Minimize Your Middle

Who doesn’t want a slimmer waistline and flat abs? This is one area I have a lot of trouble with. Like a lot of women, I figured some simple crunches a few times a week would do the trick. Wrong! Power crunching alone is not the best (nor most enjoyable) way to flatten your belly. (I have proof!) Below are some activities (some of them actually enjoyable) that will slim your waistline:

  • Play tennis with a friend. Every time you turn to make a stroke, you strengthen the oblique muscles on either side of your abdomen.
  • Vacuum the house. Pushing the vacuum cleaner back and forth helps tighten your abs.
  • Practice yoga. Yoga will tighten and strengthen your ab muscles.
  • Summer is the perfect time to go for a swim. The crawl stroke is a great way to tighten abs, as well as the reaching forward and pulling backstrokes of the butterfly.
  • Play a round of golf. Swinging a golf club shapes up the oblique muscles on the sides of your abs, just like tennis. (Skip the cart!)
  • Dance your cares away.
  • Get out and garden. Weed, plant, trim, rake. It not only burns about 350 calories an hour (for women), but the bending and stretching help whittle your waist as well.
  • Sweep your garage, driveway, and sidewalks. Don’t use a push broom.
  • Discover “Pilates.”

There are also some habits that will shrink your middle. First of all, calm down. According to Jacob Seidell, Ph.D., of the National Institute of Public Health in Bilthoven, Netherlands, stress increases levels of cortisol, a hormone that seems to direct fat to the middle. To keep stress levels low, find a quiet comfortable place to sit. Next, take several slow, deep breaths to help clear your mind. Continue breathing deeply and repeat a calming word (“one,” “peace,” “God,” whatever word works for you) to yourself as you exhale. Practice this for five to ten minutes once or twice a day. Here are some other ideas:

  1. Put more fiber in your diet, as it prevents constipation, which can cause your tummy to bulge. To stay “regular,” you should eat 25 – 35 grams of fiber per day. To reach this quota, eat more whole grains, fruits, vegetables and oatmeal, or try a fiber supplement such as Metamucil.
  2. Cut back on alcoholic beverages. Alcohol also raises your cortisol levels, sending fat to your body, according to Dr. Seidell.
  3. Drink a lot of water. This will help flush away bloating, not make it worse.
  4. Do aerobic exercise. All the ab exercises in the world won’t do any good unless you get rid of the fat hiding your abdominal muscles! You can walk, run, bike, and/or do stair climbing.
  5. Watch your posture. Stand up straight and tighten your abs. Slouching makes you look heavier.
  6. Weightlift. Concentrate on keeping your abs tight and maintaining good posture, but don’t hold your breath.

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