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ANSWER: SOLVE YOUR BULGING BELLY
Absolutely fabulous: The craving for chiseled stomach muscles," blazed the front-page headline in USA Today (May 21, 1996). Placed throughout this article were pictures of the rippling midsections of Sylvester Stallone, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Janet Jackson, and a Calvin Klein underwear model.
"It used to be enough just to be thin," wrote Joe Urshel, the author of this cover story. "No more. Now you must have great abs."
Understanding the Obsession
Why are Americans so obsessed with flat stomachs and muscular waists?
Much of this obsession has to do with the law of supply and demand. What is scarce and difficult to achieve is valuable -- not only valuable but attractive.
Twenty years ago, according to Ann Scott Beller, Americans were the third fattest people in the world -- ranking behind the Russians and Germans. Not so today. In 1995, we were elevated to the number one position.
As if this number one position isn't secure enough, we're trying to run up the score.
A study released by the Harris poll in February of 1996 shows that 74 percent of Americans twenty-five years of age and older are overweight. Similar Harris surveys found that 58 percent were overweight in 1983, 64 percent in 1990, 69 percent in 1994, and 71 percent in 1995.
If this rate of increase -- approximately 1.1 percent per year -- continues unabated, then by the year 2021 every adult in the United States over twenty-five will be overweight.
Obviously, we're becoming more and more obsessed with flat stomachs, great abdominals, and leanness in general -- because we're seeing fewer and fewer of what we find attractive. Remember the law of supply and demand? It applies not only to economics but also to body parts.
The opposite of a flat stomach is a protruding or bulging belly. The opposite of leanness is fatness.
Research reveals a direct relationship between flat and lean, and between protrusion and fatness. A person with a protruding belly has too much overall body fat.
Thus, one important step in getting a flat stomach is to reduce overall fat. Other than surgery, which I don't recommend, there's no way to remove only belly fat. But most people do have the genetics to lose the majority of fat from their thickest storage spots, which is often the stomach area.
Before getting into the cure or answer for a bulging belly, it's important to understand briefly some of the causes.
Why Americans Are Getting Fatter
Here are the primary reasons why Americans are gaining fat pounds and inches:
The leisure-time activities of most people increasingly revolve around television, movies, and other passive activities. As a consequence, most adults lose one-half pound of muscle mass per year, which causes a onehalf percent decline in metabolic rate.
The Answer to the Problem
Logically, the answer must involve corrections for all of the causes, and it does.
Science: The Most Important Cornerstone
As stated in the introduction, ASAP is a common acronym for as soon as possible. These letters also stand for Awareness, Science, Application, and Persistence, which are the cornerstones of stomach flattening.
Science is the most important cornerstone.
At the heart of science is the tension between contradictory attitudes: an openness to new ideas, no matter how bizarre they may be, and a skeptical scrutiny of both new and old ideas. The battle between creative and skeptical thinking keeps science on track.
For more than twenty-five years I've been, in a sense, a scientist. Even before I began college, I had a curiosity about facts and a desire to search out the truth. For most of my fifty-three years I've had a strong interest in physical fitness.
I graduated from Florida State University in 1972 with a Ph.D. in exercise science and then completed two years of postdoctoral study in the food and nutrition department. I was director of research for Nautilus Sports/Medical Industries for seventeen years. As a result, I've read, studied, and reviewed much of the scientific literature on fitness. Furthermore, I've researched and published more than 350 articles and forty-four books on food, nutrition, fat loss, and strength training.
In the process, I've trained more than four thousand men and six thousand women on various eating and exercising plans. My overriding objective was always to find the most effective and efficient way to reduce fat and build muscle.
I can truthfully say that A Flat Stomach ASAP is the best fat-loss program that I've ever developed.
Some of the success of the ASAP program is connected to a popular home abdominal machine called the AB Trainer.
AB Trainer Connection
While I was director of research for Nautilus Sports/Medical Industries, I saw dozens of prototypes for new exercise machines that came mostly from amateur designers. Some of them were as big as an automobile and others were as small as a birdcage. Some came equipped with gears and motors, others with lights and beepers. Without exception, the pieces I examined were neither practical nor an improvement over what was already available.
So you might say I was a bit skeptical when I was approached by Don Brown, the owner of a large fitness center in Chester, New Jersey. I had just finished one of my presentations at a Nautilus Training Seminar in New York City during July of 1994, and Don was one of the attendees. Don invited me to his hotel room to try his new invention.
As I entered his room, I saw it: the AB Trainer. it was about the size of a small rocking chair with the back missing. One of Don's buddies was on the floor using it, smoothly crunching his abdominals into a tight muscular contraction.
Instantly, I recognized the potential for this device.
The AB Trainer was small, lightweight, easy to use, and safe. But more important, it forced you to do a trunk curl or abdominal crunch in the most productive manner.
I understood the AB Trainer, tried it, felt it in my middle, and told Don I'd be interested in doing some research with it.
Three months later, Don shipped me six AB Trainers for use in a specially designed stomach-flattening project. By mid-1995, after having put three groups of subjects through my scientific protocols, I had meaningful data to share.
Don Brown and I joined forces and developed "The 10-Day Quick-Start Program for a Flat Stomach," which features the AB Trainer. This course is packaged with each AB Trainer that is sold. Furthermore, it's a salient part of the 28-minute infomercial that was produced by Stilson & Stilson.
You may have seen me on the AB Trainer infomercial, which has been frequently shown on many cable television stations throughout most of 1996. Perhaps you've ordered one of the AB Trainer units or purchased one from a large department store in your city. More than one million of the machines were sold in 1996.
Even though Don Brown owns the original patent for an abdominal machine that supplies roller-frame support for the head and arms, his concept has been copied, renamed, manufactured, and sold by many companies. At last count, Don had filed lawsuits for patent violations against twelve different manufacturers.
I know the AB Trainer is a quality machine. I've tested and used it extensively with several hundred participants in my programs at the Gainesville Health & Fitness Center in Gainesville, Florida. I can't be sure of the other home abdominal machines. Some of them look like they might be well constructed and some of them appear flimsy.
But I'm sure of one thing: Whatever abdominal equipment you own or have access to, you'll get much better results if you use it according to the super-slow style and the ASAP approach that I describe in this book. The same advice goes to those of you who don't have access to any equipment. You can still get good results from using my ASAP approach to freehand exercise that involves your own body weight.
Success Stories with ASAP
The ASAP program has been tested, evaluated, improved, and retested on thousands of people -- people of all ages, shapes, and sizes.
Success stories of some of these men and women -- including before-and-after photographs -- appear throughout this book. All of the comparison pictures are standardized and unretouched. Although each person has unique characteristics, each person's body also resembles other bodies in some respects. It will be useful for you to examine these photographs carefully for body shapes similar to your own. Doing so will help you get a realistic view of what you can achieve.
The first two success stories feature a married couple, Claude and Ken Howell.
Claude: "I Used to Have Such a Small Waist"
Claude Howell, fifty-three, is an office manager for an architectural firm. She had been fairly active for most of her life and remembered that her extra weight didn't start hanging on until she reached fifty. "Within a year or so," Claude recalls, "I had this pouch under my navel and these saddlebags around my hips and thighs."
"I used to have such a trim waist and slender hips in my twenties and thirties. I joined the program for one reason: I wanted my figure to look like it did twenty years ago."
Claude quickly turned into one of the most disciplined women that I've ever worked with. She progressed through two back-to-back six-week courses.
And it showed -- big time.
Claude lost 21 1/4 pounds of fat and trimmed 3 1/2 inches off her waist, 5 1/8 inches off her hips, and 6 1/8 inches off her upper thighs. Equally important, she built 5 1/2 pounds of muscle.
And get this, after twelve weeks her waistline measured an incredible 20 7/8 inches. I've never, in more than thirty years of measuring adult waistlines, recorded a number that small.
Was Claude pleased? Afterward, here's what she told me.
"Last weekend, I visited my hometown. It was hot outside so I wore shorts and a halter top. I was talking with the elderly man across the street from where I grew up when suddenly his wife appeared. The first thing she said was she had to find out who that attractive teenage girl was her husband was flirting with. That teenage girl was me, and I'll be fifty-four years old next month."
Ken: "Talk about a Classic Pot Belly"
Claude's success also got the attention of her husband, Ken Howell. At fifty-nine years of age, he's an engineer at Texas Instruments. "This incredible program," remembers Ken, "that's all I heard about for weeks -- as I drank and snacked each night in front of the TV set. With this classic pot belly of mine, I didn't need much convincing to give it a try."
Once Ken started on the program, he displayed the same discipline and work ethic that Claude had applied so successfully.
Three months later, Ken looked like a different man. He shed 45 3/4 pounds of fat and built 7 1/4 pounds of muscle. His waist measurement shrank from 42 1/2 to 31 3/4 -- a reduction of 10 3/4 inches.
"People at work used to make jokes about my pregnancy," cracked Ken in his driest sense of humor. "Finally, I decided it was time to give birth to a new body. Now, these same people are envious, and the joke's on them."
Both Claude and Ken had the patience to continue with the course until they not only reached but also exceeded their goals. It took Claude twelve weeks and Ken fourteen weeks to do so.
Both wanted a flat stomach. But neither, at their ages, was concerned with getting an extremely muscular waist. They did want to maintain their results, however.
The following details should help clarify your goals.
A Few Definitions
Since the title of this book is A Flat Stomach ASAP, now is the time to describe what these concepts imply.
Even though stomach is technically defined as your primary organ of digestion, it's popularly used to mean the front of your waist. In this book, stomach, belly, middle, and midsection all stand for your frontal waist area.
Flat as a modifier to stomach means straight, primarily as viewed vertically from the side. You have a flat stomach if, when you're seen in a standing pose from the side while wearing a bathing suit, the area between your sternum and a point approximately two inches below your navel forms a straight line. Important: This straight line should be visible with your belly relaxed and not sucked in.
From my research with thousands of overfat people, I've found that with proper Awareness, Science, Application, and Persistence -- or simply ASAP -- almost anyone can get a flat stomach.
In fact, some of my trainees improve upon that straight line and develop a concave stomach. Achieving a concave stomach requires exceptional genetics, dedication, and attention to detail. The few who succeed are rewarded with abdominal muscles -- or abs for short -- that are referred to as chiseled, ripped, cut, rock hard, washboards, six-packs, killer, awesome, and perfect.
I like the idea of perfection. But I fully realize that developing perfect abs is an unrealistic goal for most people. And besides, what's perfect anyway? Perfection for me wouldn't be perfection for you.
Instead of perfection, a better goal is to strive toward getting your personal-best look. No one ever built a great body without having personal-best abdominals. And personal-best abdominals begin with a flat stomach.
If you're successful in getting a flat stomach -- and with this course I'm confident that you will be -- then you may want to try the advanced, personalbest abs routine that is presented in chapter 15.
It doesn't matter if your goal is simply a flat stomach, or your personal-best abdominals, or something in between -- the optimum approach for the look you want is a disciplined dose of Awareness, Science, Application, and Persistence.
ASAP is the way.
Why not get started as soon as possible?
1998 by Ellington Darden, Ph.D.
Library of Congress subject headings for this publication: Weight loss, Abdomen Muscles, Exercise, Reducing diets