A lean, defined stomach is on the bikini-shopping wishlist of most women, but it can be hard to maintain a flat stomach. Some women tend to pack on the pounds along their waist first, noticing weight gain here even if the rest of the body still looks thin. Not everyone is destined to have a flat stomach for life, and genetics, health and pregnancy can make it more challenging to prevent a big stomach. But a big stomach is easier to prevent than it is to get rid of, and taking a few simple steps can help you stay in good shape.
Eat a healthy, balanced, low-calorie diet. Your body converts unused calories into fat and, much to the chagrin of many women, that fat often makes its way to the stomach. Your daily calorie needs depend on your weight and activity level, so ask your doctor how many calories you should be getting each day. Then stick to healthy meals with smaller proportions. Lean proteins such as fish and nuts, whole grains, fruits and vegetables are all important parts of a healthy diet. Soda, sugary drinks, processed snacks and fast food, however, can quickly increase your waist size.
Get plenty of cardiovascular exercise. Cardio helps you burn calories and plays an important role in maintaining a healthy weight. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that most adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio such as walking or 75 minutes of intense cardio such as running per week. If you're trying to lose weight, you might need much more exercise -- up to 300 minutes a week, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Do stomach-toning exercises. While these won't get rid of fat on your stomach, they can help your stomach muscles stay toned. When doing crunches and situps, make sure the small of your back is pushed into the floor and focus on using only your stomach muscles to life your torso. Planks, captain's chair exercises and crunches on an exercise ball are also effective ways to work your abs.
- MayoClinic.com: Gas and Gas Pains
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do You Need?
- MayoClinic.com: Exercise for Weight Loss -- Calories Burned in 1 Hour
- Harvard Health Publications: Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It
- American Council on Exercise: New Study Puts the Crunch on Ineffective Ab Exercises
- Stay active. Simple choices such as walking to your neighbor's house rather than driving, parking far away from the grocery store, cleaning your house at a brisk pace and playing with your pets can help you burn more calories each day.
- Steer clear of foods that tend to cause abdominal bloating and water retention. Salt is particularly likely to make your stomach puff out. Foods that cause you to swallow air, such as carbonated drinks, hard candy and chewing gum can also be culprits.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.