Everyone’s body stores fat differently. The lower belly tends to be a place where fat collects for many people. This is because of:

  • genetics
  • diet
  • inflammation
  • lifestyle factors

Patience is key when you’re working to get rid of belly fat, but there are things you can try to optimize the process.

First, throw out the idea that you can “spot treat” areas of fat on your body. You can do thousands of reps of toning exercises to tighten your waistline and not see fat loss.

Exercises like cardio, yoga, and crunches may tone your muscles and strengthen your lower abs, but they won’t “erase” fat deposits.

The only way to lose fat on your lower stomach is to lose fat overall. A calorie deficit helps with this.

Creating a calorie deficit boils down to a simple math equation: Are you burning more calories than you’re consuming on a daily basis? If you are, you’re at a calorie deficit.

Burning 3,500 calories more than you consume is equal to 1 pound of fat, according to the Mayo Clinic.

By having a 500-calorie deficit — through a combination of diet and exercise — you’ll lose about 1 pound of fat per week.

For most people, losing more than 2.5 pounds of fat per week involves extreme calorie restriction and isn’t recommended.

Consuming more calories than you burn can make you more likely to develop visceral fat. It sometimes accumulates around the abdomen.

Eating the right foods may help aid weight loss. Avoid or limit foods that are highly processed and high in refined sugars and bleached grains. They’ve been linked to blood sugar instability and inflammation in the digestive tract.

Instead, focus on adding healthy protein and fiber sources to your diet. Cruciferous veggies may help keep you full for longer and contain many nutrients. These include:

  • broccoli
  • kale
  • cauliflower

Protein can boost your stamina and energy without adding a lot of calories to your daily calorie needs. Some protein sources include:

  • hard-boiled eggs
  • lean meats
  • beans and legumes
  • nuts and seeds

Avoid or limit artificially sweetened drinks, including energy drinks and diet sodas. Stick to anti-inflammatory beverages, such as unsweetened green tea and water.

HIIT

High-intensity interval training, also called HIIT, has been linked to the reduction of fat among adults with more weight.

In one study, adults who participated in HIIT exercise three times per week saw similar results as people who did daily 30-minute sessions of moderate cardio. Study authors point out that sticking to the regimen long term is needed for successful results.

You can use an app or stopwatch to time your intervals. Decide on the exercises you’ll do — like sprints, burpees, speed bag, or another cardio movement — and work your body at its hardest for at least 45 seconds.

Break for 45 seconds before repeating the exercise for as many reps as you can within 45 seconds. Repeat that in a circuit with five to seven exercises.

To burn fat, do a HIIT or cardio workout before you move to other exercises, like the ones listed below.

Raising your heart rate before other kinds of exercise, like weightlifting and Pilates, is a great way to supercharge your workout.

The hundred

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The hundred is a classic Pilates exercise that targets the deep inner ab muscles. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Start lying flat on your back on a yoga mat, with your knees bent and your feet on the floor.
  2. One at a time, float your legs up so your knees are in a table-top position and your feet remain flexed.
  3. Point your fingers away from you, and extend your arms as you lift them, about an inch off the ground.
  4. Lift your chest and upper back off the ground to engage your abs.
  5. Breathe in, and begin to pump your arms up and down as you hold your chest and neck off the ground. Try to breathe in unison with your arms’ movement, and begin to count.
  6. Hold the pose to a count of 100 before hugging your knees in to your chest and exhaling to release the tension from your chest. Repeat this 2 or 3 times if you’re able to, working up to more reps.

Scissor switch

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Scissor switch is another lower ab exercise that’s sometimes used in Pilates workouts. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Start on your back on a yoga mat, and lift your legs up toward the ceiling at a 90-degree angle. Your feet should be flexed. You can tuck your hands behind your head.
  2. Lift your chin to your chest, and hold so your rib cage folds over toward your belly button. You should feel your lower abs engage.
  3. In a controlled movement, let one of your legs fall toward the floor. If you’re able to, stop your leg before it hits the floor, and hover it about an inch above the floor.
  4. Bring that leg back up. Repeat with the other leg, alternating as you hold up your chest. Repeat for 20 reps.

Jackknife crunch

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Jackknife crunches are floor exercises that engage the lower abs. The movement might feel simple at first, but after a few reps, you’ll feel how they tighten your core.

Here’s how to do them:

  1. Lie flat on your back with your arms extended up over your ears and reaching toward the wall behind you.
  2. Engaging your core, bring your arms up toward your legs. At the same time, bring your extended legs up and back toward your head.
  3. Reach to touch your knees then lower.
  4. Repeat for 20 reps. Aim to do 3 sets of 20 to start, and work up from there.

Beyond diet and exercise, there are other lifestyle changes you can make to aid your weight loss.

Healthy habits tend to have a domino effect. If you can add one or two healthy changes to your routine, it will become easier to add more as time goes on.

Here are some to consider:

  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Add more walking into your routine.
  • Practice mindful eating, and try to eat slower. Taking your time when you eat can help keep you from overeating.
  • Quit smoking before you try any kind of calorie restriction plan. Quitting smoking will help make your workouts more fun and effective, not to mention the many other health benefits of quitting. Quitting is often difficult, but a doctor can help build a cessation plan right for you.
  • Get a good night’s sleep whenever possible. Poor sleep increases stress and has been linked to weight gain.

Toning your abdomen after pregnancy may pose additional challenges. Wait until you get clearance from your doctor before jumping into any kind of diet and exercise routine.

It’s not uncommon to have loose skin or an additional fat layer over your belly after pregnancy, especially if you had a cesarean delivery.

During pregnancy, many women gain weight. After delivery, you’ll most likely have an extra layer of fat left as an energy store for breastfeeding and the birth recovery process.

This is part of your body’s natural instinct and is normal. It’s important to be patient with yourself.

You can, for the most part, follow the same protocols as you would before you were pregnant to lose postpartum weight, with a few exceptions.

Don’t restrict calories while you’re breastfeeding. It can reduce your breast milk supply.

If it appears that the muscles in your lower abs have been separated by pregnancy, you may have a condition called diastasis recti.

It can worsen with traditional crunch exercises. Ask your doctor about workouts and physical therapy options if you believe you might have this condition.

Your sex may have something to do with the reasons why you gain belly fat. Females tend to store fat in the lower belly because of hormones, genetics, and age, and may be difficult to reduce in some cases.

However, everyone should take the same basic approach to lose weight, regardless of sex or gender.

It’s impossible to spot-treat fat and lose it from just one area of your body. Losing weight overall is the only way to lose belly fat in a healthy way.

Toning and tightening your ab muscles with floor exercises, changing your diet, and pursuing healthy habits will all contribute to trimming your waistline.