Beach babe curves? Check. Honed legs? Sort of. Toned tum? Eek! That holy grail — a bikini body — is the one target that most of us find hard to keep under control. That’s why we’ve enlisted the help of celebrity trainer James Duigan, the man who shaped Elle Macpherson, no less. Here, he shows how 12 simple lifestyle changes will help get your tum to beachworthy and beyond.
1 Eat fat
I’m talking about good fat, the sort found in nuts, avocados, oily fish and oils. I’m not talking about bad fat — also known as trans fats, which often go under the names hydrogenated oil, hydrogenated vegetable fat and partially hydrogenated vegetable fat. Good fats should be eaten every day.
They encourage your body to burn fat around your middle, giving you a nice, flat tummy, and help to absorb vitamins and minerals more efficiently. So whenever you have a salad, always add some good fat to it, whether you drizzle it with olive oil or sprinkle over some chopped nuts or seeds.
2 Take a bath
Lots of my model clients take an Epsom salts bath just before a bikini photo shoot. Just add one or two mugs of Epsom salts to a hot bath — not too hot, as you want to be able to sit in it comfortably. Epsom salts are an ancient remedy for drawing out toxins. Taking one or two of these baths a week will speed up your weight loss.
3 Spring-clean your insides
The ideal ratio of bacteria in a healthy human gut is 85 percent friendly to 15 percent harmful. However, studies show that too many people in the West have this ratio the other way around. If your stomach doesn’t feel fantastic or if it looks or feels noticeably different (swollen, sore, bloated, etc) after eating certain foods, then it may be time you cleaned up your gut in order to get your stomach really flat. To do this, you must first eliminate all the foods, chemicals and products that cause the bad bacteria to breed.
- Drink filtered water rather than the chlorinated water that comes out of your tap.
- Eat organic meat. If money is an issue, eat meat less often and buy better quality for the times when you do. Non-organic meat comes from animals that are fed antibiotics, which you then end up consuming.
- Cut out alcohol, which kills friendly probiotics (it’s also packed with sugar, which makes you fat).
- If you have to take antibiotics, remember that they kill all bacteria — friendly and unfriendly — so always take probiotics afterwards to replenish your good bacteria.
- Many everyday, over-the-counter drugs can lead to a paunch, so keep all unnecessary medications to an absolute minimum.
4 Don’t overcook it
If you overcook food, you’ll kill off or reduce the number of nutrients it contains. Try to make sure about 50 per cent of the food on your plate is raw. If you can manage it, eat all your vegetables raw. If not, steam, blanch or roast them to retain as many of their nutrients as possible.
5 Beware of gluten
Foods that contain gluten can weaken your abdominal wall and make it slack, resulting in a protruding stomach. Lots of people are gluten intolerant, which can inflame the bowel and make it look bigger, especially just below the belly button. Foods containing gluten include: bread and pasta (unless otherwise stated on the packaging); most breakfast cereals; muffins; pastries; baked goods; pizza bases; pie crusts; biscuits; cakes; croissants; bagels; alcohol made from grains, eg, beer, whisky, bourbon and liqueurs; cheese spread; tomato sauce; processed meats; margarine; oats; salad dressings; sausages; seasoning mixes; semolina; soups (apart from home-made); soy sauce and most Chinese sauces; sweets that contain stabilisers made from gluten
6 Sleep it off
We’ve come a long way since going to bed when the sun sets and waking up when it rises, but this is how our bodies were — and still are — designed to function. Most of us follow a completely different sleep timetable to that of our ancestors, but if you return to this old-fashioned way of sleeping, you’ll lose weight, especially around your tummy and waist. A hormone called leptin is responsible for telling your brain when your stomach is full and it also helps to control appetite and metabolism. Not sleeping properly disrupts this hormone, which is why you find yourself eating more when you’re sleep deprived. However, there are ways of tweaking sleep to resemble our ancestors’ schedule, but which are still practical for modern life. Here are five tips for tummy-toning sleep:
- In the hour or two before bed, turn off your laptop, TV and mobile phone, and keep your lights low. You need to make your environment dull and calm, in keeping with your natural body clock.
- If your bedroom is too hot or too cold, you won’t sleep; the ideal is 16°C-18°C. * If possible, have 15-minute power naps during the day. Even if you can’t fall asleep, have 15 minutes with no electronic gadgets, books or magazines. Just lie down with your eyes closed and breathe deeply.
- Use blackout blinds in your bedroom to cut out any sunlight, street lights or lights from passing traffic. Failing that, buy an eye mask and pop it on before you go to sleep.
- Establish a bedtime routine. Do something relaxing every night before bed, whether it’s having a bath, listening to music (studies show that classical music calms the brain), or reading a chapter of a book, then go to sleep at the same time each night, give or take 30 minutes.
7 Eat flat-tummy foods
It’s hard to escape stress in modern life, which doesn’t help us win the battle of the bulge. Studies show that the stress hormone cortisol causes our bodies to dump fatty deposits all over our tummies and waists. Being stressed all the time is like sticking on an extra inch of fat. The following foods can help to reduce stress, which, in turn, will keep your tummy flat.
- Blueberries are top of my list because they’re a low-GI (glycaemic index) food, which keeps your blood-sugar (and energy) levels steady. Eat a handful of blueberries every day, if you can.
- Green vegetables, such as broccoli, kale and asparagus – the darker the colour, the better.
- Red, yellow and orange vegetables, including tomatoes, carrots and peppers.
- Turkeycontains an amino acid called L-tryptophan, which triggers the release of serotonin (a relaxing, feel-good brain chemical).
- At least 2-3 litres of still, room-temperature water sipped regularly throughout the day.
- Natural, organic yogurt provides a good hit of minerals, including calcium, which is important for your nerves. Yogurt also neutralises the acidity caused by stress.
- Oily fish, such as salmon, tuna and mackerel, contains lots of Omega fatty acids, which control levels of cortisol and adrenalin (another stress hormone) in the body.
- Almonds, pistachios and walnuts are full of vitamins B and E, which boost your immune system (whereas stress weakens it). Have a small handful of nuts every day.
- Avocados help to lower blood pressure because of all the monounsaturated fat and potassium they contain.
- Rockmelon is an excellent source of vitamin C, which is great for beating stress.
- Beef is full of iron, zinc and B vitamins, all of which have been shown to chill you out. Limit yourself to one or two portions a week, organic, if possible.
8 Don’t be a screenager
Limit the amount of time you spend watching TV or browsing on your computer in the evening. It will suck the life out of you, disrupt your sleep and overstimulate your brain. Only watch one or two TV shows that you like, or go online to do something specific — never both at the same time and not for longer than an hour or two a night.
9 Steer clear of vampires
Stay away from “energy vampires”. You know the ones I’m talking about — “friends”, colleagues or family members who drain you of energy with their negative attitude. Spend time with people who make you laugh or do things that you find fun.
10 Have a massage
Do this every week if you can, as it releases calming, feel-good hormones into the body. If you can’t afford it, get your partner or a friend to give you a foot or shoulder rub.
11 Take time out
Have some down-time every day. Whether you’re alone or with your favourite person, spend at least 30 minutes of every day doing something relaxing.
12 Always have breakfast
Eat within one hour of waking up, otherwise your body will become stressed, with the consequences that entails. If you don’t have time for a proper breakfast, just grab a piece of fruit and a few nuts.
Fit and flat at any age
Each age group has to adopt a slightly different approach to eating and exercise for a flat stomach. Here are some general rules.
At this age, you can get away with more and, for the most part, your youth will soak it all up. Yet being a 20-something doesn’t give you immunity against stomach fat. The biggest things to avoid are refined sugars (alcohol, sweets, biscuits, etc) and complex carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, rice, etc). And if you stay flexible, your abs will remain strong and your stomach flat, so try yoga or Pilates. Learn and practise good posture and keep your overall body fat down.
You need to eat mainly vegetable-based meals with a palm-sized serving of protein, such as chicken, fish, eggs or meat. And if you didn’t take them in your 20s, definitely start taking fish oil supplements, which help your body to burn fat around your middle. When it comes to exercise, you need a mix of cardio (such as running, swimming, aerobics), weight training and flexibility (such as yoga or Pilates). Relaxing exercises are really important, as your levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) rise, causing belly fat.
Your lean muscle mass starts to decrease around now. Avoiding complex carbohydrates and refined sugar will help to reduce your insulin levels, which, in turn, will slow down the amount of lean muscle mass you lose. You also need plenty of protein, as it provides the building blocks of lean muscle mass — but only eat red meat once or twice a week, as it’s harder to digest; the rest of the time, stick to chicken, fish and eggs. Increasing your fish oil consumption is an easy way to keep your stomach as flat as possible post-40. The abdominals and pelvic-floor muscles need to be focused on now more than ever, so Pilates is the ideal choice, especially if you’ve had children.
50-something and above
Meals should be small, with as many coloured vegetables as possible, along with some lean protein. Red meat should only be eaten once a week. You need lots of calcium-rich foods to reduce your risk of osteoporosis. Most exercise should be resistance-based, using weights and pulleys, as this increases lean muscle mass, as well as releasing serotonin (the feel-good hormone). It will also leave you with a strong core, which will protect your hips, back and knees from injury, as well as keeping your stomach flat.
Extract taken from The Clean & Lean Diet, by James Duigan, published by Kyle Cathie