Quick! When I say “bikini,” what’s the first thing that pops into your mind? If you’re thinking “I need a new coverup” or “no freakin’ way,” we’re here to help. Despite your clean diet and regular fitness regimen, the bloating hasn’t subsided and you’re still feeling a bit puffier than you’d prefer. It’s totally frustrating, we know. The good news is that if you’ve been putting in the work, a lot of the extra “pudge” you think you have in your midsection is probably just water weight and bloat.
To help flatten your stomach just in time for your upcoming beach day or night out that demands skinny jeans, we’ve come up with a 36-hour plan comprised of simple tasks that will slowly—but surely—whittle your middle before your toes hit the sand or dancefloor.
TWO NIGHTS BEFORE THE BEACH
Buy Some Ginger
Before you can throw yourself in this debloating plan, you’ll need to stock up on supplies. The first must-have? Fresh ginger, a root that’s been shown to help deflate the stomach from gas-producing foods. Throughout the plan, you’ll be asked to grate it up and use it to make a detox tea—but more on that later!
And Some Bananas, Too!
Bananas are packed with potassium, a nutrient that helps regulate fluid balance to flatten belly bloat. You’ll be eating these a few times over the next two days, so pick up two or three of them. You’ll also need honeydew and pineapple.
Take a Bath With Epsom Salt
Relaxing in any tub is always nice, but adding two cups of Epsom salt may actually help deflate your belly by pulling excess water out of your body. To avoid beach day dehydration, only do this ritual once before heading toward the sand.
Sort Through Your Vegetable Drawer
Even though they’re filled with health-promoting nutrients, there are a number of veggies that contain sneaky belly-bloaters that may be contributing to your ever-clinging food baby: White onions, artichokes, corn, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, raw spinach, and button mushrooms. Put them into a do not eat pile until you get back from the beach.
Trade in Your Gum
Not only does chewing gum cause you to swallow tummy-bloating air, many gums also contain sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners like sorbitol and xylitol that can cause bloat. If you have to have something to chomp on, go for an organic variety like Glee gum or Simply gum instead. They’re still low-cal, but they don’t use those sweeteners that’ll make you puff up.
Dairy can be very bothersome to the belly because many adults naturally produce less of the necessary digestive enzyme, lactase, as we get older. If you consume dairy products pretty regularly, try cutting them out for a few days and see how your body reacts. Many people will notice that their midsection is less puffy after a day or two of going dairy-free.
Make a Pitcher of Detox Water—and Start Sipping
It may seem counterintuitive, but chugging water will help rid your body of that pesky water weight. Since chugging plain H2O can be less than stimulating, we like to make detox water using fruits have de-puffing properties in their flesh and peels. (Lemons, kiwi, and honeydew all have diuretic effects.) Slice them whole into your water to reap the benefits and hit your water intake quota with an infusion of flavor!
Add Cilantro to Your Dinner
Research shows that cilantro’s unique blend of oils (specifically, linalool and geranyl acetate) work like over-the-counter meds to relax digestive muscles and alleviate an “overactive” gut. A study published in the journal Digestive Diseases and Science found that patients with IBS benefited from supplementing with coriander (also known as cilantro) as opposed to placebo. Not to mention, cilantro is just one of the best foods that beat bloat so pile it on your plate (it tastes great with grilled chicken) to start the de-puffing process! Oh and don’t forget to keep sipping that H20 while you dine!
Take a Stroll
Instead of lounging around after supper, head outside for a 15-minute nighttime stroll—it’s a great way to get things moving again when you are feeling backed up and bloated. And if you regularly experience constipation, consider making walking part of your nightly routine. And if you tend to toss and turn, check out these tips for how to get better sleep.
Have Some Dark Chocolate
Craving a chocolatey dessert? So long as it has to have a cacao content of 70 percent or above, it’s a go! Chocolate-loving microbes in the gut convert the candy into anti-inflammatory compounds, researchers at the American Chemical Society found. When the cocoa reaches your belly’s digestive juices and enzymes, it’s feasted on by your belly’s good gut bugs, which ferment it into anti-inflammatory compounds. Translation: You lose belly bloat.
TWO MORNINGS BEFORE THE BEACH
Say No to Greasy, Boozy Brunch
Foods that are high in grease or are really fatty, like a McDonald’s breakfast, can cause gastrointestinal upset and bloat. And since booze is dehydrating, it can cause your belly to get puffy. Steer clear of the indulgent brunch options and make something wholesome at home instead.
Instead, Break Your Fast with Protein
Start your day of eating with a burst of protein. We all get distracted or busy through the day, but a high-protein start will prevent surprise mid-morning or early afternoon energy crashes that leave us reaching for sugar, caffeine or a carbohydrate load for a quick boost. Add some protein powder or nuts to your oatmeal (a carb that has a diuretic effect on the body) or make some scrambled eggs and whole grain toast. The goal: don’t leave the house without first loading up on at least 15 grams of protein.
And a Banana…
Bananas are a good source of prebiotic fiber, which helps to feed good gut bacteria and improve digestion. A study in the journal Anaerobe found women who ate a banana twice daily as a pre-meal snack for 60 days experienced an increase in good bacteria levels and a 50 percent reduction in bloating. In addition, bananas have plenty of potassium which offsets the effects of sodium in your diet, a usual cause of water retention.
Sip On Ginger Tea
You know that ginger we told you to buy last night? It’s time to grate it up, simmer it over a flame with water. After 15 minutes or so, strain the tea into a teacup and squeeze in some fresh lemon juice. How’s it work? Inflammation, often brought on by spicy foods, dairy and chemical additives, may be to blame for your puffy tummy. According to numerous studies, ginger, traditionally used to ease stomach pain, blocks several genes and enzymes in the body that promote bloat-causing inflammation. If you prefer the taste of chai tea, typically made from a blend of cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and ginger, that may also do the trick—but may be less potent. Not a fan of ginger or chai? There are plenty of other teas that make great bloating remedies.
Just Don’t Add Sweetener to It
“Foods that are processed with added sugars, particularly with artificial sweeteners, can be seriously upsetting to the intestinal tract and can cause gas and bloating for many,” says registered dietitian Isabel Smith. Furthermore, studies have also found fake sweeteners to lead to weight gain—the opposite of what you’ve been working toward.
And Down Two Cups of H20
The older, wiser, less-bendy sister of yoga, meditation is an amazing activity that people can reap major rewards from. A 2014 study in Eating Behaviors found that individuals who meditate are less likely to overeat or give in to emotional eating—and this is key if you want to stay on track with your anti-bloat plan over the next day. To get started, unroll a yoga mat or sit on a carpet in a sunny room (east-facing if possible) and take five uninterrupted minutes thinking about something that you’re grateful for.
Add Bacteria to Your Belly
Studies show that overweight people have a higher percentage of “bad” bacteria in their bellies. To keep the fat-causing bugs at bay, you need to eat a variety of foods that support the healthy bacteria—the kind found in the bellies of slim people. Kefir, kombucha and bone broth are examples of probiotic-rich foods that help you lose weight by aiding digestion. Add a serving of a probiotic-heavy food to your diet plan before you hit the beach.
THE AFTERNOON BEFORE THE BEACH
Hit The Gym & Hydrate with Lemon Water
This is a winning combo—even if you only can hit the elliptical or treadmill for 15 minutes. “Exercise and water both get your intestinal tract going, which gets things moving out of your colon…to prevent constipation and the gut bulges that come with it,” explains nutritionist Tammy Lakatos Shames. “The water and lemon help to restore normal fluid balance, flushing bloat, thanks to the potassium in the lemon that counteracts sodium; the water also rinses out the salt and you’ll get rid of the little layer of ‘puff’ right beneath your skin as you sweat out a little salt. And exercising enough to break a sweat will help flush some of the high-sodium foods.”
Eat Several Teeny-Tiny Meals
To keep your metabolism revving throughout the day, focus on small, protein- and fiber-packed snacks or small meals every 3 to 4 hours. You will not only burn more calories eating a series of smaller meals, but also avoid the afternoon crash that will leave you reaching for things like soda that aren’t part of your flat belly plan. Use your smartphone or computer to remind you of these intervals. An apple with peanut butter, some nuts, and berries, hummus or yogurt all make great go-to snacks.
Eat Slowly So You Don’t Gulp Air
When you finally get home after a long day, you’re totally famished — we get it. But that doesn’t mean you should scarf down your dinner in a hurry. Eating too quickly causes you to swallow excess air, which can lead to uncomfortable gas and bloating. Slowing down the chewing with your mouth closed, on the other hand, can have the opposite effect. Fight off the urge to vacuum your entire meal by snacking on something like a small piece of fruit or an ounce of nuts on your way home.
Cut Processed Carbs
Foods made with white flour like white bread, white pasta, and white rice are relatively low in fiber and may cause you to get a little, uh, backed up. Choosing whole grains can help with this, says Smith. A simple switch from white bread to whole wheat or from white rice to brown will keep things moving along smoothly.
Eat Honeydew, Pineapple and Papayas
Honeydew melon has a diuretic property that fights water retention, and pineapples and papayas contain enzymes that aid digestion and break down proteins that usually cause bloat.
Just Be Sure to Watch Your Portion
Eating large portions can leave you feeling inflated, which isn’t what you want the day before you need to slip into a teeny bikini. Eat until you’re about 90 percent full and then put down the fork.
Make More Detox Water
By the late afternoon, you should have polished off the entire pitcher or detox water you made the night before. Go ahead and make another batch, and keep sipping on the reg!
Have An Other Cup of Ginger Tea
Keep sipping, guys! Getting sick of ginger? There are plenty of other teas that make great bloating remedies!
THE NIGHT BEFORE THE BEACH
Eat Dinner Early
Fasting: it’s the slim-down secret of models and celebrities. But for those of us who’d like to actually enjoy our lives, it’s not exactly an appealing prospect. But here’s a secret: You actually fast every night, while you’re asleep—that’s why we call the first meal of the day “breakfast.” The longer you can stretch out that period of fasting, the fewer calories you’ll take in and the more time your body will have to heal itself. (Digestion takes a lot of work!). Cut off food intake by 7 pm or 8 pm at night, and delay breakfast a little further into the day. Make sure you have at least 12 hours between your last meal tonight and your first meal tomorrow. You’ll give your digestive system time to recover, and deflate your belly just in time for fun in the sun!
Add Some Asparagus to Your Plate
It’ll make your pee smell funny, but more importantly, it’ll make you pee more. Asparagus is a particularly nutritious vegetable that happens to be a diuretic food, which means it will help deflate your belly before beach time. Sautee some up with some ground pepper and olive oil to reap the benefits.
Take a Post-Dinner Stroll Again
It’s time to take another post-dinner stroll—it’s a great way to get things moving again when you are feeling backed up and bloated. Being active will also help you fight off cravings for treats that can wreck your bikini body. It’s a win-win.
Have Some Dark Chocolate
It’s time to feed those chocolate-loving microbes in the gut again! Don’t forget to stick to 70 percent cacao.
Sip Dandelion Tea & H2O
Rehydrate with a cup of water and a cup of dandelion tea, which “happens to be a powerful, yet natural diuretic that can keep your tummy flat and your confidence high,” raves registered dietician Lisa Moskovitz. Unsweetened iced tea is another good choice–just steer clear of bubbly beverages that’ll have you feeling swollen in seconds from the carbonation.
Hit the Hay Early
People who get more sleep have reduced ghrelin and increased leptin levels, which helps to control their appetites throughout the day, according to a University of Wisconsin study. Since you’ll be in a bathing suit in less than 24 hours, getting a good night’s rest will make it easier for you to keep up with your smart eating plan through the end of your beach day.
THE MORNING YOU HEAD TO THE BEACH
Fit in a Mini Workout
Since you went to bed early, you shouldn’t have any trouble waking up 20 minutes early to fit in a quick sweat session. Not only will hitting the weights or hopping on the treadmill get things moving and help your body flush out bloat-inducing salt, but it will also make you feel leaner. And when you’re in a bathing suit, you know that feeling your best is half the battle.
“If you are dehydrated, your body will retain conserve water, which can lead to bloating,” says registered dietitian Alissa Rumsey. “Staying hydrated also speeds up digestion and can counteract the effects of salt and carb-induced bloating.” Aim for 6 to 8 glasses of water throughout the beach day to keep your flat belly looking great in your beach gear all day long.
Stay Away from Straws
Just like sucking in air by inhaling your meals can cause you to feel puffy, sipping through a straw can cause you to take in extra air and experience a bloating.
Skip the Protein Bar
While you may be short on time the day you’re running off to the beach, resist the urge to grab a protein bar and run out the door. You probably don’t think “beans” when you unwrap a protein bar, but a lot of them include protein isolate derived from soybeans—something many people find just as gas-inducing as the musical fruit. Like other beans, soy contains oligosaccharides, sugar molecules that the body can’t break down entirely. With nowhere to go, these oligosaccharides hang out in the gut where they ferment, causing gas and bloating of the stomach. Instead, scramble up some eggs and make a fruit salad with debloating fruits like honeydew melon, pineapples, and papayas.