I want a flat stomach!

Dear Alice,

I am skinny and weigh 122 pounds and I am 5'7" tall. But I have a belly that just won't disappear, and I have been doing sit-ups for a month but my belly has not gotten smaller. What do you suggest for me to get a flat stomach. I am female and 15 years old (if that helps). Please help me! I really want a flat stomach!


Dear help,

This may seem like bad news, but it simply is not possible for every human being to have a stomach as flat as some of the models seen in magazine and newspaper ads, on the sides of buses, and, well, just about everywhere. The fact of the matter is that a really flat stomach may not be in your genes! Among many other physical traits, a person's genetic makeup determines the shape of internal organs (e.g., stomach, intestines, liver, kidneys). Depending on these organs' shapes and sizes, they may or may not contribute to a slight roundedness of a person's stomach. Another aspect of body shape under genetic control is body fat distribution. Your body may naturally store more fat around your waist than in other areas of your body.

When done correctly, crunches can be a good way to strengthen abdominal muscles and the lower back. However, ab work alone will not burn fat of the stomach region specifically. It's a myth that a rigorous sit-up routine will guarantee a flat tummy. Instead of concentrating so much on your stomach, why not try a physical activity routine that works out a greater range of muscle groups and involves some cardiovascular fitness? If there really is fat to be lost around your stomach, running, swimming, or biking regularly will be more effective at burning it than only doing sit-ups.

You might also want to examine your eating plan; a balanced diet is a good idea for anybody (see the related Q&As for some nutrition tips). And finally, keep in mind that a flat stomach is not necessarily the essence of beauty or an indicator of health. You may find that eating nutritiously, being active regularly, and accepting your body's natural shape and size will help you feel good about yourself and your stomach.

Last updated Jun 18, 2015
Originally published Apr 25, 1997

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