The Great Flat Tummy Hoax…
Must be the season, but virtually every women’s magazine has a cover story that is a variation on the old potboiler “flat abs in minutes a day.” And no wonder. Who wouldn’t want that?
A couple of minutes a day, and that spare tire is gone, right? Minimum effort, maximal payoff. Whose not gonna buy it? Hey, put it on the cover, I can hear them saying, right next to the article on the new miracle cellulite cream.
Think it’s too good to be true?
Ab-Solutely Off Base…
Look through the articles—they’re all pretty interchangeable—and you’ll find an assortment of pretty good ab exercises. Crunches, side crunches, reverse crunches…the usual suspects. Done correctly, these exercises will absolutely build abdominal muscles.
Should you do them?
Will they work?
Ah, there’s the rub.
See, nearly everyone who wants a “flatter tummy” really wants to lose fat. What they really mean, when they point to their midsection and say they want to “tone up,” is that they want to lose plain old, garden variety fat, which, for most of us, accumulates around our middle. Or our thighs and hips. Or both.
And that’s why the magic, “minutes a day” routines are a scam.
It’s a Diet Issue…
Because—hear me now—no amount of crunches, no matter how religiously you do them- is going to get rid of fat around your middle.
Fat comes off by eating in a way that causes the body to go into its “savings account” and start using fat up for energy. It comes off by turning down your fat storage hormones and turning up your fat burning hormones. And it comes off when you increase your metabolic rate by building muscle.
So does this mean those ab routines are a waste?
Not on your life.
Your abs are part of your core musculature. Along with your lower back, they are responsible for your posture and your carriage, and are essential to a well-toned fit body. They assist in dozens of movements and exercises. And they help you feel strong and centered.
And if you don’t have well-trained, well-developed abs, it won’t matter how much fat you lose, you still won’t like the way you look, even when you’re thinner. Because to get that “rippled” effect, there has to be something underneath to “ripple.”
So. Flat tummy in minutes a day? ‘Fraid not. That is, not unless those minutes are accompanied by a rehaul of the eating program that put on the unwanted layer covering those abs in the first place.
And a great way to start this new eating program and unveil those abs is to first get rid of “false” fat.
Sounds Good and IS True…
“False fat” is a term coined by Dr. Elson Haas. It refers to the bloating, edema, and water retention that is often a result of eating too much of the wrong kinds of food, foods to which your particular body is sensitive.
This “false fat” can easily add an extra 10 pounds or more of weight. Not only that, but eating these foods can contribute to creating “real” fat as well.
Don’t count on conventional allergists to help you figure out the foods that cause this reaction. They may be “allergy-like” responses, but they don’t come under the heading of classic food “allergies.”
Conventional medicine defines “allergy” in a very specific way. Using the traditional definition, only about five percent of the population has allergies. But there are lots of ways your body can scream, “I don’t like this food and don’t know how to handle it.”
“Food reactions” is a better description of the phenomena than “food allergies,” but the overall result is something that you don’t want: both false fat and real fat.
Allergy Equals Swelling…
Just like hay fever causes swelling in the nasal tissues and eyes, food sensitivities cause “swelling” by sending water to surround food particles that your digestive system is unable to break down properly. This is just a normal part of the inflammatory response. Your body sees these “undigested” particles as foreign invaders and tries to get rid of them. One result of this is abdominal bloating and water retention.
Another is the release of stress hormones. What is one of the standard “emergency room” techniques for a major food allergy reaction? A shot of adrenaline! Why? Because this stress hormone has important anti-inflammatory properties. That’s why your doctor often gives you cortisol when you have an injury.
When you eat reactive foods, your body also puts out adrenaline and other stress hormones, as part of its own natural “emergency room response.” These stress hormones make you feel better at first, but when you “crash” from the adrenaline high, you reach for more of the craved foods and the cycle begins again.
To make it worse, the very foods that you crave are the ones that destabilize blood sugar, raise and lower insulin levels, and wind up putting on real fat.
Add a Dash of Addiction…
It gets worse: You can easily become “addicted” to the very foods that cause this reaction.
Here’s how it works: The response to a “reactive” food also includes the release of the body’s own opiates. It’s as if your body had a built-in medic and when the medic saw you in distress, he immediately injected you with a painkiller, making you feel kind of loopy and good. Those naturally secreted opiates can be addictive!
As Dr. Haas points out, the presence of the reactive food in your system prevents discomfort, just as the presence of alcohol prevents discomfort in the alcoholic. Remove the reactive food and bingo…discomfort begins. Result: cravings, anxiety, and a kind of “withdrawal.”
Since food cravings are one of the primary reasons diet strategies fail, preventing cravings is critical. And the foods that you crave are almost always the very foods that contribute to the problem of overweight in the first place!
Toss In a Mood Swing or Two…
Serotonin levels are also depressed when you eat reactive foods because serotonin is mostly carried by white blood cells which are the very same cells used by the immune system in producing a “counter-response” to reactive foods. While those white blood cells are busy responding to the reactive food, they’re less able to deliver serotonin to your brain. Low serotonin levels are consistently associated with cravings, depression, and the lack of a sense of well being.
Since sugar and high carb junk foods raise serotonin levels, those are exactly the ones you tend to crave when you’re in “low serotonin mode. What’s more, these are precisely the kinds of foods that are front-loaded at any holiday gathering! From a weight loss (and health) perspective, they are also the ones that do the most damage.
Get Real About False Fat…
Since many of the foods we are “reactive” to are all around us, and many of the usual suspects—like wheat—are in virtually everything, detoxification and rotation diets are often a good idea.
If you’re stuck on a plateau, or are experiencing any of the symptoms discussed like fatigue, bloat, or “brain fog,” try removing what Dr. Haas calls the seven most reactive foods: dairy, wheat, corn, sugar, soy, eggs and peanuts.
At the very least, try taking out dairy, wheat, and sugar and see how you feel. You’ll be amazed at how much better you can feel within a matter of three days!
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