Canoe Twist: Stand upright, feet apart. Interlace all 10 fingers to the webbing of your hands to create a solid grip. Exhale, and sweep the interlocked hands, arms, shoulders, and chest to the left, as if "rowing a canoe." Simultaneously lift the left knee up and to the right. Inhale and return to the starting position. Exhale and perform the movement to the right. Alternate for 20 repetitions.
"When we're seated, our back muscles and spine help keep us upright and the abs are in a slack position, especially if you slouch," explains Joseph Herrera, a doctor of osteopathic medicine and the director of sports medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine Department of Rehabilitation Medicine in New York City. "Although we would end up reclining without the opposing muscle forces they provide, intentionally contracting your abs is the only way to activate them as you sit." As I stand in his office, Dr. Herrera tapes electrodes beneath my rib cage and just above my belly button. Cables connect those electrodes to an electromyography (EMG) machine, which makes a whooshing sound every time the underlying abdominal muscles — my external obliques and rectus abdominis — are activated.
It’s probably no surprise that pasta isn’t the best flat-belly dinner choice—after all, simple carbs won’t fill you up, so you’ll probably end up eating a huge portion—but even your vegetable choice can make you overdo it on carbohydrates. Load your plate with starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn, and peas, and you could practically watch your belly blow up. “That’s going to take you longer to digest, which will make you feel bloated,” says Rumsey. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cabbage could also make you gassy and bloated, says Crandall. While all of those veggies can be a part of a healthy diet, stick with non-starchy, non-cruciferous choices like tomatoes, peppers, and mushrooms on days when you’re particularly worried about bloat.
Salt, in moderation, is a good thing—the mineral is necessary for a healthy heart and brain. But too much salt and you'll retain water, bloating up like a water balloon. Cutting salt is one of the primary ways to drop extra water weight (one reason you may see a big weight loss when starting a new diet!). Move the salt shaker off your table so you'll get out of the habit of routinely salting all your food. Then if you taste your food and still really want salt you can still stand up and get some. For more weight loss benefits, add these fat-burning foods your plate.
Lie on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Extend your arms by your sides, palms facing down. Brace your abs in tight and press through your heels to bridge your hips off the floor. Keeping your hips lifted and square, extend your left leg up to the ceiling, foot flexed. Sweep your left leg to the right, passing the midline of your body and then sweep back out to the left, slightly past your left hip. That’s one rep. Repeat 10 times (back and forth) with the left leg, and then switch legs and repeat 10 more times before lowering out of bridge.
Do stability training. How do you turn a bicep exercise into a core workout? Add a stability challenge! Do the exercise in a standing position and add an unstable surface under your feet. That way you have to brace your core and use your abdominal muscles to balance and stay upright while you work your arms. You can add this kind of balance challenge to any exercise. Use tools like a wobble board or a bosu to enhance your stability training.
Sit on your hips with both legs extended in front of you. Place your hands behind your hips and keep your back long as you lean back slightly and lift your legs off the floor, holding your belly in and up the entire time. Reach both arms out to the sides of your thighs. Lower your legs about 45 degrees, until your body resembles a wide ‘V’. Hold this position for 10 long, deep breaths (or up to 60 seconds).
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.
Peterson has his clients work up to holding a plank for 1 minute. Then they progress to performing vacuums during the exercise: Suck in your abs like you’re trying to button jeans that are too tight. Hold for 3 counts, then release for 3 counts. Repeat until the end of your plank. You’ll have to build back up to a minute, but it’s worth it, Peterson says.
Your phone, tablet, and television may be affecting your waist size in more ways that one. Obviously if you're sitting on electronics then you're not moving around and burning calories. But the effects go beyond just energy. Blue light from electronic screens can disrupt your circadian rhythms; so our addiction to electronics is reducing our sleep as people favor Netflix-bingeing to bed. Both of these effects have been linked to higher levels of belly fat.
HOW TO MAKE IT: Watch our instruction video here! Drain and rinse a 15-ounce can of chickpeas (but be sure to save the liquid!), and throw them into a blender. Add a clove of garlic, 2 teaspoons of ground cumin, the 2 tablespoons juice from 1 lemon, ¾ teaspoon salt, and then add back 2 tablespoons of the drained liquid or 2 tablespoons of tahini. While it’s blending, slowly drizzle in a ¼ cup of olive oil until smooth and creamy. Top with a sprinkle of paprika before serving!
Munching on the right snacks throughout the day is one of the best ways to shrink your waistline. Need proof? According to a recent study, researchers found participants lost significantly more body weight when they incorporated low-sugar, high-protein snacks into their daily food routine. Fitting in healthy, high protein snacks (such as a handful of unsalted almonds) helps to maintain blood-sugar levels—which keeps your brain from triggering hunger pangs—and stops your body from indulging in unhealthy foods after what feels like a long day of starvation.
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.