It’s already mid-winter, which means you’re either starting to develop that familiar, extra layer of “warmth” on your body that comes with the season. Food babies are a legit thing, right?
In urban dictionaries, yes. In reality, they actually shouldn’t be. Having an oversized belly can lead to a whole variety of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes and even infertility. According to Dr. Taz Bhatia, author of the 21-Day Belly Fix (Zinc Ink, 2014), you can track many medical issues back to belly inflammation. So perhaps there’s a little more motivation to get our tummies under control than just looking good in those upcoming holiday dresses after all. Luckily, that goal might not be as hard to achieve as we previously thought. According to the good doc, it all boils down to three simple rules: 1) the right mix of bacteria in your gut, 2) stabilized insulin levels throughout the day and 3) regular digestion.
Still sound complicated? Here’s an even easier (albeit longer) breakdown:
1. Eat Greek yogurt. It’s full of good probiotics.
2. Enjoy eggs daily. “They stabilize insulin with a combination of protein and fat, and that helps digestion,” Bhatia notes.
3. Get plenty of sleep. That means more than five or six hours a night, gals.
4. Drink water. “It’s simple, it’s easy, but water hydrates the bowel,” Bhatia says. “That’s usually why we have trouble with our digestive issues when we travel—we’re dehydrated.” Aim for six, eight-ounce glasses per day.
5. Go nuts for nut butter. The organic, unsweetened stuff is best. According to Bhatia, it stabilizes your appetite while giving you the good fats you need to keep up regular digestion.
6. Try Kombucha, that fermented, slightly fizzy tea. It helps get that “good” bacteria back in the belly. Look for it in grocery stores, Asian markets, or you can even try to make your own.
7. An apple a day really does keep the doctor away, so eat up. Apples are full of dietary fibre and they pack a great one-two punch when paired with that aforementioned nut butter.
8. Add a teaspoon or two of olive oil to your daily diet. “It helps with the concept of going to the bathroom regularly,” Bhatia says.
9. Buy broccoli. It’s the original super food…
10. But keep consuming kale. That other super food is full of fibre and the antioxidants you need for digestion and gut bacteria.
11. Don’t go hungry. Eat small portions throughout the day, and do so consistently. It not only levels out your insulin levels and keeps your metabolism running, but who doesn’t love snack time?
12. Take supplements. If you know you’re going to have a week where you’re not eating a particularly balanced diet, you can still keep everything in check with the right supplements, like digestive enzymes or probiotics. Just make sure that you aren’t relying solely on that strategy. Because…
13. Change up your eating routine. Found a food combo that you particularly love? That’s great, but don’t have it Every. Single. Day. In order to keep the body working at its maximum potential and to make sure you get enough nutritional variety, be sure to switch up your diet, at least every six weeks or so, according to Bhatia.
14. On that note, eat (and don’t juice) your oranges. That way your body absorbs the fibre from the fruit too. Plus they’re in season this time of year.
15. Or try a grapefruit. “They blunt the appetite and keep you full for longer,” says Bhatia. “It is a wonderful flat belly fruit.” Just be sure that if you’re on any medication, the citrus fruit won’t react with it first.
16. Speaking of orange-coloured things, why not go for some butternut squash while you’re at it? It has lots of antioxidants too.
17. Add some strawberries to your nut-butter smoothies. Or to your kale salads. Or enjoy those suckers over some Greek yogurt. Fresh or frozen, they’re an excellent source of fibre and deliciousness.
18.Lift weights. It helps to stabilize insulin levels. Plus muscles burn more calories than fat.
19. Get some cardio in too. Bhatia recommends increasing your heart rate by at least 10-20 beats per minute over a 30 minute interval several times per week…
20. But don’t overdo it. Goals are good, but make sure that it’s your lifestyle you’re changing and not a fad exercise that you’re signing up for. “Marathons, P90x, or these hardcore, extreme workouts work for people for a short period of time, but then they burn out,” Bhatia says. “The body collapses, you get adrenal fatigue and all of a sudden you start gaining weight again having issues with your health. The misconception — at least culturally — is to work out excessively and then not worry about food.”
21. Go organic, at least when it comes to the dirty dozen, a.k.a. the 12 most contaminated fruits and veggies currently on the market. They include:
- sweet bell peppers
“My personal preference is to abide by those dirty dozen and then meat, milk and even eggs should be bought organic,” Bhatia adds. “At least then we know they’re not polluted with pesticides and other harmful things.”