The external obliques are the V-shaped muscles running diagonally down your sides that, along with the internal obliques underneath them, help you rotate your spine when a Ryan Gosling look-alike walks by. The rectus abdominis, meanwhile, is the straight-down-the-center muscle which, yes, can make you appear to have a six-pack if you have a seemingly single-digit body-fat percentage like Ryan Gosling's. The one remaining ab muscle, which Dr. Herrera's surface EMG won't be picking up, is the transversus abdominis. The deepest-down of all, it does a complete wraparound of your midsection and pulls it in like a corset.
Stress skyrockets your levels of cortisol, often called “the belly fat” hormone because it signals to the body to store fat around your waist. Add the daily stressors of living our modern lifestyle and you can see how cortisol can be constantly coursing through your veins. This perma-stress mode isn’t good for a lot of healthy reasons, your tummy being just one of them, so it’s important to take time every day to de-stress. Yoga, meditation, walking, journaling, doing a hands-on hobby, or playing a musical instrument are all great time-tested methods. (Hint: Know what isn’t? Watching television. The boob tube actually increases your levels of cortisol!)
When I sit in my chair with the electrodes in place, nothing happens. So I switch over to sit on a pumped-up stability ball, like the kind every office health nut uses. No whoosh. But then I lean slightly backward and all of sudden — whoosh — my rectus abdominis activates to support my spine because there is no backrest to do the job. "The stability ball requires your torso to balance on an unsteady surface. It forces your abs to fire," Dr. Herrera says. I find I can also activate the rectus abdominis, not to mention my heretofore-napping obliques, by pulling in my belly button. I feel like a living Wii game avatar as I subsequently walk around Dr. Herrera's office trying to get a reaction from the EMG. Walking itself produces only a weak whoosh, but by carrying a bag of groceries in front of me, slinging my purse over one shoulder, or climbing stairs, I get the electrical activity on the EMG monitor to increase.
Sure, trampolines are built for kids, but as an adult using one for rebounding is a great way to flatten your tummy. “Not only is it a great cardio workout (which is the first step to tightening up your midsection) but it makes your core work like crazy so you are getting the cardio plus the toning,” explains Hope Pedraza, a Certified Personal Trainer through American College of Sports Medicine “Everything you need for a tight tummy!” To get a comprehensive workout using a mini trampoline, Hope suggests jumping, lifting your knees up high, twisting, adding some light weights to move around while you’re jumping, and moving in all directions in different planes.
“Researchers believe that reflecting on values can serve as a buffer to the stress and uncertainty that leads to emotional eating and help in maintaining self-control in difficult situations,” she explains. To reap the benefits at home, Forberg suggests pulling out a journal, setting the timer and free-flowing about what’s important to you. “Write as though no one else will read it. Come clean with what’s bugging you. It may surprise and enlighten you,” adds Forberg. For more weight loss hacks, check out these 40 Ways to Lose Weight in 4 Seconds.
Research shows the average American eats about 20 teaspoons of sugar daily, often hidden in processed foods, including “healthy” ones such as yogurt, frozen dinners, sauces, and salad dressings. Twenty teaspoons adds up to 325 empty calories a day, and insulin production increases with sugar intake, which can slow your metabolism, making it harder to burn those empty calories. Read labels and try to reduce your intake as much as possible.
It’s important to realize that although these poses and exercises are going to help you in your journey to flat abs, there are other things that need to take place for you to truly achieve a flat stomach. You can’t just do all of these and expect your stomach to stay flat. It takes a little more work and a healthy diet. Thrive/Strive has a 28-Day Weight Loss Challenge that’ll truly help you achieve the flat stomach you desire.
Snacks are an important part of your weight-reducing diet because they provide a boost of energy in the midafternoon and aid in hunger control. A healthy snack option might include a small orange with 1 ounce of mozzarella cheese, a container of fat-free yogurt with 3/4 cup of blueberries, or six whole-grain crackers with 1 teaspoon of peanut butter. Each snack option contains about 150 calories.
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.)
Work to reduce your stress level. It turns out that you can place a little bit of the blame for your bulging belly on our caveman ancestors. Part of the “fight or flight” reflex that helped protect our predecessors from sabre-tooth tigers triggers a release of cortisol, which signals the body to store fat in the abdominal area — saving it as energy for tough times to come.
Eating eggs is a low-cost way to incorporate belly fat-fighting protein into your diet. Studies show those who ate two eggs for breakfast lost 65% more weight than those who opted for a carby bagel, so start your day with a MUFA-packed scramble or take a hard boiled egg for a slimming midday snack. (Start the day off right with these 10 belly-flattening breakfasts.)
Stand upright with heels together, toes slightly turned out. Bring your arms up, hands joined, below the chin. Exhale and press your arms down. Keep your hands and arms very close to the body. At the same time, lift your heels off the ground onto your tiptoes. Hold for two seconds at the "top,” inhale, and return to the starting position. The abs go "in and up" and the arms go down. Do 20 reps.
HOW TO MAKE IT: While bread is toasting, fry two eggs sunny-side up or over easy (either way, experts recommend you keep the yolk runny, as the egg can contain up to 50 percent more nutrients than a cooked yolk) in a nonstick pan. Mash half an avocado directly on the toast, and sprinkle with paprika, salt, and pepper. Layer on two slices of tomato and top with your eggs.
Many people chew gum as a way to stifle cravings or prevent mindless eating but this tactic may have an unfortunate side effect: belly bloat. Everyone naturally swallows a small amount of air when they chew but it’s magnified for people who chew gum, which causes gas and bloating. In addition, some artificial sweeteners have been shown to increase your appetite for junk food, so gum could be increasing your waistline on two fronts.
It is important to understand that being estrogen dominant doesn't mean that your body is producing too much estrogen; rather, it means that your body's estrogen production is not balanced by progesterone production. Estrogen dominance occurs when the natural ratio of estrogen to progesterone is upset—in other words, when the body's internal estrogen-to-progesterone seesaw becomes tilted.
If you're after a sleeker middle, add dairy to your diet. Research shows that its proteins increase satiety and cause you to eat less. My choice: homemade Parmesan crisps. Preheat oven to 350; line a baking sheet with parchment. Divide 2 cups grated Parmesan into 2-Tbsp. portions. Form each into a small pile and press with the back of a fork. Bake until melted and flat, 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Serve with chopped cooked vegetables (I love spinach, squash or eggplant).
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.
The book itself doesn't get tediously microbiome-focused, though. The first section of The Lose Your Belly Diet sets the stage, then part two goes into which foods can give you that healthy mix of gut bacteria. Part three focuses on other ways to boost your stomach's microbiome health (avoiding antibiotics when you don't need them, exercise, and what probiotic supplements to take, namely), while part four gets actionable, providing a diet quiz, recipes, and a meal plan.