To get a flat stomach you need to follow a clean eating plan (there's no point doing endless ab crunches if your muscles are hidden by fat) combined with an effective exercise program – high intensity interval training to burn fat and targeted core exercises to sculpt your abdominal area. Changes won't happen overnight - it takes hard work and for most of us, a committed lifestyle change.
In the short term, there are things you can do to beat the bloat and minimise your tummy...
Drink LOTS of water
The more water you drink, the more bloated you will feel, right? Wrong. Staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do for your tummy. Drinking water promotes good digestion and helps the body eliminate toxins and metabolic waste. It also fills you up, so you're less likely to feel hungry. Carry a water bottle with you everywhere and take regular sips, aiming to drink 2.5 litres a day. Downing a pint of water before each meal can help too.
Cut back on salt
Water is attracted to sodium – and the more salt you consume, the more water you'll retain. This can leave you feeling sluggish and heavy and result in a bloated tummy and puffy-looking face.
The salt you sprinkle on your food is rarely the problem - it's the salt hidden in processed foods. Ready-meals (even those labelled as "healthy") can be very high in salt – as can things like fresh and tinned soup. The less processed food you consume and the more you cook from scratch, the better.
Try switching to "low-salt" or use natural sea salt or kosher salt, which is lower in sodium than traditional table salts. And steer clear of soy sauce - even low-sodium varieties can cause bloating.
Cut back on wheat and white carbs
Reducing your wheat intake can make a surprising difference to the flatness of your stomach. Cut out all refined, simple carbohydrates, such as white bread, rice and pasta and give up biscuits and cakes, and you'll notice a difference in one to two weeks.
Each gram of glycogen (a type of carbohydrate in your muscles) is stored with about 3g of water. Unless you're about to run a marathon, your body doesn't need all this stored fuel. Instead, fill up on complex carbs – plenty of fruits and leafy vegetables and small amounts of whole grains such as spelt and brown rice.
Sugar is the enemy
Simple carbohydrates and sugar cause your insulin levels to spike, which triggers the body to store the calories as fat around your middle. If you want a flat tummy, eat as close to zero grams of sugar as possible. Keeping your insulin level low will help keep glucagon high – a hormone that helps the body convert fat into energy.
Eat a protein snack at 3pm
Eating several small, healthy meals a deal will help boost your metabolism and balance your blood sugar levels. Go for a high protein snack – chicken strips, low-fat cheese or a protein bar, between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. This will ensure your blood sugar doesn't dip too much between lunch and dinner.
Chew your food
Digestion starts in the mouth and the more you chew your food, the less likely you are to suffer with bloating. The one thing you shouldn't chew is gum. When you chew gum, you swallow air which gets trapped in your GI tract and causes abdominal expansion.
Ditch the sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners might help reduce your overall calorie-intake but they can still give you a big tummy. Sugar substitutes like xylitol and maltitol found in low-carb biscuits, sweets and energy bars are hard for the body to absorb. The result? Wind, abdominal distention and bloating.
Gassy foods to avoid
If you suffer with abdominal bloating and gas, cut back on foods that create wind in the GI tract. Avoid things like pulses and beans, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, onions, peppers and citrus fruits. Because fatty foods are digested more slowly, they can cause you to feel heavy and bloated - so cut back on those fry-ups too.
Don't be too spicy
Eating spicy food and vinegar stimulates the release of stomach acid, which can cause gut irritation and bloating. Cut back on chillies as well as hot sauces, mustard, ketchup, pickles and alcohol.
Need to trim down your tummy? These top fitness picks might help:
Slendertone Abs5 Unisex, £89.99, Tesco