A couple of weeks ago during California’s cold snap, I was looking for a lunch recipe for the week. The winter temperatures had me craving something warm and filling. I like to make a large batch of something healthy yet tasty and bring it to work with me – it makes it easier to have a week’s worth of lunch ready instead of throwing it together every morning when I am inevitably running 15 minutes late. I love chili, but I didn’t think meat would store well for more than a couple of days, so I decided to make a vegetarian version of my own chili recipe. Enjoy!
1 to 2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 yellow squash, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. garlic salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can kidney or pinto beans (your choice), drained and rinsed
1 14.5 oz. can tomato sauce
1 14.5 oz. can crushed tomatoes
¾ cup vegetable broth (you can use chicken broth if you don’t have the veggie on hand)
1 tsp. cider vinegar
4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
In a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add onions and sauté for about 5 minutes or until soft and translucent. Be sure to lower the heat if the onions are browning – they should just soften. Add garlic, stir for one minute. Add bell pepper and squash to the onion and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes or until the veggies begin to soften.
Once veggies are cooked, add chili powder, cumin, oregano, garlic salt and pinch of cayenne pepper. Mix thoroughly,then add both cans of beans, tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, vegetable broth, cider vinegar and Worcestershire. Stir well. Turn heat to medium high and bring to a low boil. Lower heat and simmer for at least 20 minutes (I let mine simmer for about 40 to bring out the flavor). Adjust seasonings to taste.
This is a pretty quick way to make a healthy chili, and it will last in the fridge for 4 to 5 days. Feel free to play with the recipe – add mushrooms or carrots or another favorite veggie, add or substitute the spices according to what you like, and swap your favorite can of beans.
Bring along a whole wheat roll or some corn tortilla chips to help fill you up. If you like chili you are sure to enjoy this recipe – coworkers were telling me all week how good it looked and smelled!
The stick you just peed on confirms that you are pregnant. Congratulations!!! Now, you can eat just as much as you want because you are eating for two, right? Ummm…guess again…
The + on that stick does not give you a hall pass in the kitchen, at the takeout window, or at the froyo-by-weight counter. Now, more than ever, you have to think about what you are eating. You are actually eating for 1.1, not 2. Your growing baby is highly unlikely to exceed 10% of your body weight. I’ll bet that the little person will weigh much less than that at the due date.
So, doubling your daily calories does not make sense. Did you know that during your first trimester, you actually don’t need to eat any more than what you do non-preggers? In your third trimester, which is when you will need to eat more, you won’t need much more than 300-500 extra calories per day.
The quality of the food you eat is far more important than the quantity of food that you eat. This is true all the time but especially now that you are pregnant. The body growing inside of you will extract all the nutrients that it needs from your body if you are not getting enough. For example, if you don’t have enough calcium in your diet, your body will “donate” calcium from your bones (where it is stored) to help develop the skeletal system of the baby you are growing inside of you. And, nobody wants to be at a greater risk for osteoporosis after a pregnancy.
Having just gone through a pregnancy and relatively uneventful labor, I am sharing with you my “power meal go-to menu” that kept my baby and me healthy, lean, strong, and happy (yes, I enjoyed my pregnancy!). Often I was still on-the-go, so these meals were pretty quick to prepare:
1. Quick-cook oats and frozen berries cooked and drizzled with ½ cup plain almond milk, fortified with calcium and vitamin D
2. Low-fat Greek yogurt (or dairy-free yogurt made with coconut milk) with a tablespoon of raw honey and slivered almonds
3. Scrambled eggs (scrambled with fortified milk or milk substitute) topped with sliced tomatoes and/or avocado and whole grain toast with a smear of organic unsalted butter
4. Sliced apple or banana with organic peanut butter or almond butter with sea salt
5. Fresh veggies with yogurt dip or white bean hummus
1. Grilled salmon (fish once per week), chicken, or 4 ounces of lean steak over bed of fresh and colorful salad
2. Chicken teriyaki bowl with lots of steamed veggies over brown rice
3. Stir-fried firm tofu (or other lean protein) with tri-color bell peppers and snap peas over egg noodles or brown rice
4. Spicy minestrone soup with a side salad
5. Roasted turkey with sides of sweet potato hash and steamed veggies
!. Berries and/or banana slices with dark chocolate drizzle
2. ½ cup of frozen yogurt with fresh fruit and honey drizzle
3. Baked green apple with caramelized brown sugar (a small scoop of vanilla bean ice cream is optional)
Sounds good, right? Well, you don’t have to be pregnant to enjoy these easy go-to meals. They are healthy and energy-boosting for you regardless of whether or not you are growing a “mini-me” inside of you.
Every day millions of women mentally prepare themselves for the uncomfortable visit to their OBGYN for an annual exam. (Writer’s note: While a pap smear is only required every three years if they’re normal, I personally think an annual visit is still important as a general check-in with your doctor to make sure everything is OK and to voice any concerns you may have.)
While sometimes unpleasant, take these visits as an opportunity to improve your health. No one likes to be poked and prodded, but it can be beneficial to spend some time with your gynecologist and ask a few questions or bring up anything that’s been bothering you. I’m a person who tends to assume the worst, so I like to ask questions and talk a lot at my annual visits. It usually reassures me that the tiny twinge of pain that I think I felt in my ovary isn’t some life-ending disease and that I am, actually, healthy. Here are a few issues and questions you may want to discuss at your next visit:
1. “This itches…Is that common?” Okay, it’s a little gross, I know. But sometimes ladies experience some vaginal itching. In some cases it’s a result of hormones and anatomy, but in other cases it may need attention. Two common issues that cause itchiness include bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections. If you haven’t had either of those, lucky you! If you have, you’re in good company. When talking to your doctor, be open and ask your gyno what you can do to prevent them in the future.
2. “Are there any particular health issues that affect women my age?” Because there are a variety of health concerns that come from our reproductive system, it’s important to be educated on what some of those concerns might be at every stage of your life. Between cervical and ovarian cancers, vaginal cysts, fertility, infections and more, it’s a good idea to just talk to your doctor about common issues women face.
3. “My cycle is really irregular. Is this a problem?” While you may not be trying to start a family right now, irregularity in your menstrual cycle could be cause for concern in the fertility department. Bring this up with your gynecologist and be very specific. He or she may have some advice for you to get more clarity, or may just tell you that you have nothing to worry about.
4. “Can I change my method of contraception?” There are so many choices today when it comes to birth control, and thanks to the Internet we can pretty much educate ourselves. But doctors and nurse practitioners know a lot more. Whether you want to switch pills or switch your system altogether, it’s important to discuss your options with your gynecologist. They may have insight to another method and can discuss the pros and cons of each.
5. “What essential vitamins and nutrients do I need to get and how should I get them?” This may seem obvious, but ask your doctor anyway. I know from talking to my gyno that iron and calcium are essential. I have been instructed to take a women’s supplement with calcium and other daily vitamins in addition to eating the right foods. Discuss your family’s health history with your doctor or nurse practitioner and ask for suggestions on what foods to eat/vitamins to take. It has a major effect on your long-term health.
If you’d like to dig a little deeper into this subject, the women’s health center on Web MD is a great resource. Don’t be afraid to speak up or get personal. It may seem like overkill or TMI, but really, it’s worth it to have a conversation and ask a few questions. When it comes to our womanhood, it’s better to be safe than sorry, right?
The holiday season is right around the corner. That means cocktail parties, cocktail dresses, and of course, the classic LBD. What that also means is you’ll need to gain the will power to "just say no" to your pants with the elastic waistband this Thanksgiving and in the weeks that follow. Here are few simple, easy-to-follow tips to enjoy your holiday eating and imbibing without the guilt.
Exercise in the morning
Plan a hike with your family and/or visiting guests, join a local group bike ride, or check out local fitness facilities that offer special Thanksgiving or other morning classes. On Turkey Day, check to see if your hometown holds a Turkey Trot or another fun 5k or 10k race on Thanksgiving morning. Many of these races exist around the country and most of the proceeds benefit food banks and local charities trying to feed the hungry.
Including physical activity on the mornings of the most gluttonous season of the year means you will be able to increase your metabolism for the day and will likely make better food choices when at the dinner table. If you decide to indulge in an extra slice of pie or glass of wine, at least you’ve burned a few calories first!
Maintain your workout schedule
Company, club, and family parties may interfere with your regular workout schedule. Checking your weekly schedule at the beginning of each week is a good practice to keep, and even more so during this time of holiday commitments. When holiday parties interfere with your workouts, reschedule your workout at a different time. Don't skip your workouts, even if it means abbreviating them. Squeezing in 15-20 minutes will still provide you more benefits than not doing anything at all.
Don’t skip breakfast
In order to prevent guilt-ridden overeating and letting out the waistband on your trousers, eat breakfast. Do not skip meals earlier in the day. Prepare healthy meals or snacks before your dinner to avoid feeling famished, which can result in overeating.
Use smaller plates
I know... you are already dreaming about plates laden with Thanksgiving goodies. But if you want to keep your summer shape, you will have to serve yourself smaller portions all winter long. Serve yourself 1/3-1/2 of what you would normally put on your plate. If you opt for a second serving you should still serve yourself a smaller portion. With this approach you will consume at least half the calories of holidays-past.
Practice conscious consumption
Rather than eating mindlessly while deep in conversation, look at what you stick your fork into before putting it in your mouth. Enjoy the flavors while savoring the food as you chew slowly. You will be less likely to eat the food that is not as satisfying to you, become satiated faster, eat more slowly (which means you will have less time to go up for seconds), and enjoy the taste of your meal at the first plate.
Enjoy this holiday season! And if you follow these tips, you'll be able to do it while staying the same size into the New Year's Eve party. Read: you won't be one of those frantic weight loss fanatics fighting over the treadmill at the gym, madly trying to lose the nine pounds gained over the course of the five weeks of winter holiday festivities. Instead, you’ll look stunning and chic as you ring in 2013.
The staggering statistics of the health crisis in the United States can be overwhelming. Most Americans need to get more exercise, which can make one of the biggest differences in your health. Even 30 minutes a few times a week can do wonders not only for your body but your self-esteem as well. I know that we all lead such busy lives and sometimes getting to the gym isn't always possible, so a little resourcefulness can go a long way to keep your fitness habit alive.
For example, there are a wide variety of exercises you can do in the park. You get a chance to go outdoors, breathe real air, and see new things. And the best part about it? There’s no equipment to bring. Here are some ways to turn your local park into a gym:
First off, the warm up! Take a few laps around the park before you begin as well as in between your exercises. This adds a cardio element to your workout. Then try some:
Park Bench Dips
Sit on a park bench and then lift your body weight up and out, palms on the edge of the bench and facing out and your elbows straight. Your knees will be bent and your feet flat on the ground. Bend your elbows and then straighten to dip down and up. Be sure not to rock back and forth. Instead, keep your back very close to the bench during the entire movement and limit the movement to up and down.
Monkey Bar Pull Ups
Hang from the low monkey bars with your legs outstretched in front of you and heels on the ground. Pull yourself up as high as you can and then lower back down to the starting position. Your back will be a bit rounded in the starting position. As you pull yourself up, you'll notice that your back straightens considerably. Make an effort to consciously squeeze your shoulder blades together during the movement for maximum toning.
Park Bench Step Ups
Stand in front of a park bench and step up one foot at a time. Step down the same way, making sure your heel isn’t hanging off the edge of the bench. Park benches are pretty high, which makes this exercise quite a challenge and one you'll want to perform fairly slowly to maintain good form. If you're a beginner, you can easily choose a lower step to use instead of the bench. Be sure to keep your back erect and get your entire foot planted on the bench with each step.
Tip: You'll want to switch the starting leg at some point. Beginners can switch halfway through their 30-60 second time frame. More advanced exercisers will want to start a brand new 30-60 seconds for their second starting leg!
Stand in a lunge position with your back foot up on the bottom of the slide. Lower down, bending your front knee to about 90 degrees, being careful not to let your front knee jut out beyond your toes. Push back up to your starting position, focusing most of your weight through your front heel (rather than your back foot). Be sure to keep your body erect and to keep the movement going up and down rather than forward and back, which would place undue strain on the knee. After your first 30 to 60-second set, you'll need to switch legs and repeat on the other side.
V-Sit Ab Toner
Sit on the end of a park bench, facing sideways (so that the back of the bench won't be in your way). Place your hands on the bench on either side of you, and lean forward while drawing your knees in toward your chest. Next, lean back while extending your legs out in front of you. Stay balanced on your rear end and repeat the movement back and forth as smoothly as possible, while holding in your abdominals as tightly as possible during the motion.
Hanging Ab Toner
This one is tough! Hang from the high monkey bars. (Your feet should not be able to touch the ground.) Pull your knees up as high as you can and then lower them back to your starting position. Be sure to keep the movement slow and controlled and avoid using momentum (i.e. swinging your legs up there!). Beginners may want to work this one into the routine gradually!
Sit on the edge of a bench and place palms behind you on the seat, fingers forward. Maintaining a neutral spine, lean back slightly and lift legs, knees bent 90 degrees, off ground. Keeping chest lifted, shoulders back and right knee still, touch ground with left toe, then raise left knee back to start position. Switch sides and repeat to complete one rep. Do 10 reps.
Not every exercise is right for everybody. If any of the exercises causes pain in your joints or otherwise causes discomfort beyond tired muscles, it may not be right for you. It is normal to experience muscle soreness after trying a new exercise routine, but that should subside quickly. Good luck, and have fun!
A couple of years ago I really started focusing on what I put into my body. I read numerous books on healthy/clean eating and I researched various diets, including raw food diets and vegetarian/vegan diets. Through my research I found a few “superfoods” that every diet seemed to be in consensus about. Superfoods are foods that are so beneficial for you that you should be eating some of them every day. Keep these items on your radar:
Berries- Not only are berries naturally sweet and delicious, but they also pack a lot of antioxidants and phytonutrients, with very few calories. They are full of fiber and have a high water content, which fills you up quickly and aids with digestion. Add a handful of berries to your morning cereal or oatmeal. Just make sure to always buy organic due to the high pesticide content and their thin skin.
Quinoa- Quinoa was once hard to find but is now is readily available in almost all supermarkets. It’s high in protein and fiber and is also a good source of iron. It’s one of the best whole grains you can eat and it is easy to incorporate into your diet. Try substituting quinoa for the rice in a stir-fry.
Kale- Kale is a leafy green full of vitamins A, C and K. K is especially important for reducing the risk of developing cancer, and is a necessity for healthy bones and blood clotting. Try using steamed kale in place of spinach or adding some raw pieces to your next salad.
Beans- Beans are one of the best ways to incorporate fiber into your diet. They are a low fat way to fill you up and help rid your body of waste, which is imperative to a healthy digestive system. Beans are also a good source of protein, which means that they can be substituted for meat in a meal. Try a veggie and black bean burrito or make garbanzo bean hummus to use as a sandwich spread.
Salmon- Salmon has a high omega -3 fatty acid content, which is important for the health of your heart. It has a lot of protein, is a good source of iron and is low in saturated fat. Always choose wild over farm raised salmon, and don’t eat it more than twice a week due to its mercury content. Hit the superfood trifecta by pairing salmon with quinoa and steamed kale!
Avocados- Avocados are full of cholesterol lowering healthy, and they’re high in lutein, which aids in healthy vision. They have also been shown to lower the risk of stroke and cardiovascular diseases. Another bonus: Avocados are one of the cleanest vegetables when it comes to pesticides. Want to go a nontraditional route with avocado? Puree it and make it into a homemade chocolate mousse for dessert!
Sweet Potato- Sweet potatoes are a very inexpensive super food to add to your diet. They are high in Vitamins B6, C and D and are also a good source of magnesium. Magnesium is necessary for healthy blood, heart and nerve function, as well as healthy arteries. Try making baked sweet potato French fries!
Carrots- Carrots are one of my favorite super foods because they are packed with vitamins (B1, B2, B6 and K) and serve as a good source of fiber, potassium and thiamine. AND they are low in calories! Carrots have also been shown to have strong cleansing properties that detoxify the liver and help with acne. That not enough to convince you? How about this?: The beta-carotene in carrots function as an antioxidant and slow down the negative effects of aging. Run 4 or 5 carrots through a juicer for a refreshing drink.
Nuts- Nuts have a bad reputation because they’re high in calories and fat, but they’re extremely beneficial when eaten in small amounts. Nuts are a great source of antioxidants, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and L-arginine, which may help improve the health of artery walls. The best way to eat nuts is in the shells. You’ll eat less because you have to work harder to get them!
Incorporate these foods into your diet and your body will surely thank you. If you have recipe ideas featuring any of these ingredients, share them with us!
At some point in your life, you’ve probably heard the term “BMI.” But what is it? BMI is a commonly used acronym for body mass index. It gives us a value that helps doctors determine whether you are in the appropriate weight range for your height. BMI is the ratio of weight to height: BMI=weight in kilograms/height2 . In other words, it gives us a specific number that tells us whether we are healthy, average, overweight, or obese. BMI values of 30 or greater are considered obese.
A person who is obese has more body fat than is considered healthy. Excess levels of body fat will put that person at risk for numerous life-threatening illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, heart disease, and some forms of cancers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 35% of American adults and 17% of children are obese based on BMI calculations. Those are pretty alarming numbers, right?
What is more alarming, is that BMI is not always an accurate indicator of obesity, so the above data is skewed…most likely, Americans are even more obese than those estimates. Although there are some elite-level athletes who yield false positive results for obesity (they have so much muscle weight relative to their height that it pushes them into morbidly overweight categories), according to BMI, they are not the norm. These healthy athletes with BMIs over 30 make up less than 5% of the American population; whereas, underactive Americans make up 80% of our population. Although, some people may fall into healthy weight categories—even appear thin—according to BMI calculations, they may have body fat percentages that are well above what is healthy—greater than or equal to 35% and 25%, in women and men, respectively. (Yes, that is what people call “skinny fat”.)
Obesity is best measured using body composition, or percent body fat, to determine a person’s health risks. Unfortunately, the margin of error for commercial body fat scales and technicians are great. That being said, it’s important to know your personal level of body fat and how it is affecting your health. Check your local fitness facility or nutritionist for an experienced body fat tester in order to have the most accurate measurements taken. If you have access to somebody who might be able to accurately measure your body fat, do so to determine whether or not you might be at risk for obesity-related illnesses. Otherwise, the BMI table will be the next best estimate.
Regardless of what health category you fall under—healthy or obese—it is a good practice to exercise daily. The minimum recommendation for physical activity, as advised by the American College of Sports Medicine is 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise five days per week, for a total of 150 minutes (or 2.5 hours) per week. This simple habit, along with a healthy diet, will ensure that most weight-related health risks are kept at bay.
You know who they are. They eat pizza in front of your face, licking their chops while you push around the half salad on your plate. They excitedly tell you about how they lost two pounds after a “very intense” Bikram’s yoga class with no regard for the two hours you just spent on the treadmill. They are the skinny b**ches. You have no idea how they do it but they eat what they want, rarely exercise and stay slim. Instead of just casting shade, you may want to take note of their habits and see if you can pick up some of that skinny b**ch magic. We polled a few of the women we know who eat like crazy but somehow…someway, still stay skinny on their habits and here is what they had to say:
1. Drink lots of water and/or fortified water beverages. Drinking a full glass of water or a serving of Vitamin Water can help dull hunger and prevent snacking. Plus, water keeps you hydrated and the supplements in Vitamin Water can definitely help if you’re not taking your daily dose in the morning. We recommend Skinny Water for crave control.
2. Opt for healthy snacks between meals. Peanut butter and almonds are very filling, high in protein and take a bite out of overeating. Only try this if you’re good with portion control though -- overindulging in these = a lot of calories and fat!
3. Choose substitutes. A lot of restaurants allow you to make substitutions on your order for little or no charge. Take advantage and change in a side salad or side of veggies instead of fries with your meal.
4. Go for a lighter cocktail at happy hour. Whether it’s choosing a Bud 55 in place of a regular beer or picking up a Skinny Girl mix at the store, this is an easy way to stay on track without giving up being social.
5. Park far away and walk. Or use the stairs in place of an elevator. Just make sure you have walking shoes on hand.
6. Buy pre-portioned items at the store. Many foods come packaged this way, from nuts to fruit snacks. If you can’t trust yourself to divvy up the right amount, these items take care of portion control for you.
7. Go shopping. Walking around a huge mall can be an excellent form of exercise, and it makes the time pass quite pleasantly. Think about it, you can sit at a coffee shop for your entire lunch break and not burn a calorie, or you can spend an hour window shopping (banking a full hour of walking/calorie burning!). And the best part is: no gym clothes required.
8. When eating out never finish your meals. Lots of restaurants serve up huge portions. Don’t feel like this is a challenge to clean your plate. Eat until you feel full and take the rest to go.
9. If you have a sweet tooth, try substituting fruit or flavored Greek yogurt in place of your nightly bowl of ice cream. You’ll cut calories and add nutritional value. Another trick: If you’re REALLY craving a piece of cake or cookies, eat a lollypop. The quick sugar fix usually snaps you out of the craving (and saves hundreds of calories!).
10. Check out healthy food blogs. There are a lot of them linked through picture images on Pinterest. You’d be amazed at some of the awesome, lightened up recipes people come up with!
Of course not everything works for everyone. And you may need to go slightly harder in the gym than the next girl. But incorporating some of these habits in your efforts to slim down is still a good start. Any other skinny girls out there with some great tips? Share them below!
Unless you are one of the lucky people who gets to work from home, you probably don’t have access to your kitchen all day. Being away from the foods that you choose can be hard, especially when you are surrounded with office temptations, or low hanging fruit. A coworker brings in brownies; your boss gets everyone morning donuts or maybe that darn lunch cart keeps coming back around! This is why you should always have healthy snacks in you bag or desk drawer for those times when hunger strikes and there are only unhealthy options. Here are some of my favorites!
Carrots or celery and almond butter
Carrots and celery provide a satisfying crunch while the almond butter adds some healthy fats and is a good source of protein.
Dried dates with pecans
This is for those of you (like me!) with a never-ending sweet tooth. This combination tastes like pecan pie without the guilt!
Air popped popcorn with garlic powder
Popcorn is a great low-calorie snack that satisfies the need to munch without adding to your waistline. It’s a good source of fiber, and a recent study found that it also has beneficial antioxidants. Adding the garlic powder is a great way to add flavor without the fat. Simply Organic has a great garlic powder sold at Target.
Organic Pure Bars
These are my favorite bars. The ones I like are made with organic, whole ingredients that come from the earth. They also keep me satisfied for a longer period of time then the sugary granola bars often found in vending machines. These can be found at Trader Joe’s, Fresh & Easy, Whole Foods or most of your favorite grocery stores
Apples, pears, and bananas
These fruits are always a smart snack to reach for. They are low in calories, easy to eat and don’t need to be refrigerated. You can also buy enough for the entire week without breaking the bank. (Helpful hint: if you live near a Trader Joe’s bananas are only 19 cents apiece!)
Sliced cucumbers with guacamole or hummus
This option is a little messier but it’s filling and gets some healthy fats into your diet to curb cravings. Cut up your cucumber the night before and measure out a serving of hummus or guac and take with you in a separate container. Bringing the full container can lead to eating many more calories then intended.
Guard yourself against those unhealthy options lurking in the breakroom. Be prepared with these healthy snacks and you will stay full and fit. It’s a win-win!
If you’ve watched any late night TV you know that every other exercise infomercial claims to hold the secret to getting washboard abs… In 2 days or less! I'm gonna go out on a limb and speculate that machines and workouts promising chiseled abs make up at least half of the multi-billion dollar weight loss industry. But, guess what? You can't spot train your abs. If you want a six-pack, it's gonna take more than a magic machine or a billion crunches. It takes a full program of diligent exercise, a healthy diet that does not allow over-eating, and a good set of genes.
Sorry if I already have, but I'm not here to rain on your parade. What I am here to do is give you five of my favorite abdominal exercises to incorporate into your fitness regime, not one of which is a friggin' crunch.
Begin face down, while you prop yourself up on your elbows, shoulders directly over them. Pull your navel in toward your back, draw your tailbone down toward your heels, squeeze your gluts, and press your hips up off the floor. You’re planking! Advanced? Press up onto your toes, lifting your knees off the floor as well. Hold for ten seconds and repeat 6-10 times.
Begin on your side, propping your upper body up on your elbow, shoulder directly over, and hips and knees in line putting you in one plane. Keeping your chest open, abs in, and gluts squeezed, press your hips up. Draw your bottom rib toward the top of your pelvis. Hold for 10 seconds. As this gets easier, progress to holding for one minute. Repeat on the opposite side.
Begin on all fours (hands below shoulders and knees below hips), with your tailbone drawn down to flatten your back. While holding your abs in and squeezing your glutes, extend opposite arm and leg. Keeping your back flat, draw elbow and knee toward your midline and touch them together (if your range of motion allows you), extend again, and repeat about 10 times. Then do the same with the other side.
Again, begin on all fours (hands below shoulders and knees below hips), with your tailbone drawn down to flatten your back. Extend your right arm up, using your back muscles to stretch your chest. Then reach your arm under you, through the space between your left arm and leg. Be mindful that your hips remain over your knees to ensure optimal oblique ab engagement. Repeat 10 times and do the same using your left arm.
This time, you’re on your back. As usual, keep your navel tucked in toward your waistband. Your head and neck are relaxed on the floor, arms resting on either side of you, and legs are extended straight over your hips. If the backs of your thighs (your hamstrings) are tight, keep your knees, which line up over your hips, bent. In a controlled manner lower one leg toward the floor while keeping your lower back flat against the floor. Return the leg to ready position and do the same on the other side. Repeat 8-12 times on each side.
Why didn’t crunches make the list, you ask? Because these exercises are so much more functional in working every aspect of your abdominal muscles and the muscles of your core. (Heard that word thrown around the gym before? Your core includes more than just your abs; it refers to all the stabilizers of your trunk—from hips to shoulders.) These exercises will work those abs, improve your posture, and help you prevent injury. Translation: You’ll look and feel taller, prevent pain, and tone every muscle in your body’s middle. And you didn’t even have to make three easy payments of $29.95! ;-)