Coming out of spin class last week, I heard a pair of my fellow riders giggling about trying to “get that tummy on flat-flat” and I thought it was so cute…
…so cute, in fact, that I was skeptical that they came up with it. (No shade.)
As it turns out, #TummyOnFlatFlat is a hashtag that the Flat Tummy Tea squad is using to rally its troops. (Just in case I haven’t beaten this horse to a pulp, this stuff doesn’t “work.” Here’s a link to read to help understand it.
So, here’s the thing.
I think there’s a lot of misconceptions about what it actually takes to get and keep a flat tummy—so much so, that it’s become this goal that everyone has, but no one knows what they’re doing.
I want to help change that.
Here are five important things you need to keep in mind while you’re trying to get your #tummyonflatflat:
1) If you want a flat tummy, what you actually need is to focus on fat loss. Teas of the Flat Tummy Tea ilk don’t do that—they’re merely laxative teas, which help you empty your digestive tract of anything you haven’t pooped out.
I know this kind of “weight loss tea” talk tends to dovetail with conversation about “green tea” and its ability to have a positive impact on your metabolism, but even that is overblown. (And thank goodness, because green tea is super-gross, IMO.)
studies have established that green tea contains caffeine and catechins that stimulate the nervous system, which can increase thermogenesis (burning stored energy) and fat oxidation. “The caffeine in green tea could raise your metabolic rate ever so slightly, but it wouldn’t have a different effect than coffee,” Michael Jensen, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic, tells The Salt.
[…] And another study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2009 found that green tea extract had no effect on the resting metabolic rate of 12 normal weight men.
A larger meta-analysis of the research on green tea published by the Cochrane Review found that green tea led to only small, statistically insignificant weight loss in overweight or obese adults. The review also noted that regular consumption of green tea didn’t help people keep weight off. [source]
There are ways to boost your metabolism and burn fat… drinking tea isn’t one of them. And a laxative tea isn’t helpful because…
2) If you need a laxative tea to poop, it’s because something is wrong in your diet.
Food is supposed to have fiber, which helps break down and push out food that you’ve already consumed and digested. If a laxative tea is what it takes to help you go on a regular basis, then it’s because your diet is running low on fiber and, likely, protein—two things you need to not only keep your digestive tract flowing properly, but also to help you avoid packing on additional body fat.
Increasing the amount of fiber in your diet inherently means increasing protein (like brown rice) and lower-carb, lower-calorie foods like vegetables, and cutting more processed foods like white breads, white rices, and sugary beverages. Not only do those foods not contain the naturally existing mechanisms to help you fill up (like fiber and protein!), but they essentially sit and stick inside your digestive system which gives you that appearance of an expanded waistline.
If a laxative tea is your only relief in helping you go, then your diet only ensures that you’ll go right back to having that full belly again. You have to change how you eat in order to not have to begin the cycle of eating badly, using a laxative to “clean out your insides” (which is a dangerous and unhealthy mentality, if I’m taking off my Big Sister hat and putting my professional hat on), and then going right back to eating badly… when, if your diet was as plentiful in fresh produce as it should be, you’d be frequently going without needing any assistance.
3) This also requires that you stay hydrated. First and foremost, laxative teas are dehydrating. You’re not only losing free water that you might be holding because of bloat or a bad diet; you’re losing water that helps you keep cool in hot weather, and keeps you from overheating during rigorous exercise…something you likely need if you’re running a rigorous plan for weight loss.
Also, you need to stay hydrated because it’s the second part of the fiber equation. You can eat all the fiber in the world, but you need actual fluids to help send it on its way.
Obviously, by “stay hydrated,” I mean “drink all the water.” (I mean, not all of it, but plenty of it.) This also helps reduce the potential for bloating, which also contributes to an expanding waistline.
And that’s water, not Gatorade, not VitaminWater, or some other such sugar-sweetened drink. Drinking sodapop and other sugar-sweetened beverages contribute sugar which reminds me…
4) The sugar content of your diet contributes directly to your waistline. I cannot stress this enough.
From Authority Nutrition:
Added sugar is very unhealthy.
Studies show that it has uniquely harmful effects on metabolic health (4).
Sugar is half glucose, half fructose, and fructose can only be metabolized by the liver in any significant amount (5).
When you eat a lot of refined sugar, the liver gets overloaded with fructose, and is forced to turn it all into fat (6).
Numerous studies have shown that excess sugar, mostly due to the large amounts of fructose, can lead to increased accumulation of fat in the belly (7).
Some believe that this is the primary mechanism behind sugar’s harmful effects on health. It increases belly fat and liver fat, which leads to insulin resistance and a host of metabolic problems (8).
Liquid sugar is even worse in this regard. Liquid calories don’t get “registered” by the brain in the same way as solid calories, so when you drink sugar-sweetened beverages, you end up eating more total calories (9, 10).
Studies show that sugar-sweetened beverages are linked to a 60% increased risk of obesity in children, per each daily serving (11).
Make a decision to minimize the amount of sugar in your diet, and consider completely eliminating sugary drinks.
This includes sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juices and various high-sugar sports drinks.
Keep in mind that none of this applies to whole fruit, which are extremely healthy and have plenty of fiber that mitigates the negative effects of fructose.
The amount of fructose you get from fruit is negligible compared to what you get from a diet high in refined sugar.
If you want to cut back on refined sugar, then you must start reading labels. Even foods marketed as health foods can contain huge amounts of sugar.
It’s directly linked to belly fat. Like, thoroughly and completely.
But, it’s not just sugar—it’s foods that, as simple carbs, do little more than convert directly into sugar when introduced to your digestive system. Breads, flours, rices—all white—all do the same thing. All cause the same problem.
(It’s not fruit, though. Here’s why.)
5) Certain exercises aren’t as helpful as you think they are in getting your flat tummy.
Crunches don’t do it—those only expand your waistline, because crunches are about building the abdominal muscles, not burning the fat surrounding them. (And, although having more muscle helps increase your metabolism, targeting these particular muscles doesn’t mean you’re only burning the fat in the nearby region. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to pick and choose where your body burns fat.)
The only thing that truly does it is activity that helps increase your heart rate and keeps it high for a sustained period of time. That’s both cardio exercise and high intensity interval training. Having your heart rate up is the only thing that ensures that your body is burning fat, no matter where you’re burning it from, so a good cardio session helps a ton. High intensity interval training helps even more, because the breaking down and rebuilding of muscle fiber is a process that boosts your metabolism, and that process starts the minute you grab that kettlebell/dumbbell/barbell/jump rope/whatever.
Want your #TummyOnFlatFlat? As you can see, it’s gonna take more than tea. Put in that work, change your diet, and leave the laxatives alone, and you’re golden.
Sure lose fat and cut down on carbs and sugar. However this doesn’t really make sense when you see people with flat stomachs who do nothing but eat candy and chips so it seems like there’s got to be some exercise to get flat abs that doesn’t involve diet.
So, when you think about it, it *does* make sense. “Losing fat” DOES mean including exercise—but, because the majority of us can’t really *lose* fat while eating garbage, it’s going to require cutting carbs and sugar.
I’ve talked about this a few times before—some people are just better at managing their daily calories than others.
What contributes to fat gain more than anything is *overdoing it* on the calories. But if you are frequently consuming far fewer calories than you burn each day, you’re going to prevent your body from being in a position to pile on fat no matter WHAT you eat.
I mean, if you are constantly consuming far fewer calories than you burn, and you choose to blow those calories on candy and chips, I mean…I hope for the best for your insides?
And, it’s also worth noting, we don’t know *what* people are actually doing to stay slim. We don’t know if they’re getting up at 4AM and running 10 miles a day, we don’t know if that chips and candy is the ONLY thing they’re eating all day. We don’t know if they have a regular monthly appointment with a plastic surgeon, and we don’t know if they’re sticking their fingers down their throats.
We can never assume about the bodies of others—we can only take the steps necessary to change our own in the healthiest and most realistic fashion for our day to day lives, feel me?
“…some people are just better at managing their daily calories than others.”
Whoa! Why did it never occur to me that I could actually become good at managing my daily caloric intake??? It doesn’t have to be a battle forever. It can be something I just get good at over time (like everything else I have to learn to do to live). Life. Changed.
Hi Erika; You didn’t mention Garcinia. […]
[Erika’s note: No, I didn’t, because it—and much of the stuff on your site—is a scam. Cheers!]
“We can never assume about the bodies of others—we can only take the steps necessary to change our own”
VERY VERY Extremely VERYILY WELL SAID!!!! (did i say very?)
also…i guess it doesnt occur to some ppl that..the everybody has a different metabolism….if ppl eating junk all the time & then stay slim & trim apparently they have a high or fast MTB rate…..or like u said…we dont know what kinda things theyr doing ……so yeah if my tummy is not naturally flat..then yes..its somethn that im doing wrong to my body..not my body doing it to me……I am.so thrilled to have ran across your blog Erika…Its apperent that you are very well educated as well as experienced in weight loss…while maintaing the ultimate goal of being healthy altogether.
Thank you for sharing your journey.
Erika, Isn’t there also a genetic aspect to it? Can some people be more “genetically” prone to have a flat stomach than others? What do you think?
Nothing I’ve seen signals that it’s a genetic predisposition to a flat stomach—if anything, there could be a nature/nurture component to people being inclined towards behaviors that make it easy/difficult to obtain or maintain one.
Am I making sense here?
Genetics do play a role. I know a lot of girl who eat whatever they want and their stomach is flat. I work out every day, eat vegan/vegetarian diet and I can’t get my stomach flat. Genetics play a role in everything but it can be combatted by lifestyle.
I couldn’t disagree more.
Your genetics are possibly not a finite entity. Lots of modern research studies how your genetics reflect what you’ve learned and what your body is learning about your role in life, and that this is what you pass down to your children. That being said, if this is truly the case, then your genetics are modifiable and can be taught, at any time, what to pass down through your gene pool. Because the research I’ve seen and witnessed leads me to believe that genetics cannot be the fall guy in everything health-related, I no longer use ‘genetics’ as a contribution. Too much of health and body-related issues are affected by active and deliberate choices for us to claim “genetics” as the source problem.
Being vegan or vegetarian doesn’t guarantee you or entitle you to a flat stomach, especially if your diet is still overwhelmingly carb-heavy. Being vegan or vegetarian guarantees you nothing, honestly, so your inability to accomplish this doesn’t rest on your eating lifestyle. On the contrary, I’m quite omnivorous and, now that I’m working off my baby weight, my gut was the first thing to go, and my flat tummy is returning. Additionally, “knowing a girl who eats whatever she wants” and still has a flat tummy doesn’t mean you know what that girl does to maintain her figure when no one’s looking, whether she’s sticking her finger down her throat or sweating her guts out—literally—on a spin bike every morning. You literally don’t know.
Modern research is drawing conclusions that genetics do not solely guide us; that this relationship works in both directions, with genetics being influenced by otherwise uninheritable traits and conditions. I could be persuaded into agreeing that genetics insofar as, say, testosterone levels make a difference, but that’s not what you’re getting at, especially when your reference is “knowing girls” who eat whatever and stay flat tummied.
“Stomach on flat-flat” actually came from Dj Khaled and Drake’s song “For Free”. Thanks for the tips!
You mean “tummy on flat-flat?”
Yeah, they got me together on Twitter about not knowing that. But, in my defense, having a toddler means I’m listening to much more Sesame Street and much less Drake lately. LOL
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