Who doesn’t want a flat belly, stat?
Yet hours of crunches, cardio, and superstrict dieting aren’t realistic—or a whole lot of fun—for many of us. Luckily, it is possible to flatten your belly and look slimmer almost immediately.
“Your stomach is the one part of your body that reacts quickly to dietary changes—good and bad. If you want to look thinner fast, avoid gassy veggies, chewing gum, salt, carbonated beverages, and any foods with sugar alcohols,” says Erin Palinski, registered dietitian and certified personal trainer.
These foods will lead to water retention and bloating, she explains. If you normally eat three larger meals a day, Palinski recommends cutting those portions in half and eating smaller meals every two to three hours.
Want more instant fixes for a flatter belly?
Here are 8 ways you can feel trimmer and slimmer in your belly—in some cases, nearly overnight.
1. Stand up straight
Standing up taller can make you look 5 pounds slimmer, says Deborah L. Mullen, a certified strength and conditioning specialist in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
How can you make it a habit? Try Pilates. According to a 6-month pilot study of 18 chronic back pain sufferers, Pilates is one of the best ways to improve posture and strengthen your ab and back muscles.
Jessica Cassity, Prevention’s senior fitness editor and a certified Pilates instructor, suggests two moves you can actually do while you’re still in bed that will set you straight for the day:
1. Belly Ins: Draw belly to spine. Slowly, flattening lower back to bed by using your core (not your butt or legs), press belly down on an exhale, release on an inhale. Do 10 times.
2. Roll and Reach: Sit upright with legs bent and pressed together, feet flat on the bed. Reach forward over knees, palms down. Slowly, roll halfway down, then twist right. Reach right fingertips to the low back diagonal (if you’re facing the foot of your bed, you’ll reach toward to top right corner), while stretching left fingertips forward. Twist back to center, bringing right arm front and rolling up to sit. Repeat to left for one rep. Do 8 reps.
2. Dress in belly-flattening fashions
The right outfit can pull off a multitude of belly-flattening miracles. Meg Goldman, a New York City stylist who dresses women of all shapes and sizes—including curvy Weight Watchers success stories—shares her best belly-flattening tips.
•Choose fabrics wisely. Avoid lightweight knits, Lycra, and other stretch fabrics that highlight and emphasize extra pounds. Opt for woven fabrics (like woven cotton, silk or rayon blends, and lightweight wool blends) that skim the body rather than cling to it.
•Shop for a shift dress or wrap dress. The shift is a great way to show off your arms and legs, if they’re your best assets, drawing less attention to the midsection. The wrap creates a waistline and shows off a beautiful neck and bust.
•Pick tops made of woven fabrics as well. Shirts with detailing around the neckline and accessorized by a great piece of jewelry draw the eyes up to the face—and away from the stomach and hips. Blouses and tops with a small ruffle down the center are good for diverting attention away from the midsection as well. Wrap tops also slim quite nicely if they aren’t made from thin, stretchy fabric.
•Cinch your waist with a wide belt in a dark color. This separates the hips and bust, drawing the eyes to the center of the body. Look for one in soft leather that will mold with the body’s natural curves.
•Experiment with small patterns, like florals and geometrics, which tend to disguise trouble spots. Wear floral tops with a solid dark bottom to slim your lower half.
18 Style Tricks To Help You Look Younger—and Thinner
3. Turn in an hour earlier
You’ll be less likely to overeat the next day. Eating right and exercising regularly help ward off both stress and belly fat, but only if you’re getting enough sleep. Skimping on sleep causes levels of the stress hormone cortisol to rise, along with levels of deep abdominal fat.
"There’s a definite association between lack of sleep, increased stress hormones, and weight gain," says Auburn University exercise researcher Michele Olson. In a six-year study, Canadian researchers found that adults who averaged just five or six hours of shut-eye a night were 35 percent more likely to gain 10-plus pounds and were nearly 60 percent heavier around the middle than those who slept 7 to 8 hours. Now that’s a reason to skip Leno.
4. Swap soda for Sassy Water
A nice carbonated beverage can hit the spot when you’re thirsty. But you’ll have to skip the bubbles while you’re on a middle-shrinking mission—nutritionist Palinski says the gas will make your belly poof up right away. Drink plain old tap water to stay hydrated—and make sure you get at least eight glasses a day. One delicious alternative: Flat Belly Diet Sassy Water (the eating plan’s signature drink). The special ingredients aren’t just there for flavor, either: The ginger helps calm and soothe your GI tract. Get the Flat Belly Sassy Water recipe here.
5. Munch more whole grains and protein
Trading refined carbs for whole grains is not only healthy, it can actually help you shed belly fat, too, according to research from a Pennsylvania State University study. Dieters in the study who ate whole grains shed more than twice as much abdominal fat as those who ate none. Whole grains reduce the production of insulin, a hormone that encourages fat storage, making it easier to lose belly fat.
Add another belly fat-fighting component to your meal by packing in protein-rich foods. In a Danish study of 60 men and women, those following a diet that included 25 percent of calories from protein lost nearly twice as much fat after 6 months than those eating a diet with 12 percent protein. Include a serving of lean protein with each meal and snack—eggs for breakfast, a turkey sandwich for lunch, low-fat or fat-free yogurt or milk for a snack, and grilled fish and vegetables for dinner.
6. Have watermelon for dessert
The amino acid arginine, abundant in watermelon, might promote weight loss, according to a new study in the Journal of Nutrition. Researchers supplemented the diets of obese mice with arginine over three months and found that doing so decreased body fat gains by a whopping 64%. Adding this amino acid to the diet enhanced the oxidation of fat and glucose and increased lean muscle, which burns more calories than fat does. Snack on watermelon in the summer, and eat other arginine sources, such as seafood, nuts, and seeds, year-round.
7. Add this cupboard staple to your diet
The primary substance that gives ordinary vinegar its sour taste and strong odor may fight fat, suggests new research presented at a recent meeting of the Japanese Society of Nutrition and Food Science. In a study of 175 overweight Japanese men and women, those who consumed a drink containing either 1 or 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar daily for 12 weeks had significantly lower body weight, BMI, visceral fat, and waist circumference than the control group that didn’t consume any vinegar. Researchers credit vinegar’s acetic acid, which may switch on genes that pump out proteins that break down fat.
8. Go slowly at meals
Under stress, we tend to scarf down even healthy food. In fact, research has linked this behavior to bigger portions and more belly fat. But Elissa Epel, a researcher on stress eating at the University of California, San Francisco, hypothesizes that slowing down, savoring each bite, and paying attention to feelings of fullness may lower cortisol levels along with decreasing the amount of food you eat, thereby shifting the distribution of fat away from the belly.