"Researchers are now discovering that gut bacteria also seem to play a role in the complex process of weight loss and weight gain," he writes. "We don't know exactly how much impact our Little Buddies have on our weight, but we're learning enough to believe that understanding the connection more fully may help us as we confront the obesity epidemic in the United States — and in our own bodies."
Since the best way to lose weight and stay in shape involves a combination eating right and exercising, we’ve included both types of tips on our list, and also interspersed some valuable habits to keep in mind if you’re looking for a flat belly. While tossing some berries and nuts into your oatmeal is a great way to boost your intake of satiating protein and fiber that will transform your tummy for the better, so too is doing some core-engaging flat planks. Couple those adjustments with ensuring you get a solid eight hours of sleep each night, and watch the belly fat disappear faster than the sunscreen you can never seem to buy enough of.
But because you don't have X-ray vision to see whether too much of the potentially dangerous visceral fat is parking itself in your own belly, scientists have figured out a couple of DIY guidelines. To avoid increased risk of obesity-related diseases, women should have a waist measurement no bigger than 35 inches (measure it at the smallest point of your midsection), and some experts recommend a waist-to-hip ratio of around 0.8, meaning that your waistline should be no greater than 80 percent of your hip circumference. According to a Mayo Clinic study released last May, the ratio of waist to hip is believed to be a measurement of visceral fat. Other fascinating research, published in the American Journal of Human Biology, found that women who give birth before age 40 have an average of two centimeters more fat around their bellies than women of the same ages who haven't given birth. (I'll have to thank my two daughters for those extra centimeters.)
Cat Kick: Stand with feet together, arms extended out like airplane wings. Exhale, and lift the right leg forward and up. At the same time, sweep the arms forward at shoulder level and round the spine, like a cat. The navel should feel as though it's pressing toward the spine. Inhale, and open back up and return to the starting position. Repeat with the left leg, alternating for 20 repetitions.
Slouch and your stomach pooches. Straighten up, and your tummy looks trimmer without breaking a sweat! For better posture, align your ears over your shoulders, shoulders over hips, hips over knees, and knees over ankles. Keep your shoulders open like a shirt on a hanger, not one draped on a peg. Draw your navel to your spine. Not least, keep your weight even on the balls of your feet and your heels.
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!)
Lie on the floor, face down, and support your upper body on your elbows, forearms, and hands. Slowly lift the rest of your body off the floor until you're on your toes. Keeping your body straight, hold for as long as is comfortable, then slowly lower and relax. Repeat as many times as possible until fatigued. For an added challenge, raise one leg at a time, as shown.