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Reasons Why People Have Flat Stomach Problems


Updated June 06, 2014

Beautiful blonde girl exercise Pilates.
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Question: Reasons Why People Have Flat Stomach Problems
Many of us want a flat stomach. And lots of us do Pilates exercises and other kinds of workouts to get our coveted flat abs. Sometimes, no matter what you do, you can't get your belly to pull in. What then?

It is frustrating to work hard and not get the flat stomach you are after. Pilates exercises are great for flat abs, so if you have been doing your Pilates properly and your belly is still sticking out, you might be tempted to quit and head for the couch. Before you do, let's take a look at some possible causes (besides weak abdominals) for a tummy that won't act like the nice, flat stomach it is supposed to.

Please note that it is beyond the scope of this article to make medical recommendations. If your symptoms are persistent, you should consult your health care practitioner. What I want to do here is encourage those of you who occasionally go through phases where you can't get your abs to pull in well to think about some of the more straight forward causes, and simple fixes, for misbehaving bellies.

Things that Get in the Way of a Flat Stomach

  • Eating Too Much Before a Workout

    This might seem obvious, but there is a fine line between eating recently enough to have steady energy for a workout, and being too full. You really can't have eaten too much and get a great scoop of the abs.

    So what do we eat for Pilates? The shortest answer is that many people depend on a small snack, something with a little protein, healthy fat or complex carbohydrate. Stay away from simple sugars like those in soda and candy bars. They cause blood sugar to go up and down too fast. Have your snack not too long before a workout, along with eating healthfully throughout the day. For a snack, a few nuts are one of the more commonly reported choices, as are protein smoothies. Of course you have to be the judge of the actual exertion level of your workouts and what you really need.

    What to eat for Pilates
    Pilates People - What Do You Eat?- see reader comments

  • Doing Pilates Exercises Incorrectly

    In days gone by, when many of us learned to do sit ups and crunches, we learned to do them wrong. We learned to do them in a way that shortens the rectus abdominis muscle, making it pooch out at our middle instead of being the nice, long, flexible muscle it's supposed to be. The many forward bending exercises we do in Pilates will give you beautiful abs if you do them right, but if you do them in a "crunchy way", you won't get the real core strength you're looking for and your belly will stick out. If you think this might be you, start correcting your form by reading How to Pull Your Abs In. Then, practice with Pilates chest lift.

    Learn About the Abdominal Muscles
  • Water Weight

    Retaining water can make you look and feel fatter than you are. The amount of water our cells retain has a lot to do with the balance of sodium and potassium in our body fluids. Too much salt (sodium), the curse of modern diets, is often the easiest cause of water weight to fix. Mary Hartley, RD, the Director of Nutrition at Caloriecount.about.com -- part of About.com -- suggests we limit sodium to 2300 mg per day.

    Fluctuating hormones can also cause water weight gain. PMS, for example, is famous for causing water retention. Also, your body might respond to irritants like toxins and foods it is sensitive to, by retaining water in order to dilute and flush the toxins out.

    Even if you are retaining water, it is still important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of pure water. If don't have enough water in your system, your body will hold on to water. Drinking enough water will help your body flush out toxins, balance minerals like sodium and potassium, and maintain blood pressure.

    Get tips on natural diuretics at caloriecount.about.com.

  • Abdominal Bloating

    Bloating from digestive problems is a problem for many people. Constipation, gas, and food intolerance are all associated with bloat.

    You may have seen advertising about getting a flat stomach with the probiotics (beneficial bacteria) in yogurt, probiotic drinks, and supplements. These products are aimed at correcting dysbiosis, an upset in the natural balance of bacteria in the gut which can cause abdominal bloating, among other problems.

    How to Deal with Bloating and Gas.
    Best Natural Treatments for Constipation
    What Are Food Intolerances?

  • Fat

    Well, duh. But not so fast. It's true that fat on top of the abs will hide them and give a round appearance to the abdomen, so the stomach won't look flat, but that doesn't mean you can't pull your abs in. If you have just a few inches of fat on top of your abs, you should be able to pull your abs in and see a significant difference when you do.

    Of course, if you are doing Pilates and getting great abs, you might want to show them off by losing weight and revealing them. Do be advised that weight loss happens all over the body. Spot reduction is mostly a myth, so keep your workouts balanced.

    Tips for Weight Loss with Pilates
    How Pilates Supports Weight Loss


Gittleman, Anne Louis; The Fat Flush Plan, McGraw-Hill 2002

Haas, Elson; The False Fat Diet, Ballantine Books 2000

Pick, Marcelle; The Digestive System and Dysbiosis

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