They also aren't the only culprit. Just sitting for long periods of time (at your desk job, during Netflix marathons) can wreck your waistline. "When you slouch, the front of your body is rounded, just as it would be in a crunch," says Sean Wells, a physical therapist, certified personal trainer, and exercise expert for the online weight-loss and wellness program BistroMD. "So you're still conditioning your rectus to be in this shortened state—but often, it's also weak."
Moves like the tolasana and the eight subsequent ones we did that day are representative of a shift that ab exercises have taken in the past decade or so. Previously there was a tendency to isolate the abdominal muscles to give each one an individual workout — crunches for your rectus abdominis, bicycles for the obliques — but as Olson points out, that's not the way it works in real life. "When you're reaching up to get something, picking up a baby or bending down, you need all the muscles to work together," she says. "Instead of targeting each one, you should aim for functional fitness, where the muscles work as a unit."
Even calorie-free sodas can make your belly bigger because the carbonation will bloat you up. “With carbonated beverages, there’s nowhere else for gas to go but out, so either belch or gas,” says Crandall. Plus, the artificial sweeteners in diet drinks can cause bloating and gas in some people, says Armul. Try water infused with lemon or cucumbers instead for a flavorful, refreshing drink. Here’s how stomach doctors deal with belly bloat.
Pass up baked goods. This is my own personal rule to get (and keep) flat abs. I love baked goods but there’s really nothing good about them as far as your abs are concerned. Cupcakes are awesome but they are bad for your belly. Baked treats often contain way too much sugar, tons of fat and almost no nutritional value. Many packaged baked goods also contain trans fat. If you really need dessert, have a small square of chocolate or a small scoop of ice cream. At least ice cream contains metabolism-boosting protein, which is essential for weight loss
Out-of-whack hormones have all kinds of uncomfortable side effects and belly bloat is one of them. There's a reason that bloating is one of the primary complaints women have during menopause! While you can't turn back the clock and reclaim the hormone profile of your 20's, you can make sure you're within the normal range—something your doctor can check for you. (Before your appointment, know these signs of a thyroid disorder). In the meantime, eating right and exercising are natural ways to balance your hormones.
We know pasta is a weeknight staple, which is why we had to include it in our meal plan. But instead of using refined, inflammation-inducing white-flour pasta, we’re using a spaghetti squash. It’s just one of our favorite pasta tips to stay skinny because not only is its glycemic index lower than spaghetti, it’s also higher in micronutrients like vitamin A, folic acid, and potassium.
Start each day by making a large pitcher of "spa water"—that's water filled with sliced whole lemons, oranges, or grapefruits—and make a point of sipping your way through at least eight glasses before bedtime. Citrus fruits are rich in the antioxidant D-limonene, a powerful compound found in the peel that stimulates liver enzymes to help flush toxins from the body and gives sluggish bowels a kick, according to the World Health Organization. For added belly-blasting benefits, brew yourself a pot of green tea, one of the five best teas for weight loss.
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.