The temperatures are rising outside.
Spring break has come and gone.
And you’re planning summer vacations and festivities.
Which means one thing on many women’s minds:
It’s swimsuit season!!!
Time to break out the bikinis…or not.
As women, it’s become a universal epidemic this time of year—fear of the dreaded swimsuit; increased self-consciousness; a vow to “slim up”, “tone up”, and calm the late night snacking down.
You simply hear the word “swimsuit” and your mind instantly turns to your most loathed body parts: your thighs (39% of us), your butt (29%), your boobs (24%)…and your stomach (69% of women!).
The stomach ranks number one for the majority of chicks when it comes to the body parts we fret about the most.
Back this statistic with this fact: Women spend an average of 55 minutes every day working on their appearance (That amounts to 335 hours every year — or an entire two-week vacation!) and chances are, a great majority of that time is being spent on your stomach—or least thinking about your stomach and how to tighten, slim and whittle.
So you turn to the conventional wisdom that has led you astray for all these years:
- Crunches! Crunches! Crunches!
- Egg whites only please
- Cut the carbs
- Measure the waist with a tape measurer
- Fit into the jeans you wore in high-school
- Try this shake or that supplement
- Suppress your appetite by chewing gum
- Purchase a new diet program or training template—in hop
…And the strategies keep going…and going…and going…
What about you? What have you tried?
What’s worked? What hasn’t?
Before we explore a handful of unconventional ways to obtain a slimmer waist, let’s understand first why the stomach has become a trouble spot for so many in the first place.
Why do we gain weight or “hold weight” around our mid-sections?
While every BODY is different, the mid-section tends to be a “trouble spot” for many due to one primary underlying factor: Stress.
Face it, we lead pretty stressful lives—and there’s seemingly no escaping stress (physical, mental, emotional) at one time or another:
- Busy workplaces and demands
- Poor quality food
- Eating on the go
- Poor sleep and sleep quality
- Hormonal imbalances
- Emotional eating
- Not moving our bodies enough or moving our bodies too much
- Juggling kids (or husbands and boyfriends)
- Light stimulation at night
- Blaring alarm clocks
- Coffee and caffeine
- Hunching over at desks
- And on and on.
Yup. Stress and being human go hand-in-hand. Our bodies ain’t what they could be with all the stress we carry.
When we are stressed, our body releases cortisol—the stress hormone—in order to “combat” this stress. Cortisol regulates how the body uses energy (protein, carbohydrates and fats) in stressful situations and signals when to move these nutrients to and from your fat stores (especially in the stomach). If too much cortisol is in your body, it may store fat for future use, if needed.
What to do about it?
While stress is just one explanation for a mid-section you may not be 100% comfortable in, the bigger question for any “body woe” or “trouble spot” we have is this:
- So what does it mean if you don’t have a 6-pack?
- So what does it mean if you look in the mirror and don’t like what you see?
- So what does it mean if you don’t like what you look like in a swimsuit?
It means this: We are NEVER going to be 100% satisfied with what we look like (at least when we are searching for our own ‘ideal’).
I call this the “dangling carrot” syndrome.
Constantly longing or striving for something shinier, brighter, better, bigger, smaller…
It’s the human condition.
So what can you do about it?
Naw. Just kidding.
Although complete stress-avoidance is well, unavoidable, the MORE you focus on taking care of your body (after all, it’s the only place you have to live) and loving it well—through good nourishment (physically, mentally, emotionally)…the less stressed it will be…and hypothetically, the less apt to “store” or “hold” extra weight in your mid-section.
In other words: BE KIND TO YOURSELF, and a de-stressed attitude naturally follows suit.
Here are 7 Unconventional Methods to “Whittle Your Middle” (and maybe just maybe like the skin you are in…make peace).
7 Methods to Whittle Your Middle
Sauerkraut. Best. Probiotic. Ever. You’ve heard ALL about probiotics and how “good they are for you”—but why?! They eradicate lots of bad bacteria, and fill your gut flora with lots of good bacteria. When our gut is happy…the rest of our bodies are happy (and less stressed): Food is able to digest better…proper energy balance is maintained…less inflammation upon our internal systems occurs…hormones are fed appropriately…we are LESS constipated and bloated and gassy (an instant middle whittler). Grab some sauerkraut the next time you’re at the store or farmer’s market, and begin using the food as medicine (for a healthy gut). My favorite brand is Farmhouse Culture at Whole Foods, but most any brand will do (as long as it’s straight up Sauerkraut). Eat 2-3 fork-fulls or spoonfuls two-three times per day and feel the difference. If sauerkraut is not your forte, at least consider taking a probiotic supplement, like this one by Thorne.
Lemon Water. Another gut irritant and stress ELIMINATOR, lemon water is the jab-jab-punch to front-load healthy digestion for the day (and throughout the day). I like to heat up a cup of water in the morning and squeeze some lemon along with a pinch of sea salt (natural body balancer and energizer) in it to sip on while I am getting ready. Drink 8-16 ounces first thing, before drinking or eating anything else for the day, in order to arm your body for digestive health and balance. Lemon is also a natural digestive enhancer, as it promotes healthy stomach acid for breaking down breakfast.
Enzymes. I used to hear the word “digestive enzymes” and think someone was talking about something from another planet. The concept was foreign to me. Digestive enzymes are essentially molecules that help us break down our food. Our body and guts naturally have enzymes, but after a lifetime of eating packaged foods, sugar, poor food hygiene (not chewing thoroughly, low water intake, eating fast, etc.), we become deficient in enzymes. Never fear though! A supplement is here. Take 1-2 digestive enzymes with each meal in order to better digest your food and once more, distill bloating, constipation and inflammation—all that can contribute to a less-than-desirable midsection. I’ve seen great success with BioGest by Thorne and Carbo-G by Transformation Enzymes.
Water. Oh the boring answer—but necessary for all the “good things” in life (a waist you feel comfortable in, included). When we are “dry” on the inside, our digestive tract gets backed up for one (i.e. constipation), our metabolism slows down and we carry around more of that good ol’ stress (internally). Half your bodyweight in ounces of STRAIGHT UP WATER is the baseline for hydration. Get yourself a waterbottle and be diligent with this one.
Lots of Good Food. A “waist” is born in the kitchen—and that doesn’t mean starving or depriving yourself in the kitchen to “get there.” While “My Fitness Pal” may say you NEED only 12-1400 calories today…calories really are only a piece of a greater puzzle—one where the quality of your fuel and adequate nutrition (and balance) are wayyyyy more important than a number. And chances are, if you are adamantly logging your calories and ensuring you restrict them to a certain number…you are stressing your body (and your mind) more than you think. Chronic undereating IS REAL (diets and eating disorders aside). By not eating enough for our bodies, we actually end up stressing them more! Leading to the perpetual cycle (and struggle) with our weight, our middlesection, body fat, and on and on. Do yourself a favor and focus on getting these foods in at each meal: a protein source (chicken and poultry, fish, eggs, ground turkey, grassfed beef/bison), vegetables (especially leafy greens), 1-2 healthy fats with every meal (extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, ghee/grassfed butter, avocado, raw nuts, raw nutbutter, olives, unsweetened coconut flakes or coconut butter, flaxseed, hempseed, chia seeds, avocado oil). In addition, carbs like sweet potatoes, potatoes, properly prepared rice and oats, starchy tubers and squashes, and fruits all have a place within a healthy diet, particularly around workouts for recovery and muscle fuel.
Big Lifts. Spot training? NOPE! It really doesn’t exist. As much as magazines and old school Jane Fonda videos would have us believing that all we have to do is crunch our ways to 6 and 8-pack abs, these exercises build muscle, but don’t necessarily “burn fat.” Fat burning is a combination of less stress, nutrition and functional movement (as simple as walking and other basic primal movement patterns, like pushing, pressing, squatting and lunging—simply put: not a sedentary lifestyle). We already touched on nutrition and the role of stress (and less stress), but as for exercise: get the biggest bang for your workout-buck by incorporating “Big Lifts” and movements, like squats, front squats, deadlifts, seated and standing presses, push-ups, bent-over rows, bench press, dips and pull-ups—all of which engage the core.
Hollow Body Holds. An “all over” core engager, this traditional gymnastics position is one of the best (and most challenging) core strengtheners of all time. By building a strong core through full body movements (above) and exercises like the hollow body and plank, you promote a natural mind-body awareness with your core (effective for combatting the physically stressful slouch and hunch you otherwise keep). Pretend you are a human “V”—Keeping the small of your back on the ground (you don’t want to be able to slip a hand or piece of paper under there), and head and shoulders off the ground, point your toes and lock out your arms by your ears, with neutral hands and pointed fingers. Aim to hold for 30-45 seconds to start, up to 60 seconds as you advance.
Up for more core challenges?
Try my 7-minute Abs “Core Dessert” fun for today’s Workout Wednesday moves to compliment your improved gut health, fuel intake, big lifts and overall core strength…
Complete 1-minute of each exercise on continuously running clock
- Leg Lifts (mini-pulses)
- Flutter Kicks.
- Scissor Kicks.
- Sit-ups (hands touch toes and then go to the floor behind head every time)
- Toe Touches
- Reverse Crunches (pulse straight legs up towards ceiling)
- Plank Hold