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.
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.
Before hitting the hay, prepare breakfast for half of the week tonight! This recipe makes enough for 4 breakfasts, of which we’re only using 3 servings this week, so you can finish the last serving next Sunday (just throw a portion in the freezer tomorrow to keep it fresh)! We’re using the overnight oats method to cut down on time since we’ve chosen to use one of the longer-cooking oats, steel-cut. They might take longer to prepare, but steel-cut oats are one of the best cuts out there. They’re lower on the glycemic index than rolled or instant oats, meaning they’ll keep you fuller, longer. These oats are also loaded with vitamins B1 (thiamine) and B2 (riboflavin), which are so important, the government usually enriches your cereal with them!
Another metabolism-boosting tip: Eat every three to four hours, and that should include making time for breakfast. Research shows that people who miss a morning meal experience a surge in a hunger-related hormone later in the day. Regular snacks (which should include fiber-filled complex carbs and protein!) will keep you feeling full and your body burning cals at a steady rate.
Do aerobic exercises daily. Sure, you can do 100 crunches a day, but if you've got a layer of belly fat covering up your ab work then what's the point? You need to burn the top layer of stomach fat to see the changes. Cardio exercises will heat up your core temperature and improve circulation, both of which will aid in acquiring a flat stomach. Strive for at least 30 minutes a day minimum, but include 1-2 days of rest each week.
“Soda, both diet and regular, have absolutely no nutritional benefits and may even have serious health implications,” says Gina Consalvo, MA, RD, LDN, a Pennsylvania-based registered dietitian. “Not only are they loaded with empty calories, harmful preservatives, sugar or artificial sweeteners, they also have dangerous artificial coloring derived from coal sources,” explains Consalvo. But that’s not even the worst part. “To prevent mold growth in the cans and bottles, makers add the preservative potassium benzoate (a known carcinogen linked to thyroid damage, leukemia and other cancers) into the cans.” Consalvo suggests eliminating soda and drinking water, seltzer or detox tea instead.
Dr. Rasa Kazlauskaite at Rush University Medical Center suggests filling half your plate with vegetables so you don't have room for unhealthy foods. Eating more vegetables not only helps whittle your waist, but also lowers risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes. A vegetable-filled lunch might include 4 ounces of grilled chicken breast with 2 cups of mixed vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and carrots sauteed in 1 teaspoon of olive oil with 1 cup of roasted red potatoes. This meal contains 545 calories.
Like lunch, your evening flat-belly meal should consist of half non-starchy vegetables, one-quarter whole grains, and one-quarter protein. That combination is packed with nutrients, but will also keep you full. A healthy plate might contain vegetables roasted in olive oil, a serving of quinoa, and three to six ounces of chicken or fish, says Rumsey. (Read these secrets nutritionists won’t tell you for free.)
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.
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.
I went vegetarian 9 months ago, and I’ve lost body fat. I have just started working out, but that’s also something you should do. I do recommend doing more of Cassey’s workouts, like the monthly printable calendars. Also, if you do decide to go vegetarian MAKE SURE TO GET ENOUGH PROTEIN!!!! You need 50 grams of protein a day, so going to a website that will get you a meal plan is a fantastic idea.
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.
Let’s start with a reality check — despite the claims of the fad diets and belly-busting exercises out there, you can’t target fat loss. If you want a flatter stomach, you need to reduce your overall body fat level with a low-calorie, high-nutrition diet and regular calorie-burning exercise. You probably won’t be able to achieve washboard abs in a month, but you can establish new, healthier habits that will benefit your belly and the rest of your body.
Beans can help boost feelings of fullness and manage blood sugar levels, making them an excellent ally in your weight loss battle. In fact, a recent study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found eating one serving a day of beans, peas, chickpeas or lentils could contribute to modest weight loss. And if you need another reason to bulk up on beans, remember that the fiber and protein-rich legumes are an excellent source of genistein—the same compound found in peanuts and lentils that aids weight loss. To up your bean intake, toss some of ’em in a soup or salad and eat up!
Beating yourself up over food is a knowledge-behavior gap many unsuccessful dieters fall into. Calling yourself “greedy” or a “fat pig” or “weak-willed” only makes you feel bad about yourself, which often leads to eating more in an attempt to give yourself a boost. It’s important to try to stop the negative self-talk, says Freida B. Herron, M.S.S.W., L.C.S.W. “I often suggest imagining that your desire to overeat is a lovable 5-year-old child,” she says. “You don’t want to berate or shame your appetite—that only leads to more dysfunctional eating.” Instead, treat yourself with respect, understanding, and affection, as you would that child.
“Shockingly, maybe the most effective exercise of all is just getting off the couch and walking. There's all this great data that sitting is bad for us and all this wonderful data that just moving is good for you … If you could start a program of 30 minutes of walking a day, combined with healthy eating — maybe it's not the ultimate goal, but that's enough."