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.)
After a cancer diagnosis sent her normally healthy lifestyle off-course, flight attendant Tracey Z. Dickson was heavier than she had ever been. When she was declared cancer-free, she hopped back on the treadmill and got her diet in order—and went from 158 pounds to 117. One of her diet secrets? "Instead of dessert, I'll have a baked sweet potato sprinkled with cinnamon," she says. "It tastes like I'm eating sweet potato pie, but for a ton less calories." For more healthy ideas on how to get your sugar fix, check out these desserts with 150 calories (or less).
It’s just as important and beneficial (if not more so) to focus on diet quality rather than quantity, says a 2018 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Focus on real foods rather than a strict number of calories and you’re more likely to stay slim over the long term. Shapiro recommends these shedding superfoods, in particular:
Visceral fat, commonly known as belly fat, is the layer of fat below the muscles of your abdomen. Due to its crucial location surrounding many of your vital organs, belly fat supplies a constant source of energy but also exposes the body to harmful toxins and hormones. When you have too many fat cells or your fat cells get too large, they can overproduce toxins that increase your risk for chronic inflammation, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. This is why belly fat can be more dangerous than subcutaneous fat—or the outer layer of fat that you can pinch with your fingers. That said, the reason you're having trouble buttoning your pants may not be visceral fat: what we're calling "belly fat" these days could be bloating or water retention rather than a fat buildup. Read on for steps you can take to beat the bulge.
About: Holly’s story starts and ends with food. Years ago, Holly spent every waking minute obsessing over every calorie, every bite and trying every yo-yo diet she could think of to shed pounds. But then one day she woke up and realized she would never find happiness living that way. She began focusing on finding a love of healthy food and cooking, a love she now shares on her blog and sees as her true purpose in life. There, you’ll find everything you need to learn to enjoy food again without all the guilt.
About: Jackie’s a makeup artist by trade, but has been struggling with her weight since she was 17. As she puts it, she’s tried almost every diet out there, but nothing seems to work for good. But when she started her blog in June 2015, she decided to start, and stick with, losing weight for good. Readers have been with her every step of the way as she shares recipes and meals, beauty tips and honest, down-pat product reviews.
Lisa Cain is a mother and writer for the healthy living blog Snack Girl. After learning from her doctor that she needed to gain control of her weight, Lisa was devoted to finding a new strategy and approach to weight loss that would help her make a long-term lifestyle change. Her blog is dedicated to creating healthy versions of her favorite snack foods and providing helpful tips for enjoying the process.
Also, while your menstrual cycle may not affect weight gain or loss, losing or gaining weight can affect your menstrual cycle. Women who lose too much weight or lose weight too quickly may stop having a period, or have irregular periods. Women who have obesity may also have irregular periods. A regular period is a sign of good health. Reaching a healthy weight can help women who have irregular periods to have cycles that are more regular. Learn more in our Menstrual Cycle section.