I’m sure I can’t be the only girl out there who has always had a “thing” about their stomach. For as long as I can remember, it’s always been the part of my body that I am most uncomfortable with – avoiding getting it out at all costs, braving a bikini on holiday and spending the whole day sucking in my belly and comparing myself to other girls on the beach, telling myself I’m “too fat” because I always seem to have this little extra bulge at the bottom of my stomach that I just can’t shift.
Now that I’m typing it, I realise just how bad it is. Maybe some people who know me will be surprised reading this but it is honestly something that bugs me all the time and is on my mind for a much higher percentage of the day than I would like to admit.
It seems extra frustrating to me because I like to think I’m generally a pretty healthy person. I have always exercised, sometimes a lot, and I have always eaten pretty healthily and never really been into junk food or snacking.
But still I find myself seeing what feels like everyone on instagram with a perfect stomach and feeling this pressure like “why doesn’t mine look like that?!”
I can genuinely say there is only one time in my life where I have had ‘abs’ and felt a little proud of my stomach and that was when I was already in the best shape of my life (thanks to being in a relationship I needed to get out of so spent most of my time getting away from the house by going for runs or to yoga classes) and then had spent a week on yoga retreat eating vega, gluten, everything-free food!
So basically so far in my life having the flat stomach of my dreams has seemed like it could only ever be that – a dream. It felt like getting my belly into better shape was going to take a miracle, or if not, then at least a life of hardcore daily gym sessions and vegan eating which I reeeeallllly didn’t want to sign up for!
That’s the problem – I think that many of us assume it’s going to take a serious lifestyle overhaul or extreme measures to make us feel better about our bodies.
But do you want to know the secret I’ve found out in the last month? That doesn’t have to be the case. You can make a big difference with just little changes. I decided that even though I didn’t want to start living at the gym or doing thousands of sit-ups a day (gym selfies are soooo not my thing) I could still make a change.
I realised that it might not be about just exercise or diet in the way I thought – like maybe the answer isn’t doing more ab workouts or eating less.
As I said, I still felt uncomfortable about my stomach whether I exercised and ate well or not, and I started to realise that my main problem might be with bloating rather than body weight.
So when Rennie® told me about their Little Changes campaign to help you tackle bloating and stomach problems I thought I would experiment and see how much of a difference I could make to my wellbeing, my stomach, and most importantly how I felt, by making small changes in my life.
Instead of looking up core workouts on youtube, I tried a different approach and focused on how I could help my gut health, digestion and focus on the inside to solve my problem rather than just thinking about my muscles. Maybe I could make myself feel better about my stomach in a different way? Maybe even in a simpler way?
Obviously exercise is still important, but for it to make a difference it doesn’t have to mean hours of crunches or legs, bums & tums classes (are those still a thing?!) The best thing to help with bloating and your internal health is actually gentle stretches and yoga to target your stomach, digestive system and organs.
I found that even just starting my day with 15-30 minutes of gentle yoga would make a big difference to how my body felt in the morning, get myself stretching out and waking up my system.
I’m a yoga lover already, but if you haven’t been converted yet – I can honestly say it’s the only exercise I do that can also make me feel so good about myself and my body with as little feeling of ‘effort’ and in as little time as 15 minutes!
After a few days of trying it, you’ll definitely notice the difference in how you feel. It’s super easy way to get some exercise into your daily routine – I mean, we can all spare a measly 15 minutes during our day somewhere – and it just goes to show that a little exercise can go a long way!
If you’re looking for a place to start yoga, try online classes and get more inspiration then I recommend signing up to Movement for Modern Life who have hundreds of video classes to target different things (some are as little as 5 minutes long if you don’t have much time!) It’s basically Netflix for yoga!
Here’s a great class to target bloating. Anything that gets you moving and flowing through your body, especially including movements that stretch out your stomach and abs and includes twists will work wonders for your digestion.
Eating ‘clean’ doesn’t need to mean cutting everything out of our diets, being super strict and never enjoying food again! It’s all about the small changes that can make a difference to how your gut health feels.
If you suffer from bloating like me then the best thing to do is try making one small change at a time to see what helps – for example when I do this I notice that I get much less bloated when I have less dairy, so making a pretty simple change like switching to non-dairy milk can make a huge difference to my body.
(Although please make sure you get advice from your doctor before doing anything drastic like completely cutting out any food groups!)
And there are plenty of other small changes that are no-brainers too – we all know the “5 a day” recommendation, but how many of us actually do it? Loading up on fruits and vegetables is the best way to help your digestive system and at the same time cut down on less health foods.
It’s especially good at breakfast time – eating fruit for your first meal of the day is much easier for your body to digest and will help kick your digestion and metabolism into action at the start of the day instead of loading it with heavier foods that are more difficult to digest first thing in the morning!
I recommend simple fruit, yoghurt and grains or seeds, or whizzing it all up into a smoothie to make is super easy if you’re on the go/rushing to work. Overnight oats or chia pudding with fruit are delicious options if you want something a bit more exciting too.
Another easy food swap is to switch to wholegrain carbohydrates – brown rice and wholewheat pasta along with grains will help increase your fibre intake and aid digestion.
And another one that we all know but tend to ignore – drink more water! Staying hydrated helps with bloating and pretty much everything else, so basically the more you can drink, the better. Just. Drink. More. Water!
Ditch the Desk Lunch
Eating smart can make just as much of a difference as eating well. And it’s the smallest things that can help how your body feels (and reacts) after eating! Taking your time over your meals makes a huge difference. Get mindful and just eat slower. Don’t eat on the go, sit down & enjoy your meal to lower your stress levels, don’t talk while you eat and just focus on chewing – it sounds stupid but it really helps with how your body will process the food and therefore how your body feels afterwards!
Eating smaller portions throughout the day will also help with bloating a lot and is one of the things that’s really helped me – I can get overfull at meal times so sometimes find it’s better to have smaller portions and eat more regularly throughout the day than just stuffing myself at lunch!
Look after your gut health
It might not sound so glamorous, but gut-friendly foods are actually so in fashion right now! Drinks like Kefir and Kombucha aren’t just a hipster thing to make you sound like you’re you’re on-trend when you order them, they’re actually made with yeast and fermented to pack them full of good bacteria that could help with your digestion and immune function. Thanks to the health food trend, these drinks are getting much more available in stores and it’s easy to grab one on the go to have on your lunch break!
So what can I say after my experiment to solve my bloating problem and self-conscious tummy troubles? I might still not have the perfect instagram stomach, but I definitely worry about it a lot less. I feel so much more comfortable in my own skin and happy with how my tummy looks (most of the time). I can actually look at my stomach and feel happy with it, which never used to happen.
I think a lot of my problem was coming from how my body felt – if I felt unhealthy and bloated, then I would feel more self-conscious and unhappy with my stomach. Without the bloating, I feel and look like I am in much better shape.
Feeling better inside my body has made me feel better about how it looks outside too!
And let’s be honest, I never would have shared photos with my stomach out like this before, or even felt comfortable only walking around in my sports bra so something has definitely improved!
I know there’s a million self-help blog posts out there about how to improve your health, and I don’t want this to be another one with a ton of information that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and like making a change to your life is too much effort. So here’s a summary of the little changes that helped me the most (and take only a little effort!) I hope they help you on your journey to stomach-love too!
1. Do a little bit of exercise, daily.
My favourite is a 15-minute (or however long you have to spare) morning yoga stretch out targeting your stomach!
If yoga’s really not your thing then try walking – an hour after breakfast is the opportune time to help with digestion – walk to work or get of the bus/tube a couple of stops early and walk part of the way
2. Eat more fruit & veg.
Get a rainbow of colour into your diet each day to stock up on nutrients and fibre to help your digestion.
3. Make easy food swaps
Try them out and use the ones that work for you – my favourite easy swaps are swapping to non-dairy milk and wholegrain carbohydrates.
4. Drink more healthy fluids.
Stay hydrated. Drink more water and switch fizzy drinks for non-sugary ones to cause less bloating.
This post is a paid collaboration with Rennie® but as always all images, thoughts and words are my own.
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