Share story

Whether you want a six pack or just want to whittle your middle a little, you don’t need the perfect combination of ab exercises. You need to clean up your diet.

You may have heard the saying “abs are made in the kitchen,” and of all the clever little sayings that get thrown around in the fitness biz, it could not be more dead on.

Weight gain around the mid section is a clear indicator of a poor diet. In addition to stress, diets high in saturated fats and processed carbs cause fat to accumulate around the body’s middle, which also makes belly fat an indicator of cardiovascular risk.

Conversely, losing excess weight around your midsection can lower your risk for cardiovascular disease, as well as diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure and certain cancers.

This week, save 90% on digital access.

You can’t out-exercise a bad diet (there’s another one of those little sayings). Diet and exercise go hand in hand, they don’t cancel each other out. It’s this mind frame that leads people to look at food as the enemy, when in actuality, food is fuel for your body to work efficiently and effectively.

Even if your total calories are in check, if you are consuming nothing but processed junk food, you aren’t going to see results, or at least not at the rate you would if you were fueling your body with real, live and whole foods.

Don’t let the marketing machine fool you; foods that are touted as diet friendly or low calorie are usually full of nothing more than chemicals. Remember, if it comes in a package, it’s been processed through a plant somewhere.

However, this usually isn’t the issue. More often than not, it’s the license to eat that people give themselves for working out that’s the culprit for stubborn belly fat. Combine that with the fact people consistently overestimate how many calories they actually burn during a workout (don’t trust the machine readouts), and you have a recipe more for weight gain than weight loss.

My first job ever was at the Jamba Juice in Westwood Village across the way from a 24 Hour Fitness. That was long before I got into fitness, but even back then it was amazing the number of people who would pour out of the gym after their workouts and straight to us to get a power-sized Peanut Butter Moo’d smoothie — full of nothing but peanut butter, ice cream and chocolate milk (oh, and a scoop of protein powder). The exercisers consumed the few hundred calories they burned in the gym, plus almost 1,000 more on top of it within minutes.

Of course, everyone is different, but refueling after exercise is usually unnecessary for any workout clocking in at under 90 minutes. Your body has more than enough fuel stock piled — that’s what you are trying to get rid of, remember?

Aim to eat a clean diet as opposed to putting yourself on a restrictive diet. Eating clean means choosing whole grains over processed carbs and sugars that stick to your tummy like glue.

Eat lean proteins and lots of fruits and vegetables. These foods not only contain vital nutrients and few calories, but actually promote fat burning around your middle.

When it comes to food, think pure and simple. There should only be one ingredient on the label, or even better, no label at all.

Exercise, of course, is for more than just burning calories, but if your goal is to drop body fat, especially around the middle, you can’t continue to eat the way you always have and expect exercise to do that trick.

Custom-curated news highlights, delivered weekday mornings.