There's a reason poop is being talked about so much these days — when there's problems with it, it's an easy tip-off that something's not quite right with your insides. But most people don't realize that constipation leads to weight gain, so they never consider it to be the culprit behind those tighter-fitting jeans. "If you're constantly constipated, then it likely means you're on a poor diet that can also make you overweight, or you lack important nutrients that help keep things moving," explains Vincent Pedre, M.D., author of Happy Gut. Besides drinking plenty of water throughout the day (don't guzzle it down in one meal, as that can slow down digestion), Pedre says to eat plenty of fiber-rich legumes like yellow beans and lentils to keep your stool moving. And don't worry about bloat or gas — soaking beans overnight nixes that problem.
The internal and external obliques, which I like to call "nature's girdle," are located at the sides of the rectus abdominis. They are the muscles you use when you bend sideways at the spine or twist at the waist. They also contract to compress the abdomen, so you should work them just as hard as you work the rectus abdominis. Adding a twist to crunches works, as well as dumbbell side bends, but be careful not to use any jerky motions, especially if you've had back problems.
Think of green tea as your fat-melting, metabolism-fueling cocktail. Especially when swapped for other calorie-rich caffeinated beverages like your morning latte, green tea can boost your fat-burn efforts because it’s low in calories and rich in antioxidants. This brew contains certain antioxidants called catechins, which have been found to rev up metabolism and encourage the breakdown of fat cells—particularly belly fat. Researchers from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences suggest that consuming decaffeinated green tea in conjunction with a balanced exercise regimen will increase weight-loss and fat-burning results rather than just sipping on the drink alone.
"This is where it's called visceral fat, which is in and around our organs -- whereas the fat present all over our body under our skin is subcutaneous fat. When there's high amounts of visceral fat, it increases the risk of developing those diseases like metabolic syndrome and heart disease. Being aware of, and managing, this is incredibly important."
Most of the bacteria that dwell in your gut are pretty useful. They produce hormones, regulate your immune system, digest food, extract nutrients, control your mood, manage your appetite, and much more besides. That obese people tend to have higher numbers of Firmicutes bacteria is no coincidence – according to research published in the online journal Nature, these bacteria increase the number of calories your body absorbs from food.
When researchers in Brazil studied 13,000 people over a three-year period, they found that men with the highest levels of inflammatory agents in their body were also the most likely to gain weight. And periodontal disease, which is caused by poor oral health care, is one of the most common sources of inflammation. Brushing twice a day, flossing, and making regular trips to the dentist are the best ways to prevent the disease. Hate flossing? Studies show that a dose of Listerine may be just as effective at reducing levels of inflammatory bacteria within the mouth.
Carbohydrates are a touchy subject: while some blame them for all fat gain, it’s the type of carbs you eat that’s key. A 2011 study out of the University of Alabama found that a diet that slightly cut back on carbs, and which comprised mostly low-GI carbohydrates, lost more deep abdominal fat than those who ate a lower-fat diet. GI stands for glycemic index, a measure of how fast carbohydrates supply your body with energy: high-GI foods make you spike then crash, while low-GI foods provide a slow burn.
By now you know to swap out regular yogurt for the Greek stuff and white bread for whole-wheat. But if you don't look closely, a product labeled "Greek" or "whole-wheat" may not be what it seems. A typical one-cup serving of plain Greek yogurt (like Fage 0%) provides 23 grams of protein and 9 grams of sugar, making it a smart choice. But another version of what looks like the same product can have over 18 grams of sugar. Not good, as the American Heart Association suggests women only eat 30 grams in an entire day. The same trickery goes for whole-wheat bread packages — some companies are loading it with high-fructose corn syrup, an unnatural additive that's 20 times sweeter than sugar and not recognized by the brain. Studies show that eating the stuff confuses your body's hormones so you don't realize when you're full, essentially forcing you to overeat when you thought you were making a healthy choice.
Avoid over stuffing yourself at meals; eat small meals throughout the day. Chewing gum and drinking with a straw can cause excess air to gather in the digestive tract. Carbonated beverages, spicy foods, large servings of beans or cruciferous vegetables, dried fruits and fruit juice often induce gas and bloating. If you're lactose intolerant, avoid dairy products to help reduce belly swelling; make sure you obtain important nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D, from milk alternatives or other fortified foods.
But don’t lose hope just yet. You can still incorporate strategies that help you lose total body fat, which will benefit your belly. At the end of the day, nothing sheds belly fat like diet, exercise, and everyday changes to your lifestyle. The slimmer stomach of your dreams is always within reach, but it takes time and dedication. Commit to these habits, and you’ll start dropping pounds before you know it.
While it's true that 75 percent of the salt most people eat comes from processed foods and restaurant meals, not all salts are created equal. Pure, unrefined salts like Himalayan and Celtic sea salt have a much lower sodium count than its refined counterparts. Use it when you cook, which not only brings out the natural flavors in your dish (making you more satisfied and less likely to overeat), but also ups your mineral intake. Because unlike refined salt, which is 99 percent sodium and chloride, unrefined varieties also include elements like magnesium and calcium. Now, that doesn't mean you should go overboard, but it does give you the go-ahead to add a little something-something to your next meal.
Putting aside time on Sundays to prep for the week ahead will not only save you countless dollars in last-minute takeout meals, but it will also save you a tremendous amount of excess calories in the long run. When we make decisions based on emotions and convenience we often find ourselves tied to less-healthy fare. White suggests getting in the kitchen, throwing on some good music, and preparing your meals for the days ahead. This way you can control ingredients, portions, and also free up time during the week to tend to your usual obligations. If you stick with it in the long-term, this will translate to less overall body fat as a result.
Include physical activity in your daily routine. For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends moderate aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, for at least 150 minutes a week or vigorous aerobic activity, such as jogging, for at least 75 minutes a week. If you use a step counter, remember that it takes an average of 10,000 steps per day to prevent weight gain. Some studies indicate it might take 15,000 steps per day to prevent the regain of weight after significant weight loss.
When your body is low on calcium, it produces a hormone that signals the body to store visceral fat. Meeting your recommended daily calcium needs (that’s 1,000 milligrams for adults) can help reduce levels of this hormone. And a recent study published in Obesity Research found that calcium from dairy has a stronger effect than calcium from other sources. I recommend eating low-fat Greek yogurt as a daily snack (just six ounces contain about 20 percent of your recommended dietary allowance for calcium), though any low-fat dairy will do.
“Include lots of nutrient-rich vegetables, a source of protein and some healthy, unprocessed carbs,” says Belalij. “Start with leafy greens such as spinach, kale and collard greens, then add carrots, broccoli and peas. Lean meats, including turkey and chicken, are ideal as they are lower in fat and therefore calories, or, if you are vegetarian/vegan, add in tofu or a handful of nuts such as pine, cashew or almonds and a sprinkling of seeds (sunflower, sesame, pumpkin). When it comes to carbohydrates, rice, quinoa and potatoes are perfect.”