Think of your ab muscles as the meat in the middle of a fat sandwich. On top of them is subcutaneous fat, the stuff you pinch as you look in the mirror. Below them is visceral fat, which is the type that takes up residence next to your internal organs — in excessive amounts if you continually overdo it on calories and experience too much pent-up stress. "When you fill up those subcutaneous areas, fat winds up getting stored where it shouldn't, in your deep abdomen or your liver," explains Arthur Weltman, PhD, exercise physiology professor at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Visceral fat has been linked to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome, he notes.
"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.”
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!)
Protein drinks are great ways to get a monster dose of belly-busting nutrition into a delicious, simple snack. But most commercial drinks are filled with unpronounceable chemicals that can upset our gut health and cause inflammation and bloat. And the high doses of whey used to boost protein levels can amplify the belly-bloating effect. The Zero Belly solution: Try vegan protein, which will give you the same fat-burning, hunger-squelching, muscle-building benefits, without the bloat. (Here's a complete guide to easy-to-digest plant proteins.)
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.)
A flat stomach only appears when you have a low enough bodyfat percentage. The reason there are 1,000,000,000 ab workouts on YouTube is because people know there’s BIG money in the ab-industry for people desperate to get a flat stomach! And ab exercises are much easier to market as exciting than “eat better, get strong, move more, for a long long time.”
Lie faceup on floor with arms by sides. Curl head and shoulders off floor, then raise arms overhead (biceps by ears) and legs up at a 45-degree angle to start. Keeping upper body lifted throughout, bring knees toward chest and circle arms around, touching palms to outside of knees. Extend legs and raise arms overhead to start position to complete 1 rep. Do 2 sets of 10 to 12 reps.
It’s important to realize that although these poses and exercises are going to help you in your journey to flat abs, there are other things that need to take place for you to truly achieve a flat stomach. You can’t just do all of these and expect your stomach to stay flat. It takes a little more work and a healthy diet. Thrive/Strive has a 28-Day Weight Loss Challenge that’ll truly help you achieve the flat stomach you desire.
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.
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.