Flatten Your Belly Without Diet or Exercise
By Daisy Melamed
This isn’t an infomercial, folks! We know it might sound too good to be true—like those ads that come on in the middle of the night—but there really are ways to trim your tummy that don’t require endless crunches or white-knuckling it through every craving.
Incorporate these exclusive Eat This, Not That! tricks and tips into your everyday life for a belly-slimming boost on top of your diet and exercise routine, or as a suffer-free way to flatten your belly a little bit every day.
Avoid viewership munching
Carolyn Brown, MS RD at Foodtrainers in New York City, says that one of the biggest pitfalls our diets encounter is eating in front of the television. “It makes you munch more!” she says. “This is partially because the unhealthy food and drink ads make you crave them, and also because of all that mindless munching.” And science agrees: A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that paying attention to your eating can aid in weight loss, while eating with a distraction (like, ahem, watching television) caused an immediate and long-term increase in eating. In fact, it’s not just watching TV in general that can up your snacking, but the type of TV show. One recent study found that action movies and talk shows both tended to cause viewers to up their food intake. Make sure you snack away from your ‘tube to be aware of what you’re eating, and how much.
Opt for small, red plates
Yes, you read that correctly: Small red plates. Though you might be stocking your kitchen with dining ware that clashes with your decor, the trade off is a slimmer stomach. Double down on the slimming effects by reaching for the smaller plates. “The bigger your plate, the bigger your meal,” according to Brown. Swapping dinner plates out for salad plates will help trick your brain into craving less food. And, yes, go with red. In a study published in the journal Appetite, subjects consumed less snack food and soda when their plates and cups were red. Researchers suggest the color red reduces the amount we’re likely to eat by subtly telling the mind to stop noshing. It’s worth stocking up on rouge tableware to cut some calories.
Eat sunflower seeds
Sunflower seeds have a secret weapon against unwanted pounds. As Brown explains, they’re packed with linoleic acids (also known as conjugated linoleic acids, or CLAs). According to Brown, just two to three tablespoons a day may help lower your body fat composition. Subjects in a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition who were given 3.2 grams per day of CLA saw modest fat reduction compared to those given a placebo, and in a similar study published in Nutrition, overweight and obese participants given CLA supplements saw lowered body weight, BMI, total fat mass and waist-to-hip ratio after twelve weeks with no apparent adverse side effects. Brown suggests keeping some sunflower seeds in your purse or briefcase so you can sprinkle them over salad or soups whenever the opportunity arises.
Schedule in time for hydration
Sure, you know that water is great for you, but do know you how great? “Water is by far the most overlooked, easy way to lose weight,” Brown promises. “Water flushes your body out and gets rid of any excess bloat and salt retention, and it increases your energy and mood.” But, we know it can be difficult to remember to keep the H2O flowing throughout a busy day. Try putting in a calendar reminder or setting an alarm every few hours to remind yourself to refill that water bottle on your desk to keep yourself hydrated (and slender) all day long. Add some fresh, sliced citrus to your water pitcher for a refreshing, slimming twist. It's one of the key parts of our Ultimate One-Day Detox.
Try some natural bloat-busters
When you’re trying to get on a healthy track, instant gratification is key to keep your motivation (and your mood) up. Brown suggests mixing dandelion greens, asparagus and lemon into your daily meals—though not all at once—during “flat belly-focused weeks.” They’re gentle diuretics that help combat excess water weight; you’ll start feeling slim in no time, giving you some extra motivation to make some other trimming changes.
Keep yourself busy
Downtime can be dangerous for your waistline. In fact, one study concluded that people eat when they’re bored to escape monotony (rather than increase satisfaction), a fact that was discovered when comparing the boredom-based urge to eat with a similar urge to electrically shock oneself. Don’t self-harm through snacking!
Instead of giving into snack cravings or boredom munchies while watching television, try out a new hobby or two to keep your hands—and your mind—occupied. In particular, Brown says that doing a puzzle, picking up knitting or doing other craft projects have proven helpful, but anything that keeps your hands away from the pantry will do! You can even keep your hands out of the chip bag by painting your nails while watching your favorite show. Whatever you do, just keep yourself busy for a short while, Brown says. “Research shows cravings usually last between 5-10 minutes, sometimes as short as 3 minutes. So take some deep breaths and a walk around the block til it passes!” When you feel the need to snack out of actual hunger, go for it guilt-free! Keep these 50 Best Snacks for Weight Loss on hand.
Let yourself indulge to keep yourself from over-indulging
Eating healthy doesn’t have to mean depriving yourself of everything you love. According to one Stanford study, we all have a unique “taste-health balance point,” that allows us to feel satisfied with a certain ratio of indulgent food to healthy food. Specifically, the study concluded that most people only need about ¼ of their “vice-virtue bundle” to be made up of the vice (let’s say it’s ice cream) and ¾ can be the good stuff (apple and peanut butter, anyone?) to encourage people to feel satisfied and eat more of the healthy stuff. So go ahead and let yourself have some French fries with dinner, but be sure to also have a couple extra bites of salad for the perfect balance.
Close the kitchen at night
Limiting when you eat is, in some ways, just as important as limiting what you eat. According to a recent study published in Cell Metabolism, mice that engaged in “time-restricted feeding”—eating only during a 9-12 hour period of activity and abstaining from food for the 12 hour sedentary, overnight period—showed signs of reversing the progression of metabolic disease and Type II diabetes. In fact, the experiment showed that eating under a time-restricted feeding schedule effectively stymied weight gain even when used with high-calorie, high-fructose and high-fat diets, and still effective even when the TRF was disrupted on the weekends (which is great to know, because how many times have you given in to a late-night craving on a Saturday?). In other words, stay away from the pantry from 8pm to 8am. If you do have the munchies, be sure to reach for one of our recommended midnight snacks.