February 04, 2008

The Flat-Belly Diet

[By Crabby]

Flat bellies. So, ya want one?

According to the folks at Prevention Magazine, it's pretty easy to own one of your very own. They've even got a picture of four ecstatic women cheering about their incredible results. (They all look far too happy, in my opinion, considering they're clad in work clothes, complete with stern-looking high-heeled pumps. Being a jeans and T-shirt person myself, this photographic evidence seems suspicious).

But lets say that even if they're only fake-happy, their results are real. From what I can tell without shelling out any money, here's what you need to do to lose the fat belly:

1. Don't get too stressed (stress=cortisol=belly-fat);

2. Eat lots of monounsaturated fats. (The magazine uses the acronym "MUFA," which doesn't sound very slimming, does it? They need to work on that.)

Where do you find MUFA's? Well, this part is good:
  • Nuts and Seeds;
  • Safflower, Olive, Flax, and Canola Oils;
  • Avocados;
  • Dark Chocolate.
3. Oh, and um, to lose weight, limit your calories to 1600 a day.

For an informative magazine, Prevention makes some annoyingly optimistic claims about this diet: "No Exercise Required," "Never Go Hungry" and "Slim Your Mid-section Almost Automatically" are just some of them. But Prevention often does that--they seem to have a sleazy product-promotion division dedicated to subverting the magazine's credibility (which is otherwise perfectly good) by over-hyping various get-slim-quick approaches. If you subscribe to the magazine, they stick these weird pamphlets in there sometimes and you wonder what the heck they're thinking.

But, that doesn't mean the diet is totally lame either.

Given that (a) less stress is good and (b) monounsaturated fats are satisfying and healthy, this may not be a bad idea. There seems to be some actual research behind it (which I should chase down and take a look at some point rather than just guessing about it).

So sure, more chocolate and avocados and olive oil, please!

As it happens, I've been pretty much accidentally on this diet for the past few years, (except for yucky 1600 calorie part). I've been reading forever about how healthy monounsaturated fats are, so I eat a lot of them. Coincidentally (or not)--I have less belly fat than I used to.

But this is one of about 800 nutritional and fitness recommendations I've incorporated into my diet and lifestyle over the last couple decades, so who knows if it's the MUFA's or the intervals or the whole grains or the broccoli or the bench presses that are helping with the belly fat.

Another caveat: even healthy fats have lots of calories--and I still need to have room left for things like protein and vegetables and whole grains and cupcakes. Yet I don't want to run ten miles every morning to fit it all in.

In general, I hate "simple solution" diets. They almost always turn out to be only partly right. Nutrition and weight loss are rarely simple.

But heck, if you're not getting many MUFA's now and have some bellyfat you'd like to evict, it could be worth a try.

Note: If it works, please send in your ecstatic picture (high-heels optional) and we'll we'll re-market the whole thing as the Cranky Fitness No-Belly diet. We'll throw in some high-MUFA cupcakes and cookies and brownies (which we'll sell for $5 each), and we'll all make a fortune!

So what do you all think about Flat-Belly or other "It's Simple!" diets? Worth a try?


  1. My only problem with most diets is -- how the heck am I supposed to remember all the things I'm supposed to eat and not eat? Unless I carry around a piece of paper with all the elements of the diet written on it, I won't remember when I'm hungry and want to grab a quick bite.
    Maybe that's why Prevention was trying to make the diet so simple even I could remember it?

    And what the heck is beadboard anyway?

  2. My belly is nice and flat when I'm lying down, on my back. That's about as close as I'm going to get to it now.

    Come to think of it, I don't think it's ever been flat... maybe, it's a myth, like when everyone thought the earth was flat, but it's not. At least, we don't think it is because there still are some nay-sayers. Maybe the flat belly is a myth too and there's no such thing.

    That's it! I figured it out. Whew. I feel so much better about myself now. {grin}

  3. Ooh, I like the myth idea! :)

    I have a problem with Prevention's acronym; MUFA sounds like street slang for something rather rude. Really, Crabby, the language you use on this blog... ;)

  4. I guess the "Dr. J Very Hard Diet" doesn't have a chance in this incarnation :-)

  5. Hey, who is that person using "Mary needs a cooler name"'s avatar!!?? Mary, is that you??

    The Bag Lady is about to turn into a squirrel. All those nuts and seeds...flat belly, here I come!!

    Oh, and Marijke? The Bag Lady's belly flattens out when she lays on her back, too. And her boobs disappear into her armpits...sigh.

  6. I've always had a flat tummy...even when I was bigger.
    It's the whole butt section that needs help...if there was a but shrinkage diet...well I must admit I'd give it a go...:)

  7. Avocados and dark chocolate? Bring it! (I don't believe it.)

  8. Sorry, I'm still stuck on the fact that you're in New England with good weather in the middle of February...

    Well, more like insanely jealous.

  9. quick diets = never gonna work in the long run.

    You gotta work for it- or make a complete lifestyle change if you want the results to stick.

    Glad you're having good weather; it's raining here (but 30 degrees higher than it was last week!!)

  10. I agree with your comments re Prevention--why do they ruin their credibility with cheesy stories like this? It just perpetuates the unhealthy "get-rich-quick" flavor of most diets. Boo!

  11. Avocados and chocolate, mmmmm! :) :)

    A lot of this is common sense, but I don't agree with the 1600 a day thing. That's seriously generalizes. Yes, most people should reduce portion sizes. But when I try to eat that few calories in a day, even if they're whole-grain carbs and protein, I end up hungry and snacking up and over the daily allowance. But then, maybe it's because I exercise all the time, so I need more calories...

    I think my belly's as flat as it's ever going to be, and on my hourglass frame, that means it does roll out when I sit down, but I'm trying to come to terms with that.

    And I'm definitely enjoying the weather in these parts. It's been rainy and all, but the fact that it's, what, in the 40s or something, and sunny most of the time? Nice!

  12. Just like every diet - it has its good points and it has its bad points! God it can all be so darn confusing!

  13. Any diet that offers olive oil and chocolate is at least worth thinking about.

  14. It seems like if you have a flat belly, then you have a butt. It you don't have a butt, you have a belly. Or hips. Or thighs. Unless you are a naturally very slender person, but then you have a dearth in the chest area, and are made to feel less "womanly." The fact is, no one has a "perfect" body, and the only way to smooth everything out and plump up the parts you want plumped is through artificial means.
    And, yeah, what is up with "Prevention" touting the latest fad diet every 5 minutes? From low-carb to low-sugar to low-glycemic, yada yada yada, blah blah blah.

  15. Lethological Reader: "A lot of this is common sense, but I don't agree with the 1600 a day thing. That's seriously generalizes. Yes, most people should reduce portion sizes. But when I try to eat that few calories in a day, even if they're whole-grain carbs and protein, I end up hungry and snacking up and over the daily allowance. But then, maybe it's because I exercise all the time, so I need more calories..."

    Funny you should say that! I saw "1600 calories" and immediately thought, "that many?" I've been on a 1200 calorie diet for months and months. I figure maintenance level for me would probably be somewhere around 1700-1800 and when I imagine eating that much... holy cow.

    Wanna hear a slightly frightening secret? I just moved, and my FoodMover is still packed (I'm thinking of just doing straight-up calorie counting for a while, actually), and I've been eating so little that when it's time to eat dinner I deliberately choose the highest calorie option because I've only eaten about 600 calories all day. O.o We're talking Lean Cuisine frozen dinners here, so I'm still coming out around 1000 calories... and losing weight like crazy! Imagine that!

    Hard physical labor (like schlepping boxes of stuff up two flights of stairs all day) turns out to be a fantastically effective appetite suppressant for me. This set of circumstances has actually happened once before, when I was working on my college campus over the summer doing a job that frequently required hauling computer equipment around and I didn't have much money for food (and the route to the grocery store was uphill on the way back!! did I mention no car either?).

    So, with that in mind, I present CG's Easy Lifestyle Diet!

    1. Get yourself recruited into some all-day physical activity that leaves you so exhausted that you just want to crawl into bed and take a nap when you're done.

    2. Try to feed yourself on a food budget of only $20 a week.

    3. Watch in amazement as the weight FALLS OFF!

    (Don't worry, I promise not to waste away into nothing.)

  16. I'm MUFA-ish myself for the most part. So last week, when I felt I just NEEDED oatmeal cookies, I made them with olive oil and whole wheat flour (and oatmeal, obviously). The dough sucked,so the little sneaky pre-tastes were quite limited--a good thing. The final product was delish! Who knew? Baby steps...

  17. Oooh, New England! How lovely. One of my favorite places in the world, especially in the fall!

    Will definitely look into the Prevention article some more. I fear however, that I may take the 'dark chocolate' suggestions a wee bit too far...

    Thanks for the article!

  18. This suggestion is better than a lot of others which suggest processed crap (like 100 calorie packs or McDonalds salads, etc.) but yeah, Prevention can be pretty annoying.

    I LOVE avocados. Maybe that is why I think these are good tips.

    Congrats on your purchase!

  19. Hmmm...I'm not a fan of diets in general, but I'm particularly disturbed by those that claim they'll affect a certain body part, e.g. the flat-belly diet, the thin-thighs diet...you see my point, right? A healthy diet can help reduce the scary internal abdominal fat that threatens people's health, but to say that it'll make your belly flat seems un-Preventionish to me. As my trainer reminded me constantly last year, you can't spot reduce...if you could, we'd have been doing all glutes, quads and hamstrings!

    Congratulations on the house...I love beadboard!

  20. Dara,

    That's a great point about spot reduction. As a fitness instructor, I constantly have people coming up and asking me how to reduce their stomach, or thighs, or love handles, or butt, or one woman was even concerned because she felt like lifting was creating too much muscle in her arms. And they're never quite satisfied when I tell them that they can't just work that muscle to reduce it, they should do weight training, cardio, and eat a healthy diet.

  21. If simple solution diets worked - we wouldn't need gyms and spas and weight loss would not be the billion dollar industry that it is.

  22. MUFA is not a very appealing acronym, but here's to the low-fat, moderate-sugar dark-chocolate-chip/pecan/sweet potato muffin I'm eating with my tea with almond milk! Yay for MUFAs! This is a bigger afternoon snack than I usually have. I actually do eat about 1600 calories a day, as it turns out. But I didn't know till my dietitian had me track it. It's about what I naturally eat when I'm eating mostly healthy foods and satisfying myself but not stuffing myself. However, 1600 is certainly NOT for everyone, and that is a bizarre generalization.

  23. Hi Crabby!

    I'm a new blogger taking my first baby steps into the internet world and I just wanted to tell you that you're one of the reasons I'm starting this blog to help me on my "journey" (*gasp I used the J word!*) to a fitter healthier self.

    Well onto the post: I once lived for two months in a small village in the Dominican Republic during some community service work and the funny thing was that 10-15lbs just melted off my body even though I didn't do much to limit my eating. I had avocados like twice a day, fish for two meals a day, plantains in every form, bananas(sp?) and fruit that would grow right outside my house. It was great! And then I came to the US and gained the weight back. I really think that the flatter belly will only come when we get rid of high fructose corn syrup. When we consume too much fructose, it turns into triglycerides which turn to abdominal fat. But it's great that dark chocolate is on that list! I'm about to go and buy me some. ;)

  24. Hmmm, sounds suspicious. I eat those things and less than 1600 a day and don't exercise much and I have some squish in the middle. No fair I want my money back!

    I have hit a wall though so maybe I will conduct an experiment with some foods and see if my squish becomes smaller. I doubt I'll miraculously build muscle to eliminate the squish factor but maybe the amount will be less? I'll let ya know how it goes.

  25. I couldn't do it simply because MUFA makes me giggle.

    Yes, I act like a 12 year-old.

  26. Hi all, thanks for all the great comments! (And thanks, unknown neighbor, for turning the wireless back on and letting me steal it from you). Sorry to be a blog slacker today, I can't wait to get back home and check out what everyone's up to.

    I think it's so interesting the way 1600 calories is generous for some folks and skimpy for others. There's sure no one-size-fits all diet out there. (When I was in total weight-loss mode I could lose on 1700; my sister gains if she goes over about 1300, which totally sucks).

    Merry/Mary, sorry I missed you--and what the heck were you doing up at 4:17 Pacific Standard Time??? Sleep, girl!

    Chicken Girl--love the CG diet, perhaps you should write a book and make a fortune!

    And anon--those cookies sound incredibly healthy--if they're actually tasty too, I'll have to give 'em a try.

    One Day at a Time--Thanks so much! And welcome to blogland. Watch out, it's addictive!

  27. I'm sure those things are great in the weight loss department, but what do you say to a woman (oh, like, say ME!) who has had several abdominal surgeries (c-section 18 years ago, kidney transplant 7 years ago) and seriously has no muscle tone there - can't even do a sit up no matter how many pilates classes I take. I don't see a flat stomach in my future ever again!

  28. Like you, I think (especially for active people) it would be difficult to limit myself to 1600 calories per day. I think that really depends on the person -- your weight and height, how many calories you're burning in the course of a day, etc.

  29. I thought just plain "Mary" wasn't cool enough. And I thought "Merry" might be a good yin/yang contrast with "Crabby."

    But I'm easy (not cheap, mind you); if anyone has a cool suggestion for a name, please let me know!

    Crabby, I've been getting 3 or 4 hours of sleep lately. I have to go back to work now... at 9:30 pm ... (A mournful violin starts up in the background) because I have to have a chapter ready for an engineer to review in a couple of hours. He's in England, drat him, so he's starting work shortly. I realize that, being English, it's a logical place for him to live, but it's still annoying. Damn multinational corporations.

    Chickengirl? I agree moving boxes is a terrific appetite suppressant, but not eating is a great way to lower your energy levels too. Be careful! (Nag, nag, nag...)

  30. Hi, Merry/Mary!

    We're actually all finished moving stuff now, so my appetite should be recovering shortly. But I appreciate the concern. :)

  31. So PYTs need to eat more MUFAs to get that DIY flat belly...I'm cracking up.

    On a more serious note, I found that when I stopped drinking the diet coke (all that aspartame) and cut out the cornstarch based sweeteners like maltodextrin and crystalline fructose, my stubborn muffin top started shrinking.

  32. Yeah, cut out the sugar, add some stress (which in me takes away my appetite) in the form of tens of thousands of $$ of someone else's debt I signed for and couldn't pay, an insane stalker ex roomie, an old ill beloved dog, people breaking into my house and vandalizing my vehicle (the stalker, I'm certain) and little money for food, plus I was ill for a month and didn't know how seriously with an infection, and I lost 34 pounds in maybe 4 months, from 146 to 112. I called it The Stress Diet. BUT I ate healthy: avocados off the neighbor's tree for free, pepper jack cheese and green onions in a whole wheat tortilla mostly, once or twice a day, sometimes with some cheap steak in there, and cream of wheat in the am sometimes. All cheap but good food. Some salad greens with olive oil and pepper. I drank lots of hot herbal teas because it was winter and the heat was one wall heater for a huge 2 story house that I was stuck in a lease on. Tea also filled me up when I was hungry and too nervous to eat.
    I had a little neighborhood shop that had piles of cheap fresh farmer's veggies, so ate fresh zuchs and other squash and tomatoes. No sugar, not too much carb, so it was almost an Atkins variant except for the psychological turmoil. Plus I was running up and down stairs a lot. Weight just melted off.
    Even with all the stinking drama I felt healthier physically for losing the weight (I'm 5'5"). The problem was that I didn't realize that it could come back faster and stickier than I thought! I actually was a little too skinny, my rear lost so much padding it hurt to sit on anything hard! But man was my belly flat as it had ever been. (I had always been fit til my 40s when the weight started being harder to keep down.) A year later after I got too skinny, I was at 130, a year after that 142. I got up to 154, but it was mostly bloating from water retention and I knew it, I had a thyroid problem that didn't get diagnosed for years (which I also knew, but drs. think you're nuts if you're woman and tell them what is wrong with your body!), and it was finally starting to fail in more depth and for longer periods. I cut my calories way back over a year and a half ago, I was exercising an hour a day, it didn't seem to help much. Now at 50 with the thyroid meds I have dropped down 12 pounds, have no more puffiness from fluid (I can't eat salt), much less anxiety, little or no insomnia, leg cramps are gone, and I don't wake up feeling like I was hit by a truck, and I actually feel rested and alert. My thinking is sharper. My shortness of breath is gone. It has not made my appetite change either. I still don't eat ice cream or pastries (a donut on some Sundays though), I go easy on portions, and I exercise!

    So if your TSH is over 2 or 3, go find a specialist, most especially if you are a woman 40 or over, it could have a lot to do with the weight, dr.s don't know that the "normal" scale includes a lot of abnormal for many people. Menopause symptoms are often failing or low thyroid symptoms, it just isn't recognized the the extent that it should be. Do NOT however take anyone's thyroid meds to lose weight!!!! Be careful messing with any natural dessicated glandulars as well, they aren't balanced and can get you hyperthyroid quickly, not good. It's a very serious med, with potential for many side effects. I've been lucky so far, I usually react to everything. But God, after 15 years of knowing I had a problem, to find a compassionate dr. and get my life back is a huge blessing!

    My belly still isn't flat when I lie on my back, but I lost bunches of inches on my upper arms and thighs and calves, and I'm down 3 on my waist.

  33. don't get too stressed? ok, crabby, as soon as you come up with a way to do that, you be sure to let us know :P

  34. My Mom and I started The Flat Belly Diet on June 29 and in the first 2 days I lost 5 lbs. I know this is water-weight but, knowing that I lost 5 lbs. is enough encouragement to keep with it. I made a committment to myself that I want to be a healthier, happier person and I think I have finally found my solution to being overweight. Day 3 is when I noticed I had more energy when I got home from work. I already read labels when I grocery shop and this book has given me all the information I need to make healthy food choices -- even while eating out or nuking a frozen lunch at work. I'm very excited to see how much weight I will lose in the coming months. 5 lbs. down -- 75 more to go!

  35. I just started the Flat Belly diet a few days ago. I find it a bit confusing. So many choices you don't know what to do. It does not mention that you can have even coffee or tea. Just water, water, water!! Help!!!


  36. http://buzz.prevention.com/lemon-cupcakes-with-citrus-icing/

    There are a lot of interesting things about the flat belly diet. More than anything it is a great lifestyle.

  37. I have to admit, I have not yet bought the book. But I did "Google" the so-called super foods recommended by the FBD. I started a program on June 16, 2008 of my own design using everything I've learned over the years. 2 weeks later, I learned of and started adding MUFA's to my plan. I have lost 18 lbs as of Aug 15, 2008. I'm never hungry and I feel good. I was really disaapointed, though by what the scale said. Looking at my body, I thought I'd lost a lot more. My belly is a lot flatter. I wish I had done a measurement before, but I did not expect this result. I found this site when looking for a copy of the FBD book. NOW I want to know what the whole plan is.

  38. It's working for me! I was able to cut 200 calories a day by eating these flat belly foods. I'm just less hungry. And my food bill went down because it's cheaper to get calories from peanut butter and avocados than from sandwiches and frozen dinners. I've lost five pounds so far without exercising any more than I was. NOTHING I've tried in the last year even stopped me from gaining, so actually losing is awesome. I can't say that my belly has lost any more than the rest of me -- certainly less than my boobs, but I'm ok with that. Any diet that includes chocolate and peanut butter right out of the jar is one I can live with forever. It's definitely worth trying if you haven't.

  39. I just want to point out that Prevention did not coin the term "MUFA". This is actually the accepted term in the Nutrition and Food Science field (poly-unsaturated fats are PUFAS). I never thought it sounded funny until reading these blogs. Also, for those of you who are disappointed by Prevention's gimmicky get-rich fad diet, it seems to me that they always do this. In almost every issue, there is an extra "free" booklet that says it can help you lose weight, but it is actually just a huge advertisement for whatever new diet they have come up with that month (for which you, of course, have to purchase a book). I still read Prevention, but I am not surprised. It's a fun magazine, but it is certainly not the most reliable, scientific place to get your information.

    I am curious though, are any of the girls who started the FBD in July or August still doing it? I would be interested in an update.

  40. Does anyone have suggestions for how to have sushi and stay on the FBD? My husband and I just started the diet this past week, and he has business meetings at a sushi place. Thanks very much.

  41. That "Sassy Water" is disgusting! I'm a huge water drinker and don't mind a few lemons in it. The ginger is ok in small amounts, but the cucumbers ruined it and I was a cucumber fan! As someone who sufers with hypo-glysemia, this is too little food in the AM and lunch. I may have to skip this 4 day plan and go to the 4 weeks plan.

  42. I can't believe how little is said about the no coffee or tea "rule". There must be others out there who rely on morning coffee! I think I could do it for 4 days but does anyone know if your are allowed to drink any kind of tea at least in the next 4 weeks? Why would decaf green tea be a problem? Thanks!

  43. I just started this today....funny thing is my aunt just told me about it yesterday. I love a diet where I can eat healthy and it's so easy!! I'm looking forward to seeing what happens. And I look forward to felling better!

  44. You can drink tea and coffee after the first 4 days.

    Yes, I rely on my coffee/hot tea (mostly to keep warm) and it's killing me to go 4 days without it, but you can have it again after 4 days.

  45. Okay, I've been doing the flat belly diet for 3 weeks. I lost 2 pounds the first week, 1 the second, and 4 the third! I love the results and I love the food! Chocolate, nuts, olives, avocados, and great recipes! HOWEVER, I have had some side effects. My stomach has been cramping a lot. I fluctuate from periods of gassy constipated times and diarrhea. I've also spotted some. I'm not sure if my body is just going through something, or if it's the diet. But the timing makes me wonder if it's the diet. For now, I'm going to hang in there and hope my body settles down and gets use to it.

  46. I've been on this for 2 weeks and I LOVE IT! I have lost 6 pounds and the best part is that except for today I have not been hungry. Today I worked out and that probably is the reason for the extra hunger. I have tried every diet that comes down the pike, Weight Watchers, Sonoma, Atkins, South Beach, you name it. This is the final one I will be on. I am so happy I finally found something that keeps me from being hungry and that I am losing weight on.

  47. Oh, I might have said that the first four days were killer. I began to have leg pains and by day 3 and 4 was sleeping almost around the clock. I am on statins and I think this upset my blood chemistry. It was a shock to my system. Once I started the main part of the diet I was fine and I did lose 5 pounds the first 4 days and they have stayed off so it was worth it.

  48. Diets are so overated ... Exercise has got to be far more important.

  49. Me my Mom and my Dad just started this diet today. Breakfast was good, im used to eathing like 4 bowls of cereal..(.come on..I know some of you can too.lol) But im actually not hungry and its almost time for dinner. Ill let ya'll know how it goes!

  50. My mother and I just started this diet yesterday. My goal is to loose 40 pounds to reach a goal of 110 pounds June 11th, just in time for bikini season! I know that I will continue my new lifestyle past the day that I reach the goal so I am optimistic that I will NOT gain the weight back! Today is the end of the second day of the 4 day jumpstart and I am experiencing a little bit of hunger, but the second day is always the worst when it comes to diets. I can already tell that I am less bloated (sounds crazy that it could show results THIS fast! maybe it is my head...) I am however looking forward to being over this 4 day starter diet which I think may just be a bit of a scam to make this diet seem like a "miracle diet". It is NO miracle, just a helpful starter to leading a healthier lifestyle! I would recommend it thus far and will keep you updated on my progress...

  51. I have been on this diet about ten days, and am eating a quarter cup of sunflower seeds per day, I have never been allergic to nuts before, but now my tongue is swollen, has anyone else experienced this?

  52. Background: I am 27, 5'7 and weigh 150lbs. Earlier this year I was eating healthy and exercising and weighed 135lbs, but bad eating habits and lack of activity lead me to try the FBD. I am on day 3 of the 4 Day jump start part and I am amazed! I have lost 3 inches from my waist, and I even cheated and improvised a few times. I know it is water weight but I was carrying it for a few months going, "Why do I feel and look so bloated?" I woke up on day 2 with my tummy back to being relatively flat and I am moving forward hoping that is food plan is my new solution to having a healthy lifestyle so that I don't yo-yo anymore. It is a great feeling to going back in the right direction :) Good luck to all of you too!

  53. I am on day 4 of FBD and have lost 2.5 inches from my body. Looking forward to incorporating other foods in diet however.


Thanks for commenting, Cranky Fitness readers are the BEST!

Subscribe to comments via RSS

(Note: Older Comment Threads Are Moderated)