Depending on where you're starting, getting a lean stomach in one month might or might not be possible. But even if you're not quite at the "sexy tummy in 30 days" stage, you can still make substantial progress and set yourself up for future flat-belly success by building healthy habits.
Keep Your Goals Realistic
Who wouldn't want to have a total stomach transformation in one month? But unless you're pretty close to the stomach of your dreams already, you may have to settle for establishing the healthy lifestyle habits that will help you get — and keep — a sexy, flat stomach over time. That's not a bad consolation prize.
There are plenty of crash diets that will promise you immediate, drastic weight loss — and some of them even deliver ... temporarily. The problem is that these "crash diet" habits aren't sustainable, and some of those habits — such as starvation-level calorie limits — can cause serious health problems. Those rapid weight loss plans often backfire because when you use unsustainable habits to lose weight, the weight tends to come back on with a vengeance as soon as you return to your normal ways.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies a more realistic weight-loss goal as 1 to 2 pounds per week, or 4 to 8 pounds per month. While that rate of weight loss might not get you a board-flat stomach immediately, it gives you the time to build healthy habits that are not only sustainable, but enjoyable too. And that, in turn, makes it easier to get — and keep — that lean stomach you want.
Losing Body Fat
In the long-term battle to lose belly fat, you have one real goal: Establish and maintain a calorie deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories per day. That's what it takes to reach the CDC's recommended 1 to 2 pounds of weight loss per week.
There are two tools you can use to reach that goal, and those are increasing physical activity to burn more calories and slightly reducing your caloric intake. According to research findings from the National Weight Control Registry, the vast majority of people who successfully lose weight and keep it off use a combination of both methods.
However, don't fall into the trap of starving yourself to lose weight quickly, no matter how badly you want to get a flat stomach in one month. As the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute notes, women can generally lose weight safely on an eating plan that contains 1,200 to 1,500 calories each day, while men can generally lose weight safely on 1,500 to 1,800 calories per day. If you intend to eat less than that, consult a doctor first.
Check Your Diet
There is one exception to the idea that you can't get a flat stomach in one month: If bloating is the only thing keeping you from a toned stomach, diet changes can help very quickly. While some gas is normal, intestinal illnesses and food allergies or sensitivities can cause unusual bloating. Eliminating the foods you're sensitive to can make an enormous difference in the state of your belly, inside and out.
Eating too fast, overeating, chewing gum, drinking carbonated beverages, hormonal imbalances, sugar alcohols (such as xylitol) and a caffeine habit can all contribute to bloating too — and so can stress. Just to add insult to injury, a high-fiber diet can cause bloating too — but so can a low-fiber diet. As the University of Colorado Boulder points out, the trick is finding a balance.
Although eating fiber-rich foods can help you feel satiated and thus control your eating habits, try increasing your intake gradually to help lessen any intestinal distress. While you're at it, you can help cut down on short-term bloat by staying away from starchy, processed and salty foods. Eliminating snacks that encourage you to "gulp" air — like chewing gum and carbonated drinks — can help more than you might expect, as can taking the time to chew your food more thoroughly.
Read more: How to Tighten Up Loose Stomach Fat
Flat Stomach Exercises
It's time for a quick report of good news, bad news. The bad news is that exercising a specific body part won't magically melt fat away from that body part; this whole concept, known as spot reduction, is a myth. The good news is that if you put some effort into ab exercises now, you'll sculpt the sort of muscle that helps create a sexy, lean stomach once you've shed excess body fat.
According to a small study commissioned and published by the American Council on Exercise in 2014, the humble abdominal crunch produced the most activity in the rectus abdominis, the so-called "six-pack" muscle that runs down the front of your abs. Other particularly effective exercises included the stability ball crunch, decline bench curl-up and the Perfect Sit-Up exercise device, for the upper rectus abdominis; along with the stability ball crunch, decline curl-up, ab straps and captain's chair crunch for the lower rectus abdominis.
But wait, there's more good news. Workouts like Pilates, barre and some types of yoga have a reputation for quickly slimming down your waistline because they focus on building core strength, which in turn encourages better posture. Add this sort of core- and posture-enhancing workout into your exercise routine to burn even more calories and give yourself a near-magical "waistlift."
Don't Be Alarmed
Exercise is an important part of almost every weight loss program — but don't be alarmed if you find yourself actually gaining a couple of pounds during the first week you're working out. Although it's not uncommon for some exercisers to see steep weight loss at first, as the Cleveland Clinic explains, it's also common to gain a couple pounds of water weight when you first start an exercise program.
That retention is mainly due to short-term water retention from micro-traumas to your muscles and shifts in how your body utilizes glycogen to fuel your muscle contractions. Happily for you, the month you have to work with is about how long it usually takes that temporary water weight to leave your body.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "What Is Healthy Weight Loss?"
- Cleveland Clinic: "I Just Started Exercising — Why Am I Gaining Weight?"
- American Council on Exercise: "Abs! Abs! Abs!"
- ExRx.net: "Spot Reduction Myth"
- National Weight Control Registry: "NWCR Facts"
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: "Healthy Eating Plan"
- University of Colorado Boulder: "Let It Rip"