Many people dream of having a flat stomach, but unfortunately the middle of the body is particularly susceptible to fat deposits. Six simple habits will help you get – and keep – a slim middle.

Whether your goal is to prepare early for bikini season or you just want to feel better in your own skin, a flat stomach can make a big difference.

If you’re looking for a tighter midsection, follow these six tips to achieve and maintain your goal.

According to a study published in Psychosomatic Medicine, belly fat contains four times as many cortisol receptors, the fat-inducing stress hormone, as subcutaneous fat – the fat that sits directly under the skin.

This means that when you are under a lot of stress, fat moves to your stomach faster than to other areas of your body.

Stress doesn’t just have a negative effect on your waistline, it also has many other effects on your body. So try to stay relaxed at all times: exercise regularly, meditate during stressful periods and surround yourself with people who make you laugh.

The optimal distribution of carbohydrates, protein and fat in your total daily calories should be 50:30:20.

“This can help control hunger, satiety, belly fat and weight,” nutritionist Diana Lipson-Burge tells Shape.

For example, if your basal metabolic rate—calories your body burns at rest every day—plus your physical activity is 1,800 calories, you should consume 900 of those calories from good carbs (vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains).

An additional 540 calories ideally come from healthy protein sources such as nuts or lean meat and 360 calories from fats such as olive oil, soybean oil, salmon or walnuts.

A study of more than 10,000 people published in the journal ‘Obesity’ found that building muscle is an important factor in having a flat stomach.

Subjects who added 25 minutes of strength training to their individual exercise routine gained significantly less weight around the waist over a twelve-year period than those who did cardio exercise for the same amount of time.

Another study, also published in the journal ‘Obesity’, found that belly fat increases less quickly if you pay particular attention to your fiber intake.

To find out, the researchers increased the daily intake of soluble fiber in the study participants by 10 grams. The result: The rate at which belly fat accumulated within five years fell by 4 percent.

The reason: fiber slows down digestion and makes you feel full for longer. You can get the extra 10 grams with half an avocado, 3/4 cup of black beans, 3/4 cup of oatmeal and a red apple, for example.

To lose belly fat, you should listen carefully to your body and your hunger. To do this, imagine a hunger scale where one is extremely hungry and ten is too full to move. Always stop eating when you reach a seven to avoid putting on extra pounds.

After three to four hours, you will be hungry again. By consuming 400 to 500 calories at each meal, you should be able to stay full for this period – and automatically find it easier not to “overeat” at the next meal of the day.

After four extra bites, you’d be at an eight. If you stop eating at an eight (instead of a seven) two or more times a week, you’re probably consuming more calories than you need.

Getting six to seven hours of sleep each night can help keep your belly from packing on extra pounds, according to a study in the journal Sleep. Study participants who slept for five hours or less and eight hours or more had higher amounts of belly fat (as well as an increased risk of type 2 diabetes) than those who slept for six to seven hours.

However, the negative effects were much more obvious in the short sleepers: over five years, they gained almost twice as many centimeters around the waist as the long sleepers.

The scientists suspect that “extreme” sleep patterns, i.e. too much or too little sleep, affect the feeling of hunger and the hormone balance and thus disrupt the calorie balance.

The original of this article “Six simple routines make belly fat disappear” comes from FitForFun.