So I started writing this last summer, and got distracted with weddings and bridal showers. WHOOPS!
Last summer I asked all of you on Instagram what kind of content you were interested in, and “ab stuff” was a top contender. The people love abs. Give the people what they want!
I am not a PhD in ab science and do not have a training certification, though I did read some of the CSCS textbook (that sh*t was gnarly, never finished the course) and I am the proud owner of some abs. They are small but I appreciate them. also I’ve been writing health and fitness tips, workouts, and exercise advice, interviewing trainers and doctors, and researching all this stuff for years… so I have like SOME knowledge. But it’s important to know where you’re getting your info.
As this is a personal blog and I’m offering personal advice, this is what worked to give *me* ab definition, and it’s not universal. however, I truly don’t think these bits of advice are harmful or can hurt… so check ’em out and see what works for you!
Last disclaimer: it annoys me when people are like “just follow my advice and you’ll lose weight!” or whatever, and they’re not 100p honest with their advantages (money for a once-a-day personal trainer, naturally thin build, excellent genes, liposuction, whatever)… sooo my natural advantage: I have a ridiculously fast metabolism. This isn’t a humble brag, this is a “please don’t expect the same exact results” and “don’t @ me” if this doesn’t work or think that I lied to you. That said, I still do eat healthy foods (we’ll get to that in tip one) and I work hard to keep my body lean, strong, and balanced. I didn’t always have abdominal definition or strength, and while I’m still working on it (my lower abs are NOT working rn), I feel proud of the work I have put in. let’s get to them TIPS!
- that annoying ass cliché that abs start in the kitchen is true
- pilates, pilates, pilates
- reduce body fat
- reduce bloating because sometimes it’s really just bloating
1. abs in the kitchen
I hate when people say this, but it really is true. Assess your diet before you get started on your ab journey (I guess technically you’re starting your ab journey by assessing your diet). are you drinking a lot of soda and juice? what about sugary coffees? do you have any vices? how much alcohol do you drink per week? how many vegetables are you getting per meal?
There is no ONE diet that works for everyone; some people like keto while others get very sick on it. others thrive eating vegan meals while some become nutrient deficient. It would be unethical for me to prescribe you an “ab diet” (especially because I’m literally not a dietitian and my favorite food is carbs).
Foods that help me feel lean, healthy, and strong:
- Anti-inflammatory foods. Got this phrase from Dr. Andrew Weil of True Food Kitchen. Leafy greens, berry, lots of cinnamon and ginger, whole grains, salmon, and olive oil (a superfood, depending on who you ask) are all components of this approach to diet. the True Food Cookbook has recipes from the restaurant (one of my absolute favorites) and can help you get a feel for this kind of meal plan.
- Sakara. You guys know I talk about this all the time, and though it’s insanely expensive, it’s one of the best luxuries I’ve ever added to my life; truly like a dietitian and personal chef got together and made all of my meals. they’re insanely delicious, perfectly healthy, and I feel like I’m putting premium fuel in a Ferrari when I eat this stuff. I am so grateful to have had the chance to work with this brand (I’m an ambassador!) but I still pay out of pocket for meal kits when I order them. I would not shill anything I didn’t 100% believe in and love myself, so trust me when I say: this sh*t slaps. Get 25% off with code BFDOMINIQUE if ur down to clown.
- Water. Hey, a free option! Lots, and lots, and LOTS of water. First thing when you wake up, before/during/after every meal, and throughout the day. fun fact (from my psychiatrist?? bc water helps ur mental health!) — drinking water WITH food will help your digestion and mitigate the need to pee every 10 seconds. drink a lot of it while you’re eating as opposed to just chugging intermittently and see if that works.
My body changed for the better when Pilates became my default. I feel more balanced, stronger, healthier, and happier. Because Pilates is centered on creating a super strong and toned core, abs are par for the course in this quest. Try mat, reformer, private, or chair classes. Keep in mind: megaformer is SIMILAR but it’s not pilates, even though some of the names of the studios use “pilates” — it’s a completely different workout. Still good though!
3. reduce body fat
Stop me if you’ve heard this before (lol you can’t you’re just reading a screen hahaha): you can’t spot reduce fat. What that means is, you can’t do tricep workouts to reduce fat in your upper arms. You can’t do squats to reduce fat in your butt (why would you want to?), and you can’t do sit ups to reduce fat specifically in your abs. Lame, right?
Here’s the (sh*tty) deal: you have to reduce your overall body fat percentage to see ab definition (if that’s your goal!). And your body decides where it loses fat based on genetics, so you may lose it in your boobs but not your arms, because sometimes the world is cruel.
This overall fat loss is achieved through no special mechanism other than what you’ve been told since birth: healthy diet and routine exercise. If you’re hellbent on doing keto, using protein powder, intermittent fasting, and following an ass-kicking HIIT regimen, please be my guest, but in my semi-professional opinion, I really don’t think you need to do any of that. I mean, I’m not doing any of that and I’m p pleased with where I’m at. Just like, eat right and work out more.
Some bonus tips/things that helped me reduce body fat, starting years ago:
- Cut back on booze. For a while I was completely cold turkey, no alcohol. I felt fantastic. I have been fortunate enough to not have any problems with dependency or addiction, so this process was incredibly easy for me. I now drink wine on occasion and festive cocktails when the mood/time calls for it. I saw a dramatic reduction in my body fat when I made this change, concurrently with some other very simple changes.
- Reduce stress. You’ll never see your abs that you’ve worked hard for if they’re under belly fat, and until you get cortisol in check, it’s likely that you’re holding on to some belly fat (particularly if you’re a woman). Cortisol is a stress hormone that the body releases during the sympathetic (fight, flight or freeze) response. That sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is activated to like, save you from getting eaten by a dinosaur, but it’s activated quite frequently in modern society — even by your thoughts.
Sprinting on the treadmill at Barry’s? it’s on. Thinking about that dude who didn’t text you back because he went to Bali with a model? it’s on. Wondering if you’re going to make rent? it’s on. Hiding from your boss behind a mountain of packages because she’s terrifying? it’s on. That system turning on so frequently is telling the adrenal glands to make some adrenaline and cortisol, and the residual cortisol can contribute to fat retention. Make an effort to start balancing your everyday life to reduce stress.
- Reduce cardio (if you’re on a cardio heavy schedule). Switching from constant cardio to strength training and Pilates was a big one for me, but this tip is arguably the most controversial. If cardio is working for you, or you’re not doing any cardio, please ignore this suggestion. Also, cardio does help to burn fat… but so does strength training. If you’re doing cardio only (and a lot of it), consider adding more tranquil, strengthening exercises to focus on converting fat to muscle.
4. yo are you bloated?
A lot of times when I think I’ve “gained weight” it’s just bloating from either eating garbage or guzzling la croix like we’re on the precipice of a pamplemousse famine. I’m fine.
Chronic bloating is 1000% a thing and you should get with a solid gastroenterologist and work out a plan. Probiotics have been a lifesaver for me and for getting my gut in check; I take Align every day (not sponsored, just what I use). Subscribe & Save on Amazon will save u hella money.
Eating the anti-inflammatory foods, in theory, should also help with this, as will Sakara meals, drinking more water, and reducing stress. It’s the ciiiiircle of liiiiiiife I mean circle of abs. It all works together. the end!
I hope these tips are helpful to get you on track to feeling strong and healthy and happy. LMK if you want more ab thangs!