What causes it? Your genes, for one thing. "Some families just carry most of their weight in their bellies, no matter how thin they are," says Caroline Cederquist, M.D., author of The MD Factor Diet. But visceral fat gets worse for all of us as we get older, especially if we're under a lot of stress or not sleeping well, says nutritionist Sara Vance, author of The Perfect Metabolism Plan. That's thanks to hormones that make us hungrier even as our bodies are practically hoarding fat.
The two figures standing in front of me one recent winter morning could not look more different. On the right is Carrie McCulloch, MD, a musculoskeletal anatomy expert and the medical director for Kinected Pilates studio in New York City, who is sizing up the shape of my waistline. Dr. McCulloch's own midsection happens to be perfectly rounded because she is only weeks away from giving birth to her first child. On the left is her assistant, Mr. Bones, one of those hanging skeletons that teach medical students how the thigh bone's connected to the hip bone. Mr. Bones doesn't actually have a waist, just a hollow space between his ribs and pelvis.
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!
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!
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.
Strength training is a great way to stay in shape and build up muscle, and because muscle mass burns more calories than fat (every pound of muscle uses about 6 calories a day just to sustain itself), the more muscle on your skeleton, the quicker you will lose the fat throughout your body, especially around your abdomen. If you can pack on just five pounds of muscle and sustain it, you’ll burn the caloric equivalent of three pounds of fat over the course of a year, and be even closer to obtaining that lean physique you’ve always wanted. A simple way to build up muscle via strength training is to do push-ups or planks.
Our gut microbiome controls far more than we give it credit for, which is why having your gut colonized with beneficial types of bacteria is so important. One way to do this is by taking a probiotic supplement. You can also make these 12 foods that boost good gut bacteria part of your everyday diet. Not only will this help you get sick less, feel happier, and ease digestion but it can also help you de-bloat, flattening out your tummy in the process. Try these home remedies to lose belly fat.
A flat stomach only appears when you have a low enough bodyfat percentage. The reason there are 1,000,000,000 ab workouts on YouTube is because people know there’s BIG money in the ab-industry for people desperate to get a flat stomach! And ab exercises are much easier to market as exciting than “eat better, get strong, move more, for a long long time.”
The next part of the plan aims to reduce inflammation. Belly fat has been linked to inflammation and elevated cortisol (the stress hormone). Belly fat is even thought to be "toxic" to your system as it releases chemicals into your body that wreak havoc on your appetite and the way your body metabolizes food. That's why anti-inflammatory foods are thought to be effective in fighting belly fat and breaking the vicious cycle.
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.
Sure, summer is all about the flat belly—hello bikini season!—but why not tone some other parts of your body while you’re at it? By pairing split lunges with bicep curls you’ll be giving your legs, abs, and arms a workout. Mark, who advises doing this exercise with 1-liter water bottles, says, “Even though you aren’t actively moving your abs, they play a huge role in keeping your spine upright during this exercise, so please make sure you keep them engaged throughout the entire movement. This one makes your entire body tremble—so get ready!”