Learn How to Flatten Your Belly

I exercise every day, walking 50 minutes as part of my commute. (I also strength-train every weekend and try to fit in a weekly Pilates class or yoga session, too.) And I encourage every Prevention reader to make exercise a part of their healthy lifestyle.

To that end, I asked Prevention's fitness director, Michele Stanten, to devise the exercise program in Chapter 9 for you to follow as you embark on the Flat Belly Diet. Adding a fitness program to the eating plan and mental strategies will mean faster results (it certainly did for some of our testers). And of course, whether you're trying to lose weight or simply maintain good health, fitness is integral.

But what makes the Flat Belly Diet truly special is that you don't need to exercise to reap the benefits. If you do exercise, you will most certainly see results faster, and you will gain secondary benefits like improved cardiovascular health and stronger, more toned muscles. But you can still expect to shrink your belly—and lose both subcutaneous and visceral fat—by simply following the eating plan.

If you do not already exercise regularly, you don't have to start doing so right away. I have always been a big believer in the phrase "Small changes, big results."

To me, it's more important that you do something to reduce your belly fat than it is to do everything, only to find that too many changes are too overwhelming to maintain. If you do not already have a workout routine, incorporating a new way of eating into your lifestyle may be change enough for the first 32 days.

Like the four-day jumpstart, the four-week plan isn't only about what you eat. It's about how you think. In Chapter 8, you'll be asked to keep a daily journal—a key predictor of success on any diet. Every day, you'll be prompted to reflect on a particular aspect of your relationship to food, your belly, your body, and your goals. I call these reflections Core Confidences— not only because your belly lies at the physical center, or core, of your body, but also because your attitude is at the core of your ability to succeed . . . at anything.

Let's review:

The Flat Belly Diet is:

A Four-Day Anti-Bloat Jumpstart, with
A daily dose of Sassy Water and
A Mind Trick at every meal plus
A Four-Week Eating Plan, comprised of
Three 400-calorie meals a day of your choice and
One 400-calorie Snack Pack of your choice and
One daily Core Confidence reflection
An Optional Exercise Program, plus
The foundation for a way of life you can continue for

Throughout this book, look for the boxes titled Did You Know? and Fast Facts to learn more about fat, weight loss, and general health. These are quick tips, strategies, and bits of information that experts and readers tell me are useful. And don't forget to read the entries titled Notes from Our Nutritionist. These are written by Cynthia directly to you, sharing her own thoughts and advice about how to achieve success on this amazing program. You'll also find incredible success stories from the women (and men) who participated in our Flat Belly Diet test panel—and have a flatter belly to prove it!

I hope that by the time you finish reading this book and following this plan, you will have fallen in love with good, healthy food . . . and your belly. If there's one thing I realized when I turned 40, it was that maintaining a healthy mind and body were the absolute most important things I could do for myself—and my family. I wish that for all of us.

"Flat Belly Diet!" (Rodale Inc., January 2008)
by Liz Vaccariello, Prevention editor in chief, with Cynthia Sass, Prevention nutrition director, MPH, RD

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