There are healthy belly bacteria, and then there are bad belly bacteria, the later of which studies indicate overweight people have more of in their gut. To keep the fat-causing bugs at bay, you need to eat a variety of foods that support their healthy counterparts—the kind found in the bellies of slim people. Examples of probiotic-rich foods that help you lose weight by aiding digestion include kefir, kombucha, and yogurt.
“Proper sleep is crucial for weight loss. Too little sleep leads to poor food choices, largely due to increased levels of the hunger hormone, ghrelin. Too little sleep also decreases levels of leptin, a hormone that helps satiate your appetite. Lack of sleep also clouds judgment and causes impulse decision making, which inevitably leads to poor food choices,” adds founder and Certified Sleep Science Coach at SleepZoo, Chris Brantner.
But you need to exercise, too. In Slentz's study, walking or jogging miles a week kept visceral and subcutaneous fat at bay, and jogging miles melted them off. At 11 miles a week, it made no difference whether people in the study walked or jogged, and it's fairly safe to say that it wouldn't at miles either. "It's not the intensity of the exercise that matters," Slentz says. "It's the amount."
But because you don't have X-ray vision to see whether too much of the potentially dangerous visceral fat is parking itself in your own belly, scientists have figured out a couple of DIY guidelines. To avoid increased risk of obesity-related diseases, women should have a waist measurement no bigger than 35 inches (measure it at the smallest point of your midsection), and some experts recommend a waist-to-hip ratio of around 0.8, meaning that your waistline should be no greater than 80 percent of your hip circumference. According to a Mayo Clinic study released last May, the ratio of waist to hip is believed to be a measurement of visceral fat. Other fascinating research, published in the American Journal of Human Biology, found that women who give birth before age 40 have an average of two centimeters more fat around their bellies than women of the same ages who haven't given birth. (I'll have to thank my two daughters for those extra centimeters.)
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.
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.
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.
We know pasta is a weeknight staple, which is why we had to include it in our meal plan. But instead of using refined, inflammation-inducing white-flour pasta, we’re using a spaghetti squash. It’s just one of our favorite pasta tips to stay skinny because not only is its glycemic index lower than spaghetti, it’s also higher in micronutrients like vitamin A, folic acid, and potassium.
Dr. Travis Stork is an Emmy®-nominated host of the award-winning talk show The Doctors, and a board-certified emergency medicine physician. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Duke University as a member of Phi Beta Kappa and earned his M.D. with honors from the University of Virginia, being elected into the prestigious honor society of Alpha Omega Alpha for outstanding academic achievement. Based on his experiences as an ER physician, Dr. Stork is passionate about teaching people simple methods to prevent illness before it happens with the goal of maximizing time spent enjoying life while minimizing time spent as a "patient." Dr. Stork is a New York Times #1 bestselling author of “The Doctor’s Diet,” “The Doctor’s Diet Cookbook,” “The Lean Belly Prescription,” and “The Doctor Is In: A 7-Step Prescription for Optimal Wellness.” An avid outdoorsman, Dr. Stork is a devotee of mountain and road biking, whitewater kayaking and hiking with his 15 year old dog, Nala.