10 Ways to a Flatter Stomach

Negative effects of belly fat go beyond ill-fitting clothes and social embarrassment. Belly fat is often caused by a deep layer of visceral fat around the organs. Chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension and heart disease are all linked to higher amounts of belly fat. Bloating also contributes to a rounded belly. Although some causes are easier to remedy than others, it’s important to address them all and attack the problem from multiple angles when working toward a flat stomach.

Squats and Deadlifts
To effectively flatten the stomach, you have to work as many of the core muscles as possible. According to a study published in the "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research," exercises such as squats and deadlifts actually engage and work more of the core muscles simultaneously than abdominal exercises like crunches or sit-ups.

Eliminate Sugar
Rasa Kazlauskaite, MD, at Rush University explains that sugar is a contributing factor to belly fat accumulation. If nothing else in your diet changes, focus on eliminating soda and fruit juice. These sugary beverages are loaded with sugar but devoid of fiber that can reduce belly fat. Once you’ve eliminated sugary beverages, work on cutting sugar in other areas of your diet. Processed foods contain a surprising amount of sugar. Read labels and, if possible, cook as much from scratch as possible.

Eat Veggies First
Vegetables contain fiber that helps reduce abdominal fat. Fill at least half your plate with vegetables at the beginning of the meal. Fiber is very filling, so you won’t be as hungry and tempted to indulge in less healthy options like sugary desserts or processed foods. This also helps with overall calorie reduction since you're filling up on low calorie vegetables. Reducing your overall caloric intake by 500 calories per day will help with weight reduction for a flatter stomach.

150 Minutes a Week
Rock hard abdominal muscles won’t show through if they’re covered in fat. Exercise at a moderate intensity each week for at least 150 minutes. Dr. Sheila Dugan with Rush University emphasizes that exercise is the most important thing anyone can do to prevent or shed belly fat. Walking is a good exercise to start with since it requires no special equipment or gym memberships. Other cardiovascular workouts include jogging, elliptical training and cycling. Dr. Dugan explains that visceral fat -- the dangerous fat around the organs -- is the first fat lost when you begin exercising. Reduction of visceral fat, along with your total body fat, will help lead to a flatter stomach.

Core Exercises
Nearly all movement within the body is supported by the core abdominal muscles, according to Harvard Medical School. Strengthening these muscles not only supports the back, but it also encourages a flatter appearance, especially when the excess fat layer is reduced through diet and exercise. Crunches, planks, sit-ups, side crunches, bicycling the legs while lying flat and exercises utilizing stability balls all work various core muscles.

Foods to Avoid
Gas and bloating cause a distended abdomen which is both a problem for the way your pants fit and it’s also uncomfortable. Certain foods are known to contribute to bloating more than others. If you notice that dairy, wheat, salt, carbonated beverages or vegetables like cabbage and broccoli cause more gas and bloating, decrease your consumption of those foods.

Eating Tips
Eat slowly and chew your food thoroughly. Some foods cause more gas than others because the body has difficulty breaking them down. Help your stomach out by thoroughly chewing your food. Eating slowly and drinking without a straw also introduces less air into your stomach for less bloat.

Stop Being Sedentary
Although daily exercise is important for decreasing body fat, Dr. Dugan further explains that being sedentary the rest of your day may partially negate the positive benefits you earned by exercising. If your job requires you to sit all day, use your breaks to walk and get your heart pumping. Frequent movement and exercise not only helps with fat reduction, but it also decreases bloating as well.

Drink Water
Hydration is important on so many levels. When you exercise to help shed excess belly fat, you must replace fluids lost through sweat. Dr. Oz reports that water also helps balance sodium levels in the body, helping to resolve bloating.

Supplements
Although there is no magic diet pill to suddenly create a flat stomach, there are several supplements and herbal remedies that help resolve bloating. Dr. Oz recommends dandelion tea, magnesium, potassium and probiotics. Check with your doctor first before adding any vitamins or supplements.