Many of us are bothered by a little too much padding on our hips, thighs and belly, and unfortunately, targeting those areas by spot-reducing isn’t possible. When you gain weight, fat is stored all over your body, but certain areas are prone to store more fat than others. For some it’s the hips or butt. For others, it’s right smack in the middle of the body.

So, what’s the secret to losing stubborn belly fat? Here are three sure-fire ways that can help you to shrink your mid-section.

Eat a clean/lean healthy diet

You may have heard the old adage, abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym. Flat abs are not created by doing 1,000 sit ups a day, they’re indicative of how low your body fat is. And one way of reducing your body fat is by a clean, healthy diet. That includes eating lean protein, fruits and veggies, healthy fats and complex carbs. Your diet is 80 percent of your success in losing belly fat, but experts say by combining that with a rigorous cardio and weight-training plan, you increase your chances of losing belly fat by 15 to 20 percent.

Good foods that you can add to your diet include oatmeal, brown rice, sweet potatoes, baked or broiled chicken or turkey breast, fish and, of course, fruits and veggies. Try incorporating the 80/20 rule by eating clean 80 percent of the time and allowing yourself permission in indulge 20 percent of the time. Just watch your portion sizes. One serving size of your treat should be about the size of your palm.

Follow a regular fitness program

In order to see the best results, you will need to do 30 to 45 minutes of exercise at least four times a week, but you need to work up a sweat. Casually walking on the treadmill while reading a magazine won’t cut it. You should be moving at a pace that makes it slightly difficult to speak. Try one of Bootique’s various Personal Training Group classes or Cardio Hip Hop Dance classes to kick your metabolism into high gear and start seeing results.

Work those abs

While ab exercises may not whittle down the fat in your middle, they are extremely important for strengthening your stomach muscles giving you better posture, improved balance and reducing back pain. Pairing an ab workout with fat-melting cardio will make those stomach muscles pop. Without cardio, those fabulous abs are just hiding under your belly fat.

Question: What do you consider your “trouble” spot?