Teens and 20s
Estrogen is acting like a busy traffic cop, directing fat storage to the breasts, hips, and thighs. The belly, however, is spared. So now's the time to work it. "Belly dancing celebrates the flesh," says Anita-Cristina Calcaterra, one of a joyously gyrating Boston trio known as the Goddess Dancing, who suggests this great move for a strong and sensuous stomach. Begin by standing facing a full-length mirror with legs hip-width apart, knees bent softly, tailbone tucked, and chest lifted. Heart circles: Imagine using your breasts to draw a vertical O in the mirror. First, lift up from your diaphragm. Keeping your hips still, in a continuous motion, slide your chest directly to the left, then down toward your belly button, across to the right side, and back up to where you started. Do for five minutes a day in both directions.
Roll away: Stand sideways behind the stroller (occupied, of course) and grasp the handle with your closer hand. Push the stroller away while slightly bending your knees and sticking out your bottom a bit. Pull the stroller back toward you while straightening up. After five reps, repeat with the other arm (both sides equal 10 reps).
Yoga: Under pressure, women often eat more—especially sugary treats, which help quell the stress hormone cortisol. So take up yoga, meditate regularly, or at least learn to breathe deeply (not graze avidly) when the stress ratchets up.
Core work: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Raise the lower legs until parallel to the floor, knees still bent and arms relaxed at your sides, palms down. Without using your hands to press, pull in your abs and lift your hips (it feels like a rocking motion) a few inches off the ground. Do three sets: first, 12 to 20 reps; second, 12 to 15 reps; third, eight to ten reps. Rest a minute between sets.
It won't take a day. It won't take a week. But with a little (okay, a lot of) tender loving exercise—some might call it tough love—your tummy can defy the rise and fall of nature's timeline and stay winningly tight.