Belly fat. Ugh. The one thing standing between you and your swim suit. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes more than just sit-ups to slim down your waist.
And stressing about it isn’t going to help you at all! Stress is one of the primary culprits for high levels of cortisol secretion. Then, we start to gain weight in our midsection when our cortisol levels spike. When this happens cortisol breaks downs lean muscle (the type of tissue that burns calories most efficiently) and also holds on to fat storage in the abdominal region.
To make matters worse, crash diets have been shown to increase cortisol levels, making no change in belly fat even with calorie restriction.
So how do you shape up and look nice in your swimsuit? (In addition to simply becoming healthier in general?) Incorporate these 7 things below and you will be on your way to a flatter belly in no time!
Getting a full night’s rest (at least 7 hours) is important to getting and keeping a healthy body shape. If you work late at night, you mess with your body’s natural biorhythms. Losing sleep alters hormone production, affecting your cortisol levels that cause insulin sensitivity, which leads to belly fat. When you’re tired you produce more ghrelin, which triggers cravings for sugar and other fatty foods. Not only that, but you end up eating more to sustain you as you’re working in front of the computer.
2. Interval Training
Yes, crunches may get you strong abs. But what about the ‘pillow top’ resting on top of those abdominal muscles? In addition to the sit-ups, do exercises in short bursts of speed. Run or cycle as fast as you can for 30 seconds. Then take a 90 second break. Continue this 7 more times. That’s it. Dr. Mercola gives you the reason why this works!
3. Stop Eating Sugar
Sugar wrecks havoc on your health, in addition to leading to additional belly fat. A big part of fighting belly fat comes from eating a healthy diet. Fill up on fruits, vegetables, lean meats and whole grains (or perhaps skip the grains entirely! Did you read that link above?). Replace sugar-laden snacks with healthy ones. Next time you’re craving ice cream, try instead a frozen fruit version. Instead of a mega mocha venti latte filled with syrup and sugar and unnatural ingredients, why not make your own latte where you can control the ingredients?!
When you’re under extreme stress, your body secretes cortisol which messes with your insulin production leading to belly fat. Vitamin C helps to balance cortisol spikes. In addition, Vitamin C is good for your and boosts the immune system. There are plenty of food sources that are full of vitamin C including: bell peppers, kale and kiwi.
5. Eat Fat (good fats, that is)
I know it sounds counterintuitive, but it takes good healthy fats to burn fat. Good fats include nuts, seeds, avocados, and salmon. These foods are not only rich in Omega 3’s but are full of nutrients to keep you satiated throughout the day and reducing your hunger cravings.
We store certain toxins in fat cells (like pharmaceutical drugs and pesticides) to protect our bodies from their harmful effects. If you have a high level of toxicity in your body, you will hold onto extra fat as a protective mechanism. Therefore, by engaging in a cleanse a couple times a year you are helping your body to release stored toxins, and as a result, release stored toxins. My favorite quarterly cleanses (performed 4 times a year) are the liver flush and a juice cleanse. But rest assured there are plenty of ways to cleanse. Simply by following an organic, plant-based diet are you already allowing your body to detoxify.
As a yoga instructor, I can tell you that most of us are not breathing with our full potential. We’re using maybe 20% of our lung capacity. What happens when you feel uptight, stressed-out or upset? Your breathing patterns changes. You start to breathe shallowly or hold your breath. Instead, next time you feel uptight, consciously alter your breathing. Slow it down.
Remember that high stress levels lead to belly fat (via cortisol and insulin)? Slowing down your breath instantly calms you down, getting rid of stress and stress-hormones before they begin.
Erin Schumacher is a Certified Natural Health and Holistic Nutrition Practitioner (CNHP; CHNP) She specializes in detoxification programs, internal cleanses, and helping clients build strong immune systems. She also travels internationally to do raw food workshops, yoga retreats, and personal coaching. In addition, Erin is a Certified Power Yoga Instructor and a Certified Raw Food Chef from the SunKitchen. For more information, visit ErinSchumacher.net.