A recent article by David Zinczenko, author of the book, Zero Belly Diet, addresses a number of specific foods that can help promote a leaner belly by decreasing inflammation, eliminating bloat, and turning off your fat storage genes. Zinczenko writes, in part:
“Zero Belly is based on the breakthrough science of ‘nutritional genetics…’ In early 2014, I put together a panel to test-drive the Zero Belly program, and I’ve been stunned by the results: The average person lost four inches off their waist — in just six weeks. The key to this program is a scientifically proven eating program that targets your fat genes — turning them to ‘off’ and making weight loss automatic. There’s no calorie counting, no deprivation. Zero Belly works in three ways:
First, it reduces bloating by cutting down on excess salt, dairy, and artificial sweeteners… Some of the test panelists lost up to three inches of bloat off their waist in just seven days.
Second, it heals your gut by feeding the ‘good’ microbes in your belly. A balanced gut reduces inflammation and helps to turn off your fat genes.
Third, it turbocharges your metabolism with protein, healthy fats, and quality fiber.”
The nine foods, or groups of foods that Zinczenko recommends eating include: plant-based smoothies high in protein, healthy fat, fiber, and resveratrol; eggs (I recommend eating only organic, pastured or free-range eggs); red fruits, olive oil and other healthy fats; high-fiber foods; nuts and seeds; meat (again my recommendation is to stick with organic, grass-fed varieties); leafy greens and brightly-colored veggies, along with plenty of fresh herbs and spices.
As Zinczenko points out, reestablishing a healthy gut flora is very important, as imbalances can have a significant impact on your weight. One hypothesis states that your gut bacteria may in fact be in control of your appetite. Recent research suggests there’s a positive-feedback loop between the foods you crave and the composition of the microbiota in your gut that depend on those nutrients for their survival. Microbes that thrive on sugar, for example, can signal your brain to eat more sweets.
Other studies have shown that certain bacteria found in your gut can produce insulin resistance and weight gain by triggering chronic low-grade inflammation in your body. Food processing, pasteurization, and sterilization also have a detrimental effect on your microbiome. For all of these reasons, and more, I always recommend a diet rich in whole, unprocessed foods along with cultured or fermented foods.
Common Mistakes That Can Make Shedding Belly Fat More Difficult
Eating a diet too high in processed foods (and hence processed fructose and other added sugars), along with eating too frequently, tend to be among the primary causes of a bulging waistline. However, as discussed in a recent article, a number of other lifestyle factors can contribute to the problem. So, in addition to correcting your diet and implementing a fasting regimen, addressing the following factors may boost your chances of successfully eliminating those extra inches around your midriff:
Lack of exercise: To maximize your weight loss results, be sure to incorporate some form of high intensity interval training (HIIT). This short intense training protocol improves muscle energy utilization and expenditure, due to its positive effects on increasing muscle mass and improving muscle fiber quality. Muscle tissue burns three to five times more energy than fat tissues, so as you gain muscle, your metabolic rate increases, which allows you to burn more calories, even when you’re sleeping. Further, several studies have confirmed that exercising in shorter bursts with rest periods in between burns more fat than exercising continuously for an entire session.
The combination of intermittent fasting and HIIT is a particularly potent combination, as when done in tandem it virtually forces your body to burn off excess body fat. I also recommend getting more walking into your daily life. Ideally, aim for 7,000 to 10,000 steps a day, over and above your regular exercise regimen. Not only will this give your metabolism a boost in the right direction, it’s also necessary to counter the ill effects of too much sitting—which in and of itself increases your risk of insulin resistance and metabolic dysfunction, even if you exercise!
Magnesium deficiency: Magnesium is a mineral used by every organ in your body, especially your heart, muscles, and kidneys. If you suffer from unexplained fatigue or weakness, abnormal heart rhythms, or even muscle spasms and eye twitches, low levels of magnesium could be to blame. Researchers have also found that people who consume higher levels of magnesium tend to have lower blood sugar and insulin levels. Seaweed and green leafy vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard can be excellent sources of magnesium, as are some beans, nuts, and seeds, like pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds. Avocados also contain magnesium. Juicing your vegetables is an excellent option to ensure you’re getting enough of them in your diet.
Diet soda consumption: Contrary to popular belief, diet soda can actually double your risk of obesity compared to drinking none, and research has shown that drinking diet soda increases your risk of weight gain to a greater degree than regular soda. If you’re serious about weight loss, ditch all sweetened beverages, including artificially sweetened ones, and opt for pure filtered water.
Beer and alcohol consumption: Alcohol of all kinds will tend to promote weight gain, so consider cutting down on the number of drinks you indulge in each week. Beer has the added adverse effect of raising your uric acid levels, which promotes chronic inflammation.
Stress: Chronic stress will keep your stress hormones elevated, which can hinder weight loss efforts, so be sure to incorporate some stress-busting activities. As you learn how to effectively decrease your stress level, your cortisol will stabilize, your blood pressure will drop, and your health will improve in just about every way.
It’s important to realize that stress management isn’t something you save up to do on the weekend—it needs to be done on a daily basis, because that’s how often stress rears its ugly head. There are many different stress reduction techniques, including: exercise, meditation, mindfulness training, yoga, spending time in nature, music, and EFT (emotional freedom techniques), the latter of which is a very effective form of energy psychology that can help “reprogram” your ingrained stress responses.
The Final Step: Exercises That Target Your Abs
Abdominal workouts should not be overlooked just because they won’t result in a slimmer waistline. Your abdominal muscles provides the foundation for movement throughout your entire body, and strengthening them can help protect and support your back, make your spine and body less prone to injury and help you gain greater balance and stability. Having a strong abdominal wall is very important for optimal body movement and gets increasingly more important with advancing age.
A strong abdominal wall is also what will produce that six-pack look once you’ve lost sufficient amounts of subcutaneous fat. To effectively train your core muscles, be sure to incorporate a variety of stabilization, functional, and traditional exercises, such as:
Traditional exercises, such as a standard crunch with rotation or a standing rotation with a light hand weight.
Functional exercises, including work on a stability ball.
Stabilizing exercises, such as lying on the floor and pulling your belly back toward your spine and holding that position while breathing deeply
Extension exercises, such as lying on your stomach with arms extended above your head. Then raising both arms and both legs, at the same time, off the floor. (Hold for a count of 5, or 5 breaths, and slowly return to the floor).
Popular exercise programs that work your core muscles are widely available, and include virtually all types of yoga and Pilates. But there’s yet another exercise you might not have thought of: push-ups! That’s right. Push-ups don’t just give you a stronger upper body, they also train your abdominals—as long as you’re doing them correctly.
If you’re looking to get rock-hard abs, remember that proper dietary choices is your first step, ideally in combination with intermittent fasting and high intensity exercises. From there, a comprehensive lifestyle and fitness program that addresses factors such as sleep, stress, specific nutritional deficiencies, and targeted ab exercises, will help you achieve your goal.