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How Many Pounds Do I Have to Lose to Have a Flat Belly?

Losing weight throughout the entire body is the only way to lose your belly fat. Situps and crunches will tone your abdominal muscles but won't reduce fat in your belly. How many pounds it takes for you to get a flat stomach will depend on how much you weigh and how your body distributes fat. Understanding how the process works can help you set realistic goals.

What Can't Be Controlled

Age, sex, genetics and how you exercise all determine how you will lose fat and where. In general, women have the tendency to be able to lose it in the abdomen more easily than the hips and thighs. Genetics also plays an important role in how you lose fat. If your parents tend to accumulate weight in a specific area, you most likely will too. As you age, you accumulate fat around the mid-section, and it is usually harder to lose. As far as exercise, cardio will burn the most calories but building muscle will boost your metabolism -- though you might gain a small amount of muscle weight when you first begin exercising.

Diet Changes for Weight Loss

Your overall focus should be on losing weight by expending more calories than you consume. Monitoring your caloric intake and exercise are the best way to do this -- eating healthy should also be a primary focus. There are no magical foods that will help lose belly fat, but eating whole grains, monounsaturated oils -- such as olive oil, lean meats and fresh fruits and vegetables -- will help. Aim to reduce your caloric intake by 500 calories per day to lose 1 pound of weight per week, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cardio for the Fat Burn

Your exercise program should include mostly cardio exercise to burn fat. The American Council on Exercise recommends 60 to 90 minutes a day, five to six days a week of cardio such as running, bicycling or swimming to lose weight. Strength training two times a week and focusing on all the muscles of your body will help build lean muscle, which actually burns more calories than fat. Targeting the abdominal area with exercises will keep these muscles toned but won't burn fat any faster.

Consider This

Getting a flatter belly isn't just a matter of vanity. Excess fat around the abdomen can lead to serious health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure. While it's wise to reduce belly fat, consult a doctor for guidance before beginning a weight-loss program. Be realistic in your expectations taking all the factors, such as sex, age and body type into account. Even if you don't get wash-board abs, keep the amount of abdominal fat low enough to avoid health implications.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.