Out-of-whack hormones have all kinds of uncomfortable side effects and belly bloat is one of them. There’s a reason that bloating is one of the primary complaints women have during menopause! While you can’t turn back the clock and reclaim the hormone profile of your 20’s, you can make sure you’re within the normal range—something your doctor can check for you. In the meantime, eating right and exercising are natural ways to balance your hormones.
Fennel, peppermint, and ginger have all been shown in research studies to have calming effects on the belly. They work by enhancing digestive enzymes so your food gets moved through your system faster. And faster-moving food means a flatter tummy. In addition, peppermint reduces cramping and gas, ginger helps with nausea and inflammation, and fennel is a diuretic to help you stop retaining water.
Also, the natural sugar in fruit does affect your carbohydrate intake — especially if you eat a lot of fruit. This may temporarily raise your blood sugar or certain blood fats. However, this effect is lessened if you are losing weight. If you have diabetes or any other health conditions or concerns, work with your doctor to adjust the Mayo Clinic Diet for your situation. For example, people with diabetes should aim for more vegetables than fruits, if possible. It's a good idea to snack on vegetables, rather than snacking only on fruit.
Popularized by the documentary Forks Over Knives, the Ornish diet is a low-fat, plant-based diet plan based on whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes. It's based on a lacto-ovo style of vegetarianism, allowing only egg whites and nonfat dairy products. It's packed with vitamins, fiber, and lots of filling plants to keep you satiated. Some studies have shown it can reverse heart disease and have beneficial effects on other chronic health conditions. (BTW, there is a difference between a vegan diet and a plant-based diet.)
DASH stands for "dietary approach to stop hypertension" and was created by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as a way to help reverse national trends of obesity and heart disease. Scientists combed through decades of research to come up with an expert-backed list of diet tips, along with a prescription for exercise. And it worked: The DASH diet has topped nearly every diet list for nearly a decade. Doctors particularly recommend it for people looking to lower high blood pressure, reverse diabetes, and lower their risk of heart disease. (Here's the basic list of DASH diet-approved foods.)
If you do buy snacks and other convenience products like salad dressings, read the ingredients list and nutrition facts. Buy brands that are organic and free of pesticides and dyes. Skip the flavored version of foods like yogurt and add your own fresh fruit and honey to it. And when possible, make your own foods. Spend a few hours meal prepping on the weekends to make staples you can eat throughout the week, like sauce, dressings and healthy on-the-go snacks.
Eat polyunsaturated fats. While saturated fat leads to the body's retention of visceral fat, causing abdominal girth and excessive weight gain, studies have shown that a diet high in polyunsaturated fat helps promote the production of muscle mass instead of body fat. Polyunsaturated fats can also help reduce cholesterol levels in the body, lowering the risk of stroke and heart disease. Sources of polyunsaturated fats include:
That doesn't mean one type of eating has the edge, however. "I individualize eating plans to allow both men and women to enjoy their preferences for carbs or protein, providing they select the healthy versions," says Tallmadge, who is also a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. Another difference Tallmadge sees in her practice is that women tend to be fairly knowledgeable about food and calories, while the men don't think much about nutrition.
Keeping a toothbrush handy can do more than polish up that smile (and counter the effects of all that belly-slimming garlic); brushing your teeth throughout the day can also help you ditch that belly fat fast. A study conducted a sample of over 14,000 participants found that brushing after every meal was linked to lower weight. That minty toothpaste flavor not only clashes with virtually every food, brushing may also trigger a Pavlovian response that tells your brain the kitchen’s closed.
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Think cooking healthy meals is difficult and time-consuming? Think again. Annie Allen, a postsurgical nurse in Tampa Bay, Florida, let her freezer do half the work for her—and now she's down 52 pounds and runs about 10 races a year. "Frozen vegetables are as nutritious as fresh ones, and in minutes you have half of your meal prepared," she says. These frozen meals are also surprisingly healthy if you don't have time to mix and match one of your own.
Packaged meal programs: Many diet plans rely on meal-replacement bars, shakes, or other snack type foods. Still others rely on frozen entrees as a major part of your diet. Ask yourself if you are okay with a bulk of your diet relying on prepackaged snacks, shakes, or frozen meals, or if you prefer the flexibility of cooking your own meals or eating out frequently.
Getting a little more protein in your diet may be the way to go when you're trying to lose weight, according to a 2011 study published in The Journals of Gerontology. This study found that women over 50 lost more weight with a higher protein intake than with a higher carb intake eating the same number of calories. The researchers concluded that the improved weight loss was due to the preservation of lean body mass in the higher protein group. It's important to note, however, that the 2011 study increased protein intake using a whey protein supplement. Examples of weight-loss programs that are higher in protein include Weight Watchers, with 26 percent of calories from protein; the Atkins Diet, with 29 percent of calories from protein; and the South Beach Diet, with 30 percent of calories from protein.
Then, there’s biochemistry. In women, ghrelin — the “I’m hungry” hormone — spikes after a workout, while leptin — which tells the brain ‘I’m full!’ — plummets, according to a 2009 study in the American Journal of Physiology — Regulatory, Integral and Comparable Physiology. Not so in men. So post-workout, women tend to eat more, which puts them at risk to gain weight. Men don’t experience this same hormonal fluctuation.
We all want a toned, flat stomach. No surprise there. But since many women are still relying on crunches to get it, we want to make one thing clear: Crunching is not the most effective abs workout. "Crunches work only the muscles on the front and sides of your abdomen, but it's important to target all the muscles of the core to get more defined abs—including lower back, hips, and upper thighs," says Lou Schuler, co-author of The New Rules of Lifting for Abs. (Also try these 20 tricks for engaging your core and getting a sneaky abs workout.)
Switch to Lighter Alternatives. Whenever you can, use the low-fat versions of salad dressings, mayonnaise, dairy products, and other products. "You can trim calories effortlessly if you use low-fat and lighter products, and if the product is mixed in with other ingredients, no one will ever notice," says Magee. More smart substitutions: Use salsa or hummus as a dip; spread sandwiches with mustard instead of mayo; eat plain roasted sweet potatoes instead of loaded white potatoes; use skim milk instead of cream in your coffee; hold the cheese on sandwiches; and use a little vinaigrette on your salad instead of piling on the creamy dressing.