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.
Even if dieters have cut out the cheese pizza and ice cream, losing that extra fat around the middle can prove frustrating, especially for those over 30. Author and doctor Randolph (From Hormone Hell to Hormone Well), along with women's health expert James, asserts that much of the blame can be placed on estrogen. A three-pronged approach to reverse the trend, resulting in additional weight loss, involves eating foods to balance one's hormone levels (primarily cruciferous vegetables, citrus and fiber); using a natural, topical progesterone treatment (naturally, he suggests Dr. Randolph's Natural Balance Cream); and taking seven key dietary supplements, including a range of vitamins, a ""calcium-magnesium combo"" and DHEA. The importance of exercise and physician visits are acknowledged but not discussed (""When You Will Need a Doctor"" is essentially two paragraphs about getting one's hormone levels checked). The month's worth of meal plans provided are generally tasty, healthy dishes such as Cauliflower Crab Cakes, Pickled Beets and Grilled Salmon with Dill and Lemon; that said, Randolph's bold assertions and self-promotion give the book an infomercial feel that compromises an otherwise medically sound diet.
Shrinking your belly isn’t just about what you put in your body, it’s about what’s going on in your brain, too. In a 2015 study, Brown University researchers asked nearly 400 people to complete a mindfulness awareness survey, which asked whether subjects agreed with such questions as “I find it difficult to stay focused on what’s happening in the present.” Then, they X-rayed the subjects’ bellies to determine their degree of belly fat. The results showed that the higher people scored on the mindfulness survey, the less visceral fat they were likely to have. People who are less mindful have, on average, an extra pound of fat inside their bellies than those who are more in tune with their everyday lives and the world around them.
Just don't wait until you blow the tape-measure test to start defending your belly from this flab. Step one is to toss the trans fats, which are found in prepackaged treats under the alias partially hydrogenated oils and have been shown to pack on body fat, particularly in the abdomen. Replace them with monounsaturated fats — for example, olive oil and those in walnuts and avocados — which help your body metabolize belly fat. And swig some reduced-fat milk, like 1 percent or skim, while you're at it: Calcium increases the activity of enzymes that break down fat cells and reduces the stress hormone cortisol, which triggers your body to hoard belly fat.
You’re here because you want a flat stomach. That’s awesome! I know feeling more confident physically in your skin can lead to a dramatic improvement in your outward confidence and self-esteem too. I know my life improved as a result of taking care of myself physically, and that physical strength created an inner strength and confidence that carried over to the rest of my life.
But talking in expert technicalities, let's get real: there's no hard and fast way to get rid of belly fat. You may think that you can spot reduce, but ask any PT worth their REPS Level 3 qualification – the certificate your fitness pro should have – and they'll bust this belly myth. That's because your body decides where it wants to store fat, not you.
Americans are getting less sleep than ever these days and it’s taking a toll on our health—most visibly on our waistlines. Losing just 30 minutes of sleep per night can make you gain weight, according to a study done by the Endocrine Society. Worse, that weight is more likely to go straight to your tummy. Instead, the researchers found, the best sleep cycle is one that follows your natural circadian rhythms, which means sleeping and waking around the same time as the sun. Here are the 7 ways to banish belly bloat in your sleep.
A note on low carb diets: With low carb diets (I see you Paleo), a lot of junk carbs (sweets, breads, alcohol) are also restricted in the process. This is good, and often leads to weight loss. Carbohydrates also hold water in the body, so we’ll also see water loss (and subsequent weight loss). All of this is exciting and people think “I’m never touching a carb again!”
That means Pink Lady over Granny Smith, watermelon over honeydew, red grapes over green ones. The higher levels of nutrients called flavonoids—particularly anthocyanins, compounds that give red fruits their color—calm the action of fat-storage genes. In fact, red-bellied stone fruits like plums boast phenolic compounds that have been shown to modulate the expression of fat genes. To learn more about turning on and off your fat genes, check out the essential list: 21 Nutrition Myths—Busted!
So cook up some oatmeal—and top it with some fruit. What's so magical about this combination? Each provides insoluble fiber that helps reduce blood cholesterol and feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut. By doing so, you trigger your gut to produce butyrate, a fatty acid that reduces fat-causing inflammation throughout your body. In a Canadian study, researchers discovered that those whose diets were supplemented with insoluble fiber had higher levels of ghrelin—a hormone that controls hunger. (Try these two-minute oatmeal recipes that'll make you an oatmeal fan forever.)
It could take months before you start to notice a difference, so don’t expect the process to be easy. And if you do manage to develop a nice, toned six pack, it probably won’t change your life. You don’t need a perfectly flat tummy or washboard abs to be healthy and look good. Keep in mind, people can’t see your abs under your clothing, it’s hard work maintaining them (nonstop dieting), and the low levels of body fat required to have a flat stomach may actually leave you looking less athletic and attractive. So, if you really want a flat stomach, get ready to fight for it. Otherwise, just shoot for being healthy.