How to Get a Flat Stomach Without Exercise
Unsweeten Your Sips
Over a six-year period, people who drank sugar-sweetened beverages daily gained 27 percent more ab fat than nondrinkers, a study in the journal Circulation found. Sodas, sweetened juices, coffee drinks, and smoothies are all culprits. If water won't cut it, be choosy. Nix soda altogether. Instead of syrups and whipped cream, dress up your coffee with unsweetened almond or coconut milk, says Robin Foroutan, R.D.N., the national spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "When you grab a juice, vegetable juice—but not beet or carrot—is better than fruit juice for limiting sugar." And don't forget about tea: "Several studies have shown that a compound in green tea increases metabolism," Foroutan says. Research in the Journal of Nutrition also found that compounds in green, black, and oolong tea led to ab-fat loss in mice. (Here: 30 more diet tweaks for how to get a flat stomach.)
Get in a Mini Meditation
Too much constant stress causes your body to release cortisol, a hormone that fast-tracks fat deposits deep in the abdomen. On the flip side, a study in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine found that mindful people were 25 percent less likely to be obese and had a pound less ab fat than their not-so-Zen counterparts. To zap tension instantly, try this easy meditation from personal trainer Kirsten Beverley-Waters, the owner of Thryve, an online fitness, yoga, and wellness company: "Close your eyes, place your hands on your belly, and focus all your thoughts on your core as the foundation of your energy and strength. Breathe deeply through your nose for up to five minutes [more if you have time]." (Have more time? Try this 20-minute meditation for beginners.)
Stretch Your Middle
Spend a few minutes extending your back over a stability ball or doing spinal twists on the floor. "Stretching your abs can improve your core workouts by improving your range of motion," says biomechanist Katy Bowman, author of Move Your DNA. That means more cinching from each rep (even if you only put in a 10-minute abs workout)!
Go Veggie for Dinner
Having your biggest meal of the day at lunch and going smaller for dinner—try a broth-based soup and a big side of veggies—is helpful for weight loss, Foroutan says. A study in Diabetic Medicine found that type 2 diabetics who ate a vegetarian diet (combined with moderate aerobic exercise three times per week) lost more dangerous visceral belly fat and body weight than those who ate a conventional lower-carb diabetic diet. (And, BTW, vegetarians live longer.) Also, other research suggests that shifting your calories toward the beginning of the day instead of the end helps the body burn more fat overall.
Power Down Before Bed
We know that a lack of sleep leads to weight gain: A six-year study in the International Journal of Obesity found that people who got less than six hours of sleep a night gained more than double the fat—some of that ab fat—than those who went from sleeping too little to getting seven to eight hours per night. (Seriously— sleep might be more important for weight loss than even diet and exercise.) To snooze faster and better, turn off visual stimulation an hour before bed, ban pets from the mattress, and keep the air at 60 to 67 degrees. (Eating these foods before bed can help too.)