In just two weeks you want to slide into your bathing suit or work pants without your belly protruding over the waistband. You can drop a few pounds to look slimmer and reduce bloat in 14 days, but that's no guarantee you'll achieve a flat stomach. Belly fat takes time to lose — especially if you have a generous amount of it.
Why Your Stomach Isn't Flat
Your stomach may be distended or bloated due to your diet, hormones or habits that cause you to swallow air, such as chewing gum and drinking through a straw. It's relatively easy to flatten your tummy in two weeks if it's pooched due to these digestive issues.
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A belly carrying a lot of extra fat will take longer than two weeks to trim. Fat at your belly is both subcutaneous, which sits under the skin, and visceral, which surrounds the internal organs.
Although neither is great, visceral fat is particularly dangerous as it secretes compounds that increase body inflammation and risk of disease. You lose both types of belly fat in the same way you lose any body fat — with moderate calorie reductions and increased physical movement.
Make Dietary Changes
Cutting back on gas-producing foods, including onions, brussels sprouts, beans, raisins, apricots, bran and leeks, can help reduce uncomfortable abdominal pressure and bloat.
Also avoid the sugar alcohols of sorbitol and mannitol found in some sugar-free candies and gum, as well as soda and fruit juice. Reduce your intake of refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, sugary sweets and white rice.
These processed carbohydrates cause spikes in your insulin level, which encourages your body to store excess sodium increasing your fluid volume and making you feel bloated. Sodium-saturated foods, especially restaurant meals and canned soups, also encourage bloat, so avoid them for the two weeks prior to your flat-belly debut.
If you're looking to lose belly fat, reduce your calorie intake below what you burn. A safe rate of weight loss is 1 to 2 pounds per week, though you might lose a little more in these first couple of weeks due to water loss.
This requires you consume 500 to 1,000 calories fewer than you use every day. A woman should eat at least 1,200 calories daily and a man 1,800 calories. Eating fewer in an attempt to lose pounds quicker slows down your metabolism and skimps on important nutrients.
Losing weight doesn't guarantee a flat belly, either. You can be of a healthy weight and still have a small pooch due to past pregnancies, hormones or genetics.
Two weeks gives you time to get a flatter belly, but probably not one that will get you hired as a swimsuit model. This doesn't mean you should abandon your efforts to eat more healthfully and move more. Just be realistic and proud of what you can achieve in two weeks so you keep up the work for the long term.
Pay Attention to Your Fluid Intake
What you drink also affects the shape of your stomach. Two weeks gives you enough time to address any fluid imbalances that are contributing to a less-than-flat stomach.
Cut back on carbonated drinks — soda and even calorie-free club soda or sparkling water — which can contribute to bloat, but don't stop drinking altogether.
When you're dehydrated, your body holds onto fluid, making your belly feel swollen. Being under-hydrated can contribute to constipation, which may leave your stomach distended.
The exact amount of water you need varies according to individual and climate — hotter locations require you to hydrate more frequently. Drink when thirsty and replace fluids lost through sweat during exercise or time in the heat. Urine that is lightly colored, like lemonade, is a good indication that you're getting enough.
Increase your daily physical activity to reduce belly fat. Visceral fat is especially responsive to exercise and is some of the first fat you lose when you start to move more and burn calories.
Use the two weeks to jump start a fitness routine if you're not already active -- aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio most days. Cycling, cardio kickboxing, brisk walking and pedaling an elliptical are examples.
Exercise also helps get things moving if you're constipated, hormonal or gassy — further contributing to a flat belly.
If you already have a fitness routine, kick up the intensity by performing high-intensity intervals or metabolic circuits to scorch more calories and stimulate greater fat oxidation.
Intervals involve alternating short bursts of a very high-intensity activity, such as a minute long sprint, with recovery, such as a minute of easy jogging. Metabolic circuits alternate a minute or so of high-intensity resistance training moves with a minute or two of moderate-intensity cardio to stimulate muscle growth and promote fat burning.
You string together five or more exercises to create a circuit. For example, do a minute each of the following with no breaks:
Repeat up to three times, resting a minute between sets. Over the course of two weeks, do four to six of these interval workouts on non-consecutive days.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Weight-loss and Nutrition Myths
- American College of Sports Medicine: Metabolism is Modifiable with the Right Lifestyle Changes
- Rush University Medical Center: Is There 'One Trick' to Losing Belly Fat?
- Precor: Achieve Results with Queenax Metabolic Circuits
- Authority Nutrition: 6 Ways to Reduce Water Retention