Don’t worry about making drastic changes just yet. A few small tweaks will help you curb bloating and slim your midsection the healthy way — no dietary restrictions or crazy workouts required.
Perfect Your Posture
Straighten up and your figure look better right away, advises The Biggest Loser trainer Kim Lyons. “When your posture is good, you’re automatically engaging and toning your stomach muscles,” she says. If you need to remind yourself to stand tall, a few strategically-placed sticky notes should do the trick.
Keep those fluids coming! “Being dehydrated causes the body to hoard water,” Lyon says, leading you to carry up to four excess pounds around your midsection. Aim for at least eight cups of water or other fluids daily.
Eat More H2O
Yep, you read that right. High-water foods like fruits and veggies will fill you up faster, says Jaclyn London, M.S., R.D., C.D.N, Nutrition Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute. Start your meal with soup, salad or her favorite pick: Pre-dinner sliced crudité and spicy hummus. The combo of capsaicin (a spice in hot peppers) and the chickpeas’ soluble fiber can help curb hunger.
Reach for the Almonds
Research has linked snacking on nuts with having a lower waist circumference. Nuts are rich in monounsaturated fats, making them a more satisfying pick than pretzels. Make sure you stick to the unsalted versions to stave off sodium-induced puff, and keep in mind one serving is about a small handful.
Brew Some Coffee
Another win for your cup of joe: Caffeinated coffee is a natural (mild) diuretic, which helps you de-puff by eliminating excess water in the body. Java’s stimulating effects also keep things moving in your gut, London says. The regular bowel movements help with a flatter belly.
Power Up Your Breakfast
Add low-fat milk to your morning cereal and you may have a belly-busting win. Diets high in calcium-containing foods have been linked with healthier body weight. Plus, the minerals found in dairy products — calcium, potassium and magnesium — can help to counterbalance bloat-inducing sodium.
Have a Seat
“Most women don’t want to talk about it, but you really have to set aside a specific time each day to use the bathroom,” notes Judith Reichman, M.D., a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, Los Angeles. If you don’t, it’s too easy to give into feeling rushed, and ignore the urge to go.” Once you’ve trained your brain to dismiss your body’s signals, you set the stage for bloat-inducing constipation.
Rather than scarfing down meals, make a point of chewing each bite at least 10 times before swallowing. “The body has to work overtime to break down food in the stomach and intestines, which can lead to major gas and indigestion,” Dr. Reichman says. Plus, when you eat fast, you’re more prone to swallowing air, which can ratchet up your risk of developing a potbelly.
Turn to the “Pros”
“Probiotics are ‘good’ bacteria that help your digestive system break down food, preventing the gastrointestinal issues that can keep you from having a flat stomach,” explains nutritionist Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., author of . To ensure your plumbing is working at optimum capacity, Bowden suggests eating a daily serving of a probiotic-rich food like yogurt, kimchi, miso, sauerkraut or buttermilk.
Walk It Off
Try to squeeze in a 30-minute walk daily, Lyons says. The simple boost in metabolism will help you burn waistline fat more efficiently. And if you want to work out, skip those gadgets that promise “miraculous abs in minutes.” A study from Kansas State University found most devices designed to target abs (think infomercials) don’t live up to their promises. You’ll see better results with traditional exercise.
Give Up Gum
Because chewing forces you to swallow more puff-producing air, it can also keep you from squeezing into your skinny jeans, explain researchers at the American College of Gastroenterology. If you need to freshen your breath, you’re better off sucking on a mint.
“When you’re frazzled, your body increases its production of steroids and stress hormones, which negatively affect your digestive system, causing major constipation,” says Dr. Reichman. And as if that weren’t enough to leave you looking pouchy, stress also amps up the production of cortisol, a “fight or flight” hormone that sends excess fat directly to your midsection in its attempt to protect your vital organs. To minimize tension, Dr. Reichman advises taking 20 minutes a day to relax.