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Getting in shape for the summer

Vahdaneh Vahid

Published: Updated:

The summer is now here and most of us are looking for that quick fix to help flatten our mid section or get that six-pack we oh so desire. So we will start the usual dieting process and do endless amounts of cardio along with it. Yes you may be lucky enough to get a flatter stomach this way but really, what is the long-term outcome? You will most likely feel miserable in the long run, with a lack of energy and hunger cravings all day long.

The worst thing is that drastic quick fixes such as these never last long term. When you starve your body of calories you may lose weight but not in a healthy way as you slow down your metabolic rate by being hungry all the time, therefore your body uses your muscles for energy instead.
Did you know?

Doing too much cardio has the same negative impact as long cardio session only break down muscle tissue for energy. So you’re not building a lean, strong metabolic powerhouse for the future. When next summer comes around you will find you need to work even harder and restrict more calories to get the weight off, due to slow, inactive, metabolism.

So here are my “healthy tips” that are less conventional than your average method, if your looking for healthy weight-loss and flat abs we need to look at the bigger picture. The healthy approach is to work on balancing out your hormones, improving your digestion, activating your core muscles and reducing your stress levels. I can guarantee if you use these less conventional alternatives in your life, you will be sure to get fantastic results.

Reduce your everyday stress

Upon a stress trigger, the body first releases Adrenaline and Cortisol (both stress hormones) and goes into a sympathetic response. We can do something as simple as skip a meal to trigger these stress hormones to rise. As soon as we do this, our blood sugar levels drop. The body goes into a fight or flight response by releasing the stress hormones mentioned above. In this event Cortisol can break down muscle, tissue and bone. We need muscle to burn fat! So there is one reason to keep your stress levels down if you want a healthy metabolism. Try yoga and meditation as a start to help balance out your sympathetic driven nervous system. The aim is to shift towards a more relaxed parasympathetic system.

Reducing that bloated look

When you eat foods such that cannot be digested well, such as grains (wheat, rye and rice), nuts, seeds and legumes, your gut becomes inflamed and swollen due to the irritants in these foods. Therefore your body cannot move food through the digestive tract efficiently. The best source of good fiber is from bamboo shoots or raw carrots; they both absorb bacteria, toxins and estrogen from digestive tract and do not irritate your gut. Eat more foods that are anti-inflammatory as they can also help heal your gut. Consider foods such as; homemade chicken or beef broths, grass-fed dairy and meats, root vegetables and ripe fruits.

Train, don’t drain

Most people spend way too much time at the gym overdoing their exercise program, increasing Adrenaline and Cortisol, which are both stress hormones. The role of Cortisol is to break down muscle tissue so that you are slowing down your metabolism this way rather than speeding it up. My advice is to keep your workouts very short, no longer than 15-20 minutes. To under-exercise is one of the hardest things in the world, so learn to listen to your body. Once you feel any changes in your mood, energy levels or if your blood sugar drops, then stop.

Eat regularly

Regulate your sugar levels and increase your metabolism by eating smaller meals and snacking every 2 - 3 hours. Skipping meals will break down your “oh so important muscles” for fuel, releasing fat into circulationdue to the high amounts of adrenaline. It ends up being stored as excess fat around your middle, giving you that spare tire look. Your cells are weakened from low blood sugar levels and allow water to enter them, giving you that puffy look, so this is another reason not to skip meals. Most of us do not have an appetite in the mornings, this is a sign of high adrenaline and eating breakfast is a great way to normalize your appetite throughout the day so you don’t suffer with cravings later that afternoon. Also, add coconut oil to your daily diet as it supports and simulates the thyroid gland allowing more thyroid hormones to be produced. The levels of saturated fat in coconut oil have been shown to support the thyroid function and subsequently improve your metabolic rate, resulting in weight loss.

Get to the core!

Most people suffer with dysfunctional transversus abdominis muscles (TVA). Which means these muscles are only working slightly, or not at all. The deep abdominal wall is ideally suited to perform a girdle-like supportive function (around your lower abs like a belt) allowing you to have a flat belly. A simple exercise to flatten your abs is a 4-Point Tummy Vacuum; it is a simple contraction exercise that will help get those core muscles activated again.

4-Point Tummy Vacum
• Assume a kneeling position with your hips over your knees and your shoulders over your hands.
• With your spine in neutral alignment, take a deep breath in and allow your tummy to drop out towards the floor.
• Exhale and draw your belly button in towards your spine, while keeping your back in the start position.
• Hold (with the TVA activated) for as long as you comfortably can.
• When you need to breath in, relax your abdominal wall as your inhale and repeat the exercise for 10 repetitions.

So the next time you want a quick fix which results in stressing your body out and slowing down your metabolism, just remember “you can’t lose weight to get healthy, you need to get healthy to lose weight.” Once you apply this method, not only will you have more energy, feel great and become less stressed in your everyday life but most importantly your body will also let go of the fat around your middle for good!

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Vahdaneh Vahid is a UK-based Personal Trainer who recently moved to Dubai. She has had an interest in fitness from a young age. Her motto is now "Train Don't Drain" and teaches her clients that a balanced understanding of their physical, mental and emotional wellness is key. She can be found on Twitter: @vvfitness

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.