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How Do I Get a Flat Stomach?

Diet, Exercise and Stable Hormones Reduce Belly Fat
Photo Credit: iStock Images – Shifting that Belly Fat is Possible

Reader Karla Radden asks:

“I’ve been working out every day for years. Yes, I’ve seen my body change shape over this time, and I’ve shed lots of weight. But, I still can’t seem to get a flat stomach. It’s like the doughnut from hell! So, how do I kiss this baby goodbye?”

Sigrid de Castella – ‘Half the Woman I Was’ Author, Speaker and Health and Business Coach

Avoiding mistakes isn’t hard – here’s my top eight to watch out for.

1. Not warming up – If it’s been a while since you exercised or you’re planning on an increased level of activity, then why not give your body every chance at not being sore the next day? Start by warming up rather than jumping straight into high-intensity activity. There’s no need to go all techno with warm-up routines, just a bit of walking, a few star jumps and some stretches to get the muscles warmed-up and ready to go will reduce your risk of injury and pain the following day.

2. Going like a bat outta hell, like you’re 16 again – Often when the decision is made to embark on a higher intensity exercise regime, there’s a lot of vigour involved … gotta get it done …. gotta do it now. Day one – made it! But the subsequent days can be a challenge as the zest for your new program wanes, and you find the motivation (and sometimes even the energy) hard to muster. Over-exercising is just as bad as not doing any at all. So start slowly, and gradually build on each day. Maintaining balanced workouts for the long haul is your key to success.

3. Not choosing the right exercise activity – Does running make you thin? Or do thin people run? If you hate running but think this is the only cardio exercise you can do to get results, then think again. Choosing a cardio exercise that continues to motivate you, or holds you accountable (like a team sport or a buddy system) is going to get you much better results in the long run. In fact doing something that you find un-fun will quickly lead to boredom or loathing, and you’ll end up hating every minute of your workout.

4. Focusing on cardio or resistance training – If you want real results, real fast, you need to combine cardio fitness with weight training – the two work synergistically to get you much faster results than either would alone. Cardio can be done in as little as a 20-minute workout three times a week – even if this workout is three times that 7-minute workout at a full on pace. A well-designed resistance training (RT) program can be effective with just two 30-minute sessions in a week – your muscles need rest in-between RT workouts to recover and grow. That’s five days a week, leaving you the weekend off.

5. Choosing load-bearing rather than non-load-bearing. Performing load bearing exercise when overweight or obese can cause injury and joint issues later in life, especially to your hips and knees, putting you in the queue for a walking stick and replacement surgery. Instead, select non-impact activities like yoga, Pilates, swimming, orbital trainer, stationary or recliner bike or water aerobics to get your cardio in, and, as you reduce your weight, gradually add more load bearing activities if you like.

6. Not properly stretching afterwards – Failing to stretch after working out is the biggest causes of injury and body pain. So, spend some time developing a good comprehensive stretching routine (should take about 10-15 minutes) that covers every muscle group and ensure you hold each stretch for a minimum of 40-seconds.

7. Not drinking enough water – Or worse still, drinking sports drinks. In the ordinary course of existence, we lose about 45mls per kilogram of body weight a day – more if we’re exercising. So work out your base level of pure H2O that you need, then add more if you’re exercising or sweating excessively. And those sports drinks? Well, these are for elite athletes who push their bodies to the limit every day. I don’t care how hard you think you’re working. You’re not in that category. Therefore, you don’t need the added nasties, colours, salt, and sugar which are going to undo all your hard work. Tap or filtered water – no additives – is all you need. And if you hate the taste of water, add fresh lemon.

8. Not mixing things up – Research has shown that after performing the same routine for three weeks your body switches off and the effects of doing the same program start to diminish. So if you’re doing the same cardio exercise at the same intensity for the same period, and performing the same number of reps and sets for the same resistance training program then those results you get over the first three weeks won’t continue indefinitely.

Instead, change your plan every 3-weeks by selecting a different cardio exercise (rowing instead of a bike), amend the workout time (15 or 25-minutes instead of 20) or the intensity (use interval programs and change out the interval duration). When it comes to resistance training only change out your sets and reps – instead of 3 sets x 10 reps, do two sets by 15 reps. The possibilities are endless, and so are your results!

Sigrid de Castella is an internationally published author, speaker, and coach in the fields of health and business. Her book “Half The Woman I Was – How I lost 70kg naturally, reclaimed my life … and how you can too!” has received international acclaim and has been hailed as the most comprehensive weight loss book on the market. Sigrid has also studied Personal Training with the Fitness Institute Australia and has a keen interest in whole food nutrition, natural therapies and all aspects of physical and mental health. Sigrid and holds a BBA from RMIT University and is a member of both the Australian Institute of Managers and the Australian Society of Authors.

Sigrid logo

Nick Jack – CHEK Holistic Lifestyle Coach and Personal Trainer

I get asked this question a lot from my clients. So many of them say, “I’ve tried everything!!! From cardio training to boot camp sessions, and even strength training, but I still can’t manage to move that fat away from my belly”.

Of course, exercising is important. But, when your goal is weight loss and not just “getting fitter and looking toned”, you need to delve further. For me, this means looking critically at my client’s day-to-day life. So, I understand their stress levels and what food and drink they consume.

There have been many research studies completed on weight loss regarding exercise and nutrition separately and together. These studies have concluded that roughly 85% of weight loss is directly related to what you are putting in your mouth. Exercise is the other 15%, but it is vital as it aids in the removal of excess blood sugar and carbohydrates by boosting your metabolism. Exercise also eliminates adipose tissue (fat) and increasing muscle mass. However, if the fuel you are putting into your system isn’t right then you will struggle to reduce the centimetres around your stomach.

However, as mentioned above, it is not only your nutrition and your physical activity levels that are related to losing the belly fat. Your stress levels also play a profound role. Often I have clients who say, “I’ve done everything you’ve said, eating healthier and exercising, but I’m not getting that flat stomach”. When you are mentally or physically stressed, your stress hormones (cortisol) elevate, which, in turn, suppresses your growth hormones (androgens). These growth hormones play a critical part in building muscle and boosting your metabolism. But, suppression of these leads to the accumulation of adipose tissue in our body, especially around the belly. Hence, reducing your stress levels will improve the responsiveness your body has towards the hormones which assist in muscle building and weight loss.

So what are some key points to help you get a flat stomach?

  1. Eat high-quality meals (including good protein sources and green vegetables).
  2. Never skip meals. Always eat breakfast, and don’t go longer than 4 hours without eating.
  3. Reduce your stress levels.
  4. Include quality strength training 3-4 times per week.

Nick Jack is a qualified CHEK Exercise Coach, Level II Holistic Lifestyle Coach and personal trainer. He runs a personal training business called NO Regrets Personal Training.

Nick likes to lift weights, cycle, run and triathlon. He has played almost every sport at one time in his life. Now, he enjoys spending time walking his dog and relaxing with his wife and friends.

We are pleased to announce the release of our KNEE PAIN TOOLKIT!

Sara Colquhoun – Pilates Instructor

Whether you have had a long break from exercise or are literally starting to exercise for the first time, there are some common mistakes that we all tend to make. The key is not to let these mistakes deter you from continuing to exercise, but to use them as signals to get to know your body and listen to what it is telling you.

1. Set a clear goal. First of all be really clear on your intention and what you want to gain from your exercise program. You need to do this so you are held accountable. Once you have done this then make sure this goal is realistic with the type of exercise you have chosen to participate in. For example, if you want to increase your cardio and you choose to do yoga you may find it challenging to achieve your goal, as most forms of yoga are not a high cardio workout. Find the best form of exercise to match your intention and goals. If you are unsure seek out professional advice.

2. Be realistic. When people start to exercise one of the most common mistakes is biting off more than you can chew. What I mean by this is pushing the body so far that you may cause injury. I’m all for testing the boundaries in your exercise regime, but when you are starting our or getting back into it after a long break the best thing you can do is ease back into an exercise program
over a period of time. This gives the body time to adapt, recover and strengthen, and will mean you can enjoy your exercise without the frustration of setbacks due to injury.

3. Be committed. Entering an exercise program half-heartedly is another big mistake – make sure you give it 110%! If you are going to start any form of exercise you need to commit for at least three months to enjoy the benefits. To keep up your motivation it’s important to consider these three factors: do you enjoy it? Is your body responding well to the program? Are you on
your way to achieving your goals?

4. Don’t be afraid to be a beginner. Remember when you start most forms of exercise you might feel a little uncoordinated, inflexible or not as strong as you would like. However, as you progress these feelings will all improve and even completely diminish the longer you stick at your exercise program. In no time at all you’ll feel great! You are only going to see and feel real improvement if you give it your absolute best for a prolonged period.

5. Enjoy it! The best thing you can do is choose a type of exercise that you enjoy and leaves you feeling inspired to move and challenged. If you get this right the mistakes when starting out can be
significantly minimized.

Sara_3_FullOne of the most accomplished Pilates instructors for her age, Sara Colquhoun has been training in Pilates since the age of 14, and teaching since the age of 17. Her clients include elite AFL players and Australian Ballet dancers.

Sara’s background as a performing artist in dance – attending The Victorian College of the Arts after moving from Sydney at the age of 18 – led her to the natural progression of becoming an instructor.

After completing her diploma in dance and performing arts, Sara pursued a career in Pilates under guidance of Pilates International.  She is now owns and manages her own studio Ki Movement Pilates located on Clarendon Street in South Melbourne.

Throughout her teaching career Sara has trained AFL players from the Western Bulldogs, Australian Ballet dancers, VCA students, Musical theatre performers (Jersey Boys, West – “Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today” ~ Robert McKee 2  Side Story), Cirque de Soleil artists, all the way to radio presenters.

Sara’s highlight in her career to date is the recent accolade of winning the international competition to become the next Pilates Anytime instructor. She is one of the youngest instructors to join such an elite group of trainers on the site with direct lineage from founder of the movement, Joseph Pilates. Pilates Anytime is a global platform that has viewers from all around the world who will be watching and performing Sara’s classes.

She has big plans for bringing knowledge of body awareness, general health, well-being and an education of Pilates, along with communicating the benefits it has across all aspects of functional movement to everyday life.

Your Questions Answered

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Disclaimer: The information published in this column is based on each of the author’s own professional and personal knowledge and opinion. This information and opinion is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition and consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional or exercise program. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on InShape News.

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