Have you ever seen those trucks that have wheels the size of a good economy car and are so far up off the ground that you could reasonably shelter there in the event of inclement weather? And have you ever seen someone try to park one of them? It’s not easy, I’ll tell you that. You see, sometimes we can become so obsessed with the way something looks that we completely overlook the fact that it was intended to perform a function as well.
This is true of monster trucks, and it’s also true of our abs. Sure, a huge truck might be great in the event of a natural disaster, but it’s a little impractical when you need to run errands around the suburbs. Just like how six-pack, washboard abs might win you a competition, but when it comes to healthy, vibrant living there is a point when those picture perfect abs can actually keep you from being able to flex and move the way you were designed to. Your abdominal muscles are the support system for nearly every movement that your body makes in the course of your daily life. But don’t worry, this doesn’t mean that we can’t still have beautiful abs that we feel confident about at the same time.
Aesthetically, what we want from our bodies will change throughout the different seasons of life. For instance, in my twenties, after two pregnancies, I fought hard to get the abs that I always had wanted. And I got them. And it was awesome. But now that I’m in my forties and managing an autoimmune disorder, I’ve chosen to embrace the softer side of bellies. No matter what your age or your goals, here are a few ways to get healthier, great abs that you can live and breath with!
Tip 1: Eat more Fat
Now this one just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. We are so conditioned to think that fat makes us, well … fat. And indeed the wrong kind does. Truth be told, though, fat IS energy, and the right kind of fat will jumpstart your metabolism and keep it running. One recent study has suggested that diets rich in traditional fats such as coconut oil & olive oil actually prevent the accumulation of deep (visceral) belly fat, and the jiggly stuff we all hate so much. But wait—it gets better! Coconut oil can not only help prevent fat from accumulating, it can actually help burn fat as well. Because of its unique composition, coconut oil converts to energy very quickly and does not get stored as fat. In addition to all of this, coconut oil may help stimulate the thyroid gland, again giving your metabolism get a huge boost! (source: Belly Fat Loss)
Tip 2: Declare war on your tummy foods
Perhaps you do your P90X (or maybe Richard Simmons is a little more your flava), count your calories and do crunches like the fitness warrior that you are … and yet somehow you are still fighting with that spare tire. Well it might just be that you have some food sensitivities.
Food sensitivities may seem like they’re “all the rage” these days, but chances are, you probably do have a few yourself! In recent years, science has made some huge leaps and bounds in helping us to understand how and why many of the modern health issues that we are seeing are related to the food that we eat. So it may feel like it’s just a fad, but I assure you, it is not. The trick is finding out which specific foods are ailing you. When you consume foods that your body doesn’t like it causes swelling and inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract (gut). This can cause a host of problems such as digestion issues, fatigue, hormone disruption and for our purposes today, you guessed it: bloating and weight gain in the mid-section. To help navigate this issue, you can start by doing a quality cleanse. And note that I did specify “quality.” I’m not talking about some cheap ‘box cleanse’ from the local health food store or drinking gallons of lemonade and cayenne pepper for a week. 30-day cleanses that include supplements and food elimination diets like the SP cleanse are a great way to go. My doctor uses the Repair-Vite Cleanse, which is grain, dairy, egg and legume free. These cleanse/diets give your gut time to calm down so that you can then slowly introduce foods to truly see how they affect you.
But regardless of what cleanse you choose you NEED to get to your local health food store and purchase a good probiotic and digestive enzyme. These two little things will help give you the higher ground in the ‘tummy wars’.
Tip 3: Get the ‘skinny’ on Yoga and get active
Studies have shown that moderate exercise and intense exercise have approximately the same effect on shrinking your bellies fat cells. YES, you read that right! You CAN actually shrink those stubborn little things. You don’t have to become a marathon runner or Olympic athlete to get great abs, you just need to get moving. Walk, bike, clean, climb, chase your kids around; and of course, there’s my personal favorite, YOGA!
One of the reasons Hatha Yoga was created was to help keep people in tip top shape so that they could work hard planting & harvesting food, as well as perform all the other daily living activities required for survival before the 20th century. Your abdominals, better known as your ‘core’ muscles, play a huge role in your ability to safely be an active person. Of course, looking good doesn’t hurt either. Yoga equips your abs to work in about every way possible. Crunches alone can actually create bulkier abs and cause your body to be more rigid and thick. Yoga doesn’t just strengthen your Abs, it conditions, tones & stretches them as well as making the muscles long and lean.
For a more in depth article on yoga and abs, check out this link.
Tip 4: Relax, Relax, Relax! Stress IS making you fat!
The quickest and most sure-fire way to lose belly fat is to manage your stress! When stress runs rampant in your life, the adrenal glands will begin to release stress related hormones (like Cortisol) in excess. This constant stream of stress hormones will wreak havoc on your body, causing a host of problems such as (just naming a few here) extreme fatigue, hormonal imbalances, slowed thyroid and again: weight gain and belly fat. (Note: Sugar & coffee also become a problem at this point, since they stimulate your already overactive adrenal glands. So you may want to lay off of these foods for awhile until you can get the stress under control.) (source: Stubborn Pounds and Belly Fat)
Read more on how stress affects weight gain in women HERE.
Tip 5: The Breath and Squeeze
Here is a short little instructional video on how to do one of my favorite abdominal exercises. It can be done pretty much anywhere, anytime and by anyone!*
Traditional abdominal workouts are great when properly executed. However, they are only one small part of getting great looking, healthy functioning abs. Super cut abs are great when you’re looking in the mirror or getting your picture taken, but in real life we want balanced, relaxed, flexible abdominals that let us breathe and live.
*Yoga videos can be helpful, but they don’t replace personal instruction from a qualified teacher. It is nearly impossible to maintain a correct view and perspective on oneself and a qualified teacher will know how to spot potentially damaging mistakes before you have a chance to regret them.