Tips for beating stubborn belly fat

LOS ANGELES "I actually had people ask me if I was pregnant again, which was not a great thing to hear," says Lisa Moncure. Two years after delivering her daughter, Moncure still had a pregnancy paunch.

Moncure sought the help of fitness pro Tracey Mallet, who recently helped 45 women stay in shape before and after pregnancy with her Super Fit Mama program. But even without ever having kids, her fine-tuned formula has helped many win the battle of the bulge.

"You are what you eat, and 80 percent of what you eat is how your belly is going to look," says Mallett.

Mallett is a proponent of small meals throughout the day, consisting of properly portioned whole foods, lean protein, whole grains, heart healthy fats and better-for-you starches like potatoes. This combination is helpful for good nutrition, better digestion and satisfaction.

When it comes to movement, Mallett says, "If you really want the best body you can, you need to start implementing some kind of activity into your lifestyle at least five to six times a week."

Life can be hectic, so be realistic. Beginners should don a pedometer and aim for 10,000 steps a day, while trying to step up activity three times per week and working up from there.

"It's all about quality not quantity in the reps that you do," adds Mallett, "it's consistency and doing the exercises correctly."

And every extra bit of extra calorie burning makes a big fat difference.

Something that can occur in pregnant women, but is now found in non-pregnant women that become grossly overweight or obese, is a separation of the abdominal muscle that results in a protruding belly that is tough to get rid of.

"Sure enough, I had a three-finger abdominal separation," Moncure admits.

Moncure was exercising hard with little results due to the gape in her belly. She learned simple exercises using exhalations and 'drawing in' the deep abs known as the transverse abdominus, seeing results in four weeks.

"When I see an abdominal separation in women, I tend to slow their exercise program down," says physical therapist Laura Horn, "I work on training those abdominal muscles to bring the tissues together."

"You kind of have to digress to progress. Sometimes doing the most simplest exercises look so simple," says Mallett, "when they're done correctly and you're firing the right muscles, they're actually even harder."

Some flat belly foods to keep on hand are pink grapefruits, cantaloupes and tomatoes. These all help reduce fat absorption, and their high fiber content keeps you fuller, longer. Or, have a banana as a snack; its high potassium content helps relieve bloating.

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