fat than those who got 57 mg or more, a Journal of Public Health Nutrition study found.
At the table:
Do’s and Don’ts
Enjoy soy. Women sipping soy shakes every day for three months didn’t add any midlife fat to their middles, according to research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Ban trans-fat. Monkeys who got much of their dietary fat from trans fats had 30% more belly flab than those who ate more monounsaturated fats, a Wake Forest University study found.
Go easy on fiber. Too much can leave you bloated. Aim for at least 20 grams per day, but add it to your diet gradually, and be sure to pair it with plenty of H2O.
In your life
Try Pilates. According to a Greek study, these exercises significantly improve posture—and that naturally minimizes a pooch.
Move! A Duke University study showed that a couch-potato lifestyle resulted in an 11.6% increase in deep-belly fat in women over eight months.
Another reason to stop smoking: Nicotine keeps abs from burning fat, so smokers often have more deep-tissue belly fat.
Relax. Women with the largest waistlines also reported the highest stress levels, possibly due to the production of the stress hormone cortisol, Yale University research showed.
Get more sleep. Women who get only five hours of shut-eye a night are almost twice as likely to be obese as those who get seven hours, Columbia University researchers point out.