Whey Too Much: Greek Yogurt’s Dark Side

Greek yogurt has taken America and the world by storm. This growing industry provides a healthy, protein packed snack that tastes delicious and is low in calories. A while back I came across this article that explains a bit more about the manufacturing side of Greek style yogurt and it’s affects on US industry. This is interesting and enlightening. I’ll definitely think twice next time I dip my spoon into container of Fage. 

The following words and images are courtesy of Modern Farmer. See article in full here.

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Whey Too Much: Greek Yogurt’s Dark Side

By Justin Elliott on May 22, 2013

Greek yogurt is a booming $2 billion a year industry — and it’s producing millions of pounds of waste that industry insiders are scrambling to figure out what to do with.

Twice a day, seven days a week, a tractor trailer carrying 8,000 gallons of watery, cloudy slop rolls past the bucolic countryside, finally arriving at Neil Rejman’s dairy farm in upstate New York. The trucks are coming from the Chobani plant two hours east of Rejman’s Sunnyside Farms, and they’re hauling a distinctive byproduct of the Greek yogurt making process—acid whey.

For every three or four ounces of milk, Chobani and other companies can produce only one ounce of creamy Greek yogurt. The rest becomes acid whey. It’s a thin, runny waste product that can’t simply be dumped. Not only would that be illegal, but whey decomposition is toxic to the natural environment, robbing oxygen from streams and rivers. That could turn a waterway into what one expert calls a “dead sea,” destroying aquatic life over potentially large areas. Spills of cheese whey, a cousin of Greek yogurt whey, have killed tens of thousands of fish around the country in recent years.

The scale of the problem—or opportunity, depending on who you ask—is daunting. The $2 billion Greek yogurt market has become one of the biggest success stories in food over the past few years and total yogurt production in New York nearly tripled between 2007 and 2013. New plants continue to open all over the country. The Northeast alone, led by New York, produced more than 150 million gallons of acid whey last year, according to one estimate.

And as the nation’s hunger grows for strained yogurt, which produces more byproduct than traditional varieties, the issue of its acid runoff becomes more pressing. Greek yogurt companies, food scientists, and state government officials are scrambling not just to figure out uses for whey, but how to make a profit off of it.

A cow munches on feed mixed with acid whey.A cow munches on feed mixed with acid whey. Chobani is so desperate to get rid of the whey, they pay farmers to take it off their hands.

Rejman, a blonde-haired 37-year-old, and third-generation dairy farmer with a Cornell animal science degree, started accepting the stuff a few years ago after a Chobani representative called him out of the blue.

Rejman’s workers take the shipments and try to find uses for the whey: mix it with silage to feed to the farm’s 3,300 cows; combine it with manure in a giant pit for fertilizer; and even convert some into biogas to make electricity.

‘How do you handle all the whey without screwing up the environment?’
But it’s not so easy to integrate acid whey into the workings of the farm. The silage Rejman feeds his cows, for example, can only soak up so much before becoming unmanageable slop — “like dropping water on your pizza,” he says. It’s also sort of like feeding your cows candy bars — they like it, but shouldn’t eat too much or it upsets their digestive system. It’s a problem that Rejman admits defies easy solutions. “How do you handle all the whey without screwing up the environment?”

The root of the whey problem is the very process that gives Greek yogurt its high protein content and lush mouth feel.

Unlike traditional yogurt, Greek yogurt is strained after cultures have been added to milk. In home kitchens, this can be done with a cloth. Greek yogurt companies still throw around the term “strained,” but in reality industrial operations typically remove the whey with mechanical separators that use centrifugal force.

The resulting whey is roughly as acidic as orange juice. It’s almost entirely made up of water, but scientists studying the whey say it contains five to eight percent other materials: mostly lactose, or milk sugar; some minerals; and a very small amount of proteins.

Greek yogurt companies trying to keep up with exploding consumer demand in the last few years didn’t have a good plan to deal with the ocean of whey they were producing. Now they’re racing to find solutions, all the while keeping mum about the results, if there are any: the yogurt industry is highly secretive and competitive.

There are no industry-wide statistics on where all the whey is going, but a typical option is paying to have it hauled to farms near the yogurt factories. There, it is often mixed into feed or fertilizer. Chobani, for example, says more than 70 percent of its whey ends up as a supplement for livestock feed.

***

But there is another possible consumer — babies.

“Because the Greek yogurt production grew so rapidly, no one really had the time to step back and look at the other viable options,” says Dave Barbano, a dairy scientist at Cornell.

State and industry officials reached out to Barbano last year following the first-ever Yogurt Summit, convened by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Barbano, who specializes in filtration methods for separation and recovery of protein, has his sights set on the tiny amount of protein in acid whey. He believes it might be usable as an infant formula ingredient. But first Barbano has to figure out how to extract the protein in a cost-effective way, and his research is just getting underway.

The concept is roughly modeled on the success that cheese-makers have had selling products derived from their own byproduct — sweet whey. Sweet whey is more valuable and easier to handle than acid whey, as it has a lot more protein, and is easier to dry because it isn’t as acidic as Greek yogurt whey. Cheese-makers have developed a lucrative business selling whey protein for use in body-building supplements and as a food ingredient. And Greek yogurt makers are eager to follow suit.

“There are a lot of people coming in and out of New York state looking at whether this is a good opportunity for investment,” Barbano says.

***

While Barbano focuses on proteins, researchers in Wisconsin are studying how to extract whey’s dominant ingredient: sugar.

Scientists at the Center for Dairy Research at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, have been experimenting for nearly a year on how to get edible-grade lactose out of acid whey. Such lactose is valuable as an ingredient in things like icing and as a browning agent in bread. “It’s kind of like oil refining: from crude oil you get gas and diesel and other products,” says Dean Sommer, a food technologist at the center. “This is the same concept. You figure out what’s in there and how to grab it and get value out of it.”

Sommer wouldn’t describe the filtration process to extract lactose because the industry-financed research is proprietary. But he believes some third-party companies are now considering building plants to convert acid whey into lactose.

Neil Rejman, an Upstate New York dairy farmer, stands before a lagoon of manure mixed with acid whey. This slurry will be turned in to energy by a machine called an ‘anaerobic digester.’Neil Rejman, an Upstate New York dairy farmer, stands before a lagoon of manure mixed with acid whey. This slurry has passed through a system called an ‘anaerobic digester,’ which converted some of it into electricity.
Meanwhile, back at Rejman’s farm in Scipio Center, N.Y., they’re converting the lactose into methane that can generate electricity.

When the whey arrives from Chobani, some of it is mixed with the vast quantity of manure the farm produces daily. From the manure pit, the light brown soup (basically a river of shit) flows into a 16-foot-deep underground concrete tank known as an anaerobic digester. An innocent looking expanse of cement in a big, green field dotted with dandelions, there’s a lot going on inside, where a fetid mix of manure and whey percolate.

The material is heated up and kept in the tank for about 20 days, during which time bacteria break up the organic material — the lactose, in the case of whey — and release gases, including methane. The gas is fed into generators that produce electricity to power the farm and to sell to the local utility for use elsewhere.

But the setup, which Rejman and his brother had installed five years ago, required a big capital investment that would be out of reach for small farms. It cost $4.5 million, $1 million of which the Rejmans got back through a state subsidy.

Rejman’s anaerobic digester. Rejman’s anaerobic digester. They primarily built the digester for what Rejman calls “odor control” for their neighbors, as digested manure smells much less than the raw stuff (“You ever take a shit in the toilet and leave it in there?” Rejman asks, by way of explanation.) The whey is an afterthought. In any case, just 20 of New York’s the state’s 5,200 dairy farms have an operating digester, according to Curt Gooch, a waste management engineer at Cornell.

And if any of the big yogurt companies have come up with a better whey solution, they’re being cagey about it. “We are currently exploring other options for our whey, but nothing we are ready to discuss at this time,” says Chobani spokeswoman Lindsay Kos. Dannon spokesman Michael Neuwirth says the company is looking at the nutritional possibilities of whey, but “we don’t have any plans to announce at this point.”

Home Greek yogurt makers have experimented with using whey in baking and pickling. But no one expects a bread or pickle factory to be able to absorb tens of millions of gallons of it.

Meanwhile, the tidal wave of acid whey is not slowing down. As one producer said at New York’s Yogurt Summit: “If we can figure out how to handle acid whey, we’ll become a hero.”

Photos by Justin Elliott. Photo illustration by Andy Wright.

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Homemade Natural Deodorant

After my last post about Natural Deodorants, whether they work and the testing of a few brands, I decided to look into a homemade option as even the ones I tested contained a few ingredients I was unsure of. For full comfort and control over what is going on my body, I went with a simple recipe whose competence is assured by many bloggers and naturalists.

After scouring the internet, blogs and write-ups, I discovered that one recipe monopolized the internet. I decided to try it out for myself and see if it was something practical and efficient.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup organic cold-pressed coconut oil (solid state)
  • 1/4 cup baking soda (aluminum-free)
  • 1/4 cup starch (arrowroot powder, cornstarch)
  • essential oils (optional)
Mix together the arrowroot powder and baking soda in a bowl before adding the coconut oil. Warmed the oil a little bit on the stove in a water bath to soften it. Add the coconut oil and any desired essential oils. Place the mixture in a flexible container and place in the refrigerator for a few hours to harden. Silicon ice pop trays work well.

Coconut oil solidifies at roughly 76°F so it is best to keep this deodorant in the fridge, especially during the summer and to take great care when traveling with it. One of the bloggers who used this recipe loaded it into a cleaned out deodorant stick before being placed in the fridge to harden and form a deodorant “stone.”

All of these ingredients are inexpensive and the concoction works! Coconut oil contains lauric acid which is deemed to have antibacterial qualities. The starch assists in keeping you feeling dry while the baking soda removes any and all odors. As the coconut oil is cold pressed and organic, it is as unrefined as possible and only has a slight coconut smell that will not last long. I decided to add a few drops of peppermint essential oil and lavender essential oil for a fresh and fragrant scent. Be careful when dressing as it does contain oil and can stain your clothes (will come out in the wash). It helps to let it soak in for a bit before dressing. I still found applying twice a day to have the best results.

Tough Mudder New England 2014

This experience was by far the hardest physical endeavor I have ever attempted and accomplished. Last July, my little brother and I rolled up to Mount Snow and seriously questioned our judgement and sanity. We were decked out in our best workout gear and covered in war paint.

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The race began with a pump-up speech on camaraderie, teamwork, and our veterans. Then BANG, it all began. Up and down, and up and down the ski slopes of Mount Snow till we felt as though our legs would collapse beneath us. The obstacles were challenging and truly required help from each other as well as the teams around us. Complete strangers were more than happy to help any and everyone that needed it.

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Water

The entire time I was saying “never again.” Now, I can’t wait to do another!

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Why do we refrigerate our eggs?

I’ve recently started purchasing fresh farms eggs from a farm in Warwick, NY right down the road from my horses stable. They sell these eggs washed or unwashed. When she first asked me this I wondered why on earth I would want to buy dirty, unwashed eggs. After coming across this article, I no longer by washed, but simply wash before using. I’m still in process of mentally preparing myself to switch to no refrigeration. This article is very interesting and will change your perspective on eggs and American standards. Click the link below to be taken to the original article. All text and images below are courtesy of io9. 

Americans – why do you keep refrigerating your eggs?

Americans – why do you keep refrigerating your eggs?

The U.S. is one of the only countries on Earth that keeps chicken eggs in cold storage. But why?

One of the most common health risks, when it comes to eggs, is posed by Salmonella bacteria. There are really only two ways Salmonella can get at an egg: the first is to contaminate the egg externally, on the surface of its outer shell. The second is to spread from the inside. The former occurs after the egg has been laid, most commonly by coming into contact with feces containing Salmonella bacteria. The latter can occur if the egg develops in the reproductive tract of a Salmonella-infected hen.

Research has shown that Salmonella-infected eggs stored at room temperature for periods longer than three weeks tend to become overrun by bacteria in numbers far greater than those stored at colder temperatures. Given this insight, you might assume that Americans store their eggs in the fridge to extend their shelf life, or to lower the risk of bacterial contamination, and you’d be right on both counts.

But then, maybe the question should really be posed the other way around: Given the sanitary benefits of refrigeration, why don’t other countries ship, package, and store their eggs at cold temperatures, like we do in the U.S.? Well, because, unlike America, they may not actually needto. Why? Because here in America, we wash our eggs – and while it may sound counterintuitive, the cleaning process may actually make eggs more susceptible to contamination.

Americans – why do you keep refrigerating your eggs?SEXPAND

We mentioned above that eggs run the risk of getting feces on them. Whether that feces contains traces of Salmonella or not, it stands to reason that if an egg gets poop on it, you should wash it off. And, in America, that’s exactly what we do. In an elaborate automated process involving in-line conveyor belts, massive egg-scrubbing machinery, high-volume air-filtration systems and – last but not least – chlorine misters, American eggs are washed, rinsed, dried, and sanitized in an effort to remove as much dirt, poop and bacteria as possible, all while leaving the shells intact. (Read the details in the USDA’s Egg-Grading Manual.)

Or rather, almost intact. When a hen lays an egg, she coats it in a layer of liquid called the cuticle. It dries in just a few minutes, and is incredibly effective at protecting the egg from contamination, providing what European egg marketing regulations describe as “an effective barrier to bacterial ingress with an array of antimicrobial properties.” America’s egg-washing systems strip eggs of this natural protection. “Such damage,” the EU guidelines note, “may favour trans-shell contamination with bacteria and moisture loss and thereby increase the risk to consumers, particularly if subsequent drying and storage conditions are not optimal.”

Washing eggs is therefore illegal throughout much of Europe. In an interview with Forbes,Chief Executive of Britain’s Egg Industry Council Mark Williams gives another reason for the ban on industrial egg-cleaning facilities:

In Europe, the understanding is that [prohibiting the washing and cleaning of eggs] actually encourages good husbandry on farms. It’s in the farmers’ best interests then to produce the cleanest eggs possible, as no one is going to buy their eggs if they’re dirty.

Okay, fine – but then why not just refrigerate the eggs, anyway? Wouldn’t this just give unwashed eggs an extra line of defense? Perhaps, but the European Union laws again note that – like washing – refrigeration could actually wind up posing a risk to consumers. Again according to European egg marketing regulations, eggs that are stored cold and later left out at room temperatures could become covered in condensation, “facilitating the growth of bacteria on the shell and probably their ingression into the egg.” EU guidelines therefore stipulate that eggs should be transported and stored at as constant a temperature as possible – a temperature between 66.2 °F and 69.8°F in the winter and between 69.8°F and 73.4°F in the summer.

The other reason Americans tend to refrigerate their eggs: our risk of Salmonella poisoning is often significantly higher than it is overseas, because our chickens are more likely to carry it. In the UK, for instance, it is required by law that all hens be immunized against Salmonella. This protection measure, enacted in the late 1990s, has seen Salmonella cases in Britain drop from 14,771 reported cases in 1997 to just 581 cases in 2009.

There is no such law in the United States, and while more farmers are electing to immunize their hens in the wake of a massive Salmonella-related recall in 2010Salmonella infection remains a serious public health issue. Even in spite of our egg-washing and our refrigeration habits, FDA data indicates there are close to 150,000 illnesses reported every year due to eggs contaminated by Salmonella.

For Martha Stewart, the Secret Is Routine

The New York Times recently posted the article below on Martha Stewart’s beauty and makeup regime. For a woman of 72, Martha looks pretty spectacular. Her secret surprised me. She uses a lot of oils and serums. I was stunned to find out that a lot of the products she uses are relatively affordable. Now the same routine doesn’t work for everyone, but as you age, piling on the hydration is key to preventing wrinkles and signs of aging. Go Martha!  

The Martha Stewart Beauty Regimen: Fitness, Skin Care and Diet

JAN. 8, 2014

Karsten Moran for The New York Times

It turns out that the Bedford, N.Y., bathroom cabinet of Martha Stewart, 72, is as well stocked as its gardening shed. The many products help prime Ms. Stewart for on-air appearances like her show, “Martha Stewart’s Cooking School,” which began airing its third season on PBS last week.

SKIN CARE

I get up a couple hours before I’m supposed to leave in the morning and I’ll put on a mask. I like the Yon-Ka Gommage 305 or the Susan Ciminelli Hydrating Gel Mask right now. Or I’ll use the collagen mask from Mario Badescu or the Chanel Correction Lift, a firming mask, which works great for me. I’ll do this about five days a week and I don’t repeat the same mask two days in a row. I’ve always done this — well, basically since I discovered masks. I have to wear makeup for photo shoots, television and appearances, so I have to make sure my face is extremely clean in the morning. Then I shower and I wash it all off.

I slather myself with serums. First, it’s a toning lotion. Right now it’s either the Yon-Ka Lotion or a more specific spray, like the rose spray from Mario Badescu. I spray my whole face and body and then its Susan Ciminelli Marine Lotion from head to toe. I use the same products on my body as I use on my face. I don’t think there’s really any difference between the two, so the more moisturizers and serums you use, the better off you are. Then I might use a vitamin B or SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic serum. I’ll also put on Clé de Peau or SkinCeuticals moisturizer. With all of these serums, I find I don’t have to put on an eye cream, although my facialist insists I put one on. Sometimes, I will and the Clé de Peau is good or Caudalie has one — it’s the fancy one from their high-end line — and it’s very good, too. At the end, before any makeup, I use SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense. If I’m not going to use foundation, I’ll use the tinted version, or if I use foundation, it’ll be the white one. Otherwise, I do my best to stay out of the sun. That’s very important. I do a lot of outdoor activity like gardening and I try to cover up and do SPF. Actually, I just bought a new sun hat that goes over your riding helmet. It’s pretty ugly, but it works.

‘I slather myself with serums.’ But first, a toning spritz or two.

If I’m traveling that day, I’ll be sure to have my Yon-Ka Lotion with me, which is a spray. On a recent plane ride to L.A., I sprayed myself five times. It’s hydrating, so I don’t look like a prune after flying.

I never go to bed with makeup on. First, I steam my face with a hot washcloth and then I use the AmorePacific or Shu Uemura cleansing oils. Johnson’s baby oil works really well, too. I use those as cleansers and they’re also excellent makeup removers. I like oil because it keeps my skin very moist, and it works for me. I don’t get clogged pores.

MAKEUP

I was told years ago by my daughter, Alexis, that I shouldn’t leave the house without makeup on. You’ll pay for it if you don’t because somebody will be there with a camera snapping away and you’ll look awful or just plain. I put on a light foundation, usually the AmorePacific tube called the Moisture Bound Tinted Moisturizer or the Clé de Peau Refining Fluid Foundation. I really like the YSL Touche Éclat Radiant Touch stick, which is fairly new I think. Then it’s Bobbi Brown bronzer. For mascara, I use Clinique High Impact mascara or I just got a new one from Givenchy. It has three little balls almost — it’s very cute. I got it from a makeup artist at John Barrett, when she did my eyes for the ballet. It’s a little short mascara but it makes your eyelashes look elongated. Also, I’ve used Latisse and it’s really helped. People should try that. It really works. I use a gloss on my lips. I use Buxom — I like the Samantha color — or a little bit of a lip pencil. I stick with nude colors, and maybe at night I’ll wear red and it’ll really stand out.

Quench time: The sea, Vitamin C and New York spa line Susan Ciminelli.

FRAGRANCE

I’ve been wearing Fracas since I was 19. I’ll put fragrance on three times a day. I’m thankful every day that they haven’t altered their formula. Although, I did just discover a new one by Hermès called Jour d’Hermès. It’s lovely.

HAIR

I use different shampoos. For me it’s like with skin care: I try to use a variety. I have to wash my hair almost every day because I have to have it done for pictures and stuff. Frédéric Fekkai Ageless shampoo and conditioner and Shu Uemura, the green line, are my two favorites. For styling, I don’t like a lot of mousse. I do use Sally Hershberger’s Texture Blast, which is like a hair spray, but just at the roots. I have really good hair and I don’t like to plaster it.

Robert Piguet’s classic Fracas and Yon-Ka lotion are some staples.

Parvin at John Barrett has been my colorist forever. She’s the blond expert. I think she’s the busiest colorist in New York. I like her because she does it in an hour so you don’t have to spend all day sitting there.

For cuts, I’m not fussy. I’ve been to Kevin at Frédéric Fekkai in the Mark. I’ve gotten my hair cut twice at Sally Hershberger recently, and they’re fabulous, too. There are so many fantastic haircutters in the city. Everybody’s hair looks much better than it used to.

Otherwise, Daisy Schwartzberg does my daily makeup and styling. Kevin from Fekkai will do styling for photo shoots, and Katsu from John Barrett does my blowout. They’re all good.

SERVICES

I’ve been going to Mario Badescu for 45 years for facials. I try to go at least once a month. For brows, Julia Haaland at John Barrett does them when I get my hair done. Luda, also at John Barrett — where else in New York can you get everything done at once? — does my nails almost exclusively. And she’s the best massager in the world. I stand, walk and hike and I still have good feet, and I thank her for that.

FITNESS AND DIET

Exercise is a necessary part of the day. I went to the gym this morning. I have a really great trainer in the city. We’ve worked together for at least eight years. Or I do yoga with James Murphy. I like to spin, but I don’t have enough time to do it. I also have a green juice that I drink every single morning. It’s very important. You can be the most beautiful person on earth, and if you don’t have a fitness or diet routine, you won’t be beautiful.

Score a Rock-Solid Core

I love variety, especially with a workout regime. Too quickly do I get bored and tired of the same old routine. This is when my workout begins to slacken and I get bored and distracted. In order to keep it fresh, fun, and invigorating, constantly add new things. Try Zumba or crossfit. Bounce around to various gyms. I often go where the deals are. I check Groupon and Living Social regularly for fitness deals and switch it up every few weeks. I also check out articles such as the one below for new workouts to incorporate. 

Here are some awesome core workouts that are super effective and full of variety. They come from yoga, Pilates, barre, crossfit, among others. The following text and images are courtesy of Shape. Sweat on! 

The Best Abs Exercises from Every Type of Workout

Combine these 14 moves for a truly hard-core routine that’ll flatten your belly in a flash.
Score a Rock-Solid Core

Confused whether Pilates, yoga, kickboxing, CrossFit, or something else entirely is the best way to work your core? That’s probably because they all include some amazing abs-toning exercises. Combine the best from every discipline to strengthen and chisel from every angle for a truly hard-core workout.

How it works: Do a 3- to 5 minute dynamic warmup. Complete each pair of exercises back-to-back with little to no rest between, then repeat the pair for a second set. Rest 30 to 60 seconds, and move on to the next pair, again performing two sets. (You can also add any of these exercises to your own routine.)

You’ll need: Yoga mat, kettlebell (5 to 15 pounds, depending on your level)

1A: Bob and Weave

1A: Bob and Weave

Though it’s usually used in kickboxing to maneuver around an opponent’s punch, the bob and weave move is also a killer way to work your obliques and abdominal wall (in addition to your legs and back)—all while keeping your heart rate up for a greater calorie burn.

How to: Stand with feet wider than hips, shift weight into left leg, and lift right heel with arms “on guard” (elbows bent in front of ribs, hands in fists at chest level). Quickly bob and weave from right to left by lowering into a low squat, tracing a letter U with upper body from the left to the right. Immediately repeat to opposite side, keeping abs pulled into spine the entire time. Do 10 quick alternating reps.

1B: Front Kick

1B: Front Kick

When done correctly, a front kick in kickboxing isn’t just a great move to sculpt powerful legs and fend off attackers, it’s also an effective way to synergistically work important core muscles like your abdominals, back, and hips.

How to: From a split stance with left foot forward and arms on guard, shift weight into left leg and bring right leg into a chamber (bending right knee up toward chest). Quickly extend leg, exhaling forcefully through mouth while kicking out from hip and leaning torso back slightly, pushing out through ball of foot. Return leg to chamber, then step right foot back into left split stance (arms remain on guard the entire time). Do 10 quick reps; repeat on the opposite side.

RELATED: 10-Minute Abs and Arms Workout Video

2A: Curl and Cross

2A: Curl and Cross

Great for developing strong, pulled-in, flat abs, the curl and cross combo often found in barre classes will definitely make you feel the burn!

How to: Lie faceup with knees bent and feet flat on the floor hip-width apart. Inhale through nose. Keeping chin relaxed on chest and eyes straight ahead, exhale as you slowly curl upper back off the floor, drawing navel deep into spine and holding onto backs of thighs with hands. With shoulder blades lifted off floor and middle back pressed down, bring body up an inch closer to legs. Lower back an inch. That’s one rep. Do 20 quick reps then move into the cross curl by turning shoulders toward left leg and moving both hands to outside of left thigh. Repeat inching movement for 20 reps to the left, then 20 reps to the right.

2B: Pretzel

2B: Pretzel

Another barre exercise, pretzel is a killer core strengthener because it works the glutes, lower back, and obliques together, which forces you to use your abs to balance.

How to: Sit with right leg bent at about a 90-degree angle in front of body and left leg bent at 90 degrees behind you. Reach arms toward the floor in front of right leg, shifting weight slightly forward, lining up chest over right leg, and keeping spine naturally straight and abs engaged. Lift left leg off the floor as high as possible without moving torso, and bring hands to prayer, pressing palms together and shoulders down to hips. Pulse left leg up an inch or two higher, then back down an inch or two without touching the ground 20 times. Repeat on opposite side. (Too challenging? Keep hands on the ground during the movement instead of bringing palms to prayer.)

3A: Crow

3A: Crow

If you’ve ever attempted crow arm balance before, you know how much your abs (especially the lower region) have to work to keep your body up in this yoga posture. If you’ve never tried it, start off with the set-up version and then gradually advance into the full pose.

How to: Lower into a deep squat with knees wider than hips. Lean forward and place hands on the floor about shoulder-width apart, elbows bent. Round back and engage abs by pulling them into spine as inner thighs squeeze sides of torso, shifting weight into arms and lifting up onto balls of feet. Hold pose here if needed, with toes lightly on the floor, or try lifting feet completely, pointing toes, drawing heels close to tailbone, and balancing on arms for up to 1 minute.

RELATED: Step-by-Step Breakdown: Crow Pose

3B: Half Moon

3B: Half Moon

It may not look like your traditional abs exercise, but half moon will have your core muscles working like crazy to help keep you from falling over during this balancing yoga pose.

How to: From standing, fold forward, placing hands on the ground beneath shoulders. Keeping soft knees, transfer weight into right foot, then lift left leg high behind you. Keep right fingertips on the ground, open left hip on top of right, and turn torso to the left. Extend left arm straight up and look up toward left fingers. (If it’s too tough to find your balance at first, try placing a yoga block under the supporting hand to make this pose a little easier to master while building strength and flexibility.) Hold for up to 1 minute; repeat on the opposite side.

4A: Mermaid Side Plank

4A: Mermaid Side Plank

While all of Pilates is centered on the core, the mermaid side plank in particular does an amazing job of working your abs from every angle.

How to: Begin in a side plank position with right hand directly under shoulder, left arm extended to the ceiling over shoulder, left leg crossed over right, and edges of feet pressed into the floor. Engage abs and press away from the floor with right side of body. Inhale and look up to left hand. On exhale, reach left arm under and behind body, bracing abs in tight to spine, lifting hips up (body resembles an upside-down letter V), and pivoting on balls of feet. Return to the starting position. Do 6 reps; repeat on the opposite side.

4B: Teaser

4B: Teaser

The signature Pilates teaser is so much harder than it looks, so be patient. Don’t forget to use your breath to maximize your abdominal strength and control with every rep.

How to: Lie faceup with knees bent at a 90-degree angle over hips, arms extended by ears, abs drawn into spine, and ribcage flat (avoid letting ribs pop open with arms overhead). Inhale and begin to roll up through spine, lifting head and shoulders off the floor, reaching fingertips toward feet as legs extend straight and lower about 10 degrees toward the floor. Exhale and draw abdominals in deeper to spine to continue rolling up, lowering legs a little further, until body is in a full V-sit position, balancing on sitz bones. Hold for 1 count. Reverse movement to lower back to the starting position with control. Do 6 to 8 reps. (Make it more challenging by starting with legs extended straight on the floor and rolling up into the full V-sit from there.)

5A: Que Te Mueve

5A: Que Te Mueve

This oblique-targeting, hip-swiveling Zumba move‘s name means “what moves you.”

How to: Stand with feet together, arms by sides. Take a wide step to the right, pivoting on feet to turn right toes out and lift left heel off the floor as hips swivel left and arms swing to the left of shoulders with elbows bent and hands in fists. Quickly step left foot into right, turning hips back to front and swinging arms to the right. Take two quick steps to the right, then immediately reverse to the left. Repeat for at least 30 seconds.

5B: Merengue Out and In

5B: Merengue Out and In

Keep bumping up your heart rate without any impact on your joints while continuing to work your obliques with this simple and fun merengue out and in Zumba step.

How to: Stand with feet together, arms by sides. Shift weight into left leg as right foot steps out to side slightly wider than hips, pushing left hip back as right hip rotates slightly forward and left arm swings in front of body and right arm back with elbows bent. Immediately step left foot out to repeat the movement. Repeat again with right foot, this time stepping foot in, doing the same with the left until feet are back together. Move quickly to an out-out-in-in rhythm, keeping weight toward balls of feet to make it easier to shift side to side at a fast tempo. Repeat for at least 30 seconds.

6A: Windmill

6A: Windmill

The very nature of kettlebell training typically engages your abs with almost every move, and the windmill is killer for your obliques, cinching in your waist.

How to: Stand with feet slightly wider than hips, left toes slight turned out and right toes turned to the right, knees slightly bent. Holding a kettlebell in left hand with bell behind hand, extend left arm to the ceiling, keeping wrist straight. Engage abs and reach right hand to inside of right thigh, looking up to kettlebell, shifting weight into left leg. Hinge at hips, lowering torso as right arm slides down to inside of right calf or ankle, extending left arm in line over shoulder. Press back up through left side of torso to return to the starting position. Do 6 to 8 reps; repeat on opposite side.

6B: Turkish Get-Up

6B: Turkish Get-Up

A functional kettlebell move, the turkish get-up is a popular one because of how effective it is, engaging your entire body while working your core during every second of the move.

How to: Lie faceup with legs extended and hold a kettlebell above chest with a straight right arm. Extend left arm out to side and bend right leg so foot is flat on the floor. Engage abs and use left hand to sit up while keeping right arm extended overhead. Push hips off the ground using right leg and left arm, and quickly swing left leg under body to end in a kneeling position with right foot forward and left knee on the ground. Still holding right arm overhead, stand up, quickly stepping left foot about hip width from right. Stand tall while holding weight in extended arm. Reverse the move and return to the starting position. Do 3 reps; repeat on opposite side.

RELATED: The Best Yoga Poses for OM-My-Gosh Abs!

7A: Hollow Rock

7A: Hollow Rock

The hollow rock may sound innocent enough, but don’t be fooled—it’s a dynamic core CrossFit exercise that will have your abdominal wall working overtime.

How to: Lie faceup with arms extended overhead by sides of ears and legs pressed together and extended out straight at about a 45-degree angle from hips. Engage abs and lift head and shoulders off the floor, bringing body into a slight C curve. Gently rock forward, maintaining curve, lowering legs closer to (but not touching) the ground, then rock back toward shoulders, keeping head slightly off the floor (arms remain extended by ears and legs extended the entire time). Do 8 to 10 reps.

7B: Burpee

7B: Burpee

We know you love to hate burpees (we do too), but they are not only super effective for sculpting your abs, these CrossFit staples burn a lot of calories to help blast off fat faster so you can see the results of your hard work sooner.

How to: Stand with feet hip-width apart, arms by sides. Squat and place hands on the ground under shoulders. Keeping abs tight to spine, jump feet back into plank position and immediately lower into a pushup. Extend arms back to plank and jump feet back into hands, landing in squat position. Quickly jump straight up, reaching arms to the ceiling. Do 5 to 10 reps as quickly as possible with good form.

500 Followers Giveaway

Oh wow! Look at that! I have FINALLY reached 500 followers. This marks the halfway mark for my Bucket List goal of 1,000 followers. As such, a giveaway is in order! A set of three lip balms from Herbivore Botanicals. These are 100% natural, vegan, and are smooth and luxurious.

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