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

Whether your goal is to prepare early for bikini season or you just want to feel better about yourself, 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 have a lot of stress, the fat moves to the stomach more quickly than to other areas of the body.

Stress not only has a negative effect on your abdominal size, but of course also has many other effects on the body. Therefore, try to always stay relaxed: exercise regularly, meditate during stressful periods and surround yourself with people who make you laugh.

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

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

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

An additional 540 calories 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 getting a flat stomach.

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

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

To find out, the researchers increased the study participants’ daily soluble fiber intake 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 ensures that you feel fuller for longer. For example, you can consume the additional 10 grams with half an avocado, 3/4 cup of black beans, 3/4 cup of oatmeal and a red apple.

To lose belly fat, you should listen carefully to your body and your feelings of 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 get to a seven to avoid gaining extra pounds.

In 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 over this period – and automatically make it easier not to overeat at the next meal of the day.

After four additional bites you would 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 necessary.

Sleeping six to seven hours every night can help keep your stomach from being burdened with extra pounds, according to a study in the journal Sleep. In fact, study participants who slept five or fewer hours or eight or more hours had higher amounts of belly fat (as well as an increased risk of type 2 diabetes) than those who slept six to seven hours.

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

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

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