Project Blue Part 2:
Lose Your Muffin Top
Manage your middle! Get rid of the notorious belly bulge with the second part of our get-in-your-jeans challenge.
Muffin top, a.k.a. an overflowing belly poured into a pair of tight jeans—we don’t love the phrase, but it is how women refer to their biggest jeans complaint. In fact, in a recent poll, nearly 50 percent of WWM Reader Panel members complained about theirs. What makes the muffin top so stubborn? It involves weight and fitness issues as well as the fit of your jeans. “For most women, especially as they get older, the belly is the first place they store weight and the last place they lose it,” says Molly Kimball, RD, a sports and lifestyle dietitian. So if you’re losing
or at your goal, consult our four-step guide to losing the bulge.
Find the right jeans
The muffin-top phenomenon often stems from—or is worsened by—wearing jeans that don’t have the correct rise for your shape, says Sarah Hodge, the merchandise manager of MyTrueFit.com. Here, a few rules:
- Sorry, high-waisted is best. We know they aren’t the most fashion-forward choice, but they are the most flattering for a full belly. To keep from looking dowdy, pair a higher-rise jean with a trim-fitting top (don’t tuck it in) that extends over the waistband. You’ll create a smoother silhouette for the entire belly area.
- Spare us the details. Select jeans with dark stitching that blends in with the fabric. Opt for a pair without a lot of snaps or buttons near the stomach; drawing attention to the area will only emphasize a muffin top.
- Do the finger test. You should be able to comfortably fit one finger between your waist and the waistband of your jeans. If you can’t, your middle will be squeezed and your love handles revealed.
- Width matters. By choosing a wider, flared hem (boot-cut style), you’ll balance out your proportions and make your middle appear smaller.
Bust the bloat
To help flatten your tummy and avoid gas and water retention while you’re cranking up your fiber and veggie intake, try these ideas:
- Be veggie smart. Cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage produce gas and bloating. On days when you’re sporting your blues, opt for more asparagus, zucchini, squash, and spinach instead.
- Drink more water! “It’s counterintuitive, but drinking more water helps your body retain less of it," says Kimball. “Plus, when you eat a high-fiber diet, you need plenty of fluids to help things move smoothly through your GI tract."
- Go natural. Green tea, apple-cider vinegar (two tablespoons mixed with four ounces of hot water), lemon juice, and parsley can all help your body release fluids.
- Shake the salt. It’s not just a matter of ditching the saltshaker but also of reading labels to see if sodium is lurking in low-fat salad dressings, frozen dinners, and canned goods.
- Don’t overload the belly. Spread out your caloric consumption throughout the day. Meals and snacks don’t have to be evenly spaced, Kimball says, “but try not to go more than four hours without eating something." You’ll curb your hunger without inundating your belly all at once—a bloat culprit.
|The blue jean meal plan: To help you get belly fat in check and look better in your jeans, try our meal plan.
Fill 1 whole-wheat tortilla with 3 scrambled egg whites, ½ c fresh spinach, 2 Tbsp diced tomato, and ¼ c shredded fat-free Cheddar. Sprinkle with 1 c fresh mixed berries; roll up. PointsPlus value: 6
1 grande latte (decaf or regular) made with
1 c fat-free milk or soy milk. PointsPlus value: 4
Fill 1 small whole wheat pita with 3 oz deli-sliced roast beef, 1 tsp fat-free mayonnaise, and ¼ c mixed greens; serve with 1 c grilled vegetables. PointsPlus value: 7
Spread 2 slices low-calorie multigrain bread evenly with ½ Tbsp almond butter and 1 Tbsp fruit preserves. PointsPlus value: 5
Place ¼ lb sliced broiled top round steak over
2 c mixed greens. Top with 4 asparagus spears and 2 Tbsp fat-free creamy dressing. Serve with 1 c sautéed spinach. PointsPlus value: 7
1 piece Dove Promise (or other ½-oz piece chocolate) with 1 c fat-free milk. PointsPlus value: 4
Be carb selective
To promote the loss of abdominal fat, consume whole-grain carbs (such as quinoa, popcorn, and whole-grain bread), not refined ones (like white bread, potato chips, and packaged sweets), since the latter trigger a spike in insulin that can lead to belly fat. “And have carbs at breakfast or lunch," Kimball says. “You don’t need that energy boost at night."
Can a good night’s sleep help you look better in your jeans? In a recent study, researchers found that those who skimp on sleep (less than five hours a night) have larger waists and more abdominal fat than those who sleep more.
Kick up the cardio
While you’re still losing weight, the best way to firm up your middle isn’t to hit the floor for 100 crunches (phew!). Cardio, particularly interval aerobic training, is actually the most effective method for getting rid of belly fat. The key is to alternate 30-second bursts of brisk walking or speed walking with 30 seconds at a gentler pace during a 30-minute workout, says Suzanne Bowen, a certified fitness instructor in Nashville, Tennessee. However, if you’re at or close to goal weight, you’re ready to work on sculpting your midsection. If that describes you, proceed to Step 4.
Once you’ve banished your belly fat, you can focus on toning those abs. The following moves, designed by Bowen, the creator and star of the Gorgeous Core DVD, will help you do just that! Do this workout every other day.
Start in push-up position, keeping abs lifted so body forms a straight line. Lift left leg, bend knee and pull it toward left elbow, then return it to floor. Do this 8 times, holding your foot up in the air for a count of 8 on the last rep. Repeat with right leg.
Lie facedown on floor and prop yourself up on elbows with toes flexed. Place forearms flat on floor with elbows directly under shoulders. Keep body (including neck) in a straight line by engaging abs. Hold for 30 seconds. Relax; repeat 8 times.
Lie on left side, propped up on
left elbow, with elbow aligned under left shoulder and forearm on floor. Stack legs with knees bent and slightly in front of your hips. Pushing up from left forearm, lift hips off floor, then lower 8 times; on the last rep, hold hips up at the top for a count of 8. Relax; repeat on right side.
Lie on back with legs bent and arms out to sides. Drag heels toward butt and bring knees toward chest so that legs are parallel to floor. Lift chest and reach fingertips toward toes; pull belly button in toward spine. Hold for 1 count. Relax; repeat 8 times. Do 2 sets.
Lie on back, knees bent, feet flat on floor. Place hands behind head, elbows out. Slowly contract abs, lifting upper body until shoulder blades are off the floor. Slowly lower yourself, stopping an inch above floor. Do 3 sets of 8: one set lifting upper body to center, one set to right, and one set to left.
Lie on back, legs bent, heels below knees. Lift hips off floor as far as you comfortably can, keeping them in line with thighs, and then lower. Relax; repeat 8 times.
How are you doing? Send us your denim dish at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Jeans Team
Sarah Hodge is the merchandise manager and fit specialist for MyTrueFit.com, an online retailer based in New York City that specializes in custom sizing.
Molly Kimball, RD, is a sports and lifestyle dietitian who manages the nutrition program at Ochsner’s Elmwood Fitness Center in New Orleans.
Suzanne Bowen is a certified fitness expert and the owner of Seren Motus Fitness Studios in Nashville, Tennessee. She has created and starred in numerous internationally renowned fitness DVDs.
See Part 1 of the Jeans Challenge here