Let’s start with a reality check — despite the claims of the fad diets and belly-busting exercises out there, you can’t target fat loss. If you want a flatter stomach, you need to reduce your overall body fat level with a low-calorie, high-nutrition diet and regular calorie-burning exercise. You probably won’t be able to achieve washboard abs in a month, but you can establish new, healthier habits that will benefit your belly and the rest of your body.
Researchers say it has to do with the flavonoids, the heart-healthy compounds in chocolate, that have important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Just be sure you’re reaching for a bar with at least 70 percent cacao, and stay away from the “alkalized” stuff, which has a significantly reduced flavonoid content. We like Nibmor Extreme Dark Chocolate with Cacao Nibs.
Get into a crunch position—lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor, shoulders and head off the floor with your abs contracted. Then have someone throw an exercise ball (or basketball) to you—first to your left side so you have to twist and reach to catch it, and then to your right. Do this as many times as is comfortable, and try to increase the number each week.
That depends. It doesn’t matter how hard you train your abs if you have fat lying on top. Cardio gets rid of that fat, but if you’re already thin with a low body fat percentage and/or have a fast metabolism it’s unlikely that you will need it. If you do have fat and want to do cardio, first decide what kind of cardio you’d like to do (steady state vs. HIIT). For steady state I’d recommend something like 5 times a week, but for HIIT I’d recommend no more than 4 times a week (every other day). If your HIIT workouts are under 12 minutes then feel free to do them more times a week.
Target your deepest ab muscles with The Boat: Lie face up on a mat with arms by your sides. Lift your upper body off the ground by rolling through the spine and reaching arms forward. At the same time, raise your legs so that you're balancing on your butt, knees bent and shins parallel to the ground. Slowly roll back down onto the mat, lowering legs and arms. That’s 1 rep. Do 5 reps per set, resting 30 to 60 seconds between sets.
Getting rid of belly fat isn't just about fitting into skinny jeans—research shows that people with less visceral belly fat (the fat that surrounds your organs) have a decreased risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. So not only will losing fat help you look and feel better, it will also help ward off dangerous health issues. While there isn't one magic food that will melt away belly fat, studies have reported certain foods have special belly-fat-burning benefits, such as avocado, artichokes, whole grains, kefir, green tea, eggs, peanuts and chickpeas. These foods work in different ways to help shrink fat cells and decrease waist circumference. This 7-day meal plan incorporates these flat-belly foods, plus vegetables, whole grains, fruits and healthy fats and protein, in delicious ways to help make it easier to lose belly fat and feel great.
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!)
Research shows the average American eats about 20 teaspoons of sugar daily, often hidden in processed foods, including “healthy” ones such as yogurt, frozen dinners, sauces, and salad dressings. Twenty teaspoons adds up to 325 empty calories a day, and insulin production increases with sugar intake, which can slow your metabolism, making it harder to burn those empty calories. Read labels and try to reduce your intake as much as possible.
As part of the Flat Belly Plan, have an anti-inflammatory snack in the afternoon. Snacks should be rich in flavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants that help curb inflammation. They're the natural compounds that give berries and other fruits their vibrant color. Try a sliced yellow bell pepper with hummus or a bowl of mixed berries drizzled with dark chocolate. Click here for more anti-inflammatory food suggestions.
Vary your cardiovascular exercise routines. For fat reduction and weight loss, your goal should be to average thirty to sixty minutes of aerobic exercise daily. The exercise doesn’t need to be intense, but should make you breathe hard enough to make having a conversation a bit of a challenge, and work up at least a light sweat (think again of the jacket analogy from above).
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.