Lie on your right side, supporting your upper body on your right elbow, forearm, and hand. Your elbow should be directly under your shoulder. Slowly lift the rest of your body off the floor, so all that's touching is your forearm and feet. (Use the other arm to balance. For an advanced move, hold that arm straight up in the air.) Hold as long as is comfortable or until you can no longer maintain good form. Then slowly lower and relax. Repeat on the other side, alternating until fatigued.
For your dinner tonight—as well as for lunch and dinner for the next couple days—you’ll be making a super simple roasted chicken breast with roasted veggies and quinoa. Chicken is a versatile, lean protein that’s rich in selenium—a mineral that keeps your skin glowing and your metabolism running properly. Quinoa is an ancient grain that’s touted for its micronutrients, anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, and antioxidants, like fat-burning quercetin. And, of course, we’re getting in a rainbow of veggies to reap the unique properties of each.
WHAT'S GOING ON: If the only abs exercise you ever do is crunches, you'll never have a firm tummy, says Stephanie Hahn, a physical therapist at STAR Physical Therapy in Austin, TX. Crunches train your rectus abdominis (your "six-pack") to fold forward. That makes the muscles shorter, and if your transverse abdominals (the muscles that sit behind your rectus) aren't toned, you end up with what experts call a muscle imbalance—and a bulge in your lower belly. "Doing more crunches won't help," Hahn says.
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!)
That means Pink Lady over Granny Smith, watermelon over honeydew, red grapes over green ones. The higher levels of nutrients called flavonoids—particularly anthocyanins, compounds that give red fruits their color—calm the action of fat-storage genes. In fact, red-bellied stone fruits like plums boast phenolic compounds that have been shown to modulate the expression of fat genes. To learn more about turning on and off your fat genes, check out the essential list: 21 Nutrition Myths—Busted!
Want to get a flat tummy fast? This plan from best-selling author Liz Vaccariello may help you beat belly bulge in less than a month. The secret? Your body’s weight-loss weapon: stomach bacteria. Scientists have identified a relationship between imbalanced digestive bacteria and weight gain. This 21-day plan will help you optimize your gut and get slim at the same time!
Test panelist Bryan Wilson, a 29-year-old accountant, lost 19 pounds and an astounding 6 inches from his waist in just six weeks on the program, and he attributes his success to the Zero Belly shake recipes in the program. "I love the shakes. I added them to my diet, and almost immediately I lost the bloat," Bryan said. "I'm a sweet craver, and the shakes were an awesome alternative to bowls and bowls of ice cream I would have had."
In addition to exercise, getting in shape quickly will require some habit changes. For starters, make sure you’re getting enough sleep each night. According to Wake Forest researchers, dieters who sleep five hours or less put on two and a half times more belly fat, while those who sleep more than eight hours pack on slightly less than that. Though that might not sound like much, when you have a regular bedtime and stick to it, you set yourself up for day-in, day-out weight loss.
Adequate sleep plays an integral role in our weight. This is because our metabolism dictates everything from the rate we burn calories to when and where we store fat. And your metabolism is simply your biochemistry / hormone balance. For this reason, when we don’t sleep the body doesn’t release as much fat burning HGH, and conversely it releases more of the belly fat stress hormone cortisol as well as an appetite enhancing hormone called Ghrelin. Be sure to get your shut eye. 8 hours a night is preferable, but 7 will suffice.
HOW TO MAKE IT: Take the oats out of the pot and pour into a resealable container. For this morning, combine a cup of oats, a teaspoon of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice (includes nutmeg, cloves, and ginger), half a banana (sliced), about 5 chopped walnuts, and a quarter cup of almond milk, or your milk of choice. Place in the microwave for a minute, stir, and enjoy!
The last protein you’ll be cooking this week is another lean meat, pork tenderloin. Congratulations! You made it through the week without red meat! The average American eats about 3.3 oz of red meat per day. Eating too much red meat has been linked to chronic, inflammation, heart problems, cancer, and an unhealthy gut, so our flat-belly plan eschews the stuff. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have it, though! Experts recommend having only 3 servings of red meat a week—but make sure it’s grass-fed beef, not grain-fed. This source is teeming with heart-healthy omega-3s and fat-burning conjugated linoleic fatty acids. It’s also lower in inflammatory saturated fats.
Protein is kryptonite to belly fat. When you eat protein, your body has to expend a lot of calories in digestion—about 25 calories for every 100 calories you eat (compared with only 10 to 15 calories for fats and carbs). With that said, stock your kitchen with boneless skinless chicken breast, lean ground turkey, lean beef, lamb, wild salmon, shrimp, scallops, cod, tuna, and halibut. Looking for a new tasty way to eat salmon? Check out this Zero Belly Green Tea Poached Salmon Recipe for some inspiration.
When it comes to grains, whole is the way to go. Why, you ask? Because unlike the refined stuff—white rice, white pasta, and white flour—which is stripped of valuable nutrients in the refining process, whole grains are packed with satiating, heart-healthy fiber and they won’t negatively affect your blood sugar or weight the way their whiter counterparts do. In fact, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition https://now.tufts.edu/news-releases/new-study-suggests-eating-whole-grains-increases-metabolism-and-calorie-loss found that substituting whole grains for refined grains in the diet increases calorie loss by reducing calories retained during digestion and speeding up metabolism. So if you’re on a quest to lose weight, ditch the white stuff and stock up on whole grains such as buckwheat, brown rice, and quinoa
YOUR RX: To bring balance to your midsection, keep moving, even at the office, says Katy Bowman, director of the Restorative Exercise Institute in Ventura, CA. When you are seated, tilt your pelvis forward, which will curve your lower back and lengthen your abdomen. During your workouts, "focus on moves that work your entire body instead of one muscle group," says Wells. These exercises from Bowman fit the bill. Do them once a day.
In this book, we look at all of the ways you can improve your own gut health, starting with the food you eat. My diet recommendations, meal plans, and recipes will help feed and protect your gut microbes. And we look at the many other steps you can take to support your beneficial bacteria, from avoiding unnecessary antibiotics to changing the way you think about dirt and germs. Even the choices you make about how you bring your children into the world can have an impact on your family's microbiomes.