The pooch is bad enough, but what's worse is the back problems an overworked rectus can create—anything from general pain to degenerative or herniated disks, says Wells. "The stronger muscles in the front of your body take over and your back muscles turn off ," he says. With nothing to hold your spine in place, the disks can shift and squish together.


Look for a brand of Greek yogurt that contains live and active cultures, which will promote healthy bacteria in your gut to prevent bloating. (These are signs you could have an unhealthy gut.) Plus, the protein in the yogurt will keep you full. Beef it up with fiber-rich oats, berries, and chia seeds for an extra filling morning meal—just don’t go overboard if your body isn’t used to digesting that much fiber, says Jessica Crandall, RDN, CDE, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “If you’re not used to that amount of fiber it causes gas, but if you work up to it slowly, it promotes a healthy GI system,” she says. Slowly add a little more fiber to your diet every day for a flatter belly, and increase your fluid intake to aid digestion and reduce icky symptoms like diarrhea and bloating—here’s how to get more fiber into your diet without really trying.
Speaking of fiber, another great source of the satiating nutrient is hummus and vegetables. Dippable veggies such as carrots, bell peppers, and broccoli are packed with fiber and an array of other vitamins, and they pair perfectly with the creamy chickpea dip, which has 2.5 grams of fiber per ¼ cup. By skipping unhealthy cheesy dips in favor or hummus, you’ll be doing your belly (and the rest of your body) a massive favor.
If you want a flat belly in a matter of days, you better be ready to work for it and feel the burn. That’s where the killer combo of flutter kicks and crisscrosses comes in. According to Mark, this exercise “practically draws the lines right down the sides of your midsection as you are doing them.” In addition to engaging your abs, the motion of your legs required by this exercise also works your inner and outer thighs. If you’re looking to wear short shorts and bathing suits this summer, this routine is for you!
I’ve completed the third line. I just realized I’ve been doing the leg lifts wrong. I was doing them as alternating, not as double. No wonder it’s felt so brutal! As I said on the Thigh challenge, I didn’t understand why there was 12 days of doing exercises 1-3 ten times, and 6 days doing exercise 4 ten times. Now that I’ve completed Day 18, it makes perfect sense. My abdominal area is getting stronger, which is helping with my belly fat. Today after doing all five exercises 10 times I thought “I’m supposed to do these 22 times?!” My next thought was “No, I’m supposed to increase these five exercises by a count of 1 over the next 11 days and finish up with 22 times.
Yep, you read that right. High-water foods like fruits and veggies will fill you up faster, says Jaclyn London, M.S., R.D., C.D.N, Nutrition Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute. Start your meal with soup, salad, or her favorite pick: Pre-dinner sliced crudité and spicy hummus. The combo of capsaicin (a spice in hot peppers) and the chickpeas' soluble fiber can help curb hunger.

3) Eat better carbs at better times. Now we’re starting to get a bit more complex. When you are eating carbs, aim for starchy carbs – sweet potatoes, rices, squashes and such. Look for carbs that aren’t processed or liquid. The ingredient list should just be that item (e.g., “sweet potato”, not “cultured wheat starch solids, vinegar, soy lecithin”).
Chewing gum when you’re hungry fills your tummy with extra air, causing bloat. Many gums also contain sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners, like sorbitol and xylitol, which can lead to bloating. Skip the gum altogether or opt for an organic variety like Glee gum or Simply gum instead. They’re still low-cal, but they don’t use sweeteners that’ll make you puff up.

What’s better than squats if you’re looking to get a flat belly? Pairing those squats with a bicycle crunch. This combo is one of Mark’s favorites because of all the different muscle groups it targets. “This compound movement not only hits your legs, but also works lower abdominals, upper abdominals, and obliques—all in one fun move!” he explains. Do a handful of sets a few times a week to start seeing results.
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.
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