23 Tricks to Flatten Your Belly—Without a Lick of Exercise

Updated: Apr. 14, 2021

The waistline is the top body part that both men and women say they are most self-conscious about. Here are simple ways to lose belly fat and get a flat stomach for good!

Yogurt bowl with berries and granola.

Become a pro at probiotics

Our gut microbiome controls far more than we give it credit for, which is why having your gut colonized with beneficial types of bacteria is so important—in fact, studies have shown that the gut microbiomes of obese and lean twins from the same family are different. One way to boost your bacterial count is by taking a probiotic supplement. You can also make foods that boost good gut bacteria part of your everyday diet.

Salt and pepper shakers.
iStock/Joshua Resnick

Move the salt shaker off your table

Salt, in moderation, is a good thing—the mineral is necessary for a healthy heart and brain. But too much salt and you’ll retain water, bloating up like a water balloon. Cutting salt is one of the primary ways to drop extra water weight (one reason you may see a big weight loss when starting a new diet!). Move the salt shaker off your table so you’ll get out of the habit of routinely salting all your food. Then if you taste your food and still really want salt you can still stand up and get some.

Young woman blowing a bubble with her chewing gum.

Spit out your gum

Many people chew gum as a way to stifle cravings or prevent mindless eating, but this tactic may have an unfortunate side effect: belly bloat. Everyone naturally swallows a small amount of air when they chew, but it’s magnified for people who chew gum, which causes gas and bloating.

Two hands clinking beer glasses.

Back off the beer

It’s called a “beer belly” for a reason—and researchers have found that beer consumption is linked to an increase in waist size, especially among male drinkers.

Women eating a meal.

Listen to your mom and stop chewing with your mouth open

First, it’s gross. Second, chewing while breathing through your mouth can make you swallow as much air as food, causing your belly to bloat. Learning proper table manners will not only help you keep a trimmer tummy but will also make your friends and family much happier.

A platter of cinnamon rolls and sticky buns.

Tame your sweet tooth

Sugary treats, while obviously delicious, aren’t very good for our bodies—and that includes our tummies. Not only do the added calories add inches to our waistlines, but sugar overload leads to insulin resistance, which tells the body to store extra fat around the waist. But that’s long-term stuff. Sugar also bloats your tummy in the short-term because your body may have a hard time digesting the sugars in certain foods. When it comes to flattening your belly, nixing sugar is one of the best things you can do.

Health professional chatting with her female patient.

Get your hormones checked

Out-of-whack hormones may play a part in expanding your waistline—especially in women going through menopause. While you can’t turn back the clock and reclaim the hormone profile of your 20’s, you can make sure you’re within the normal range—something your doctor can check for you.

Someone pulling the last square of toilet paper off the roll.

Get down to business in the bathroom

Nearly 20 percent of Americans suffer from chronic constipation and being perpetually backed up can affect your whole body, including uncomfortable bloating and swelling in your stomach.

Top view of a bowl of broccoli.

Channel a toddler and refuse to eat your broccoli

Cruciferous veggies are one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat, but unfortunately they’re also the ones most likely to cause your tummy to inflate. Thanks to raffinose, a compound that produces extra gas as it breaks down, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and the like can seriously increase your waistline. But don’t ditch them forever. Just save them for meals where you can wear loose pants.

Woman asleep in bed.

Move up your bedtime

Americans are getting less sleep than ever these days and it’s taking a toll on our health—most visibly on our waistlines. Lack of sleep could disrupt your metabolism and the chemical signals your body sends to regulate your appetite—and that can lead to weight gain. Fortunately, there are ways to banish belly bloat in your sleep.

An array of packaged and processed foods.

Pass on processed food

Processed foods are one of the biggest sources of salt in Americans’ diets—and the scary part is you probably don’t even realize it. Salt is hidden in everything from soups to pasta sauces to even sweet things like boxed cakes. Swap out processed foods in favor of fresh fare and your tummy will thank you. Not only will you lose the salt-bloat but you’ll also lose the extra empty calories and lose weight.

Glasses of soda pop.

Rethink your drink

Want a flatter stomach? Look in your glass—milk and soda are two major causes of tummy inflation. Approximately 65 percent of the human population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy, according to the National Institutes of Health. And when it comes to soda, both regular and diet are belly busters both from the sweeteners used and the carbonation. Try eliminating these from your diet and see if it helps flatten your tummy.

A bartender pouring a glass of water for a patron.

Guzzle water

Whereas many beverages can increase your waistline (see above), there is one that is guaranteed to trim your tummy: water. Drinking plain ol’ H2O works because staying fully hydrated tells your body it’s okay to release any extra water it’s retaining, decreasing the accompanying bloat.

A top view of a bowl of red apples.

Put a fruit bowl in the middle of your counter

Fruits like berries, cherries, apples, and oranges are high in quercetin, a natural compound that reduces inflammation in the belly. And if you put a bowl of the good stuff right where you can see it in your kitchen, you’re more likely to reach for it when you want a snack.

A bowl of fresh ginger root and a spoon with a split piece of ginger.

Spice up your life

Fennel, peppermint, and ginger have all been shown in studies to be beneficial for digestion. In addition, peppermint reduces cramping and gas, ginger helps with nausea and inflammation, and fennel is a diuretic to help you stop retaining water.

Pretty African American woman walking tall.

Perfect your posture

Want a flatter stomach in two seconds? Stand up straight! Slouching emphasizes belly rolls but straightening your spine elongates your whole body, making you look taller and sleeker. Want to go even flatter for a picture? Use the old modeling trick and arch your back slightly—this will pull your skin tighter across your stomach while moving it farther away from the camera, making it look slightly smaller. Yeah, it’s a temporary fix but good posture offers many health benefits beyond looking good.

A young male in a shirt and tie looking stressed.

Take a chill pill

Stress skyrockets your levels of cortisol, often called “the belly fat” hormone because it signals to the body to store fat around your waist. The daily stressors of living our modern lifestyle aren’t good for a lot of healthy reasons, your tummy being just one of them, so it’s important to take time every day to de-stress. Yoga, meditation, walking, journaling, doing a hands-on hobby, or playing a musical instrument are all great time-tested methods.

Man near a window reading a book.

Turn off your electronics

Your phone, tablet, and television may be affecting your waist size in more ways that one. Obviously if you’re sitting on electronics then you’re not moving around and burning calories. But the effects go beyond just energy. Blue light from electronic screens can disrupt your circadian rhythms, so our addiction to electronics is reducing our sleep as people favor Netflix-bingeing to bed. Both of these effects have been linked to higher levels of belly fat. These other terrible habits will make your belly fat worse.

Box of shape wear.
iStock/Peter Hermus

Wear shaping underwear

Spanx are maybe no one’s idea of a good time, but sometimes you just need a little extra (firm) help to flatten your tummy to wear your favorite dress or for a special evening out. And there’s nothing wrong with turning to technology to help you get there. Body shaping undergarments have come a long way in the past few years with more breathable fabrics and styles for both men and women.

Fiber-rich smoothie topped with oats, yogurt, and berries.

Fill up on fiber

Fibrous foods are as close to a “miracle belly flattening pill” as we have. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, particularly those high in soluble fiber, have been shown to reduce your body fat. In addition, these foods fill you up so you eat less, flattening your stomach over time.

Gloved and gowned doctors performing a surgical procedure.

Consider surgery

No, we’re not telling you that you need a tummy tuck (although that would flatten your belly, we suppose). Rather, there are several common health conditions that can make your belly bulge and until you fix the anatomical issues underneath, nothing else can flatten it out. For instance, many women have a diastisis recti, or separation of the abdominal muscles, after pregnancy. In about 25 percent of these women, the muscles never quite come back together, leading to a permanent protrusion. Similarly, a hernia (congenital or from an injury) can also cause your belly to stick out. Both conditions can be resolved surgically.

Man snapping a cigarette in half.
iStock/Troels Graugaard

Quit smoking

Do you really need another reason to drop the cancer sticks? Fine: Smoking is making you fat. Not only does lighting up not help you stay slim—an all-too-common myth about smoking—but people who smoke have a higher concentration of fat around their midsection.

Women with pained expression clutching her abdomen.

Treat irritable bowel syndrome

IBS, or irritable bowel syndrome, is the most common gastrointestinal disorder. IBS symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, and bloating—So. Much. Bloating. While the causes aren’t all known, it’s thought to be linked to lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, hormones, and stress. Sufferers often find that making changes in these areas eliminates or reduces their IBS (and their stomach circumference!)

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest