Women of the Green! Spill your secret...
November 17, 2011 7:42 PM   Subscribe

What's your secret for getting a flat belly? I would love to hear from you especially if you happen to be a bit plump.

What I just don't get is how overweight/plump/curvy women (like Beyonce) have a flat belly!! I mean, we all know you cannot target problem spots without working out overall but there are so many women who have curvy, have thunder thighs and what not and yet have a flat stomach. How on earth is that possible!?! This is driving me crazy!

Is there something I never learned? Is there a secret trick you are willing to share?
posted by xm to Grab Bag (50 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
You can chalk a lot of it up to genetics.

It works the other way too - I'm pretty slim, but the small amount of weight I carry is definitely in my belly.
posted by backwards guitar at 7:50 PM on November 17, 2011 [8 favorites]

It's a body type- some women are built to have thicker thighs, a larger behind, and a relatively smaller waist. I think their "bellies" look flat in comparison to their larger hips, but if you really look at a woman's body, a flat stomach is very rare.

Also, Beyonce works out constantly and is not overweight at all.
posted by bearette at 7:52 PM on November 17, 2011 [19 favorites]

Definitely genetics! A lot of women carry their weight in their hips and thighs, which means they have a naturally slimmer tummy.

Also, 99% of celebrities use body slimming shape-wear to flatten and smooth out natural bumps and plumpy spots.
posted by katypickle at 7:53 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

There's also a certain effect that you can get from just 'sucking it in' / good posture - it reduces the normal 'belly' a lot.
posted by Lady Li at 7:54 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Pilates. I did that and yoga consistently over the last few years and looked better than I ever had before, even as a teenager. You'll be surprised at how quickly you'll see results.
posted by Nathanial Hörnblowér at 7:54 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, Photoshop.
posted by Nathanial Hörnblowér at 7:54 PM on November 17, 2011 [25 favorites]

Well, I think the idea of plump and curvy might be a bit off here. Curvy by Hollywood standards is probably low-BMI range for us mere mortals. So Beyonce, who seems curvy on TV next to typical super skinny Hollwood-types, may only be a size 6 or something. It's a perspective issue.

The next issue is just genetics. Lost fat, and your belly will get flatter.

But, also, yeah, Spanx.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:55 PM on November 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

It has a lot to do with genetics, but also how your body holds and eliminates toxins an your hormones. I have heavier thighs and a really flat stomach. If you exclude my legs, my body fat is in the 13% range. However, my body doesn't eliminate xenoestrogens (I have a liver disease), which accounts for the heavier legs. If you hold weight in your stomach, it's likely that you don't tolerate carbs well. Try Atkins or other low-carb diet and see what happens.

If you are interested in figuring out your body composition, you can try Poliquin's Biosignature. It opened my eyes.
posted by mrfuga0 at 7:59 PM on November 17, 2011 [5 favorites]

1) It's a body type thing
2) Certain exercises (mostly done intensely and for a long time) like Pilates and dance (Beyonce is a dancer who has probably been training since she was a little kid, also probably a big part of the shape of her legs and butt).
3) Beyonce is totally a size six, maybe at the max. Your terminology is weird to me (thunder thighs?), and I think your assessment of sizes might be off.
posted by crabintheocean at 7:59 PM on November 17, 2011 [6 favorites]

Well, I'm a guy but I've actually looked into this for a friend.

Weight train to build muscle and tone, followed by cardio once you have good muscle mass to burn both fat and some muscle.

It's a myth that women will get 'bulky' from weight training. That just isn't how womens bodies look if they're fit. Fat (or steroids!) is what makes you look bulky, you want to be muscular to burn more calories and look good then cardio will eliminate the fat. People often, VERY OFTEN, skip the weight training and go straight to cardio. They lose fat and muscle, then they're left untoned and skinny, but they stop it and they don't burn as many calories as they used to and gain it back. Or just look skinny and without muscle tone.

Also eat healthy, of course.

This is the best article I've read on how to look like a celebrity if you're a lady: http://www.crossfitsouthbay.com/2011/05/skinny-fat/

I promise that is how they do it. Genetics? Shrug. It might make you skinny, but it sure doesn't make you have any sort of muscle tone past youth.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:05 PM on November 17, 2011 [7 favorites]

there are lots of people who claim that routine lipo is pretty common in famous people.

youth also plays into this. look at britney spears, christina aguilera, jessica simpson, and mandy moore - they're not as tight and toned as they were as 20 year olds.

what people are saying about sizes is so spot on as well. i mean, i hear that kim kardashian is a size 4. "curvy" means something different in that context.
posted by nadawi at 8:08 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Genetics, genetics genetics. And also genetics.

When I'm at a certain weight, I have a curvy butt and thighs, but a flat stomach. Most of my fat is just distributed to my butt, thighs, and hips. I do not need to do any exercise at all to have this kind of body shape.

(If I gain enough weight, I will eventually gain weight in my stomach, and if I lose enough weight, I will eventually have a less-curvy butt.)
posted by insectosaurus at 8:09 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

god yes genetics. as an underweight, anorexic teenager, i still didn't have a flat stomach or slender thighs. i'm built curvy. all the exercising and dieting in the world won't change my basic shape.
posted by nadawi at 8:11 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

And celebrities can work out all day like this because they are paid to look that way. Personal trainers and working out is part of their job. It's a lot harder when we have to work desk jobs, have other responsibilities and then find the time to work out for an hour plus do a lot of cardio.

I would say genetics can play a negative role here, but not really a positive one. You get a flat stomach because you have a low body fat percentage, people. You burn more calories when you have more muscles, eat healthy and do cardio.

Do you want to look like that? Have more muscle (you will be toned and look great then when the fat is gone!), eat healthy and do cardio. Cardio will get rid of all the fat, but without the other stuff it'd be kind of wasted.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:11 PM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

Beyonce is in incredible shape. Watch the woman dance. She's not a 6'2" teenage Ukrainian girl but that doesn't make her "plump".
posted by fshgrl at 8:18 PM on November 17, 2011 [5 favorites]

I vote for it's a body type thing.

All of my weight resides around my belly. So when I lost 40 pounds and mentioned it people were shocked because I hid my fat with loose fitting shirts.
posted by it's a long way to south america at 8:24 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

My definition of overweight is a little less forgiving than most people's. That being said, Beyonce is no where near plump or overweight. She's in incredible shape. Anyway, back to your question. I think it's a body type issue. I don't know why this baffles you so because the skinny upper body with flat stomach yet larger hips and thighs is a pretty common body type amongst women.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 8:35 PM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

Yoga and weight training. And sucking in, which yoga and weight training will help a lot with -- you just end up sucking it in.
posted by jgirl at 8:42 PM on November 17, 2011

I know that in my case, anaerobic exercises which strengthen my core seem to have an effect. Alas, I am a lazy bastard, and haven't done any of that for bloody ever. But bicycle crunches and attempts at push-ups and leg lifts (which do more to the lower belly than you'd think) seemed to assist with the job back when I actually did them.
posted by Because at 8:48 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Eliminating foods from your diet that can potentially cause systemic/inflammatory reactions (for me this is grains, legumes, dairy, and sugars) might possibly shock you with how much less bloated/swollen your stomach can be.
posted by so_gracefully at 9:08 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm the same height as her and have an hourglass figure too. Doing yoga that strengthens the core (bridge, cobra, dolphin poses for instance) and the hips has done wonders for me. You'll find with yoga that your posture will improve which helps give a better overall impression of a flatter belly.

might possibly shock you with how much less bloated/swollen your stomach can be.

I agree though, when I gain a few pounds it goes straight to my pooch (belly button region), but bloat sits up higher in and around the diaphragm which makes me feel a wee bit "thicker".
posted by squeak at 9:25 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm an hourglass figure and usually have a relatively flat stomach by nature, but I still do sit-ups, planks, and twists to make sure my core muscles retain tone. I make a conscious effort to engage my core muscles whenever walking somewhere or climbing stairs. I also suck it in, especially when naked ;) If I neglect to do the core workouts, my tummy indeed loses its tone and my stomach area profile gets thicker.
posted by lizbunny at 9:33 PM on November 17, 2011

On top of the constant working out, the spanx, the controlled diet and the fact that Beyonce is in no way plump...

Photoshop and post-processing. It is quite shocking how much post work is done on women shown on TV. The Beyonce you see in a music video is not the Beyonce you see in real life. Seriously.
posted by Joh at 9:34 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have always tended toward stomach pudge, and discovered a few years ago that cutting out refined sugar makes a world of difference for me.
posted by TallulahBankhead at 10:04 PM on November 17, 2011

Guy here but fat is fat. I was thin always and strong, quit smoking and immediately began putting on weight. Like, within weeks, pants were not fitting any longer; I was amazed, astonished.

Since then—28 years—I've gone up/down with weight a number of times, put fat on/take it off. I'm now relatively thin but it seems that what fat *has* stuck around is on my gut. I know that people can't 'spot reduce fat' but it seems that I 'spot hold-onto fat' on my gut, regardless arms legs chest whatever else.

If I were in the business of looking trim fit etc IE celeb, I'd likely get the stuff suctioned out of me, lipo.
posted by dancestoblue at 10:20 PM on November 17, 2011

Posture! I am underweight for my height and I still have this little pooch in my lower tummy because I slouch like a mofo all the damn time. It's partially just how my body works, but I *know* my lousy posture exacerbates it. :( Pilates, drinking lots of water, limiting my sodium, and yoga = best for me.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:46 PM on November 17, 2011

I am thin everywhere but my stomach/middle. That won't come off short of severe anorexia or liposuction, I suspect. The body picks an area it wants to be fat and that is the dead last place where weight will come off. Beyonce just got lucky in the gene pool, plus she probably doesn't eat a lot and works out a ton.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:48 PM on November 17, 2011

I agree with bearette that some women have stomachs that look flat only because they have curvy hips/thighs. Since you can't change your body's fat distribution, the only non-surgical way you can get a flat stomach is to lose weight. You might have to lose more than you think you need to, and your breasts will get smaller, but eventually you will see results.

Personally, I only have a flat stomach when I'm at the lowest end of my weight range. I'm an hourglass shape and I tend to store fat on my hips and thighs, but if I go above 90 lbs I get a little pooch below my belly button. (I'm short, I still have curves and muscles.) When I was 110 lbs, my lower half balanced out my stomach and it didn't look bad. Since it sounds like you tend to store fat around your abdomen, unfortunately you won't be able to balance your shape out that way. I'm sorry there's no special secret, although I heartily agree with the people who mentioned posture and yoga. I lost weight two years ago when I was seriously depressed, but I haven't done anything special to keep it off.
posted by lali at 11:36 PM on November 17, 2011

Lali is correct; the only non surgical way to get a flat stomach is to lose weight. Depending on age and genetics you may or may not have to actually go underweight for this to happen.
posted by Justinian at 2:41 AM on November 18, 2011

On one hand, your body type is your body type.

On the other hand - how much work are you putting in? Not all female athletes (including dancers) have the same body, but all of them have certain results in common stemming from the daily hours of activity they're putting in.

Mere mortals don't have that kind of time. Look for time efficient weight training exercises. Yoga and pilates are nice, but they're often dependent on classes, which might not work with your schedule, etc. What's a time efficient exercise? In 30 minutes, you can easily crank out 100+ burpees (pick your variation). If you're just starting out, you might not be able to do 20 - and you'll know that in 5 minutes, tops.

Short version: yes, yes photoshop - looking spectacular is in some people's job description, therefore they make the time. Not true for the rest of us, so find a different method that works with the rest of your life.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 4:25 AM on November 18, 2011

I always had a belly, except for when I would get dangerously thin in my younger days(which involved intense working out with trainers and a pretty severely limited intake of food).

I dropped about 40 pounds a couple of years ago after being in a relationship and putting on "nesting" pounds. My stomach for the first time in my life is flat, and I'm concave in the ribcage area. I don't work out nearly as hard as in my younger years, and I am of the age where getting a lower abdominal pouch is a normal thing to happen in women.
The difference between now and previously is the way I work out. I get most of my core strength by doing the high incline powerwalking on the treadmill. Years of personal trainers in my 20's taught me how to focus on working specific muscles while working them, and that is what I do. I hold one to the hand grips, and use my core more than my legs to propel myself forward. This has given me a very strong, slender stomach/back area, which is a look I love. I adjust the level of incline to focus on different parts of my torso, lower abs, upper abs, lower back, etc.

I personally don't want to have an athletes body, I would rather have a more feminine look, toned, but without distinct muscle definition. I don't want to try for a six pack, because the muscle mass would add thickness to my midsection.
Also, because I enjoy having a very small waist (I like to wear corsets from time to time, and I can get my waist to 23' in my corsets- I'm 5'8"), I avoid working the side/oblique muscles. When I had a more athletic body when I was younger, I noticed that by working these it would lead to a more straight up and down torso, rather than the hourglass shape that I want now (I'm not super skinny at all, and have some pretty powerful thighs and glutes on me (though because of a knee injury less powerful now) mostly from working out..
Now, this does not mean that I am weak in my torso. I had a pilates training session with a trainer to check it out and see if I liked it, and she kept quizzing me about how my core and stomach muscles got to be so strong.

The second, and maybe even more important aspect, is I cut down on my carb intake dramatically. It's to the point now where if I've had a carb heavy day, I just feel thick around my midsection the next day. I don't know if this is all in my head or an actual thing, but I think that there is some correlation there.

No doubt others will come on here and counter everything I'm saying, but this is just my experience of going from always having some sort of belly, to being flat torsoed. It's anecdotal, but it's what I've observed happening with my own body..
posted by newpotato at 5:25 AM on November 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

pilates is great and will definately put you in the right direction, though a lot of it genetics. I put on ALL my weight on my bottom half (as in, if I gain 10 pounds it's difficult to find pants that fit right because the waist is too loose and bottom/thighs are too tight).
posted by ejaned8 at 6:28 AM on November 18, 2011

Luck and body type are a big part of it. But I don't think it is gospel that you can't change the way your body distributes fat. Not that you can just change it to whatever you want, but that you can nudge it in one direction or another.

It is pretty established that certain patterns of exercise and diet can lead to certain body shapes. Look at metabolic syndrome as an extreme counter-example. If you have the pre-disposition and engage in certain patterns of diet and exercise, you will start looking like that.

When you eat is as important as what you eat, too. Even if your caloric intake is in equillibrium with your caloric needs for the day, if you don't time it out correctly, your body will have to store the excess for later. When your fat cells are being emptied, they put out hormones that make you hungry and stressed, which leads to the creation of more fat cells. I don't know if it is true, but I would bet that fat cells in certain areas of the body are more responsive to this than others.

Finally, it has to do with the size of the muscles that are below the fat, and I think that's where the really obvious examples of flat stomach and curvy other places come from. If you have big muscles, a small layer of fat will amplify them. Stomach muscles don't really get big, so a small layer of fat on the stomach will be less noticeable than the same layer of fat on one's butt and thighs.
posted by gjc at 7:47 AM on November 18, 2011

The clothing she wears is designed to emphasize her assets. You can assume that everything she wears has been tailored to fit her, and she has people who help her pick things out which really work on her. I wouldn't be surprised if she occasionally adds padding on her hips and butt, which makes her stomach look thinner by contrast. Also, she can afford that amazing 200$ bra--lifting your boobs up makes your torso look longer which makes your stomach look flatter.
posted by anaelith at 8:00 AM on November 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

I agree this is a body type, mostly inevitable, etc. That said, given what you've got you can sometimes firm things up underneath the belly fat at least--I'll never have a flat stomach again now that I'm, you know, past puberty, but I do, mm, say 15 leg raises as well as about 20 standing torso twists (make sure you don't bounce and your natural lumbar curve is safely in place) just about every day as part of my morning routine and it helps keep that area stronger than normal (which is why I do it actually; I need all the ab-strength help I can get to safely do the heavy back squats that are part of my exercise routine) and seemingly firmer. Pilate is pretty much that too, if you'd rather take a class or video or something. The nice thing is it's only something like 2 minutes of time a day and it helps wake me up.
posted by ifjuly at 8:30 AM on November 18, 2011

Wheat Belly may be worth a read.
posted by dgeiser13 at 8:45 AM on November 18, 2011

My secret is that my father's mother, and her mother had flat bellies! This works great. If you can't manage that, I'd go for being a healthy weight, toning up, and having good posture. The silhouette in your mirror may not be your ideal, but it will be just lovely.

(Bonus: You and you belly-genes won't include my giant floppy elephant ear genes!)
posted by Lesser Shrew at 3:19 PM on November 18, 2011

Everyone says genetics. If that's the case, have our genes mutated massively in the last two generations? Not to link this case to obesity, but the basic issue is the same (i.e. weight). We, as a people have been getting heavier. This isn't a genetic mutation, it's increased wealth leading to less people cycling or walking and more taking the car or the tube. Less eating lean diets and more big macs. It's not genetics. If it were, we'd be as fat now as we were two generations ago.

Ok, genetics rant out the way, the key is simply diet. Eat a low fat and healthy diet, avoid frying anything or eating fried foods, and go for light exercise on a daily basis. Everyone I know - every single one - of the people who have followed that simple plan have all lost weight.

I don't mean to come across as hostile, but the answers in this thread stating genetics as the cause for everything that can't really be beaten just seem to be a copout, and a poor one at that.
posted by dougrayrankin at 6:47 AM on November 19, 2011

Well, not to be too combative, but it IS. It's complicated because it's looking more and more like what your mother's body comp. was like when she was carrying you affects your lifelong weight too, stuff like that, and it's easy to say "we used to hoe the farm 16 hours a day and now we sit in cubicles" but guess what? We're not realistically ever going to be that active routinely, it's not possible for the majority of people (as in, non-pro athletes) who need to work fairly sedentary jobs every day and drive a car to reach places. Even if you do devote 2 solid hours of cardio each day, it's not going to be that level, and frankly given all the other stresses in modern life and time constraints, it might well drive you nuts AND not work. I spent 2 years recently doing just that, diligently, and I lost a bit of weight but I also had: no time for any social life whatsoever, or any down time whatsoever, I kept getting sick and felt run-down all the time, AND I kept my apple shape because that's my body type. You have to make peace a bit with your general type and work with what you've got; that's not saying "just give up entirely on any kind of fitness." I am the healthiest I've been pretty much ever, and I still have a curve in my abs.

It's like technically yes you could hypothetically get down to a body fat that would make your stomach seem flat--but for lots of people, the body fat percent would be so damn low before your abs were affected that you'd look downright emaciated everywhere else, and it wouldn't be sustainable and healthy. Now, the reasons for ab fat propensity are murky for sure--generational insulin resistance etc.--but to claim once you're in that sort of propensity you can just turn it off like a switch if you just got off the couch (there's always a "duh this is obvious" shaming aspect) is patently not true.

So it's not as clear cut as you're making it either.
posted by ifjuly at 8:11 AM on November 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

If it were genetics, it would have historical precedence. It doesn't.
To make excuses for people being overweight by blaming genetics does them a disservice, perpetuates ignorance and potentially leaves people thinking that it's ok from a health perspective to be overweight. It's not. It's a major contributor to any number of diseases.
posted by dougrayrankin at 10:58 AM on November 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Dougrayrankin, then please explain to me how two different people can be of the same gender, height, weight, and body fat percentage, yet carry their fat in different ways? Some women gain weight primarily on their lower half yet still are skinny up top and vise versa. It's genetics.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 11:28 AM on November 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

It also does people a disservice to wave away their genuine lived experiences--I and many other women I know have been told over and over their experience of weight gain doesn't exist when it does. To have people look at you and assume you weigh what you do because all you do is eat fatty foods and never exercise is getting tiresome and, to be honest, a bit offensive. But that's all I'm going to say since I don't wish to derail any further.
posted by ifjuly at 12:07 PM on November 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

this thread isn't about obesity or our general trend of being fatter, it's about flat stomachs. i'm betting our ancestors aren't filled to the brim with perfectly flat stomached people, a lot of nude art through history shows that people, women especially, have had our little tummy pooch no matter what our weight. in fact, go a few generations back and flat stomachs aren't something that was sought after because it gives the idea that the woman wouldn't be any good at carrying babies.
posted by nadawi at 12:15 PM on November 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

The question asked how people have heavier thighs and butt and still have flat stomachs. These people are generally at a healthy body weight, they just distributed it differently from other people.
posted by anaelith at 12:18 PM on November 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Its body type. We all have a genetic predisposition to carry fat more in certain areas. I think I just need to choose to enjoy the good bits and shrug about the not so good bits. I am one of those people who drive you nuts, but the temptations for me is to think, "My stomach is completely flat at this weight & I can't lose any more without looking bony & having no boobs, so why, oh why do still have such visible saddle bags?!"
posted by cantthinkofagoodname at 12:38 AM on November 20, 2011

To make excuses for people being overweight by blaming genetics does them a disservice

A quick google search says Beyonce has approximately these measurements: 34/26/40 (some say her waist is 24 and hips are 38) and is 5'7" tall. The google jury is out on how much she weighs, it's all over the place, but it's somewhere in the 125lbs to 145lbs range. Anyone who thinks she's overweight needs to have their head examined.

nadawi, I wonder what people mean by perfectly flat because for me it means having a pooch like nature intended. On women pooches are sexy, a ripped six pack not so much.
posted by squeak at 6:55 AM on November 20, 2011

squeak, looking at tv, videos, and magazines, i'd guess they mean flat, not like nature intended. one of the many reasons we prefer our poptarts under the age of 24.
posted by nadawi at 11:34 AM on November 20, 2011

in fact, the gossip rags will be quick to label someone pregnant if there's even a hint of the pooch.
posted by nadawi at 11:35 AM on November 20, 2011

There are studies on belly fat, and things you can do about it - vigorous aerobic activity, fiber, get the right amount of sleep, manage your stress.
posted by theora55 at 1:49 PM on November 20, 2011

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