If you're anything like the average American, you want to lose weight and get a flatter stomach to make your pants feel looser, boost your confidence in a bathing suit and help you feel that much better about baring it all in bed. (Not to mention all the great health benefits of losing that gut.)
There's only one problem: It's not so clear what the most effective ways to whittle your middle are. To help you cut through the noise—and the flubber—we've found 6 easy strategies to scoring that toned stomach you've always wanted, compliments of the New York Times-bestseller Zero Belly Diet.
Having good posture can make you look slimmer in seconds. Plus it can also strengthen your stomach muscles, giving you the long, lean look you crave.
Become an Early Riser
A Northwestern University study showed that late sleepers consumed 248 more calories daily than early risers. Researchers found that the people exposed to the most bright daylight earlier in the day were the leanest. "Light is the most potent agent to synchronize your internal body clock that regulates circadian rhythms, which in turn also regulate energy balance," said study author Phyllis Zee. "The message is that you should get more bright light between 8 a.m. and noon," she added. Try setting your alarm 15 minutes earlier each day, until you're getting up at a more reasonable hour.
Give up the Gum
When you chew gum, you swallow belly-bloating air and artificial sweeteners. Sugarless gums typically contain sorbitol, a sugar alcohol that often causes bloating and other tummy troubles. Sorbitol takes a relatively long time to digest, and undigested sorbitol in your small intestine acts as a hothouse for the fermentation of bacteria, causing bloating and flatulence. Nix the habit or opt for an organic variety like Glee or Simply instead.
Muster up the Mustard
Eating a teaspoon of mustard — for a mere 5 calories — can increase metabolism by up to 25 percent for several hours! Not only that, a study published in the Asian Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the belly fat of rats fed a diet of pure lard was lowered when they consumed mustard oil as well. That's due to allyl isothiocyanates, phytochemicals that give the mustard its characteristic flavor. Smear some on sandwiches or spread on fish fillets before baking.
Side Plank Your Way Skinny
Planking on your side forces you to stabilize your body on just two points, making it harder to stay stabilized. A harder exercise equals harder abs. Targeting your obliques, the side plank is one of the best isometric exercises you can do — and it'll get you those lines down the side of your abdominals.
Phone a Friend
If you're tempted to indulge in some diet don'ts, call a friend or family member. The sound of a loved one's voice can trigger the release of the appetite-suppressing hormone oxytocin. According to an animal study published in the journal Aging, daily injections of oxytocin reduced the amount of food the subjects ate. It also decreased belly fat and body weight during — and for nine days after — the 17-day regimen!