Tuesday, February 5, 2013

ABSolutely Flat





Who thinks doing 100s of crunches and running 10 miles a day will give you a flat tummy?
Raise your hand....



*Maybe* it could...

But I'm sure you know by now that my approach to life is never an "ONLY THIS" philosophy. It's always a holistic approach. An approach that incorporates our entire lifestyle- not just what we do in the gym 5 days a week.

 Aside from just working the abs, it's been a very popular notion in the athletic training world that:
"Flat stomachs are made in the kitchen... NOT in the gym."

While I would be more apt to agree with this statement, I do not consider it entirely true either. What you do in the kitchen and the gym must always work TOGETHER...

You will NOT achieve optimum HEALTH if these are both mutually exclusive. I emphasize "health" here because- you could maintain a "skinny" body by being anorexic or obsessive about counting calories. OR you could get bulky muscles by working out non-stop and cramming chemical laden protein shakes and stimulants in your mouth. Mark Sisson (the founder of the ridiculously unhealthy and unethical Paleo Diet) always says he wants to "Look fit, not be fit!". How gross is that?!
Attitudes and behaviors like this create only the outward appearance of health. But what is happening inside the body is a different story. I was recently inspired by a random article here that argues there are 5 different tummy types and in order to get the stomach you want, you first have to identify which type you have.

So, I am going to share some of the information in the article, but mostly I will give my own holistic approach on nutrition and exercise.  I have renamed some of the types and combined some, here are the ones I will be highlighting today: The Spare Tire, The Pooch, The New Mamma Belly and The Bloated Belly.

These are just very basic types though, the appearance of lots of tummies could be a combination of different things going on on the inside, and that is what we are going to talk about today. Whatever is showing up on the outside of the body is doing so due to something going on on the inside- usually something directly related to the food we eat.

TYPE 1: THE SPARE TIRE (aka "Beer Belly" or "Stress Stomach")

How to spot: This is a very full looking belly. The belly weight is more or less evenly distributed and mostly concentrated in the belly region on the body.


Causes 

  • Having a sedentary lifestyle.      
  • A high fat diet AND/or a diet high in REFINED carbohydrates 
  • Too much alcohol. Alcohol consumption makes your body store FAT in this area.
  • Stress. When you are stressed your body releases cortisol. Cortisol makes you store fat!
  • Skipping breakfast, eating irregular meals or meals too late at night. 

Bad News: This belly type is usually the pre-cursor to Type 2 Diabetes! The food you are eating and your lifestyle cause this tummy, and in turn CAUSE Diabetes. You are responsible for your health.

How to correct with diet: Lower fat consumption and up fiber and complex carbohydrates. Think less steak, more brown rice, sweet potatoes and leafy greens! INTERESTING FACT: In Korea, this type of tummy is referred to as "Ddong Bae", which literally translates to "Poop Belly". This refers to the fact that people with this tummy type are often constipated. Nothing can replace fiber from whole food fruit and veggies! Metamucil is not what you need, you need ripe bananas!

How to correct with exercise: If you are used to being very inactive, start out walking daily. Get active and feel those endorphins, they are addictive! Make sure you get plenty of whole food carbs to give you the energy you need to move. Fat will only make you tired and slowwwww you downnnnn. Join an exercise class like yoga, Pilates, Karate, dance, aerobics, etc! Making exercise a social activity will help you stick to it and get the results! Who knows, you might just even relieve your stress while you're at it.

TYPE 2: THE POOCH

How to spot: A protrusion right under the bellybutton region. Occurs mostly in women.


Causes

  • Hormones that come from:
    • Being near or on your menstrual cycle or menopause 
    • Hormones in dairy and meat (even organic!) HUGE barnyard animals have lots of hormones in their bodies naturally. Especially dairy cows! When you eat their products, you get their hormones too!
    • Toxic chemicals in all personal care items that we use, cleaners and packaging. These are very new to our Earth and they have a estrogenic effect in our bodies! Look for things in Latin and with numbers beside them! STAY AWAY!
  • Too much salt, caffeine, and white sugar. Salt is especially the culprit! Too much salt in the diet, will cause the body to retain water as a way to balance itself out. 
  • Inflammation.  Usually in the intestines. One of our body's responses to inflammation is to store fat as a way to protect itself.
Good News: This belly will easily "go down" when you change the diet.

How to correct with diet: Lower salt, caffeine, white sugar, dairy and meat consumption. Drink enough water* to help your body find balance. High fiber foods will cut down on inflammation, and allow your body to relax and release the fat.

How to correct with exercise & lifestyle: Cardio will help get your hormones regulated and your lymph system pumping.  Lower ab exercises will also be helpful. YOGA is the perfect exercise for this type of belly.  Stay away from synthetic chemicals. Makeups, hair products, deodorants, scented feminine hygiene products, fabric softeners, perfumes, and lotions all carry estrogenic agents that are constantly being circulated in our bodies when we use them. Try a more natural approach to hygiene. www.iHerb.com has some GREAT products!

EDIT: I just found this awesome article about another reason for "the pooch" in otherwise lean women. TIGHT HIP FLEXORS! If you live in the Western part of the world, chances are you hip flexors are tight... Check out this great post about how to correct this problem and get your pelvis tilting at the right angle again! 

TYPE 3: THE BLOATED BELLY

What is one thing you notice about the pic below?


The lady appears to be otherwise fit and toned aside from the belly region. I would say that this is fairly common. Especially at the end of the day.

How to Spot: The fullness of the stomach appear to be out of place on the body that it is on. This type of stomach may come and go during the day. The stomach will be flatter in the morning and be fuller as night approaches.

Causes
  • Food intolerances (gluten, alcohol, yeast, dairy are the most common) You have probably had these your whole life and not really made aware of it because there are not any outward symptoms like other allergies. No itching, vomiting, rashes or swelling of the skin. All of the aforementioned "culprits" inflame the intestines, causing them to actually swell inside! This in turn, makes your stomach appear larger than it is!
  • Slow digestion & gas- Diets high in highly processed foods are LOW FIBER diets. Fiber is needed to help your body push out the waste and clean the digestive system. If food is left in your body too long, it will start to ferment and rot causing gas and bloating.
  • Imbalanced intestinal flora- The use of antibiotics, birth control, and the eating of processed food, KILL all of the "good bugs" that help us breakdown and digest our food properly. Some issues with digestion may be because you are missing some key enzymes.

Good News: Your tummy may be really much smaller than you think! Constant swelling can make your tummy appear much larger than it is. If you are working out and you still have a bloated belly, chances are you have an issue with one of the causes listed above. You may be hiding a 6 pack behind a dairy allergy!

How to correct with diet: Go on a 2 week elimination diet. Research the top food intolerances and cut them all out of your diet. Make sure to eat as much whole foods and drink as much water as possible! No smoking, salt, alcohol, caffeine, or processed foods. Then after your body has been reset itself, you can gradually add back in the culprits one at a time to pinpoint the offender. Also, look into taking a probiotic or digestive enzymes! Your best bet is to visit a Holistic Nutritionist or a Naturopathic doctor. They will guide you and give you gentle ways to help your body get back it's balance.

How to correct with exercise: Go walking after meals to help your food digest. Up your cardio. Running will help you get your bowels working again.  Doing "twist poses" in yoga or Pilates will help you release your gas and your overall digestive functioning. Go out dancing with your friends and have fun moving your body!



TYPE 4: THE NEW MOM 


How to Spot: The stomach area is full and round, similar to a pregnant belly. This type of stomach is usually more firm and not so jiggly- depending on your body fat percentage.

Causes

  • Carrying a Child- During gestation, the uterus stretches quite a bit. After birth, it gets heavy with fluids and inflammation, and needs to shed tissue and heal. 
  • Unnecessary Weight gain-  Some weight gain is natural during pregnancy, but all too often women just eat whatever they want while pregnant. Thinking that it "doesn't matter" or they are "eating for two". This thinking leads to unhealthy eating habits that may be hard to drop after the baby is born. 
  •  Diastasis Recti- This condition happens when the abdominal muscles separate down the middle, causing the belly to protrude and appear "still pregnant"!!! Good news is this doesn't have to be a permeant problem. The right exercises can tighten it up again if it is not too serious. If you are unfamiliar with this condition... google it! It can be pretty scary.

Good News: You just gave birth to a miracle! You are a superwoman! You can easily return to your pre-preg weight. This tummy isn't your fate for the rest of your life.

How to correct with diet: You are still healing right now. Your body has been through so much AND the baby has likely depleted all of your vitamin and mineral stores. Treat yourself like a queen. Lavish the best foods that Mother Nature can provide. Whole, fresh foods that are vibrant and full of water is what you should eat. Dark leafy greens and pumpkin seeds will help you in the Iron and Calcium department! You must replace these things!! High fiber fruit and veggies will also help keep everything "moving", lift your mood, and give you the best energy possible... you need it! If you are breastfeeding, make sure you are getting enough water. You need to be drinking about 3- 3 1/2 liters per day while pregnant or breastfeeding!

How to correct with exercise & lifestyle: It takes about 6 weeks for your tummy to return back to it's "normal" size. Don't be discouraged if it doesn't happen sooner- most likely, it won't.
After recovery, get your body moving! Take baby out on a walk. Fresh air is good for you both, and so is a change of scenery. Getting your body moving will aid your body in releasing everything build up after 9 months. Also, there are lots of great mommy/ baby yoga workouts on Youtube. You can workout and play with your baby at the same time! Most professionals agree that you should not return to strenuous core exercises for 3-4 months postpartum. The ab muscles need to time to heal. Crunches are a big NO-NO! Try Kegel exercises instead. While walking, or doing anything else, gently squeeze your navel in to your spine. This will help your muscles heal in an inward fashion. Not bulging out.
Breastfeeding helps the uterus contract and return back to its normal size faster. Breastfeeding also burns 500+ calories a day!!
Of course being in shape BEFORE you get pregnant will virtually guarantee that you will have an easier pregnancy, faster delivery, and faster recovery time after the baby is born. Just something to think about to all you ladies that are thinking of becoming mothers soon. I know I'm thinking about it... ;)

A Few Important Things to Note

  • This post is not about living up to some perfect body type that the media makes you believe is ideal. But it is about being healthy on the inside and FEELING your best. "Feeling" refers to self-esteem, as well as the way your body feels and works. Like I mentioned earlier, whatever is happening on the inside will show on the outside. This is the undeniable truth!
  • Adequate water and fiber intake will drastically help improve all of the above conditions. Make  sure you are at least getting 2 liters of water a day*, especially if your body is retaining water, as odd as that sounds. You should be eliminating your bowels about 3 times per day, or a number equal to the number of meals you eat! If you are not, I 100% guarantee that you are either not getting enough fiber or water in your diet (or both). 
  • When doing ab exercises, it is important to always pull your belly button in to your backbone- always be "sucking in your stomach" this will help engage your core AND help your muscles form the correct way. If you do not do this, your muscles will form in a convex shape and make your tummy look round.
  • NEVER make it your goal to merely "look good". The focus should be on feeling good and treating your body well. All the external changes will be bonus!


I hope everyone is having a good week! I have parent-teacher conferences all week, so needless to say I'm being kept busy at work :)

Always remember,
"When in doubt, fiber is your friend"

Meg


DISCLAIMER: This article is to be used as a self diagnosis. NOT as a guide to help you play "Name that belly" at your local Wal*Mart. Also, the recommendations made here are merely the opinions of the author. Please consult your local holistic practitioner before beginning a new diet or supplement regimen.

15 comments:

  1. Great article, Meg! I can't believe the Mark Sissons comment to "Look fit, not be fit." What kind of insanity is that????

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    1. Thanks! He is a gross person all around... hehehehe

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  2. Okay, I have a question...being new to all of this I have been researching foods and recipes that are for the most part gluten free, dairy free and sugar free to see if I am intolerant and many times "paleo" came up. To me it seemed in line with what I am doing and healthy. What makes it not healthy?? Very interested!

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    1. Everyone has a different opinion on health, and I respect all opinions that are based on science and logic- even if that science and logic differ from my own. But I can say in full certainty that Paleo diets are bad news.

      To start, Paleo diets are high fat diets- fats from animals are known to cause everything from heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
      The diet also argues that fruit should be limited, and some types avoided entirely.... I think you know how I feel about that!
      They are HEAVY promoters of supplements, and will sell them to you in monthly shipments of $200! Paleo followers NEED supplements because of their HIGHLY acidic blood caused by the high meat intake, low mineral intake (due to cutting out fruit), and the process of ketosis that your body undergoes when you cut carbs. Paleo gurus say you should limit cardio and drinking water too! This diet is a gimic that just tells people what they want to hear about their bad habits. Meanwhile, most of the promoters are overweight themselves, unless they have had massive plastic surgery like Mark Sisson.

      Any diet that tells you to limit a whole food, is a gimic and a fad and you should beware. I would not tell anyone to not follow a diet, simply because I don't agree with it for personal biased reasons (like me being vegan). But I will tell a person not to follow a diet because it is dangerous to their long term health. That is where I stand with Paleo. :)

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    2. Wow...honestly I didn't know much about it at first...They make it look nice at first but wow. I agree with you on fruit. And I have learned enough to know that an acidic body is not goo at all and that we usually do not eat enough alkalizing foods. This almost sounds to me like another anti-carb diet like Atkins or something. Thanks for the info! :)

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  3. Awesome post! I had heard that stress can cause a pooch and I will have to look at my other hormone culprits more closely since that is the type of belly I am prone to.

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    1. I think the belly area is really sensitive... lots of issues show up there! Love your pic, lady! So freeee!~

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  4. I totally have "The Pooch stomach"! Thanks for the tips on lowering salt (which I eat A LOT OF), caffeine (no more coffee - sad!) and white sugar (no more baking)! They came just in time for Indonesia. I think I'll get up and grab a glass of water! :)

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    1. Some people say that you should drink about a liter of water with lemon upon rising! Just something to think about.... :)
      You're gonna have a hot veggie bikini bod on vacay! Best believe I'll be blog stalking!

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    2. And you don't have to give up baking... just re-think it! :)

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  5. Is drinking tea every day considered excessive caffeine intake? This is a very educational post btw.

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    1. Hmm.... good question. I guess it depends on what kind of tea.
      I avoid caffeine personally because I don't like the way it makes me feel. But I say if you don't drink too much (aka enough to be dependent on it), then it's may not be too bad.

      There are a couple different reasons why caffeine has a negative effect on the body. One is it dehydrates you. Another is it makes your body feel like it's stressed out, and your body will release cortisol- storing fat.

      Just go on how you feel. There are lots of great non-caffeinated teas that actually help detox. Rooibos is a great alternative! :)

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  6. Love it! So much great info here! Thanks, Meg :)

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