Can The Flat Belly Diet Really Zap Your Belly Fat?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

So, What Is the Flat Belly Diet?

The premise of the diet is focused on one unique nutrient — monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) — because growing research at the time showed this fatty acid may play a role in reducing belly fat. As a result, MUFAs are included in every meal on the Flat Belly Diet plan.

    Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Fatty fish like salmon and sardines

Warning

Losing weight at a pace of 1 to 2 pounds per week is safe and sustainable, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Anything faster than that — like the Flat Belly Diet's alleged 15-pound weight loss in about a month — can deprive you of necessary nutrients and burn muscle instead of fat, neither of which is safe for your body or supports weight maintenance in the long term, per the Cleveland Clinic.

Does It Work for Weight Loss?

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The short answer is yes, but not necessarily for good.

The program is a four-day 1,600-calorie meal plan and month-long 1,600- to 2,000-calorie diet based on predominately whole foods, so if your daily calorie needs are above this amount, you will likely lose weight on this plan, according to the Mayo Clinic.

With that said, there's nothing inherently unique about this diet compared to most other calorie-restricted programs. While monounsaturated fats are beneficial, they are not a magical nutrient that will help you shed weight — especially the suggested 15 pounds in 32 days, which is a potentially dangerously fast rate of weight loss, per the Cleveland Clinic.

And any weight loss you do experience on the Flat Belly Diet may not last, according to the Mayo Clinic. That's because long-term, sustained weight loss requires permanent lifestyle changes like eating a nutritious diet and exercising regularly, as opposed to the month-long quick fix that this program offers.

What You Can (and Can’t) Eat on the Flat Belly Diet Plan

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The diet is focused on eating MUFAs throughout the day, so foods rich in these fats make up a large portion of the diet. Here's a breakdown of foods that are allowed and foods to avoid on the Flat Belly Diet, according to the Mayo Clinic.

1. It Emphasizes Whole Foods

The diet is loosely based on the heart-supporting Mediterranean diet, per the Mayo Clinic. This eating style is backed by decades of research, is ranked the No. 1 Best Diet Overall by U.S. News & World Report and focuses on eating whole, nutrient-dense foods with a particular emphasis on monounsaturated fats.

2. It's Low in Processed Foods

Also similar to the Mediterranean diet, the Flat Belly Diet is generally low in saturated fats and sodium, according to the Mayo Clinic. This further contributes to its heart health-supporting properties.

3. It Doesn't Require Special Products

The program doesn't require you to buy specific brand foods or supplements, which gives you more flexibility than some other diet programs, per the Mayo Clinic.

Cons of the Flat Belly Diet

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On the other hand, there are some disadvantages to be aware of before you try this weight-loss program, including:

1. It's Strict

The program is pretty regimented and also reinforces the harmful idea that you should be thin. As a result, it can trigger disordered eating, according to the University of Michigan School of Public Health. So if you have a history of eating disorders, it's best to skip this diet.

2. It Doesn't Live Up to Its Promises

The promised results of losing up to 15 pounds in 32 days are likely overstated. Regardless, losing weight that quickly usually isn't safe, sustainable or doctor-recommended, per the Cleveland Clinic.

3. It Lacks Research

It's worth noting that there's not much research on this specific diet's effectiveness, according to the Mayo Clinic. Large, long-term studies are needed to better understand the program's effects and whether or not it's safe.

4. It May Not Be Safe if You Have an Underlying Condition

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Following a calorie- or food-restrictive diet may not always be the best choice for people with underlying health conditions, according to the Mayo Clinic. That's because you may have specific nutritional needs that aren't addressed by the diet.

Tip

If you have a health condition, talk to your doctor or dietitian before trying this or any other diet program to make sure your nutritional needs will be met, per the Mayo Clinic.

Sample Menu

Here's a sample day's menu on the Flat Belly Diet:

Should You Try It?

While the Flat Belly Diet may result in short-term weight loss, dropping pounds at such a fast rate isn't typically safe. What's more, the weight you do lose may not stay off given the lack of focus on building long-term, safe and sustainable habits, per the Mayo Clinic.

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As a result, you're likely better off taking a different approach to weight loss. Here are some alternative options:

1. Adopt the Mediterranean Diet

A smarter tactic for weight loss and overall health may be to try the Mediterranean diet, per the Mayo Clinic. It prioritizes beneficial foods without restricting your calories or confining your eating habits to a set period of time, all of which can benefit your health — no matter your weight — in the long term.

2. Limit Processed Foods

By filling up on nutritious, whole foods, you'll have less room for sugary or highly processed foods (think: chips, crackers, sweets), which can add to weight gain, per the Mayo Clinic.

Read more on: livestrong, diet


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