Five flat stomach myths & how to get toned abs

Don’t laugh but I went shopping.  And I bought…a bikini.Now I haven’t possessed a bikini since I was eighteen. But there was this Monsoon voucher I’ve had for about seven years (yes, I’m that bad at shopping – in fact it was so old it was actually a paper voucher rather than a plastic card) and I thought, what the hell?  And praise be that shops now recognise that not everyone is, well, in proportion.  So I got a size 16 top and a size 10 bottom – yes, I AMBarbie – though without the ten inch waist.  Anyhow. It looked sort of all right in the dim lights of the changing room but, when I got home, it looked definitely all wrong. Not remotely the bikini’s fault – it’s all down to my flab.

And it got me thinking. This is the time of year that you start reading all sorts of flannel about how to get a bikini body. And us gullible fools start doing a thousand crunches a day or buying the latest new super pill that promises to slice pounds off precisely the bits you want and…oh enough already.  Let’s say it again, for the hundredth time, you really can’t spot reduce.  You can target and build muscle in a strategic way (to a degree) but fat has a mind of its own.

So I asked Henlu, aka Captain Oblivious (the guy who strung me out on a TRX and had me weeping over push-ups in Greece) what he would do if he were a woman who needed to look relatively tolerable in a bikini. And, really, it’s seriously good advice – not just if you want to look halfway decent in a bikini, but if you want to be overall healthy.   So, without further ado, I’ll hand you over to the fabulous, and distinctly washboarded, Henlu van der Westhuizen…who’s going to tell you about the Five Flat Tummy Myths…

Myth #1: You need to do masses of crunches to flatten your abs.

Excessive crunches aren’t the answer for tight abs. In order to achieve a toned look you’ll have to focus on burning off the layer of fat that is covering up your tummy.

Tip: Don’t obsess about crunches – instead focus on fat burning.

Myth #2: Take diet pills to speed results.

I know it’s so tempting! The ads make compelling claims about the power of popping a pill, but don’t fall for it. There is no ‘magic pill’. Diet pills are more likely to burn through your purse than to slim you down.

Tip: Don’t pop a pill – instead burn calories with intense exercise.

Myth #3: Turn to packaged diet products to boost results.

Don’t fall for the foods that are packaged as ‘diet’ or ‘weight loss’ aids. Quite often these products are packed with refined sugar and other artificial ingredients that your body doesn’t need, and certainly won’t help you attain that tight tummy.

Tip: Don’t eat packaged diet foods – instead stick with nutritious whole foods.

Myth #4: Avoid all carbohydrates in order to achieve tight abs.
Carbohydrates have been given a bad rap, which is unfortunate because you can (and should) eat carbs while slimming down. The key is to stick with whole grains, oatmeal and brown rice while avoiding processed and refined flours and sugars.  But choose when you eat your carbs.  Fine during the day but best to avoid after 6pm.  Your evening meal should be light and comprise protein and green veg or salad.

Tip: Don’t give up all carbohydrates – instead stick with wholesome carbs.

Myth #5: Starve the chub away. 

Trying to lose weight by starving yourself is not only ineffective it can also be dangerous. It may seem that severe calorie restriction would deliver the quickest weight loss, but your body is complex and by doing so you’ll disrupt your metabolism and slow your results.

Tip: Don’t starve yourself – instead eat small wholesome meals throughout the day.

Now that you know what not to do in order to achieve tight abs, it’s time to go over your flat tummy game plan. Here’s what you need to know in 3 simple steps:

Step One: No more junk food.
The best way to do this is by cleaning out your kitchen. Throw out the sugary, processed and fat-filled foods. Once the junk has been cleared out, don’t buy any more of it.
Remember that your beach-ready abs depend on what you eat – don’t eat junk!

Step Two: Eat whole foods.
Replace the junk food in your life with plenty of the following: cooked and raw vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grains, moderate amounts of seeds and nuts, lean meats and low fat
dairy. Clean eating really is that simple.

Step Three: Come train with me.
This is the most obvious step. You’re ready to get into great shape and I’m in a unique position to make that happen for you, says Henlu.

Jane back:  Yes, well, re the last step, he would say that, wouldn’t he?  But truly, if you live in London, he’s a great trainer…or treat yourself to a week of super-training and amazing detox eating on one of his Hellenic Healthy Holidays.

Find out more about Henlu’s training at
You can sign up for Henlu’s newsletters (which give great tips, recipes and so on) by dropping him an email at

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

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