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Get your tummy flat for summer

From: Evening Standard Life & Style,

Get your tummy flat for summer

This is the season when many women face bikini hell. In winter, you develop the art of layering and loose waistbands, but summer can be brutally exposing.

Former Penguin health publishing director Kate Adam may have the answer. She devised her own Flat Tummy Club diet plan — for which she has now launched a website. A year on, she has lost more than 25lbs. Her mother (who loathes diets) has dropped two dress sizes, and her sister has lost a stone since Christmas. As well as being significantly slimmer, all have reported more energy, no afternoon slumps, better sleep, and less stress.

At Penguin, Adam, 34, published Gillian McKeith's bestseller You Are What You Eat, Darcey Bussell's Pilates for Life and Tiger Aspect's Cook Yourself Thin. She had the best advice about diet and nutrition at her fingertips so she should have had the healthiest lifestyle imaginable.

She compensated for long office hours by falling back on her “nemesis” foods — bread, cheese, wine. Over three years she put on an uncomfortable spare tyre. She says: “I kept promising myself : Next week it'll be better'. And finally I thought: What am I doing?'”

Ironically, her family runs a health company — Respect Organics in Dorset. “My parents helped launch the original Vege-burger when I was tiny and I remember trying lots of weird and wonderful new foods while growing up.”

When she took a sabbatical from work she seized control. “You need to sit down and take a good honest look at your life and think; Do I really want to change?'”

Losing a spare tyre isn't just about vanity — more weight around the tummy area means a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease. If your waist is over 31.5 ins for women and 37 ins for men, it spells trouble.

Adam set herself a questionnaire — itemising with brutal honesty her consumption of salt and sugar, alcohol, carbohydrates and her lack of exercise.

She came up with a plan to lose a few pounds before travelling around California and New Zealand. When a friend joined in with her own weight-loss aim, the Flat Tummy Club was born.

Adam radiates health and energy when I meet her at her flat, in a chic 1920s block in Ham. Over mint tea and banana loaf (wheat- and gluten-free), she explains: “Getting a flat stomach is a mind game more than any other single thing. It's not about a quick weirdo fix.”

Adam believes we can exercise will power like a muscle. “I remember Tanya Byron [the TV psychologist] saying to me: Forget you are what you eat. You are what you think.' Practise making a conscious informed choice every time you have a meal, snack or drink.”

She realised that the majority of diet books encourage an unhealthy relationship with food, one obsessed with points and sins. “I've lost 25lbs — not by counting calories, carbs, points or sins but by taking a good look at my own diet and lifestyle and asking myself what I needed to change to make the difference.”

Filling out her questionnaire, the aim is to find six goals you can bear to achieve (drink more water, reach for a Clementine instead of a biscuit) without screaming. You need to cook more and plan ahead and find healthy foods you love. The core of her eating plan is eating lean protein (fish, chicken), soups and salads, vegetables, wholegrains, herbal teas and freshly squeezed juices. Out go refined carbs such as pasta and potatoes. And Adam is tough on bakery products.

Reading her e-book, I'm horrified to discover that my afternoon hot chocolate is a whacking 330 calories — other surprising high-calorie offenders include taramasalata (240 for 50g) and naan bread (538 for 160g).

Exercise is vital. It produces a natural “high” to replace the artificial highs from sugar. Plus it helps balance stress hormones and stops you going into flight or fight mode.

Adam suggests walking everywhere: “One of the best ways to get a flat tummy is to gently hold your stomach in as you walk, so keep your head up, walk tall and think slim.”

The Stomach Vacuum is an exercise that claims to take two inches off your waistline in three weeks. She demonstrates the technique. “Stand or sit upright, put your hands on your hips and exhale all the air out of your lungs. Expand your chest, and bring your stomach in, and hold for 10 seconds. Start with three 10-second holds.”

Buoyed up by the success of her plan, she decided to launched The Flat Tummy Club on-line. Publishers are circling but for now she wants the Flat Tummy Club to develop organically.

“My friends say: You look really happy and healthy.' It's so ingrained now.” She passionately believes it's about discovering one's inner healthy self. “Take small steps — but put yourself at the top of the list for once.”

Flat Tummy Club e-book, £9.99,


  • Don't go hungry (low blood sugar equals biscuit craving). Eat little and often
  • Drink more water — it keeps the appetite in check
  • Eat lean meat and fish
  • Replace bad carbs and fats with extra vegetables
  • Swap sugar with honey and salt with herbs
  • Cut down on alcohol
  • Have a good breakfast, one main meal and one lighter meal (soup/salad) a day
  • Eat slowly
  • Invest in a microplane grater — to make cheese portions seem bigger
  • Enjoy two healthy snacks a day
  • Walk more. Check out for ideas
  • Reward success — but not with food
  • Cheat — try for a 100 per cent perfect diet all the time and you set yourself up to fail

This article was first published in the Evening Standard on 7/7/10 Read on site here.

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