The swimsuit season is upon us. Which means most women’s thoughts are turning, at least a little, to how we look in cosies and bikinis. And you know what women have long told us they worry about most, in a swimsuit? Not cellulite – but a less-than-flat-tummy. So here’s what we’ve learned really works to help beat a bloated tummy, over our too-many-years-to-mention in the beauty and wellness world.
The bulk of your meals should be fibre-rich plant foods. To ensure you get lots of raw veggies, which are high in nutrients, vitamins and enzymes, make a big mixed salad for lunch and start dinner with a large green salad.
Try a ‘Glowing Green’ smoothie for breakfast. Use organic ingredients and chop the veggies before blending. Blend 1½ cups of water, one head of lettuce and a small bunch of spinach until smooth; gradually add 3-4 stalks of celery, one apple/pear/banana, and the juice of half a lemon.
Eat animal protein, including dairy, only once a day. More is too ‘acid-forming’: your body should be slightly alkaline. Get protein from plant foods such as seeds, nuts, quinoa, millet and lentils.
Avoid or eat less cheese. Dairy is difficult to digest so it can lead to bloating and weight gain.
Eat fruit only on an empty stomach, and never for pudding. If you eat it after heavier foods that take longer to digest, the fruit gets stuck and starts to ferment, leading to bloat.
Watch the salt. Too much sodium can cause bloating and puffiness. Add small amounts of high-quality sea salt (or Himalayan rock salt) directly to food; avoid processed foods. Drink unsweetened cranberry concentrate with fresh water – sweetened with stevia if you wish – to help flush excessive fluids and salts.
Don’t drink and eat at the same time. It dilutes gastric juices and digestive enzymes, and so impedes the digestive process. Just sip a little liquid and chew each mouthful thoroughly.
Avoid all fizzy drinks. The air bubbles in carbonated soft drinks are said to release carbon dioxide in the digestive tract, creating bloating. Excessive caffeine can also cause bloat.
Get to love raw apple cider vinegar. It acts as a prebiotic to feed the growth of probiotics [the good bacteria in your gut], which help with optimal digestion, elimination and breaking down foods more efficiently – all important for a flat belly. Sip one tablespoonful diluted in a cup of warm water 20 minutes before meals; it’s great in salad dressings too.
Introduce other fermented foods into your diet. The more gut-friendly bacteria, the better – so sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi are all good news for tummies.
And keep moving… You can’t be trim – let alone healthy and happy – without exercise. Our bodies (and minds) thrive on being active. Do whatever you love: walking, running, riding, dancing, tennis, yoga, Zumba – buy just do it. Complaining you don’t have time? Trust us: you don’t have time not to!
When you get up, take a minute to practise squats. With your feet flat on the floor a shoulder width apart pointed slightly out, drop gently down as if you are sitting, with your hips as low to the floor as possible. Stand up slowly, keeping your feet flat; don’t bounce. Feel the weight on your upper thighs and the centre of your feet. Practise with a chair to start with (don’t actually sit on it, you understand, but it will show you where your body should be). Repeat until the minute’s up (set a timer on your phone). As well as keeping your whole body supple, this helps release natural growth hormone for fat burning and toning. Sarah practises squatting when she is drying her hair upside down, and then does a yoga Warrior pose when she is styling it!
Do calf raises as you wait for the kettle to boil. Stand up on tiptoe as high as possible, arms above your head with fingertips reaching for the ceiling. Hold for a count of ten then let arms slowly fall and return to standing. Then press your heels into the floor and raise your toes as high off the floor as possible. Hold for ten. Repeat these two steps five to ten times.
Make use of time at the bus stop. (Or on the Tube.) When you’re waiting in a queue, stand with your legs hip-width apart and slightly bent. Put all your body weight on one leg and hold for a count of 30. Repeat on the other leg. Increase the intensity by squeezing your gluteal (bottom) muscles. This is great for toning thighs and bottom.
Sitting at work, try an exercise ball seat. Do it for short periods first as it really gives your core muscles an intense workout. It helps to strengthen your back – good for back problems – as well as reducing your waistline.
And as for that swimwear? Bring it on!
P.S. Of course, anyone who suffers prolonged continuous bloating should consult a doctor. There’s probably nothing wrong, but best to double-check.