Being a teenager is hard enough without adding body image issues to the list of things to worry about. Although there’s nothing unhealthy about wanting tighter, flatter abs, you need to be sure you’re working out for the right reasons. Do it for yourself, not because a friend, parent, or boyfriend believes you should. Although there’s no quick solution for losing weight on a single part of your body, a healthy diet, regular exercise, and targeted ab workouts will help you lose weight all over as well as tighten and tone your tummy. With this 5 step guide by Westword, you can lose fat and get yourself in better shape in no time.
Find your body mass index, or BMI, using the Center for Disease Control & Prevention’s online BMI calculator, listed in the Resources section. This measurement estimates how much body fat you’re likely to have based on your height and weight. It’s not a perfect indicator because it doesn’t take into account muscle mass or body composition, but it will tell you whether you can focus on abs alone or whether you may also want to look at overall weight loss strategies.
Target your ab muscles with the bicycle maneuver. According to the American Council on Exercise, this exercise ranks higher than standard crunches for working the lower abdominals and obliques. To do it, lay flat on your back with your hands beside your head. Raise both legs off the floor and touch your right elbow to your left knee. Next, touch your left elbow to your right knee. Try to keep the back-and-forth movement fluid, as if you’re pedaling a bicycle.
Maintain a daily caloric intake appropriate for your activity level. According to the University of Iowa Hospital & Clinics, most teenage girls should aim to take in about 2,200 calories per day. If you’re especially active in sports, your doctor may recommend even more calories. UI notes that you should limit your calories from fat to 30 percent or less; in most cases, this means avoiding fast food and watching your portion sizes.
Keep your diet rich in calcium and iron. According to the American Dietetic Association’s “Complete Food and Nutrition Guide,” many teenage girls skip dairy products like milk, believing dairy products make them fat. In reality, this deprives your bones of the calcium they need to stay strong and the strength you need when working out. Just 8 oz. of fat-free milk contains fewer calories than the same amount of soda or fruit juice. Similarly, girls that pass on iron-rich foods such as lean meat and spinach are missing out on a valuable source of energy. Many teenage girls, the ADA reports, don’t get enough iron to replace what they lose during menstruation, often resulting in fatigue. To stay healthy and keep up a regular exercise regimen, you need daily infusions of both iron and calcium.
Use a medicine ball to sculpt your abs. According to Dr. Edward Laskowski on MayoClinic.com, you should choose one that’s big enough for you to sit on it with your feet touching the floor. Do a basic crunch: sit straight up on the ball, cross your arms over your chest and lean back until you feel your muscles engage. Hold the position for a three-count. Start with five repetitions and work your way up to 15.