It's an all-too-common problem once you hit thirty: Despite your best efforts, you just can't seem to lose the extra weight around your middle, and you look in the mirror wondering what month and year you lost your waistline. Medical research proves you're not alone—that the average American gains one to two pounds a year after age thirty—usually around the stomach. Not only does this excess belly fat make you look and feel bad, it's the most damaging kind of fat; a precursor to heart attacks and certain types of cancer.
There are no wrong ways to eat a Reese’s. Feasting rituals, research suggests, are a form of “mindful eating,” which has the power to make food more pleasurable, and may help prevent overeating. Pleasure, according to research in Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism, catalyzes the relaxation response, promoting parasympathetic and digestive activities. In other words, you’ll metabolize dessert faster if you really, really enjoy eating it. In one study, participants who were assigned to eat a chocolate bar in accordance with a particular breaking and unwrapping ritual found the candy much more enjoyable—and even more flavorful—than a group who ate the bar informally.
Lower your sodium intake. Sodium causes your body to retain water, which causes you to look bloated — especially around your abdominal region. Whenever possible, try replacing high-sodium foods with healthier options. Switch regular table salt for kosher or sea salt, which is lower in sodium. Some foods high in sodium include soy sauce, restaurant meals, MSG, cured meats like pepperoni and salami, ham, bacon, sauces, and snack foods.
The two figures standing in front of me one recent winter morning could not look more different. On the right is Carrie McCulloch, MD, a musculoskeletal anatomy expert and the medical director for Kinected Pilates studio in New York City, who is sizing up the shape of my waistline. Dr. McCulloch's own midsection happens to be perfectly rounded because she is only weeks away from giving birth to her first child. On the left is her assistant, Mr. Bones, one of those hanging skeletons that teach medical students how the thigh bone's connected to the hip bone. Mr. Bones doesn't actually have a waist, just a hollow space between his ribs and pelvis.
Even if you can't get to the gym, try to squeeze in a 30-minute walk daily, Lyons says. The simple boost in metabolism will help you burn waistline fat more efficiently. And if you want to work out, skip those gadgets that promise "miraculous abs in minutes." A study from Kansas State University found most devices designed to target abs (think infomercials) don't live up to their promises. You'll see better results with traditional exercise.
I understood how she felt. Obesity shortened my own father's life, and for most of my childhood, I struggled with an extra 25 pounds as well. I figured it was my genetic destiny to be fat, too. But then I got sick and tired of being sick and tired, and I've made it my life's work to learn everything there is to know about belly fat. But nothing in my 20 years of health journalism has prepared me for the groundbreaking research that has emerged in just the last year—new science that shows exactly how we can turn off our fat genes and lose weight almost automatically.
Sit with your legs crossed at the ankles. Hold onto the outside of each ankle with your opposite hand, and lift your legs off the floor, balancing on your sitting bones. Pull your abs into your spine and take a deep breath in. As you exhale, begin to round onto your back. Continue rolling until your shoulder blades touch the floor, lifting your hips, still holding onto your ankles. Keeping your abs in tight, rock back up to sitting, finding your balance again on your sitting bones. That’s one rep. Repeat 10 times.