It's an all-too-common problem once you hit thirty: Despite your best efforts, you just can't seem to lose the extra weight around your middle, and you look in the mirror wondering what month and year you lost your waistline. Medical research proves you're not alone—that the average American gains one to two pounds a year after age thirty—usually around the stomach. Not only does this excess belly fat make you look and feel bad, it's the most damaging kind of fat; a precursor to heart attacks and certain types of cancer.
HOW TO MAKE IT: Combine piece of salmon, ¼ avocado, half a tomato, and a handful of frozen corn (which will thaw by lunchtime) with 2 cups of lettuce of your choice (we like romaine). Adding a handful of cheddar cheese or crushed tortilla chips is optional. To make the dressing, combine a cup of cilantro, a clove of garlic, the juice of 1 lime, a generous pinch of salt and pepper, 2 tablespoons of white vinegar and 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Save half of the dressing for a salad later this week.
They also aren't the only culprit. Just sitting for long periods of time (at your desk job, during Netflix marathons) can wreck your waistline. "When you slouch, the front of your body is rounded, just as it would be in a crunch," says Sean Wells, a physical therapist, certified personal trainer, and exercise expert for the online weight-loss and wellness program BistroMD. "So you're still conditioning your rectus to be in this shortened state—but often, it's also weak."
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.
These ground turkey meatballs and burger are so easy to make, and they’re packed with flavor. By flavor, we mean iron-rich spinach and prebiotic-providing onions. In fact, both spinach and onions are a source of prebiotics, a food source for your gut bugs. When your belly bacteria are fed well, they can help you shed those extra few pounds and even improve your mood! Tonight, you’ll be making meatballs for a spaghetti squash dish and a turkey patty for a turkey burger.
Shift your weight into your right foot. Hug your left shin into your chest, then extend it straight back behind you so it’s parallel to the ground. Flex your left foot and point the toes down. Bring your fingertips to the ground to stabilize yourself if you need to. Reach your arms out in front of you so your body is in a straight line from your fingertips all the way down your back and out through your left heel. Stay here for 3 long, deep breaths then slowly return to standing. Repeat on the other side.
In fact, weight-loss research proves that because of shifting hormone production, the average person will add one to two pounds around his or her middle each year between the ages of thirty-five and fifty-five. As long as your body's cellular metabolism is compromised by an untreated hormone imbalance—most particularly estrogen dominance—the extra pounds around your middle will be nearly impossible to lose.
Our muscles are habitual of storing a kind of carbohydrate known as glycogen. This stored carbohydrate is only consumed when our body does some extra exercise. When we get rid of carbs, we can actually access this stored fuel and consume it off. For this avoid consuming carbs after lunch and substitute with low-carb food so that no new fat is stored.
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!
Carbohydrates hold water in your body, which may make your belly bloat. Plus, high-carb, high-sugar breakfast foods like bagels or cereal might fill you up initially, but you’ll probably end up searching for more food within an hour, says Alissa Rumsey, MS, RD, founder of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness. “Those digest pretty rapidly, and then your blood sugar spikes up and drops back down pretty quickly because they digest so fast,” she says. That extra morning munching will likely add up to more calories and bloat than you would have had if you’d started with a more filling breakfast. Be sure to follow these other daily habits that reduce bloating and flatten your belly, too.
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.
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.
Incorporate strength training. While it's true you'll need to lose the fat over your abdominals so that your muscle tone can show through, don't rely on cardio alone to get the job done. Muscle will help reshape your body and allow you to actually burn calories while your body is at rest, not just when you're hitting the gym. Studies show that those who lift weights have a lower fat mass percentage than those who do aerobic exercise alone.
It's not just about weight loss. Having great gut health is linked to good health throughout your body. Scientists in this rapidly growing field are finding connections between gut microbes and the immune system, weight loss, gastrointestinal health, allergies, asthma, and even cancer. With every study that's published, scientists become more convinced that having a healthy gut leads to having a healthy body.
Don’t get so into your abs that you overlook your other muscles. You'll look better if all your core muscles are firm. That includes your glutes and back muscles. Pilates exercises are one way to work all of the core muscles, plus the arms and legs. A boot camp class or personal trainer can do the job, too. New to exercise? Start slowly. If you've got a health issue, check with your doctor first.
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.