If flatter abs are at the top of your fitness resolutions, you're not alone; getting a leaner, more toned midsection is a priority for a lot of people starting a weight loss plan. Unfortunately, many people also harbor long-standing misperceptions about improving abs -- and set themselves up for disappointment in the process.

You CAN improve your abs. The first, most important step is to understand a couple of basic, ABS-olute facts:

  1. As you lose fat, it will come off evenly throughout your body. You can't pick and choose where the fat will come off. (That concept -- "spot reducing" -- is a myth.) But look at the positive: Continue to lose weight according to a healthy plan, and improved abs will be one of many good results you see.
  2. If you are overweight, you MUST lose body fat in order to see the effects of muscle-toning exercises. No matter how hard you work to tone your abs, you won't be able to see them if they're covered by a layer of fat.
  3. A well-rounded approach works. Your chances for success are best if you attack the problem from several angles: (1) eat fewer calories, (2) burn more calories by doing cardio workouts, (3) increase your metabolism through strength training (the more muscle mass you have overall, the more calories you'll burn), and (4) do crunches or other ab exercises as part of your strength-training routine.