Top 10 Rules for a Flat Belly

PHOTO: Change your diet for a flatter stomach.

For all the effort you've put into toning it--and for all the cupcakes you've given up to maintain it--your midsection should be as rock-hard as a diamond and just as much fun to show off. So why does it seem like your quest for a sexy stomach always hits a bump...right about belly-button level?

You're not alone in feeling frustrated: Sixty-two percent of women say the body part they're most self-conscious about is their belly. But don't give up hope--just change your thinking. Turns out, some of the old food advice you've been following for years may actually be working against you, says Alan Aragon, a nutritionist in Westlake Village, California. The latest research is full of new culinary strategies for shrinking your stomach (and slimming down all over). After wading through the data to answer your most common questions, Aragon presents his core counsel.

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Will eating smaller meals curb my hunger?

Contrary to what you've heard, the five-small-meals-a-day mantra doesn't work for everyone. The new thinking? You'll eat healthiest if you eat your way--meaning, if you prefer substantial meals fewer times a day, there's no reason to force yourself to do the opposite, says Aragon. But while the number of meals doesn't matter, their size does.

According to Purdue University researchers, the biggest problem with our noshing behavior is that snacks have become meals, and meals have become feasts. In the past 30 years, snack sizes have increased from 360 calories to a whopping 580! When you consider that the average woman snacks twice during each workday, you're looking at almost 500 extra calories a day. In just two weeks, these oversize bites--no matter how "healthy" they are--can contribute to an extra pound of fat. The takeaway: However many times you eat, always make sure that you're keeping an eye on your portions.

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More from Women's Health:

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Transform Your Whole Body

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Best Foods for Flat Abs

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