Studio 5 Health & Fitness Contributor, Melanie Douglass, tells us how to lose a few inches around the belly and sculpt great abs with four simple steps.
1. Drop the Diet Soda
There are all kinds of raging debates about diet soda in America. People say, “just drink the real stuff”… or “your body doesn’t know what to do with chemicals”, but at the end of the day, the real problem with diet soda is that it brings you to the wrong side of the tracks. Like hanging out with the rough crowd on the rough side of town – and putting yourself in temptation and harms way. You know what I mean? Think about the locations, situations and types of establishments where you go to get your diet soda… it’s usually a fast food restaurant, a gas station, or the candy aisle at the grocery store. Going to get a diet soda puts you face-to-face with other temptations: French fries, cookies, chocolate, candy, 2000-calorie restaurant meals, etc. Few people actually drink a diet soda without consuming other high sugar, high fat, or high sodium tag-alongs. And few people drink “one a day”, or consume soda in true moderation. Then, we drink soda over water and fluid-rich fruits and vegetables. And all that… is the perfect recipe for belly fat!
As for your body not being able to handle “fake sugars” or chemicals… Ibuprofen is chemically made, along with all types life-saving prescription drugs… and do we trust our body knows how to handle these “chemicals”? Yes, because we now know a lot about human metabolism and there are tons of things in our environment that are chemically synthesized and yet still function fine in our body because of that knowledge. Aspartame is just two amino acids: phenylalanine and aspartic acid, and when these amino acids are combined they are 180 times sweeter than sugar. So you get a lot of sweet in a speck of it, that’s why it’s “low calorie”.
Maybe our body really doesn’t know what to do with this stuff, but few clinical studies (except one controversial “observational” study) have given us a direct link to make those claims. And guess what? When our body does know what to do with stuff… it stores it as fat! Our body is a survival machine… it’s burns as little as possible to survive and stores the rest for a rainy day, that’s our biological design.
Bottom line? One serving a day, or drop it completely. There is not one good redeeming quality about soda. It’s an indulgence. Treat it that way.
2. Watch the Sodium
Sodium can contribute to water retention and bloating. Plus, high sodium foods are often higher in calories and fat – contributing to belly fat. Sodium didn’t used to be as big of a problem… but these days, most restaurant meals offer a full day supply of sodium (easily 1500 – 2000 mg – and even up to 4000 mg) in one meal. Canned soup, deli meats, boxed meals and bottled salad dressing can be big sodium contributors, ranging from 300 – 900 mg per serving. Potato chips and salty snacks usually have ~150 mg of sodium per serving. So at one serving, these foods are not the problem – but handful after handful creates a major sodium problem.
The goal is to eat <1500 - 2000 mg of sodium per day. Read a few labels and you'll see what I mean. Try to cut back on high-sodium foods, make your own olive oil vinaigrette dressings at home (3 parts oil to 1 part balsamic), and eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies.
3. Fill up on Fiber
This one is easy! If you set a goal to eat more fiber – you’ll find yourself in the produce aisle, at the salad bar, or just eating way healthier stuff in general. Fiber is found in fruits, veggies, beans, nuts, seeds, and 100% whole grains. Look for “fiber” on the label and not just “whole grain”. The goal is 30 – 35 grams per day. Easy and oh so good for you.
4. Do these great ab exercises at least 5 days per week.
Plank with Alternating Knee Tuck
Get on the floor in plank position, balancing on your hands and toes, hands should be directly under your shoulders. Belly in, back straight, alternate tucking one knee in toward the opposite elbow. Do 3 sets of one minute each.
Lie down on your back, pull your abs in toward your spine and tilt your hips toward the floor. Hold a ball (any kind is fine, a weighted ball will be much harder) in your hands, with straight arms, above your chest. Lower your arms down toward the floor, overhead, keeping your abs in and hips down, then bring the arms up and transfer the ball to your feet, then lower your feet down toward the floor, keeping your abs tight and hips tilted down. If your back arches upward, then don’t go any lower. As you get stronger, you’ll be able to drop lower and keep your back straight. Do 3 sets of one minute each.
90 Degree Crunch
This is the best way to do a crunch! Why? It puts your back in a perfect supported condition and forces your abs to do more of the work. Lie flat and bend your knees to 90 degrees. This is important: your knees must stay directly above your hips the entire time. Now do a crunch, by lifting your head, neck and shoulder blades up 2 – 6″ off the floor. Keep your knees above your hips – if they pull in, even an inch, you lose the efficiency, so keep those knees lined above the hips. Do 3 sets of one minute each.