If getting in peak condition was easy, everyone would do it. We would all be striding around with a flat belly and a toned, sculpted figure. It can be done but it’s hard work, so it’s really important to find out why you want to commit to getting lean and draw on your reasons when the going gets tough.

You’ve tried dieting and exercising in the past. You started off well, but it didn’t last. And you went back to your old ways. It’s frustrating, but most of us have tried and failed to diet or lose weight in the past. Some of us have had good results, but then gained the weight back. If it were as easy as ‘eat this and do that’ then everyone would look fantastic. But there are no shortcuts and we’re not here to sell you a quick-fix approach to dieting and weight loss. Motivation is key. So before you even start on a new healthy eating and exercise plan, you need to get your mind in the right mental state. Start by thinking about diets or exercise plans you’ve tried in the past that haven’t worked. Write down what they were and why they didn’t work for you. Was the diet too restrictive? Did you feel hungry all the time? Was the exercise plan too long? Did it take up too much of your time? Or perhaps you didn’t enjoy it?

To lose weight and keep it off – therefore achieving your flat tummy – you need to find a diet and exercise plan that’s sustainable. If you don’t like eating the same foods all the time then you’ll need an eating plan that offers variety. If you hate the idea of giving up carbs, then a Keto diet won’t be sustainable for you in the long term. If you don’t have the time or inclination to spend a lot of time cooking, then you will need to find healthy meals you can prepare in under 20 minutes. Try to build your eating habits around your personal preferences so that you aren’t tempted to give up when things get tough.

True motivation for getting fit

As for your true motivation to get in shape, you need to really think about why that’s important to you. What will having a flat tummy do for you? How will it help your life? Most of us feel more confident when we shape up, which is reflected in other areas of our lives. Many women report having the confidence to change career or ask for a pay rise when they have lost weight and proved to themselves they can set a goal and stick to it.

Think of a really compelling reason why having a flat tummy means so much to you. Actually, we can give you one very good reason: to reduce your belly fat. Fat stored around the middle is bad for you, as it surrounds critical organs, including the liver. Abdominal fat, also known as visceral fat, can increase your risk of heart disease in later life.

Reducing your belly fat will also give you a better chance of living longer, too. This in itself is good motivation to shape up. No doubt you have other reasons for wanting to get in shape. Whatever your reasons, write them down and make them personal. Keep a note of why you want a flat belly and pin it up on your fridge or carry it with you, so that when you’re tempted to snack on unhealthy treats or overeat, you can remind yourself why your goal means so much. This will help keep you on track.

Health reasons for losing weight

In need of even more motivation? Here’s a good list of reasons why doing regular exercise and shaping up is so good for you.

• If you have high body fat, you’re at risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease, certain cancers and osteoarthritis.

• Exercise reduces your risk of coronary heart disease by approximately 35 per cent.

• Regular activity reduces your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by around 50 per cent.

• It lowers your risk of breast cancer by around 20 per cent.

• It lowers your risk of colon cancer by around 50 per cent.

• Exercise reduces your risk of developing dementia in later life. Dementia charity Alzheimer’s Society recommends regular exercise (along with not smoking and following a healthy diet) as one of three ways to reduce your risk of developing dementia.

• Excess belly fat is linked to an increased risk of heart disease. If your belly is one place where you tend to store excess fat, then you are at an increased risk.