For many women, getting bikini ready means tackling one dreaded area in particular — our tummies.
Most of us still think the best way to achieve a washboard stomach is by doing hundreds of sit-ups. Not so, says A-list trainer and body guru James Duigan.
James, who sculpts supermodels Elle Macpherson and Rosie Huntingdon-Whiteley among others, insists there is no ‘one size fits all’ method for getting a flat belly. Instead, he’s identified five key ‘tummy types’, all of which require a different approach to achieve successful toning.
Get a flat stomach: First you need to identify your tummy type
THE SPARE TYRE TUMMY
The spare tyre: This is one of the easiest tummy troubles to eliminate because it's caused by eating the wrong foods and not exercising enough
HOW TO IDENTIFY THIS TYPE
These people are likely to lead sedentary lives, perhaps with jobs that keep them desk-bound. They may also have an emotional attachment to sugary foods.
Luckily, this ‘spare tyre’ is one of the easiest tummy troubles to eliminate as, according to James, it’s caused by eating the wrong foods and not exercising enough.
TYPICAL BAD HABITS
‘If you exercise very little, eat lots of sugar and refined carbohydrates in products like biscuits, cakes and white bread, or rely on starchy carbs like pasta and rice, you probably have an overweight tummy with accompanying fat on your legs and hips,’ says James.
MIDRIFF MAKEOVER PLAN
- Cut down on alcohol. ‘Alcohol is a fat bomb for the tummy — pure sugar which goes straight to your waist and stops you burning all other fat until the booze has been processed,’ says James. ‘Just a few glasses three to four times a week will lead to a “wine waist” — a thick midriff and podgy tummy. ‘If you want to drink occasionally that’s fine, but the bottom line is that you have to cut back on booze to get a flat belly.’
- Once you cut out alcohol for two weeks, it’s time to overhaul your diet. ‘In a nutshell, eat well and move more,’ says James. Avoid low-fat and so-called ‘diet’ snacks. ‘These pre-packaged products are often packed full of chemicals, refined sugar, salt and preservatives to give them flavour.
- ‘Ditch calorie counting in favour of a healthy diet full of unprocessed fresh foods such as fish, eggs, organic meat and vegetables. ‘Start the day with eggs and smoked salmon, or even grilled chicken and vegetables, and snack on sliced lean meats. ‘And don’t be afraid of eating good fats, such as avocados, nuts and oily fish. These encourage your body to burn midriff fat, giving you a flat tummy.’
- ‘Exercise is the key to helping this tummy type,’ says James. Simply going for a long walk, doing lunges, squats or dips at home or a yoga class will be beneficial. You don’t need a gym.
TOP TIP FOR THIS TUMMY
If you regularly reward yourself for a hard day with a piece of cake or deal with bad news with a biscuit, it’s important to remember that being beautiful is as much about how you feel as how you look. The starting point for any tummy transformation is feeling happy.
THE STRESS TUMMY
Stress tummy: These types are typically over-achievers with perfectionist personalities
HOW TO IDENTIFY THIS TYPEStressed-tummy types are typically over-achievers with perfectionist personalities. They are usually also susceptible to digestive conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which can cause bloating and make their tummies look far worse.
‘Stress tummies are easy to spot, as the weight is specific to the front of the midriff and the umbilical area,’ explains James. ‘When stressed, we produce cortisol, a hormone which encourages the body to cling on to fat around the stomach.’
Stressed tummies will also be fairly hard to the touch, rather than wobbly.
TYPICAL BAD HABITSIt’s likely you skip meals, abuse your adrenal system with too much caffeine and grab junk food for convenience.
MIDRIFF MAKEOVER PLAN
- Get an early night. ‘Stressed women nearly always sleep badly, which disrupts the production of leptin, the hormone which helps regulate appetite and metabolism,’ James explains. ‘This is why we eat more when we are tired and crave fat-depositing sugary snacks for an instant energy boost.’
- Combat exhaustion with a relaxation strategy of deep-breathing, meditation and long baths before bed to encourage a good night’s sleep and limit coffee consumption to no more than two cups a day.
- Don’t go for the burn when exercising. ‘Excessive cardio which increases cortisol levels isn’t the answer,’ says James. ‘Instead, yoga, long walks and resistance work with weights is perfect for sculpting and building up strength while calming the system.’
- Magnesium is a calming mineral to help soothe a stressed belly. James advises eating lots of magnesium-rich foods such as dark green leafy vegetables, Brazil nuts and seeds.
TOP TIP FOR THIS TUMMYStress-busting stretches and yoga poses at night time can help to lower cortisol levels, while chamomile teas or James’ own Bodyism Body Serenity supplement (£30 for 20 servings, bodyism.com) can also help the body unwind.
THE LITTLE POOCH
The little pooch: These women are likely to be busy mums or have demanding careers - hey may even be a gym junkie
HOW TO IDENTIFY THIS TYPEThese women are likely to be busy mums or have demanding careers. ‘They may even be a gym junkie, but stuck in a workout-and-diet rut, perhaps always eating the same foods and doing the same routine at the gym, which keeps you slim but leaves you with a lower belly that spoils your silhouette,’ says James.
TYPICAL BAD HABITS‘Doing excessive crunches and using gimmicky gym items such as ab-rollers can place a strain on the hip flexors and the lower back, causing the tummy muscles to protrude so your belly sticks out,’ says James.
MIDRIFF MAKEOVER PLAN
- Good nutrition and plenty of fibre are essential to improve digestive conditions such as inflammation, bloating and constipation, which can make a pooch tummy worse. Green leafy vegetables, oatbran and wholemeal grains are good, natural sources of fibre.
- Sit-ups done incorrectly increase your lower back curve and accentuate the ‘pouch’ effect. Swap sit-ups for planks. Do these by lying face down on a mat, resting on your forearms. Push off from the floor, rising onto your toes and elbows, so your body is parallel to the floor from your head to your heels. Start off doing ten seconds and build up to a whole minute.
- It’s a common misconception that using weights bulks women up. In fact, the opposite is true. Using weights will burn serious amounts of fat in a short space of time, so try introducing circuits — repetitions of exercises like squats or lunges which work individual muscle sets.
TOP TIP FOR THIS TUMMYBe kind to your tummy, reduce inflammation by drinking lots of water and eating easy-to-digest foods such as green vegetables and lighter proteins such as fish and chicken.
THE MUMMY TUMMY
The Mummy tummy: Women with these bellies have usually given birth in the past few years, and, being a typical mum, have little time for themselves
HOW TO IDENTIFY THIS TYPEWomen with these tummies have usually given birth in the past few years, and, being a typical mum, have little time for themselves. ‘After giving birth, the uterus drops and is much heavier than it was pre-pregnancy,’ says James. ‘It takes at least six weeks to return to its usual size, so don’t even think about trying to get a flat stomach until after then.
‘You need to re-train your pelvic floor and lower abs to increase blood flow and strengthen loose muscles.’
TYPICAL BAD HABITSRushing back to exercise too quickly. ‘I would suggest waiting around two to three months,’ says James. ‘Being stressed about getting rid of your baby weight will only make you cling onto it more. Give yourself a break!’
MIDRIFF MAKEOVER PLAN
- ‘Fish oil supplements turn on fat-burning hormones and turn off fat-storing hormones,’ says James. ‘Begin by taking three 1,000mg capsules a day with meals and build up to five. I’ve trained Elle Macpherson through two pregnancies and she takes these every day.’
- Try to eat good fats — found in sources such as nuts, oils and olives — every day. ‘Not only do they help you burn fat and absorb vitamins from food effectively, they also help combat tiredness — a big help for tired mums,’ says James.
- Gentle pelvic floor exercises (known as Kegels) act as a natural corset for the body to flatten your tummy from the inside out. Squeeze and clench your pelvic floor muscles 15-20 times, in five sessions a day.
- Steer clear of sit-ups. ‘After giving birth, the linea alba muscles — which run down the mid-line of the abdomen — separate and you need to allow them to recover,’ says James. ‘Crunches are the worst thing you can do, as they will force these muscles farther apart. Instead, breathe deep into your tummy while on all fours, then slowly exhale while doing a pelvic floor exercise.’
TOP TIP FOR THIS TUMMYDaytime naps (try putting up blackout blinds) and stretching before bed are important ways to restore sleep hormones and boost fat-burning.
THE BLOATED TUMMY
Bloated tummies: These are often flat in the morning, but swell throughout the day with gas or indigestion
HOW TO IDENTIFY THIS TYPEBloated tummies are often flat in the morning, but swell throughout the day with gas or indigestion. Bloating affects both slim and overweight women. It is almost always caused by food intolerances and allergies, or sluggish bowels as a result of a poor diet.
TYPICAL BAD HABITSYou eat the same foods and may have done so for a lifetime without realising you’re intolerant to them.
MIDRIFF MAKEOVER PLAN
- ‘The most common intolerances I see are wheat and gluten (bread, pasta, pastries, pizza, cakes and cereals), alcohol, yeast (in muffins, beer and pastries) and processed dairy (cheese, milk, butter),’ says James. ‘Gluten in particular can inflame the bowel and make the stomach look bigger.
- ‘Experiment to work out what bothers your belly as you know your body better than anyone else. Try eliminating key culprits such as gluten for a fortnight to see if your bloating reduces, or worsens when you reintroduce foods. Focus on a diet with lots of fresh veg, meat, chicken and fish.’
- Sluggish bowels are often a result of eating the wrong foods in the wrong way. Make breakfast your biggest meal, as this is when digestion is at its peak, and avoid eating late at night which leads to bloating. Chew food properly and drink plenty of water to keep the digestive system moving.
- Bloating can be a sign of imbalanced gut flora. So to get your tummy really flat you need to repopulate it with friendly bacteria. Prebiotic and probiotic supplements are the simplest way. Natural sources include miso soup, sour cream and some fruit and veg including kale, garlic and onions. A healthy gut means a flat stomach.
TOP TIP FOR THIS TUMMY
Believe it or not, breathing can be the best thing you can do for this kind of tummy. Try this each morning: lay on your back, completely relaxed, and breathe deep into your tummy ten times. After eating, a walk will help the digestive process, too.
#Adapted from Clean & Lean Flat Tummy Fast! by James Duigan (£12.99 Kyle Cathie). For more information, go to bodyism.com.