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Someone once sent me a message asking, 'What's the best ab exercises to get a flat tummy?' Here's what I wrote back:
Haha - the golden question every woman wants to know!
I'd be lying if I said that just a few exercises would be the answer unfortunately. Our muffin tops are excess fat and the best way to lose unwanted body fat is to change the way we think, eat and move. That's what I help my clients do. In short -
Change your thinking: start believing you are beautiful NOW, and treat your body accordingly - do the BEST for it in the way you think about yourself, the way you feed yourself and the priority you put on exercise. Believe that you are capable of whatever you put your mind to, then put steps in place daily to move towards your goals.
Change your eating: no processed foods, no sugar, more plants, more greens, more healthy fats (avocado, olive oil, coconut etc), and have a small dinner as early as possible - this will all make the most difference.
The third thing to change is your exercise: you want to have a mixture of weight training (yes, it burns body fat), high intensity interval training (short sessions like 20min), and stretching/pilates.
So that's the longer, truthful answer.
I thought about how I would respond to your question, and decided to be upfront and honest with a long explanation rather than just send you exercises knowing that nothing would really change. I'd much rather empower women to know what it really takes to change their bodies, rather than make a "quick sell" on stuff that's not really answering the question. (For more truth bombs on how to lose belly fat, download the free eBook below)
It was this exchange above that prompted me to write this blog. Read on to learn 6 popular myths about losing belly fat and what the truth is so you don't fall for a lie! Get your free copy of my eBook below.
Myth No. 1: Doing crunches & sit ups will make you lose belly fat & get abs
Anyone else a Pinterest lover like myself? Pinterst is a great place to find ideas on everything, but it can also be a very misleading place when it comes to this topic. Put your hand up if you've searched 'flat tummy workout' on Pinterest? Here's just some of the garbage you will find:
- The flat stomach belly blaster workout
- Flat abs in 5!
- Bye bye love handles
- The flat belly workout
- The flat stomach workout: slim & trim your waist
- Tight abs exercises for women
- 8 minutes to flat abs
I know garbage sounds harsh, but if you want the truth you'll always find it with me!
Crunches and sit ups are a couple of the least-effective ab exercises for starters. Secondly, there is no ab workout that can give you a flat tummy! There it is. It's out there. I said it. Why? Because it's true. To lose belly fat, you need to take a full-body fat loss approach. So scrap those Pinterest ab workouts, and start doing strength training, HIIT and pilates.
Myth no.2: take supplement x and you'll get abs
How many infomercials and ads have you seen pushing this or that supplement that is supposed to give you wash-board abs? It's insane!
No supplement alone can promise you a flat tummy, let alone promise a long-term sustainable solution that doesn't empty your pockets.. Nothing can do what balanced, plant-based whole foods can do for you. Don't buy into the gimmicks. They will always come and go. The truth is: there is no short-cut to maintaining fat loss in a sustainable way.
Myth no. 3: doing abs exercises every day will result in a flat tummy
Abdominal exercises and workouts will get you stronger abs, but won't remove the fat. This is simply because the ab muscles are a relatively small muscle group and won't get the calorie deficit necessary to burn into fat stores. The only way to see the abs is to get rid of the layer of fat over the abdominals. And in case you didn't know, spot reduction (focusing on one body area to try and lose fat from there) simply doesn’t work. When you lose fat, it generally comes off your belly last because its where most people hold the most fat.
Myth no. 4: If you don't have visible abs, you're not fit
This particular myth has been one I've personally grappled with. For a long time I had a personal goal of attaining visible abs. When I trained for my first photo shoot, I gave it a serious crack. I trained twice a week with a trainer, stuck to a strict diet and worked out 6 times a week. Over 8 weeks I was able to reduce my body fat percentage to 14% (The average healthy body fat percentage for a woman my age is around 25%) . I was really happy with how I looked, but guess what? I still didn't have visible abs! What extreme would I need to go to just to say or show, 'I've got visible abs?'
This experience shifted my mindset a lot. I began to realise that not all bodies are made the same, and not all goals are set in reality (especially when they're based on comparisons with cover girls and professional athletes).
A lot of women who have visible abs have such a low body fat percentage they are actually unhealthy and are not able to maintain it. Everyone’s body is different. Some people naturally have lower body fat, some don’t, depending on different body types. Overall lower body fat leads to hormonal problems/risks and can also cause issues when it comes to fertility and pregnancy. Most cover girls are in starvation mode for photo shoots, have fake boobs that make their bodies look more feminine due to the low body fat, and are almost always photo-shopped. This my dear friends, does not equate to being fit.
In no way am I having a go at the women out there who naturally have lower body fat and sport a lovely six pack (go girl!) without going to extremes. What I am emphasising is that not everyone's body is the same, and to compare ourselves among ourselves is the worst way to set goals or set a standard of what's 'fit.'
Myth no. 5: cutting out fruit, sugar and carbs will make you get a flat tummy
Of course eating loads of sugary foods and highly refined carbs can lead to weight gain, but so can an excess of anything! This is PART of the answer to losing belly fat, but if all you did was cut out those foods, but still ate huge meals and never exercised and live a highly stressful life, you probably won’t lose the fat. Also, fruit is not bad! It contains loads of nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibre your body needs. Eating fruits and veggies in the right portions (ie. not going crazy) will promote optimal cellular function in your body.
Myth no. 6: I just need to eat less calories than i burn to lose belly fat
The calorie deficit principle has been around a long time and does have some merit. The basic premise is that to bun into fat stores in the body, you must consume less calories per day than you burn or exert through exercise. However, there are women who have followed this 'rule,' and still struggled to lose weight. Therefore there must be more to the equation than just calories in vs calories out.
Dr Libby calls this calorie deficit rule the 'calorie fallacy.' There is simply much more to fat loss than calories in versus calories out. Other factors that affect weight gain and loss include: the nutrients (or lack of) in the calories consumed, stress levels, sleep quality, caffeine, liver, hormonal and thyroid function.
The function of our nervous system and how balanced it is between the "fight or flight" system and the "rest and repair" system will also have a huge impact on the body's ability to burn fat. In short, our bodies burn fat more effectively when we are not in the stressful "fight or flight" state. Dr Libby discusses, however, that many women today have what she calls "Rushing Women's Syndrome," and as a consequences their bodies had onto fat from constantly being in the fight or flight mode.
So, how do you then lose belly fat?
Now that we've busted the myths, there are some simple steps you can take to lose belly fat (overall body fat I mean, because remember we can't spot-reduce). I've put together a short eBook containing 6 truth bombs for losing belly fat that covers specific tips you can do to lose fat for the long term. Download your copy below. The short answer is:
- Have the right mindset and motivation
- Do strength, HIIT and gentle exercise regularly
- Eat clean
- Manage stress
- Get good quality sleep
- Stay consistent
Take home message? Don't believe everything you see on Pinterest.