Now that summer is over, and the cold weather is fast approaching, it's time to assess your wardrobe. How are your clothes fitting? A little snug in the middle? How can that be possible?
When you were on vacation you walked miles every day. At the shore, you swam. At home, you ate oodles of fruits and veggies. Even when visiting your sister, you opted for sorbet instead of ice cream. Before you get discouraged and start that celery and grapefruit diet, try these five tummy-tightening suggestions.
Eat like a Greek
"The Mediterranean diet is a good overall recommendation. It's low in saturated fat and low-cholesterol," says nurse practitioner Dea Collins at Family Practice Group in Medford. Among the sixteen countries lining the Mediterranean sea, the common dietary traits include: consuming ample vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and monounsaturated olive oil; avoiding saturated fats (found in butter, dairy products and red meat); and enjoying wine instead of sodas with meals. "Nobody needs soda," she says, "Drinking one soda a day leads to a weight gain of 10 pounds a year."
Shun simple carbohydrates
"Nutrition — making dietary changes is the biggest thing," says Jason Tonkin, certified personal trainer at Superior Athletic Club in Medford. He advises eating more complex and fewer simple carbohydrates. What is the difference? It is how long the body takes to digest them. The glycemic index charts this information.
This numerical system measures the rise in blood sugars that are produced by eating carbohydrates. "Foods with high numbers are simple carbs which quickly become sugar and alcohol. Eating lots of them actually creates more trunk fat," says Tonkin. He suggests avoiding processed white breads and noodles and opting for whole-wheat varieties; eating yams and sweet potatoes instead of russet potatoes; and enjoying whole fruits and legumes instead of peeled and processed ones.
"Core work is the most advantageous exercise," says Tonkin, "The mistake some people make is adding weight to their abdominal exercises." The abs are small muscles, designed to stabilize the spine and pelvis. Working out with weights can add mass.
Tonkin recommends "plank" exercises. These simple exercises help build and stabilize both back and abdominal muscles. To start, take off your shoes and lie, face down, on a mat. So far so good? Place your elbows next to your shoulders, then lift up onto your elbows and toes. Keep your back straight. Hold this position for 10 seconds, then relax and repeat three to five times. "These planks are a good starting point. For people with bad backs, try planks from the table or the wall. Then progress to straight-arm, side and reverse planks," he says. Of course before starting any exercise program, it's best to first check with your health care professional and make sure it's right for you.
Have a ball
Invest in an exercise ball. Get into position with your feet planted and your back on the ball.
1) For starters, with your feet planted, simply roll your body forward, contract your stomach muscles and hold, count to 10, release and repeat. Or, use your feet to support you and one at a time, slowly lift your knees toward your chest, hold for the count of three, and repeat with the other leg.
2) Try knee raises, lifting legs, one at a time, not just up, but out to the sides as well.
Sit Up Straight
Mom was right, sitting and standing up straight cannot only instantly flatten your abs, but you'll look five pounds thinner, too. "While you're sitting, simply pull your navel towards your spine and notice what happens," advises Tonkin, "Your chest is out and your posture improves." Become aware of your posture, stop slouching, and sit up straight
There are a few ways to a trimmer tummy — toning the muscles and reducing the abdominal fat. Eating three sensible meals a day, reducing stress, drinking lots of water, and exercising regularly will accelerate the process. Be patient, tummy trimming takes time, and changes are difficult to observe. With small changes in diet and exercise, you can tone your mid-section and create a stronger, leaner, healthier you. You're worth it.