Want a trim, taut tummy? Here are our our top tips from fitness expert Libby Babet to bag yourself a seriously sexy stomach.
Every single woman has been there. You’re getting ready to go out on a hot date, to the beach with your man or for a night out on the town with the ladies. Make-up’s looking good, favourite heels are screaming to be worn and it’s time for the finishing touch, your fave Little Black Dress. But alas! As you ease it on, you’re struck down with a case of the flabby tummy grumps!
As a personal trainer with an all-female clientele, the number one question I get asked is how to achieve a taut, trim belly! And I’m not surprised... it feels great to strut your stuff in a bikini (or even better, in the buff!) with confidence.
So WHY do we ladies find a flat tum so very hard to acquire?! Well don’t worry, all hope is not lost... even if you’re not one of the few genetically blessed women with a belly to rival Giselle’s you can still achieve a washboard tum. Here are our top ten tips to get your abs looking seriously fab. And nope, there’s not a single crunch in there!
1. Find out why your abs have gone into hiding! There are a number of reasons you may be feeling like your tummy isn’t in tip-top shape. The most common of these are; carrying too much overall body fat, digestive health issues, doing the wrong workout for your body type or not varying your workouts enough and finally, too much stress in your life, which boosts levels of cortisol (stress hormone), directly corresponding to weight gain around your middle! First up, consult a Naturopath or another trusted health practitioner to find out what’s really going on.
2. Diet is more important than exercise! As an exercise professional I hate to admit it, but diet wins every time when it comes to a sexy stomach. Eliminate starches, salt, sugars, caffeine, fizzy drinks, alcohol and processed foods where possible and stock up on whole foods like vegies, fruits, lean proteins, nuts, seeds, eggs and a few good quality whole grains and you’ll notice results quick-smart! Time to start eating like adults people...
3. Fight fat with ‘right’ fat. Processed foods and refined sugars (think most cereals, white bread, lollies, cake etc) increase insulin, which in turn stimulates abdominal fat. Good fats in moderation, on the other hand (avos, oily fish, nuts, olive oil etc) provide the body with the nutrients it needs to operate productively. They also help the body break down bad fats which means they actually help us to slim down, particularly around the middle!
4. Quality over quantity. Resistance work is incredibly important to reduce your body fat percentage and ditch that gut. But when it comes to crunches and weights, you’ll always get better results doing it right a handful of times over doing it wrong a hundred times. Doing an exercise correctly will engage the muscles more effectively and force you to work harder, because you’re focused and not just moving with momentum. So, find out how to do it properly, breathe and remember: slow and steady wins the jelly belly race.
5. Crank up your Cardio. Walk, run, do interval-based training, shag – whatever you enjoy to get that heart rate up! Cardio is how we boost the metabolism and melt fat. If we just build muscle, without also burning the fat, we can end up looking bigger in the belly because essentially we’re just stacking the fat and muscle on top of each other! Until you’re lean, forget doing a thousand crunches daily and instead focus on high intensity exercise that will burn through those layers!
6. Bust the Bloat. While the odd glass of vino or pinch of salt won’t hurt, a little sacrifice goes a long way when it comes to these two big belly bloaters. Salt makes us retain water, which in turn leads to puffiness. And it’s called a ‘booze belly’ with good reason ladies; alcohol is a poison, so our bodies try to repel it as soon as it enters our systems. This means we won’t process anything else until we eliminate the booze, so we ‘hold on’ to the calories from food as well as all the sugars and calories in the alcohol. Not nice!
7. Fibre is your Friend. Fibre aids digestion, helping you to eliminate waste faster and as a result, beat the bloat. Just make sure you keep well hydrated and increase your fibre intake gradually (too much too soon can have the reverse effect, leaving you feeling bloated, gassy and giving you cramps – eek!). As a guide, the The Heart Foundation recommends that adults should consume around 30g daily. Foods jam-packed with fibre include: fruits and veggies, nuts, seeds, legumes, flaxseed, psyllium, oat bran, barley and whole grains such as wild rice and quinoa.
8. Get Zzzs, De-stress and De-caffeinate. Numerous studies have shown that we’re more likely to reach for ‘comfort’ foods when we’re exhausted or stressed (it’s interesting to note that the body can’t tell the difference between real stress and caffeine-induced stress). Also, when we’re stressed (which often goes hand-in-hand with being over-tired) the levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) in the body rise, and this increase can cause us to gain weight.
9. Reach for the Stars. It sounds simple, but your posture can make a marked difference to your appearance. Check it out in front of the mirror - you go from slouching to sitting up straight or standing a little taller and suddenly you look more streamlined and your tummy looks tighter. Added benefits are that we activate more muscles to stand tall and are less likely to suffer back pain. Miraculous!
10. Befriend your Belly. Embracing ourselves can be transformative in multiple ways. When we accept our bodies, idiosyncrasies and all, we can start to work with what we’ve got, instead of lamenting the fact that we’re not perfect. When we treat our bodies with kindness, we are also less likely to fill them with things that might momentarily satiate emotionally, but that harm our bodies physically in the long run. Not only do we end up happier for showing ourselves a little love, but nine times out of ten we look better for it too!