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.
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.
A recent study revealed that when women who were unhappy with their weight completed a one-time, 15-minute writing exercise about an important personal issue, they went on to lose at least three pounds over a three-month period. On the other hand, their counterparts who wrote about an unimportant topic gained three pounds, according to Cheryl Forberg, author of A Small Guide to Losing.
There’s no shortage of flat belly advice these days, and it can be downright paralyzing. If you manage to motivate yourself to lose weight, it’s hard to know what to do first to reach your goal—until now. To help you start on a path toward flat abs and quick weight loss, our research team tracked down the best tips on the planet and prioritized everything into the step-by-step weight loss guide. The first two steps are to make over your home and kitchen, starting with replacing unhealthy foods with Zero Belly-approved eats. Then, read up the best fitness hacks for turning your beer belly into a solid six-pack. Follow the plan to avoid feeling overwhelmed and see the best possible results. And to really make a change, see the 14 Ways to Lose Your Belly in 14 Days.
Ever since my divorce three years ago, I have felt as if someone was pumping up a spare tire around my middle. I used to wear size 6 pants, and now I can barely squeeze into size 10. I swear I'm not eating any more than I did five years ago. If anything, I eat less. Even though I go to the gym and walk on a treadmill at least five hours a week, this fat around my belly just won't budge.
Bloating isn't all in your head. It IS possible to carry extra water weight in your tummy. To beat the bloat, decrease your sodium intake to no more than 2000 mg a day and increase your water consumption. It's easy to start monitoring your sodium intake by reading food labels. Limiting the amount of sodium you consume will help you reduce your water retention and look leaner in your clothes.
Stand with feet together, arms out at your sides like airplane wings. Exhale, and lift the right leg forward and up. At the same time, sweep the arms forward at shoulder level and round your spine, like a cat. The navel should feel as though it's pressing toward the spine. Inhale, open back up, and return to the starting position. Repeat with your left leg. Switch between sides for 20 reps.

Your body needs some sodium to function, but too much can lead to fluid retention in the gut, Henderiks says. Put down the shaker and forgo processed and prepared foods as much as possible in favor of homemade meals so you can control the salt. Experts recommend maxing out at 2,400 milligrams of sodium a day, but this is one time when less is better.

Many of us grew up eating white bread and bagels, so we understand why they may hold a special place in your heart. But these starchy grains (and things like white rice and pretzels) are anything but healthy. Made with enriched flour instead of healthy whole grains, they’re void of the belly-filling fiber that boosts satiety and keeps blood sugar stable. What’s worse, refined white-flour foods like these are linked to heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Plus, they lead to weight gain and make it more difficult to lose weight, too. For more ways to get the slim body you crave, check out these 50 Ways to Lose 10 Pounds—Fast.
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Even calorie-free sodas can make your belly bigger because the carbonation will bloat you up. “With carbonated beverages, there’s nowhere else for gas to go but out, so either belch or gas,” says Crandall. Plus, the artificial sweeteners in diet drinks can cause bloating and gas in some people, says Armul. Try water infused with lemon or cucumbers instead for a flavorful, refreshing drink. Here’s how stomach doctors deal with belly bloat.
Step two is to get some calorie-burning cardio exercise. Of course you've already heard that pointer often, but Weltman takes this idea one step further, noting that high-intensity aerobic exercise is even more effective at burning off visceral fat than the same amount of low-intensity exercise. In one study, he had overweight women walk or jog five times a week; one group worked out for a longer amount of time at a low intensity, while the other did shorter stints of high-intensity work. Even though each group burned the exact same number of calories in each workout, the high-intensity group melted off more visceral fat. "We speculate that there's a relation between the intensity of the workout and the amount of growth hormone released, which is a powerful mobilizer of visceral fat," Weltman says.
I started with day 30 of this and after I was done I didn’t feel anything in my abs. I thought that by the next day I would be really sore, but I continued the exercise routine adding 1 more rep a day for 7 days plus holding a plank for 2 min everyday. I am not making anymore progress and I am not sure what to do. Do I just have really strong abs or am I doing something wrong? Should I keep going with this for the 30 days adding an extra rep everyday?
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.)
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.

Breakfast: Banana “Pancake.” Imagine a pancake that doesn’t leave you feeling sluggish, but instead nourishes you for your morning. That’s just want this banana “pancake” does: http://www.theskinnyconfidential.com/2012/09/25/ummm-seriously-dying-ingredient-pancakes-flourless-full-protein/. *Be sure to follow the suggestion to include flax seed for optimal results.
Your brain takes about 20 to 30 minutes to register fullness signals from your stomach. If you finish in just 15 minutes, you might go for seconds, thinking you’re still hungry, says Rumsey. Eating more slowly will give your body time to realize if it’s full, plus it can help you swallow less air into your digestive tract. “You tend to swallow more air when eating fast, and that can cause bloat,” says Rumsey. Put your fork down between bites so you don’t end up shoveling food in your mouth, and count to 20 before you swallow each forkful, recommends Crandall.
Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, which means the more you have, the faster your metabolism is and the more calories you burn all day long—all key for a whittled middle. Resistance training builds this quality lean muscle, so do two to three total-body strength sessions a week, says Tom Holland, exercise physiologist and author of Beat the Gym: Personal Trainer Secrets Without the Personal Trainer Price Tag. For fat-melting cardio, all you need to do is your weight, he adds: If you’re 145 pounds, do 145 minutes a week, broken up however fits into your schedule—say, 60 minutes Saturday, 45 Tuesday, and 40 Thursday.
Not only will the protein in cheese keep you full so you’re not tempted to snack more later, but it can also help you avoid bloating and gas. Pairing it with an apple gives you an extra kick of nutrients. “Protein helps the flow of digestion, and produce gives you the nutrients your body needs, along with fiber,” says Crandall. A banana with nut butter, or carrot sticks with hummus make other good combos of protein and produce. Try to eat this food every day to beat belly bloat.
Dinner: Stuffed Bell Peppers. Fill this super food with everything you need for dinner and you’ll have an easy to make dinner loaded with nutrients in no time. http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/stuffed_peppers.html *note: replace canola oil with olive oil and use brown rice or quinoa for the rice called for in this recipe. Use sliced avocados leftover from lunch as a garnish/side.
A note on vegan/vegetarian diets: This is another topic that entire books and articles are written about, so we won’t dive into them here. Of course, it is absolutely possible to build muscle or lose fat on a vegan/vegetarian diet. Certainly you can get to a flat stomach, you just need to be diligent with your calorie tracking and macros, like we recommend you do above.
HOW TO MAKE IT: Cook down ½ large onion, 1 garlic clove, 1 package of chopped spinach in a tablespoon of olive oil until onions are tender. In a separate bowl, combine three-quarters of a pound of lean ground turkey with a third of a cup of breadcrumbs, 1 egg, and then the cooled onion and spinach. Season with salt, pepper, dried thyme and oregano, and a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. Combine with hands, and use two-thirds of the mixture to form 12 small meatballs.
Your breakfast toast won’t miss these sugar-laden spreads when you start to shed pounds and notice a flatter belly. One tablespoon of jam easily carries just under 10 grams of sugar. And let’s be honest, who just has one? Top peanut butter sandwiches with fresh pieces of fruit, like banana and strawberry slices to infuse it with some natural sweetness. This tactic will help ward off blood-sugar fluctuations that can cause insulin spikes and put hunger into overdrive.
Regular yogurts tend to be loaded with belly-bloating sugar, but that’s not the case with protein-packed plain Greek yogurt. Per a study in the journal Appetite, researchers from the University of Missouri compared the satiety effects of high-, moderate-, and low-protein yogurts on women aged 24-28, and found Greek yogurt, with the highest protein content, to have the greatest effect. For a boost of flavor (and fiber!) toss some fresh berries on your yogurt and eat up!
HOW TO MAKE IT: Reheat burger patty in a flat iron skillet on medium-high. On the other side of the pan, drop a tablespoon of grass-fed butter onto the skillet and warm up an English muffin until brown. Remove bun. After about 3 minutes, top turkey burger with a handful of cheddar cheese, pour a tablespoon of water onto the pan, and cover the pan with a lid. Once the cheese has melted, remove, place on top of the bun, and layer on a slice of tomato, avocado, and top off with some dijon mustard. Serve with a side salad of arugula (or lettuce of your choice) with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.
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.
A note on vegan/vegetarian diets: This is another topic that entire books and articles are written about, so we won’t dive into them here. Of course, it is absolutely possible to build muscle or lose fat on a vegan/vegetarian diet. Certainly you can get to a flat stomach, you just need to be diligent with your calorie tracking and macros, like we recommend you do above.
Test panelist Bryan Wilson, a 29-year-old accountant, lost 19 pounds and an astounding 6 inches from his waist in just six weeks on the program, and he attributes his success to the Zero Belly shake recipes in the program. "I love the shakes. I added them to my diet, and almost immediately I lost the bloat," Bryan said. "I'm a sweet craver, and the shakes were an awesome alternative to bowls and bowls of ice cream I would have had."
Crunches work the upper abdomen, leg raises work the lower abdomen, and side bends work the obliques (also known as love handles). About 15-25 reps each day should be enough. If you can do more than that, try adding weights to your routine. Note that doing crunches will only build muscle underneath your existing belly fat, but will not burn that fat directly.

Don’t fret about having to cook tonight, this sheet-pan supper is super simple. You’ll be making a piece of sockeye salmon (or wild salmon of your choice, just not farmed Atlantic) with roasted asparagus and brown rice. An important part of the flat-belly diet is getting in those anti-inflammatory, brain-protecting omega-3s that will help you lose weight and improve your health, and salmon is teeming with them. Plus, you’ll get in a serving of prebiotics via the asparagus to start healing your gut and decrease the inflammation that’s causing weight gain.
Canoe Twist: Stand upright, feet apart. Interlace all 10 fingers to the webbing of your hands to create a solid grip. Exhale, and sweep the interlocked hands, arms, shoulders, and chest to the left, as if "rowing a canoe." Simultaneously lift the left knee up and to the right. Inhale and return to the starting position. Exhale and perform the movement to the right. Alternate for 20 repetitions.
Great book, very easy to read, got done with it within 2 days. The recipes seem easy and the ingredients are reasonably priced, even for organic produce. Haven't actually tasted the recipes yet, will try them this weekend, but the quick hacks have been easy to incorporate, and it's nice that he gives brand names, so it's easy to shop for. The different chapters really make sense regarding their topics ( good "bugs": what they do, and how to help them help you). I also liked the quick list of what you should always buy organic and the list for OK non-organic produce. Looking forward to trying the recipes.
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