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The #1 Best Daily Habits for a Flat Belly, Say Physicians

Here’s how to get a flat belly, and keep it that way. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Excess belly fat—also known as visceral fat—is not only unsightly and uncomfortable, it's linked to a number of scary health conditions. "Extra fat that accumulates around the abdomen goes by many names: beer belly, spare tire, love handles, apple shape, middle-age spread, and the more technical 'abdominal obesity,'" says Harvey B. Simon, MD. "No matter what the name, it is the shape of risk. Abdominal obesity increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, erectile dysfunction, and other woes. The danger zone is a waist size above 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women." Here are the best daily habits to get a flat belly and keep it that way long-term. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Stop Eating So Much Junk

woman choosing healthy apple instead of junk dessert as a food swap to cut calories

They say abs are made in the kitchen—which means you need to focus on a healthy, nutritious, whole-food diet if you want a flat belly. "The popular 'flat belly diets' embrace much of the wisdom found in eating a Mediterranean diet, which helps everything from brain health to heart health," say Rasa Kazlauskaite, MD, and Sheila Dugan, MD. "The basic premise for both diets is to eat foods rich in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) that may help reduce your belly fat storage. MUFA-rich foods include olive oil, nuts and seeds, avocados, and fish. Eating yogurt regularly has also been found to be helpful in reducing belly fat."



woman jogging along a trail

Exercise is very important when it comes to a flat belly—but try to focus on whole-body workouts. "Patients want to know why they can't just do sit-ups to melt away the fat. When you do sit-ups, you're strengthening muscles in the abdomen, but that doesn't specifically target the fat or loose skin around our stomach. It's also important to understand that where we gain or lose fat is influenced by our genetics," says psychologist and registered dietitian David Creel, Ph.D, who recommends a combination of weight training and cardio to melt fat. "Any added muscle will increase our calorie burn at rest, whereas cardiovascular exercise will give our metabolism a boost during and for a short time after exercise. Exercise may also have indirect positive benefits on weight by helping us sleep better and manage emotional eating."


Get your Zzzzs

woman sleeping peacefully

If you're not getting enough sleep, it will impact your belly fat. "There is no doubt that insufficient sleep promotes hunger and appetite, which can cause excessive food intake resulting in weight gain," says Eve Van Cauter, director of the Sleep, Metabolism and Health Center at the University of Chicago. "Our body is not wired for sleep deprivation. The human is the only mammal that does this."

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Stop Stressing Out

happy woman over 40 stretches on yoga mat

Stress is really not good for your belly, experts say—and it's particularly bad for women. "We found that women with greater abdominal fat had more negative moods and higher levels of life stress," says Elissa S. Epel, Ph.D. "Greater exposure to life stress or psychological vulnerability to stress may explain their enhanced cortisol reactivity. In turn, their cortisol exposure may have led them to accumulate greater abdominal fat."

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Limit Alcohol

woman refusing glass of alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol is bad for your health—and your waistline, doctors warn, especially because drinking might lead to unwise food choices. "You may have wings with your beer or cheese with your wine," says Dr. Creel. "Yes, those things go together, but you're consuming extra calories and may not be paying attention to what or how much you're eating."

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more about Ferozan