We all know that ditching carbs and alcohol can help shift the weight around our middle but did you know there's plenty of other reasons you may be struggling to get a flat stomach that don't have anything to do with the food that passes your lips?
Munching on a piece of minty fresh gum makes you swallow too much air, which gets trapped in your digestive system causing pressure, bloating and gas. The same thing can happen if you gulp air when snacking on the run, eating too quickly, talking while eating or drinking from a straw.
Rushing your food
It is often easy to eat too quickly or on the run especially breakfast and/or lunch if time is short but it can cause bloating. If you eat on the run your body is feeling stressed because you are rushing.
The stress response was designed to enable you to either run or fight for your life, during which time digestion of food was unlikely, the natural flow of energy is diverted away from your digestive system to your extremities to give you the energy to run or fight.
Your body literally shuts down your digestive function and food stagnates and ferments, making you feel bloated and often giving you gas.
Stress hormone cortisol
The main reason some people gather more fat around their middle than others is specifically because of the action of the stress hormone cortisol.
And if you eat something sugary or fatty as a consequence of the post-stress appetite surge, any weight you gain as a result, will be around your middle. The reason fat targets the middle is because it is close to the liver where it can most quickly be converted back into energy if needed.
Lack of sleep
People who are sleep deprived have an increased appetite. Inadequate sleep lowers levels of leptin, a hormone that suppresses appetite, and increases grehlin, a hormone that increases food intake and is thought to play a role in long-term regulation of body weight. All this suggests that sleep deprivation can make weight loss extremely difficult because it causes your body to work against you!
Keep a regular sleep routine, include 30 minutes of exercise in your day, avoid all stimulants in the evening (including chocolate, coffee, tea), avoid bright light around the house before bed, have a relaxing bath and keep your bedroom quiet, dark and cool.
Bad gut bacteria
Our stomach is made up of good and bad bacteria, called gut flora, which has a controlling influence over many important body functions, including metabolism and fat reduction. However, our lifestyle habits can often damage our gut bacteria. These factors include taking antibiotics, a diet high in sugar, stress and alcohol. Try to eliminate these to help with fat reduction.
Water retention from periods
Water retention is a problem for many women and it is often worse just before a period. Don’t be tempted to limit your intake of fluids, which can actually cause bloating. Your body will think it needs to conserve water, which exacerbates the problem. Water is a natural diuretic and it should be drunk as frequently as possible.
Too much salt
Table salt is sodium chloride and sodium is a mineral that affects your body’s ability to balance water retention. Another mineral, potassium, works with sodium to regulate water balance and normalise heart rhythm. The more sodium you consume, the more potassium you need to counteract this effect.
If you have a high salt intake, you could be carrying around an extra 1.8kg (4lb) in excess weight due to water retention. Water retention can be caused by not drinking enough water and also too much salt but it can also be caused by the same blood sugar swings that trigger many of the pre-menstrual symptoms.