The artist, who’s ready to
drop long-awaited new music, redefined hip-hop vocally and visually—and
lifting up other artists only burnishes her superstar legacy.
This spring, Melissa Arnette Elliott stood before a mass of Berklee College of Music students and faculty in Boston. She requested a moment to gather herself. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, and tears began to fall freely over her smiling face. She opened her eyes. She began to speak to the graduating class, herself among them, just before being awarded an honorary doctorate.
A few days later, I watched Elliott’s speech on YouTube from my living room couch. I scrolled back to when she closed her eyes and counted the seconds until she spoke again. Altogether, there were 20 seconds of what I assumed was silent meditation, perhaps gratitude, in service to a life so successful, it had fashioned itself into this spectacular moment.
Two weeks later, at a recording studio just outside
Atlanta, where she’s working on a long-anticipated seventh album, I ask
Elliott if she remembers standing there for those 20 seconds. She
hadn’t known it had been quite that long. I confirm. I counted to make
sure. Her eyelids, painted green and shimmering under the overhead
lights, flutter a few times while she thinks about it more.
didn’t even realize,” she says. “You know what’s so funny? I wrote a
speech and got up there and choked up, and before I knew it, I was like,
‘Oh my God, where’s the paper?’ And it was just crumbled up on the
podium.” However, she hadn’t closed her eyes to remember her speech or
make a harried backup plan for giving one on the fly. She’s Missy
Elliott. She went somewhere else entirely.
“I went to the side of my grandmother’s house where I used to play church. I used to shout and sing all kinds of gospel songs. Ones I had made up, ones that existed in the church…I was at that place.” Elliott considers herself a very spiritual person. For her, “God is real because I went to that place and felt like he had his hands on me from a child.”
Yeah, we know: A headline like “How to lose your gut in 10 days” screams “bullshit.”
But, truth be told, it’s actually quite possible to burn belly fat in just a week and a half. The key to success is in the details, and you’ll need to follow them meticulously. But don’t stress: This is a short-lived emergency shred, not a long-term lifestyle plan. So whether you’re prepping for a party or a vacation, we’ve got you covered.
Note: Depending on the circumference of your gut, results may vary.
1. Go to bed
Exhaustion can give you a gut. “Sleep deprivation disrupts your metabolism, seriously sabotaging efforts to maintain an ideal weight,” says Jana Klauer, M.D., an obesity researcher at NYC’s St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital. Here’s how it works: Fat cells produce a hormone called leptin, which tells the body how much potential energy it has stored. Since leptin production peaks at night, when you’re asleep, sleep deprivation can throw levels of the hormone out of whack. The end result? Your body has no idea how much energy it has banked, so you end up storing fat instead of burning it.
Consider a full night’s rest an integral part of any weight-loss regimen. Getting sufficient sleep will prevent lags in energy and help reduce carb cravings, adds Klauer. It’ll also help build gut-busting muscle. “Sleep deprivation causes a drop in the production of human growth hormone,” says Klauer. (This ensures the fat your body stores will make a beeline for your waistline.) “After a good workout, you get more deep, slow-wave sleep; and it’s this cell-repairing stage of sleep where up to 70% of daily growth-hormone secretion takes place in young men.” Meaning, even if you’re getting in your time at the gym, you still need to hit the sack to complete the biological process that makes muscles pop.
Get seven hours a night.
2. Power up with protein
Protein is the main component of muscle tissue, so it should be the primary focus of your muscle-building diet. Aim for 1.5g per pound of your targeted bodyweight during an emergency shred like this. Always have a form of protein in every meal to ensure muscles are being fueled with amino acids throughout the day and blood sugar levels are stabilized. Under normal conditions, you should eat about 1g per pound of bodyweight. Always consume protein post-workout.
3. Have a carb strategy
We’ve heard it all before: “Carbs are the enemy.” Well, not really. Completely slashing your carb intake will certainly help with dropping the pounds (and fast) but you’ll also be left feeling cranky, tired, and lethargic. “Carbs are essential for life as our brain and central nervous system require them to work properly. Forgoing carbs can force your body to metabolize muscle for energy,” says Tim McComsey, R.D., P.T. It all comes down to using carbs correctly, not cutting them completely. “To get lean, a balance of the right amount of carbs in the morning and post-workout is ideal,” he says.
4. Lift for nine days
Most people believe cardio paves the way for six-pack abs, but lifting is really the crucial element. For the next week and a half, you’re going to lift for nine days.
Perform your lifting workouts at night, as interval training will be a part of your morning routine.
Here are your splits:
Day 1: Legs Day 2: Chest Day 3: Back Day 4: Shoulders Day 5: Arms Day 6: Off Day 7: Legs Day 8: Chest Day 9: Back Day 10: Shoulders
5. Do seven days of intervals
If your goal is to burn fat, intervals better be part of your program. Besides being a quick method to get in a great workout, intervals are extremely effective for transforming your physique. By incorporating intense periods of work with short recovery segments, intervals allow you to keep the workout intensity high while still maintaining form. The magic of high-intensity interval training lies in its ability to keep you burning fat even after you leave the gym. In short, your body isn’t able to bring in enough oxygen during periods of hard work. Therefore, you accumulate a “debt” of oxygen that must be repaid post-workout in order to get back to normal. The result: Your metabolism is revved for hours after you leave the gym.
Day 1: On Day 2: On Day 3: Off Day 4: On Day 5: On Day 6: Off—perform a paced run at 60 minutes Day 7: On Day 8: On Day 9: Off Day 10: On
6. Get laid
Testosterone, perhaps the most widely known hormone, is responsible for helping lifters put on more muscle and recover faster from workouts. Other hormones such as growth hormone, insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), and hCG also play a huge role in recovery and seeing jumps in size and strength (not to mention your mood and sex life). Increasing your hormone levels to the optimal numbers involves balancing your lifestyle, perfecting your nutrition, and training at the right intensity. Too much stress in day-to-day activities can release more catabolic hormones (like cortisol), which break down muscle and make it tough to build the physique you want. “Our best evidence identifies regular exercise, a good night’s sleep, and plenty of sex as our best bets at increasing our muscle-building hormone king (aka testosterone),” says Yoni Freedhoff, M.D., family physician and assistant professor at the University of Ottawa.
7. Use a supplement stack
There’s no secret elixir or magic pill, just the basics.
Supplement with caffeine (200mg pre-workout) and beta-alanine (2g in the a.m., 2g post-workout).
A 2008 study at the College of New Jersey examined collegiate football players on a 30-day schedule of beta-alanine supplementation. The players were randomly divided into a supplement or placebo group three weeks before preseason football training camp. Performance was measured on the first day of camp by a 60-second anaerobic power test and three line drills. Throughout the duration of camp, logs recorded resistance training volumes, and subjects completed questionnaires on feelings of soreness, fatigue, and practice intensity. The group that took the beta-alanine supplements had a lower fatigue rate and a higher training volume throughout the exercises.
Researchers in the UK found athletes who ingested caffeine had a rate of perceived exertion that was 5.6% lower than athletes who were given placebos. The researchers also found that caffeine improved overall exercise performance by 11.2%. Imagine getting 11% more out of every workout, just because you had a shot of caffeine before you hit the gym.
On March 12, 1938, the vaunted German army was to make its triumphant entry into Austria—the infamous Anschluss by which a compliant Austrian government surrendered to the Nazis without a shot.
A grand parade of the Third Reich’s might was scheduled for the Austrian capital Vienna but the army’s tanks were not as invincible as the generals bragged. They quickly broke down, clogging the roads, stalling the advance, and infuriating Adolph Hitler. And so, French author and filmmaker Eric Vuillard writes in his eloquent essay, The Order of the Day, “the German troops loaded as many tanks as they could onto railroad cars… the trains hauled away the armor the way you’d transport circus equipment.” The parade went on as planned.
It was that image of massive weapons as circus gear that flashed to mind this week when photos were released of tanks on railroad cars in Washington, DC, ready to be placed on display at our National Mall on the orders of Donald Trump. They were part of his plan to hijack the Fourth of July and make our nation’s birthday all about him—a “Salute to America,” featuring the tanks, military flyovers (including the Blue Angels and Air Force One) and a speech made by the man who calls himself, “Your favorite President, me!” The White House, the Republican National Committee, and the Trump reelect distributed VIP tickets.
As per The New York Times, “Pentagon officials have long been reluctant to parade tanks, missiles, and other weapons through the nation’s capital like the authoritarian leaders of North Korea and China. They say the United States, which has the world’s most powerful military and spends more on defense than the seven next largest military spenders combined—China, Saudi Arabia, India, France, Russia, Britain, and Germany—does not need to broadcast its strength.”
Many former military weren’t crazy about the idea either. Retired Army Lt. Gen. David Barno, who commanded troops under George W. Bush, told Politico, “This looks like it’s becoming much more of a Republican Party event—a political event about the president—than a national celebration of the Fourth of July, and it’s unfortunate to have the military smack dab in the middle of that.” Retired Army Maj. Gen. William Nash added, “The president is using the armed forces in a political ploy for his reelection campaign and I think it’s absolutely obscene.”
(Mother Jones reported on Wednesday that soldiers assigned to the tanks and other armored vehicles plopped down among our national monuments had been given a card by the Pentagon about what to say to the public, including, “I am proud of my job and my vehicle/tank. I am glad to share my experience with American People.”)
Anyone who has ever spent a Fourth of July in Washington knows that it’s a festive fun day in the capital, albeit wilting hot and sopping humid, usually above politics, featuring a parade, a folk life festival, grand music, and fireworks. But this year, the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, usually a prime vantage point for watching the skyrockets, and the surrounding parkland were cordoned off for the invited guests so that they could watch our egomaniacal president and the first lady make a grand entrance across a red-carpeted stage at the spot where Marian Anderson sang “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” when she was barred from Constitution Hall by the DAR in 1939, and Martin Luther King, Jr., told an eager crowd in 1963 of his dreams for racial harmony and freedom.
Trump’s attempt to wedge himself and his reelection into the festivities—using, in part, taxpayer millions diverted from much needed repairs of the national parks—had the grace of that clown who tries to photobomb a group portrait in the high school yearbook, making faces and wiggling fingers in his ears. The speech, which many feared would be a partisan attack similar to the rants he delivers at his campaign rallies, turned out to be standard if dull rhetoric that sounded more like the third-place winning essay in an eighth grade civics contest than a speech by our putative chief executive. It went on at such monotonous length that CNN actually cut away for a commercial break, something I have never in my life seen happen during a presidential address.
Standing behind a wall of bulletproof glass so rain streaked it appeared he was speaking from behind a car windshield during a cloudburst, Trump was at his best when quoting the eloquence of his predecessors rather than the boilerplate of his speechwriters. (Lincoln’s “government of the people, by the people, for the people ” was trundled out, but there was no mention of Abe’s “malice toward none.”) He lumbered through a rambling litany of moments in American history and named its greats, glossing over our sins, thanking all the branches of the military, and presenting notables in the audience who had been brought there, State of the Union-style, to be lauded for their achievements.
(One of them, Clarence Henderson, introduced by the president as among the first to participate in the Greensboro lunch counter sit-ins in 1960 and cited by Trump as an exemplar of the success of civil rights, has in recent years been an outspoken Trump supporter and president of the North Carolina chapter of the Frederick Douglass Foundation, a group that seeks, according to The Fayetteville Observer, “to grow the ranks of conservative Christian black Republicans.”)
Aside from the verbal slips he inevitably stumbles into when reading from a teleprompter (“ramparts/airports”) there was no groaner of an improvised joke or insult, although given his draft record, the call for young people to join the military was a little rich. That this failure to further embarrass the nation was cause for kudos from Republican leadership and some in the media gives an idea of how low we’ve let this man set the presidential performance bar.
But as conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin noted in The Washington Post, Trump misconstrues American traditions: “What should be a commemoration of human rights (‘All men … ‘) and the unwavering faith in the rule of law and in democratic governance in Trump’s hands becomes a caffeinated Armed Services Day. He manages to transform a holiday about the greatest experiment in civilian self-government into a garish military Mardi Gras.”
So why spend even a moment wringing hands over such an event when there are horrors perpetrated by this regime on an hourly basis that far eclipse some uninspiring oratory and slipshod pageantry? When Trump perpetually lies, makes policy mayhem worldwide, utters dark threats about the homeless and deportations and allows men, women, and children to cluster in overcrowded squalid cellsalong our southern border?
Why bother? Because, as Eric Vuillard writes of World War II in The Order of the Day, “Great catastrophes often creep up on us in tiny steps.” Because on the same day a company donated $750,000 worth of free fireworks for Trump’s Fourth of July party, he dropped a tariff on imported Chinese fireworks that same company had been lobbying against. Because every bit of graft like that, every small indignity inflicted, each gesture and symbol of disdain, are reflective of a greater, potentially fatal insult to democracy and a degradation of the greater good that was idealized by the men who signed the Declaration.
This year, the northern summer solstice falls on June 21 at 11:54 a.m. ET. South of the Equator, this same moment marks the unofficial beginning of winter. Solstices occur at the same time around the world, but their local times vary with time zones.
Solstices occur because Earth’s axis of rotation is tilted about 23.4 degrees relative to Earth’s orbit around the sun. This tilt is what drives our planet’s seasons, as the Northern and Southern Hemispheres get unequal amounts of sunlight over the course of a year. From March to September, the Northern Hemisphere is tilted more toward the sun, driving its spring and summer. From September to March, the Northern Hemisphere is tilted away, so it feels autumn and winter. The Southern Hemisphere’s seasons are reversed.
On two moments each year—what we call solstices—Earth’s axis is tilted most closely toward the sun. The hemisphere tilted most toward our home star sees its longest day, while the hemisphere tilted away from the sun sees its longest night. During the Northern Hemisphere’s summer solstice—which always falls around June 21—the Southern Hemisphere gets its winter solstice. Likewise, during the Northern Hemisphere’s winter solstice—which falls around December 22—the Southern Hemisphere gets its summer solstice.
You can also think about solstices in terms of where on Earth the sun appears. When it’s a summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, the sun appears directly over the Tropic of Cancer, the latitude line at 23.5 degrees North. (That’s as far north as you can go and still see the sun directly overhead.) During the Northern Hemisphere’s winter solstice, the sun appears directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, the Tropic of Cancer’s southern mirror image.
This happens every year: At some point in my travels to find the country’s Best New Restaurants,
my anxiety about not being able to find enough to fill my list segues
seamlessly into worse anxiety that I won’t be able to include everything
worthy—the way the bitter cold of winter often leaps seamlessly into
the inferno of summer without any break for spring at all. (I may have
had an un-anxious moment in Indianapolis this year, but I can’t be
sure.) When that switch happens, I self-soothe by reminding myself that I
will also have this list to compile: my yearly cheat.
It is not always the case, but I would have happily had any of the restaurants listed below on my main list of Best New Restaurants. In some ways, this is the more visceral recommendation. Math is not my strong suit, but I’d calculate that if I visited 111 new restaurants during this year’s search, that translates to tasting 500 million dishes, give or take. For a dish to stand out through all of those crowding my mind by the end—to actually bubble up and make me hungry when I’ve been 100 percent sure I’ll never be hungry again—it has to be pretty special. All of these are.