Your pants fit tighter today than just yesterday morning, and you can't help but notice your protruding midsection when you reach down to lace your shoes. Belly bloat can be a demoralizing experience, and that goes double when you're trying to squeeze into a slinky dress or slim-waisted pants--but the good news is that bloating is usually temporary, and a few simple steps can help you flatten your stomach in just a few days.
Although most healthy adults should get less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, the average American consumes about 1,000 milligrams more than that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Not only does high sodium intake spike blood pressure, but it also causes you to retain water. In fact, an extra 400 milligrams of sodium in your body can cause two pounds of temporary fluid weight gain. Eliminate this issue by choosing whole, fresh foods instead of salt-laden processed and restaurant foods, and by drinking plenty of water to flush any excess sodium from your system.
Watch Your Diet
The number-one cause of bloating is overeating, so keep portion sizes small. Eat slowly to give your stomach time to send fullness signals to your brain--it could take up to 20 minutes to realize you're satiated. Also, minimize fat intake because fats slow down the digestive process, causing food to stay in your stomach longer.
Fiber is another belly-bloating culprit, so foods such as beans, whole grains, broccoli, cabbage and prunes are not the best choices when you want an ultra-slim stomach. These items all possess numerous nutritional benefits, however, so don't cut them from your diet completely--just eat less of them before you need to don your bikini. If you don't want to give up any of these healthy treats, consider an over-the-counter product that contains simethicone, activated charcoal or other gas-fighting ingredients.
If you're lactose intolerant, dairy products may also contribute to gassiness and bloating. In this case, look for lactose-free dairy, avoid milk, cheese and ice cream altogether, or take an OTC lactase supplement to help you digest milk sugars without side effects.
Avoid Swallowing Air
Your lungs may require constant airflow, but when gas works its way down your esophagus to the stomach, your belly may instantly appear rounder. The most obvious way to prevent air ingestion is to skip carbonated sodas, opting for flat water instead. You can also minimize stomach gas by drinking straight from the glass instead of using a straw, and by avoiding hard candy and gum. And if you still smoke cigarettes, here's one more reason to quit: as you inhale smoke, gasses may also travel down your digestive tract, puffing up your stomach even more.
If you just couldn't say no to the soda and fries, it's time for some damage control. Physical activity will help get the gas and food moving through your system, thereby reducing the bloat. Take a walk after eating, or wait a few hours and get in a moderate-to-vigorous workout on the bicycle, elliptical trainer or stair stepper.
Nina Kate is a certified fitness nutrition specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). She also studied journalism at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and has contributed to numerous major publications as a freelance writer. Nina thrives on sharing nutrition and fitness knowledge to help readers lead healthy, active lives. Visit her wellness blog at BodyFlourish.com.