I understood how she felt. Obesity shortened my own father's life, and for most of my childhood, I struggled with an extra 25 pounds as well. I figured it was my genetic destiny to be fat, too. But then I got sick and tired of being sick and tired, and I've made it my life's work to learn everything there is to know about belly fat. But nothing in my 20 years of health journalism has prepared me for the groundbreaking research that has emerged in just the last year—new science that shows exactly how we can turn off our fat genes and lose weight almost automatically.
Stress skyrockets your levels of cortisol, often called “the belly fat” hormone because it signals to the body to store fat around your waist. Add the daily stressors of living our modern lifestyle and you can see how cortisol can be constantly coursing through your veins. This perma-stress mode isn’t good for a lot of healthy reasons, your tummy being just one of them, so it’s important to take time every day to de-stress. Yoga, meditation, walking, journaling, doing a hands-on hobby, or playing a musical instrument are all great time-tested methods. (Hint: Know what isn’t? Watching television. The boob tube actually increases your levels of cortisol!)
Know your anatomy. Familiarize yourself with the muscle groups that make up your abdominal area. If you understand how the muscles work, it will be easier to use them properly when you exercise. Then plan a smart abdominal workout to complete at least three times per week. It doesn't have to last longer than 10-15 minutes, but it should include exercises to work the internal and external obliques on the sides of your torso as well as exercises to work the rectus abdominis, which runs down the middle of your midsection and defines your six-pack.
The thyroid gland is best known for its metabolic function affecting weight. Estrogen dominance renders the thyroid hormones dysfunctional, causing your body's metabolism to slow down. The resulting condition is called relative hypothyroidism. In addition, the changes in your body's blood sugar levels—some of which occur naturally with age and some of which are due to a hormone imbalance—are also linked to weight gain. As the body's progesterone production decreases with age and estrogen becomes dominant, your body releases insulin more rapidly and more often. When fluctuating hormones unnaturally stimulate insulin release, you get hungry faster and will often crave sugar. In fact, these food cravings can sometimes be uncontrollable, and people who are estrogen dominant tend to consume more sweets even when they aren't truly hungry. As a result, they ingest more calories than their bodies require and pack on even more pounds.
This easy a.m. ritual works on two levels. First, a recent study found that exposure to sunlight in between the hours of 8 a.m. and noon reduced your risk of weight gain regardless of activity level, caloric intake, or age. Researchers speculate that the morning light synchronizes your metabolism and undercuts your fat genes. And burning calories before you eat means you're exercising in a fasted state—the energy you burn comes right from your fat stores, instead of from the food you ate. But what really stunned Martha was the improvement in her heart health. Before starting Zero Belly Diet, Martha's heart rate would typically soar to 112 beats per minute (bpm) within moments of starting her exercise bike workout. "After the first week and a half I could not raise my heart rate over 96 bpm with the same workout. It was great to see change in the mirror, and even better to know good things were happening that I couldn't even see."
Sure, summer is all about the flat belly—hello bikini season!—but why not tone some other parts of your body while you’re at it? By pairing split lunges with bicep curls you’ll be giving your legs, abs, and arms a workout. Mark, who advises doing this exercise with 1-liter water bottles, says, “Even though you aren’t actively moving your abs, they play a huge role in keeping your spine upright during this exercise, so please make sure you keep them engaged throughout the entire movement. This one makes your entire body tremble—so get ready!”
Calm your sensitive system as you shed fat quickly. To jump-start your weight loss, the first phase is designed to supply the fewest calories, replacing one meal per day with the Belly Soother Smoothie. Very low in FODMAP foods and grain-free, this phase features foods that are the absolute easiest to digest healthfully. While you will immediately feel leaner and cleaner, this is not a “detox” diet of liquid meals or bland foods. You’ll eat real food—and get real results. Our testers lost an average of 5 1/2 pounds after this phase!
There’s arguably nothing easier than pouring some cereal into a bowl to start your day, but loading up on Frosted Flakes in the a.m. is detrimental for your belly. Tony the Tiger’s favorite cereal, while tasty, is packed with sugar and empty calories that are keeping you from having the body you want. Forgoing the Frosted flakes in favor of eggs is an easy way to change that. Since they are an excellent source of protein, eggs have the power to keep you fuller, longer. In fact, in one study with 21 participants, half were fed a breakfast of bagels while half ate eggs. The egg group had a lower response to ghrelin (the “hunger hormone,”) were less hungry three hours later, and consumed fewer calories over the course of the next day than the bagel eaters. What’s more? Egg yolks contain choline, a nutrient with powerful fat-burning properties.
Processed foods are one of the biggest sources of salt in Americans' diets—and the scary part is you probably don't even realize it. Because of the way these addictive foods are formulated, salt is hidden in everything from soups to pasta sauces to even sweet things like boxed cakes. Swap out processed foods in favor of fresh fare and your tummy will thank you. Not only will you lose the salt-bloat but you'll also lose the extra empty calories and lose weight.
Snacks are an important part of your weight-reducing diet because they provide a boost of energy in the midafternoon and aid in hunger control. A healthy snack option might include a small orange with 1 ounce of mozzarella cheese, a container of fat-free yogurt with 3/4 cup of blueberries, or six whole-grain crackers with 1 teaspoon of peanut butter. Each snack option contains about 150 calories.
To the contrary of other diet books, C.W. Randolph, M.D., a champion for women's health, explains that the real reason behind this problem has less to do with calories, carbs, or crunches and everything to do with a little-known but very real medical problem called 'estrogen dominance.' By treating thousands of women safely and effectively for over two decades, Dr. Randolph has discovered why we are in the midst of an estrogen epidemic and how you can save your waistline . . . and your health . . . using his 3-step plan comprised of an anti-estrogenic diet, natural progesterone supplementation, and exercise. You'll learn:
Incorporate strength training. While it's true you'll need to lose the fat over your abdominals so that your muscle tone can show through, don't rely on cardio alone to get the job done. Muscle will help reshape your body and allow you to actually burn calories while your body is at rest, not just when you're hitting the gym. Studies show that those who lift weights have a lower fat mass percentage than those who do aerobic exercise alone.
After 5 months I was sleeping better (I believe it's the hormones, not the supplements) but hadn't lost an ounce, in fact I'd gained a pound. Thinking I must have a really screwy metabolism, I decided to sign up for their saliva hormone test and evaluation. The lab they used sent a very good report with recommendations, however I was disappointed in Dr. Randolph's staff's evaluation. The young lady I spoke with did not have, thus had not looked at and evaluated the extensive questionaire I filled out for the lab, nor had she seen the thyroid test results I'd faxed from a recent physical. Basically she parroted the book's recommendation on supplements. I got no new information except to try gradually increasing the 7-Keto and the statement "it takes time." Having spent $250 for the lab test and evaluation, I was right back were I started. Randolph's group gave me no new information unless I came to Jacksonville, Fl and saw Dr. Randolph as a patient. (I do not fault the lab, their report was more useful than the Institute's "evaluation.")
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.