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.
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.
Why: "Oats fill you up with fiber without added sugar, like most highly processed cereals," Glassman says. "Nut butter provides healthy fat that will keep you satisfied, but won't hold onto water like sugary and salty packaged foods. (That being said, be sure to check labels and pick items with no added salt sugar!) Berries fill you up with fiber and water volume without adding a big carb load to your morning."
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.