You find the perfect spot, set yourself up, take your sundress off and immediately notice that something is wrong. You look down at your stomach and realize that you look about four months pregnant.
There goes your perfect tan. You throw your sundress back on and wallow under an umbrella for the rest of the day.
No one likes to be bloated.
Not only does it feel uncomfortable, but it also makes us look heavier than we actually are. In fact, some women can bloat so severely that they could pass for being pregnant!
Your health is important, and a part of staying healthy is maintaining a good weight, and trying hard to minimize fat around the abdomen. Fat in this area is a relatively good indicator of high risk for heart disease and coronary conditions, so keeping your abdomen looking trim is one of the best ways to help keep you fit and well.
What Causes Bloating?
Abdominal bloating can be caused by a number of reasons – mostly as a result of our own dietary habits. A common cause of bloating is dehydration. It may seem strange that a lack of water can cause bloating, but, when the body is being starved of fluid, it holds onto whatever water it can. This leads to water retention, which can cause us to look bigger than we actually are, particularly in the stomach area.
Water retention is relatively common – it can happen during menstruation, illness, or even after a workout, and can cause the scales to register a weight 3 or 4 lbs heavier – perhaps even more – than usual. It’s not that you have gained 3 or 4 lbs of fat, it’s just ‘bloat’. Fortunately, by keeping an eye on our diets, we can reduce the likelihood of bloating, and help keep our abdomen tight and toned.
Food & Drinks to Avoid
While we wholeheartedly recommend ‘everything in moderation’, if you’re looking to maintain a flat stomach it is important to limit the amount of bloat-inducing food and drink you consume on a regular basis. Here are some of the worst culprits for encouraging water retention:
Think caffeine is the worst offender for causing bloating? Think again! While caffeine can reduce water by 1.7 ml per mg of caffeine consumed, alcohol well surpasses this, creating a 10 ml fluid reduction per gram of alcohol. Alcohol is a diuretic which encourages urination, which is why you need to use the bathroom more when you’ve had a few beers. Once the body realizes it’s running low on water, it clings onto what’s left, causing bloating.
The main problem with alcohol is that many adults underestimate how much they consume, so they think that their bloating couldn’t possibly be caused by drinking. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that women limit themselves to no more than one alcoholic drink per day, and men no more than two. If you’re drinking too much, it could be a reason for your water retention.
Salt is another diuretic which works in a similar way to alcohol. It encourages urination, which is why you feel very thirsty after eating a Chinese meal, for example – your body is crying out for water. Eating large amounts of salty foods is practically guaranteed to cause bloating. Try to limit salty foods such as bacon, popcorn, pre-packaged sauces and condiments, and cured meats. Not only will you find yourself less prone to bloating, but cutting salt out of your diet is good for your heart, too.
We all know that large amounts of fat are bad for us, but could that also be the cause of abdominal bloating? Very possibly. It is much harder for the body to digest fatty foods than foods high in protein or carbohydrates, so it takes longer for the body to break down a fatty meal. While this is good in the sense that you’ll feel fuller for longer, it also means that the food will stick around in your stomach for a while, filling you out and making you feel heavy and sluggish. To maintain a flat stomach, it’s better to stick to foods that can easily be digested and moved along to the intestines, rather than being left to hangout in your belly.
Fiber is so good for us – it help keeps things moving and reasonable amounts of fiber can actually help reduce bloating by keeping the digestive system working well. It is recommended that adults eat around 25 grams of fiber each day. Of course, a little more or a little less isn’t going to make too much of a difference, but in consuming much more than this amount, you could be causing your abdomen to bloat.
Foods that are high in fiber are those such as beans, legumes, and whole wheat – all products that cause gas! As you’ll probably know, when you’re suffering with gas you tend to get a very large, rock hard belly that’s crampy and painful. Eating fiber is important, but don’t go overboard!
If you’re striving for a flat belly, it’s best to limit the amount of the above foods you consume as part of your everyday diet.
So the question is – what *can* you eat?
Be sure to include lots of lean protein (which is digested quickly and easily), healthy oils such as olive oil and those found in nuts and avocados (which provide healthy amounts of ‘good’ fats), and probiotic yogurts which contain good bacteria that cleanse the digestive system, helping to speed up the process.
This year, instead of hiding your midsection under a sundress, sarong, or one-piece, you can flash your abs with pride! And you don’t need to spend hours doing crunches to make it happen. By changing your diet in these small ways you can finally get rid of that pesky stomach bloat and finally be able to wear that itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini that you’ve hear so much about.