You've been eating right and exercising for months, and although you've reached your goal weight and feel happy with your thinner frame, your stomach is still not as toned as you hoped. Like many, you turn to ab exercises as the solution.
Unfortunately, all the crunches in the world won't slim down your middle. They will strengthen the muscles underneath the layer of fat, but until you eliminate that extra layer, your toned ab muscles will remain hidden. You can't spot-reduce fat from certain areas of your body; you have to reduce body fat as a whole. The best way to do that is with cardio.
If the exercise plan you're following isn't doing the trick, then it's time to kick it up a notch. Make sure to choose high-intensity cardio workouts that burn the most calories such as running, swimming, jumping rope, hiking, or high-impact cardio classes (try this 10-minute belly-busting workout). These burn mega calories and help to reduce your overall body fat. Also include speed intervals in your workouts since these are proven to target fat around the midsection.
You can also tackle a softer belly with your diet. Avoid foods containing trans fat such as certain packaged cookies, crackers, margarines, granola bars, and breads. If the list of ingredients says partially hydrogenated oil, then put it back on the shelf. Include foods that contain MUFAs (monounsaturated fat acids) instead, such as avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil — just make sure to keep your portions in check. Other foods that fight belly fat or bloat include blueberries, pineapple, protein such as low-fat dairy products, and high-fiber foods such as pears and leafy greens. Try this flat-belly smoothie recipe that includes belly-busting foods all in one delicious drink, and munch on this flat-belly salad.
Stress can be another reason for belly fat, since it triggers the production of cortisol, a stress hormone linked to an increased appetite and more belly fat. Taking measures to reduce the stress in your life through relaxing yoga sequences, meditation, massage, sipping tea in a bubble bath, or these other completely free stress-relievers could be the difference between a flat belly and a flabby one.