The pooch is bad enough, but what's worse is the back problems an overworked rectus can create—anything from general pain to degenerative or herniated disks, says Wells. "The stronger muscles in the front of your body take over and your back muscles turn off ," he says. With nothing to hold your spine in place, the disks can shift and squish together.
To start off your quest for a flat belly this summer, why not begin with a simple and versatile exercise you can do whenever you have a spare 5 minutes? Flat planks engage your core, and according to Eat This, Not That! For Abs author Mark Langowski, they are “the single most effective move that works every muscle in your body.” Whether you’re doing some flat planks while you watch TV at night or in your office during some downtime, they will have your abs (and the rest of you) looking fit and toned in no time. “If you can only do it for 30 seconds before collapsing, try to add 10 seconds to it each time you attempt it,” Mark advises. “Do this for three sets every other day and you’ll start seeing results!”
A classic Pilates move, the roll up is 38 percent more effective at targeting the rectus abdominis (the “six-pack”) and 245 percent more effective at targeting the obliques than a basic crunch, according to an Auburn University study. To do it, lie face-up with legs straight, ankles, knees, and thighs together. Flex feet and extend arms overhead. Inhale to prepare as you lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the floor. On your exhale, continue to roll up by drawing in abdominals, reaching arms up and over toward feet. Keep abdominals contracted, with spine rounded in a “C” curve. Pause and inhale. On your exhale, roll down through each vertebra in a controlled movement, keeping heels pressed evenly into the floor the entire way up and down. Do 15 reps as controlled and precise as you can, as many days a week as possible.
HOW TO MAKE IT: Combine ¾ cup of mixed berries, half a frozen or fresh banana, a handful of spinach, a tablespoon of ground flaxseed, ¼ cup Greek yogurt, and a cup of unsweetened almond milk, or milk of your choice. Blend until it reaches your desired consistency, adding water to thin if necessary. Feel free to mix up the flavor combination next week with any one of these 20 Best Yogurt Smoothies for Weight Loss—just be sure to keep your fruit to a single serving per smoothie.
Dark chocolate is packed with MUFAs—or monounsaturated fatty acids—that help your body burn belly fat. Dark chocolate is also filled with flavonoid antioxidants (more than 3 times the amount in milk chocolate) that keep blood platelets from sticking together and may even unclog your arteries. It may also help with weight loss by keeping you feeling full, according to a study from Denmark. Try a chocolate with 70% or more cocoa. Get your fix in these 10 Guilt-Free Chocolate Desserts.
What causes it? Your genes, for one thing. "Some families just carry most of their weight in their bellies, no matter how thin they are," says Caroline Cederquist, M.D., author of The MD Factor Diet. But visceral fat gets worse for all of us as we get older, especially if we're under a lot of stress or not sleeping well, says nutritionist Sara Vance, author of The Perfect Metabolism Plan. That's thanks to hormones that make us hungrier even as our bodies are practically hoarding fat.
And as for whether doing “The Bachelor” set him on this TV career path, Stork claims he never had any intention to pursue the limelight. “I didn’t even have a goal of doing TV after "The Bachelor," said Stork. "That’s what is interesting. So no, I went to dinner one night, ended up as 'The Bachelor' because a casting director was there … Then I went back to practicing medicine and then that's when Dr. Phil and his son Jay McGraw called."
So cook up some oatmeal—and top it with some fruit. What's so magical about this combination? Each provides insoluble fiber that helps reduce blood cholesterol and feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut. By doing so, you trigger your gut to produce butyrate, a fatty acid that reduces fat-causing inflammation throughout your body. In a Canadian study, researchers discovered that those whose diets were supplemented with insoluble fiber had higher levels of ghrelin—a hormone that controls hunger. (Try these two-minute oatmeal recipes that'll make you an oatmeal fan forever.)
Simply blasting the air conditioner or turning down the heat in the winter may help attack belly fat while we sleep, according to a study in the journal Diabetes. As it turns out, colder temps can subtly enhance the effectiveness of your brown fat stores, which keep you warm by helping your burn through belly fat. Participants spent a few weeks sleeping in bedrooms with varying temperatures: a neutral 75 degrees, a cool 66 degrees, and a balmy 81 degrees. After four weeks of sleeping at 66 degrees, the participants had almost doubled their volumes of brown fat.
There’s no sugar-coating it: Sugar wreaks havoc on the body. Consuming too much of the white stuff can lead to obesity, which often causes other health problems, like diabetes and heart disease. Many breakfast cereals pack more sugar into one bowl than you’ll find in a Boston Kreme donut! To make matters worse, many popular varieties like Frosted Flakes and Fruity Pebbles are laced with Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) or BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole). These ingredients are banned in the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Japan and much of Europe because they are thought to be carcinogenic. Speaking of scary ingredients, check out these 40 Most Horrifying Things Found in Food.
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.