One of the most common questions I get from people is how to lose belly fat and get defined abs. Since a tight midsection is one of the most enviable and desirable body attributes, I am never surprised by these inquiries. I have noticed that there is a relatively common misconception that defined abs come solely from exercise, which is definitely not the case. While a certain amount of development in the abdominal muscles must be present for the washboard appearance which many people covet, an individual’s food choices often interfere with the quest for six-pack abs.
If you really want to see abdominal definition, you need to eliminate the following foods from your diet:
Processed foods (including crackers, luncheon meats, cheese, chips, breads)
Foods high in saturated fat (red meat, fast foods)
Though it may be difficult at first to eliminate the foods listed, you will notice over time that your palate will adjust and that food cravings will subside. That’s because processed foods and sugar set up a vicious cycle in which you crave more bad foods when you consume them. Cut them out of your meal plan, and your cravings will subside. Another benefit of avoiding these foods is that you will avoid the rapid spikes in blood sugar and insulin which they trigger. Why is this important? Because sharp spikes in insulin release promote increased fat deposition in the midsection.
Another dramatic change which you need to make is to drink plenty of water daily. My general rule is to buy an attractive 1 liter bottle, fill it 3 times during the course of a day, and drink all the water you put in that container.
If your abdominal muscles haven’t seen a sit-up in years, you should also incorporate abdominal exercises into your regimen. Here are my three favorite abdominal exercises which work for everyone, from beginners to advanced athletes:
If you are consistent with making healthy food choices and getting regular exercise, chances are good that you will see a toned tummy if you are already at a normal weight. If you are overweight, the healthier food choices will help you to slim down and get rid of belly fat, putting you on course for a tighter midsection.
Over two decades ago, my first seemingly dreamy and unattainable goal was to be involved in a yearly Japanese-American festival in Los Angeles known as Nisei Week, which was established back in 1934. Aside from a period of seven years between 1942 and 1948, during which World War II raged and carried a solid and jarring impact on the Japanese-American community, the Nisei Week festival has continued to run throughout the decades.
As a child, I remember seeing the Nisei Week Queen and court each year, and it became a dream of mine to be selected as a court member when I got older. However, I got sidetracked by life and didn’t bother to enter the competition for the local queen selection until the year I turned 25. I was stunned when I was chosen as the Queen of my community center (the San Fernando Valley Japanese American Community Center, or SFVJACC) for that year.
Once I was selected, I spent the next three months in regular meetings with the queens from the other eight participating communities, meetings in which we would practice all the routines for the beauty pageant which would mark the beginning of that year’s Nisei Week. We competed in that pageant for over 1,000 audience members in a 3 hour event, and though I didn’t win the Nisei Week Queen title, I was happy with being a Nisei Week Princess. We rode on floats, visited businesses, and fostered good will throughout the Japanese-American community.
When we were on stage, on parade floats, and on visitations, we would wear our sashes, a definite marker which identified us all as queen and court. On some occasions, we would wear our crowns, and were either clad in matching dresses, or in kimono.
Queen? Princess? I guess so, at least in pageant terms!
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As a physician, I am as much a therapist as I am a physical healer, and am well aware of the vital connection between mind, spirit and body. I have also seen how closely linked emotional stress is to development and exacerbation of physical ailments. What concerns me is when people abandon healthy habits during times of adversity, because it is at those times that some structure would provide balance to their lives.
A common question I hear from patients, clients, and strangers I meet is, “How can you maintain a regular exercise schedule and pack your food all the time with your busy careers?”, to which I respond, “I just do it.” Working out and eating right are as essential to me as sleeping and brushing my teeth. It never occurs to me to abandon healthy habits during stressful times. I recently went through a particularly difficult month during which I took a rigorous board certification exam, went through a residential move, and traveled to four destinations (two for my medical career, two for fitness and bodybuilding) over a two week period. Though I didn’t work out my usual six days per week, I did manage to train four to five days per week, every single week. The regular workouts gave me structure and balance which helped me to burn off some of the stress I was under, regulated my sleep cycle, and just plain felt good. In addition, I traveled with clean foods and lots of water, packing them and making sure I stayed on track.
Why would I push myself like this? Because I know that consistency is key to maintaining balance in one’s life. When I am consistent with my workouts and food, I maintain structure and focus and do not allow excuses of an insanely busy schedule to deter me from my mission to live an optimally healthy lifestyle. I know that if I were to deviate from a healthy lifestyle, I wouldn’t have the energy to push through my to-do list, and I certainly wouldn’t be very happy either. No matter whether I am traveling, working, or enjoying a rare free day for myself, I make sure to invest in myself every single day.
When I worked the Arnold Sports Festival Expo in Columbus, Ohio earlier this month, I made sure to drink plenty of water, filling up my one liter container 3 to 4 times each day. I also brought my Hot Logic Mini with me (https://youtu.be/GQltYTRLTC4) and had meals from Icon Meals with me, and I made sure to consume a meal every 3 hours to keep my energy levels up. If you are committed to living a healthy lifestyle, you will find ways to stay in line!
If you make an investment in yourself by being consistent with your exercise and meal habits, you will be rewarded with greater balance in your life and better health. Don’t you deserve that?