Some diets simply don't work. They're too restrictive about what pardticipants can eat or they require such a high level of exercise that an average individual can't maintain the routine long term. What if a diet came along that promised to target stubborn belly fat, but said you don't have to exercise and that a dessert of dark chocolate is just fine? That's exactly what the Flat Belly Diet promises. But does it really work?
Like other diets, the Flat Belly Diet does restrict the intake of certain foods, but it allows a bit more freedom and flexibility. This probably explains why it's gained popularity in recent years. The diet claims to focus on decreasing the unhealthy fat levels in participants. The two major fats in our bodies are subcutaneous, which is under the skin, and visceral, which forms around the body organs [source: Kovacs]. The Flat Belly Diet focuses on visceral fat, which is medically recognized as the most dangerous kind of fat [sources: Kovacs, Every Diet].
Cutting calories alone might help, but Flat Belly creators Liz Vaccariello, editor in chief of Prevention magazine, and Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD., believe the key to shedding the excess weight and visceral fat levels is the consumption of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) in place of unhealthy saturated fats. Reportedly, by ensuring the existence of MUFA components in each portioned meal and snack, the diet targets the dangerous fat, allowing you to lose weight in just more than a month with little to no exercise [source: Flat Belly].
Participants often do see results, but many critics are skeptical as to whether this has anything to with MUFA. While the diet claims that belly fat is often the hardest to lose, many professionals disagree. In fact, it's said that when weight is lost, it's usually going to be from the belly [source: Zelman]. The Flat Belly Diet says MUFA will stifle cravings and reduce belly fat but there is little research to support this claim.
The Flat Belly Diet may be right for you if you're looking to decrease your caloric intake and eat healthier foods. To learn more about the specifics of the Flat Belly Diet, check out the next two pages. First up -- how the plan works.
Flat Belly Diet Plan
Unlike many diets that involve tedious exercise regimens and complicated, restrictive recipes, the Flat Belly Diet is relatively simple. The program lasts 32 days, but if you want to change your lifestyle, you might be able to stick with it longer.
It starts with a four-day, anti-bloat jumpstart, which is supposed to cause weight loss almost immediately. The Flat Belly Diet claims this jumpstart could result in a loss of up to 7 pounds (3.18 kg) and 6 inches (15.24 kg) around the waist [source: Oprah]. Individuals do often see results, but it should be said that much of this would be water and gas loss. The creators not only want to use this time to eliminate excess fluids and gasses, but to provide dieters with motivation. Fast results often help people feel successful and keep them on the plan.
After the anti-bloat period is over, you must shift to the long-term plan. You'll spend the next 28 days consuming three meals and one snack per day, each consisting of 400 calories and MUFA components [source: Every Diet]. These meals should be evenly spaced four hours apart, in an effort to satisfy cravings and regulate metabolism. These three rules -- keepings meals at 400 calories, ensuring MUFA in each meal and eating every four hours -- are the staples of the diet. The program claims that if you follow this exactly, you will lose one to two pounds (.45-.9 kg) every week.
While moderate exercise in recommended, it is not a key factor in the diet. The creators believe exercise is an extra step, but not necessary for weight loss.
Curious about what foods a flat belly demands? Check out the next page.
Flat Belly Diet Foods
We've mentioned that there is a certain amount of flexibility with the Flat Belly Diet. While there are certainly restrictions that some may find hard to follow, you should be able to stick to the plan and still eat a varied diet.
During the four-day, anti-bloat jumpstart, you'll face the most restrictions. This phase does offer quick results, but it will also be the biggest test of your willpower. During this time, you're supposed to eat between 1,200 and 1,400 calories each day while drinking two liters of "sassy water," a concoction of spicy citrus water (see sidebar for more information) [source: Zelman]. Consumables to avoid include:
- Soda and carbonated beverages
- Gassy foods (like broccoli and cabbage)
- Anything spicy or fried
- Sugar substitutes
- Bulky raw foods (raw vegetables as opposed to steamed/cooked)
After the anti-bloat portion, you're allowed to increase your caloric intake to 1,600 calories day, preferably split evenly among three meals and a snack, eaten in four-hour intervals. Besides offering recipes that stick to the guidelines, the Flat Belly brand also has replacement options to add a level of flexibility aimed to make following the plan easier. When needed, you can opt for meal-replacement bars, frozen dinners and even some fast food as long as you add in the ever-important MUFA [source: Flat Belly].
Speaking of MUFA, how can you be sure to include it? Here are some foods with MUFA content:
- Healthy oils: canola, olive, flaxseed
- Nuts and seeds: pistachios, almonds, dry roasted peanuts
- Dark chocolate
[source: Every Diet].
The diet does not provide much nutritional information regarding the allowed foods, including protein and fiber content. These are important aspects of any diet, so be sure you're monitoring your intake. And as always, you should check with your doctor before embarking on any diet plan.
For even more information on the Flat Belly Diet and related topics, check out the links on the following page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Every Diet. "Flat Belly Diet" (Accessed 03/23/2009) http://www.everydiet.org/diet/flat-belly-diet
- Flat Belly Diet. "Food Flexibility of Every Front." (Accessed 03/23/2009) http://www.flatbellydiet.com/article_template.asp?keycode=0A1230&sname=DefaultOffer&mktSSOfferId=PVN17769&mktBKOfferId=PVN21802
- Flat Belly Diet. "Foods That Inflate." (Accessed 03/23/2009) http://www.flatbellydiet.com/article_template.asp?keycode=0A1230&sname=DefaultOffer&mktSSOfferId=PVN17769&mktBKOfferId=PVN17610
- Kovacs, Betty, MD, RD. "Flat Belly Diet! Does it Fall Flat on Its Promises?" March 24, 2008. MedicineNet. (Accessed 03/23/2009) http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=88098&page=2
- Oprah Radio. "Flat Belly Diet!" Oprah.com. (Accessed 03/23/2009) http://www.oprah.com/article/oprahradio/gking/20081110_oaf_gking
- Prevention. "5 quick and easy meals for a flat belly." MSNBC. Dec. 31, 2008. (Accessed 03/23/2009). http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28354965
- Santaniello, Amelia. "Putting the New 'Flat Belly Diet' to the Test." WCCO, CBS Broadcasting. March 12, 2009. (Accessed 03/23/2009) http://wcco.com/specialreports/flat.belly.diet.2.957809.html
- Zelman, Kathleen M., MPH, RD, LD. "The Flat Belly Diet." WebMD. (Accessed 03/23/2009) http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/flat-belly-diet