Many people chew gum as a way to stifle cravings or prevent mindless eating but this tactic may have an unfortunate side effect: belly bloat. Everyone naturally swallows a small amount of air when they chew but it's magnified for people who chew gum, which causes gas and bloating. In addition, some artificial sweeteners have been shown to increase your appetite for junk food, so gum could be increasing your waistline on two fronts.
Carbohydrates hold water in your body, which may make your belly bloat. Plus, high-carb, high-sugar breakfast foods like bagels or cereal might fill you up initially, but you’ll probably end up searching for more food within an hour, says Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD, founder of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness. “Those digest pretty rapidly, and then your blood sugar spikes up and drops back down pretty quickly because they digest so fast,” she says. That extra morning munching will likely add up to more calories and bloat than you would have had if you’d started with a more filling breakfast. Be sure to follow these other daily habits that reduce bloating and flatten your belly, too.
"Refined grains like white bread, crackers, and chips, as well as refined sugars in sweetened drinks and desserts increase inflammation in our bodies. Belly fat is associated with inflammation, so eating too many processed foods will hinder your ability to lose belly fat. Natural foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are full of antioxidants, which have anti-inflammatory properties and may therefore actually prevent belly fat.”
Ever since my divorce three years ago, I have felt as if someone was pumping up a spare tire around my middle. I used to wear size 6 pants, and now I can barely squeeze into size 10. I swear I'm not eating any more than I did five years ago. If anything, I eat less. Even though I go to the gym and walk on a treadmill at least five hours a week, this fat around my belly just won't budge.
Another imbalance that plagues the abs is between the obliques, the muscles that cinch your sides. You have two sets on both your right and left, and if you show them love, they'll give you a nice hourglass shape. Sadly, your left obliques start out at a disadvantage, says Hahn. Blame your heart, which takes up extra space and makes the obliques difficult to tone—an issue that's compounded if you're right-handed. "Think about where your mouse pad is," says Hahn. "Then you shake hands, change the radio station in the car—you do so much with your right side, making it stronger."
It’s not just about weight loss. Having great gut health is linked to good health throughout your body. Scientists in this rapidly growing field are finding connections between gut microbes and the immune system, weight loss, gastrointestinal health, , allergies, asthma, and even cancer. With every study that’s published, scientists become more convinced that having a healthy gut leads to having a healthy body.
YOUR RX: To bring balance to your midsection, keep moving, even at the office, says Katy Bowman, director of the Restorative Exercise Institute in Ventura, CA. When you are seated, tilt your pelvis forward, which will curve your lower back and lengthen your abdomen. During your workouts, "focus on moves that work your entire body instead of one muscle group," says Wells. These exercises from Bowman fit the bill. Do them once a day.
Munching on the right snacks throughout the day is one of the best ways to shrink your waistline. Need proof? According to a recent study, researchers found participants lost significantly more body weight when they incorporated low-sugar, high-protein snacks into their daily food routine. Fitting in healthy, high protein snacks (such as a handful of unsalted almonds) helps to maintain blood-sugar levels—which keeps your brain from triggering hunger pangs—and stops your body from indulging in unhealthy foods after what feels like a long day of starvation.