I often get asked what’s the best way to decrease belly fat or how to get a tight tummy. There are so many gadgets out there promoting the next best thing such as wraps, lipo, injections, tucks, waist trimmers and the list goes on. No judgement if you like those things but for many of us the cost behind the knife isn’t in our budget.

So, what can we do to help move things along? Let’s start with the basics. We all know it’s important to eat well and exercise, that’s a given. But what else? What if we’re already eating healthy and exercising daily and nothing is budging?

Here’s some of the culprits worth mentioning:

1. Sleep: 99% of the time when a client comes to me frustrated with their muffin top, I immediately ask them how much sleep and stress is in their current routine? We know stress and sleep don’t have calories but man do they make it incredibly challenging to lose weight. Cortisol steps in and basically says, okay move over I’m the dominate one right now!

I cannot stress enough how important sleep is for not only our health but weight loss efforts included. Anytime we get under 8 hours of sleep (which is very common) our bodies store belly fat, we’re more likely to crave sweets and carbs and our hunger cues are wayyy off. We have to become BFF’s with our buddies Ghrelin (hunger cues and a signal to our brains it’s time to eat. A hunger pain or growl is the same thing.) and Leptin (suppresses our appetite). Here’s the deal: if we aren’t getting enough sleep, we can forget about having a bonding session with these two. We will be more hungry, increasing our Ghrelin levels and our Leptin sensors are telling us it’s time to eat, eat, eat!

2. Those sweetener packets! Here’s the deal, there’s no direct link between consuming artificial sweeteners and weight gain. BUT-and here’s the but, because of all of the chemicals and preservatives in these packets our brains think we need more food. The fake sugar isn’t good for you, period. Our brains literally think we’re eating so much sugar (it doesn’t know the difference) so our bodies think, “yay! we need more food!” There is research proven that drinks like diet coke and foods containing these sweeteners can cause metabolic syndrome down the road. This type of disease is linked to higher levels of body fat, (especially belly fat) and can cause major problems with our blood sugar levels. I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Do you ever notice you’re more hungry when you drink a diet coke with a meal? The diet coke tricks us into thinking we need more food when we are satisfied. Bottom line-opt for Stevia which is my personal favorite.

3. Strength training: duh! of course you knew I had to throw this in here because it’s true! We can be cardio junkies all day long but if we are not lifting weights our stomachs WILL NOT budge. That I can promise you. Start simple like body weight exercises such as planks and alternating leg crunches but make sure those dumbbells are to be found in the near future! It doesn’t matter how much cardio I do, if I’m not weight lifting forget it. I always notice a difference in my stomach if I’m not weight lifting, even if I’m eating well.

Remember, a flatter tummy is made in the kitchen more than the gym, so make sure to include all of those healthy foods in your diet. I live by the 80/20 rule. Speaking of which, I just made brownies and I’m about to have one right now. 🙂 Live in balance!

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