Every expert ever will tell you that crash diets don’t work, are unhealthy, and offer at best a temporary fix since you may end up gaining back more than you initially lost once you fall off the wagon. But that doesn’t mean losing weight has to be a slow, torturous process either. Yes, you’ll still have to eat few calories than you burn, but nutrition and exercise researchers have uncovered some scientifically tested ways to make that easier and faster than ever.
Fat: It’s the stuff that gives ice cream its creaminess and pizza its dreaminess. In the right places and in the right amounts, fat is the stuff that makes life worth living. But when your curves start crashing over the bulwark of your beltline, it’s time to start thinking about how to lose body fat. Not losing weight per se, but burning off the soft, jiggly stuff and replacing it with firm, lean muscle. Too much fat isn’t just an aesthetic issue, it’s a health issue: belly fat, in particular, is linked to everything from heart disease and diabetes to liver failure, depression and dementia.
If you’re only getting a minimal amount of sleep each night, that leaves more time for you to snack and make otherwise unhealthy decisions that could affect your weight loss. Although it will vary from person to person on how much sleep you actually need to be most effective (and therefore make progress toward your weight loss goals), the ideal number is typically 7 or 8 hours, says Dr. Cheskin. (Struggling to get that shut-eye? This doctor-approved breathing exercise will help you fall asleep fast.)
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Grazing is a surprisingly good idea because it helps you avoid metabolic slowdown. "Your body will be tricked into thinking it's constantly eating, so it will never slow your metabolism down," explains Bauer. Aim for five small meals (200 to 500 calories) a day rather than three large ones. Also try not to go more than four hours without eating — if you eat breakfast at 7am, for example, have a snack at 10am, lunch at noon, another snack at 3pm and dinner at 7pm.
It's a one-time investment you'll never regret. Here's why: Strength training builds lean muscle tissue, which burns more calories — at work or at rest — 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The more lean muscle you have, the faster you'll slim down. How do you start strength training? Try some push-ups or a few squats or lunges. Use your free weights to perform simple bicep curls or tricep pulls right in your home or office. Do these exercises three to four times per week, and you'll soon see a rapid improvement in your physique.
In addition to helping maintain heart health and keep inflammation levels under control, monounsaturated fatty acids, or MUFAs, may stop belly fat before it starts. Research in the journal Diabetes Care found that people who got roughly 25 percent of their total daily calories from MUFAs gained no visceral fat over the course of the study, while those who ate less MUFAs and more carbs added fat to their midsections. My favorite MUFA-rich food is olive oil because you can use it in so many meals (check out the belly-blasting breakfast I recommend), but avocados and nuts are other excellent sources. Pine nuts are particularly great because they also contain high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids. These acids increase levels of two hormones that signal your brain when you’re full. Try snacking on one ounce of pine nuts (about the amount you can fit in a shot glass) 20 minutes before mealtime to avoid overeating.
Lifestyle fit: Figure out whether a plan is compatible with your lifestyle before committing. Some meal plans are very simple; others require more work. Think about how much time and planning goes into each weight loss program. Some people find that meal planning and preparation takes up too much time, while others enjoy planning meals and spending time in the kitchen.
Attend a weight loss camp. Sometimes sticking with an exercise routine and diet plan is too challenging. Old habits and daily routines will steer you back to your old foods and activities at every turn. To combat this, many people enroll in residential weight loss programs that remove them from their daily lives. Sometimes called fitness retreats, these programs come in dozens of different styles, and are available for youth, adults and seniors. You should always make sure before attending, that your weight loss camp of choice is equipped to safely handle your age and health specific needs.
Fibrous foods are as close to a “miracle belly flattening pill” as we have. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, particularly those high in soluble fiber, have been proven to reduce fat around your midsection. In addition, these foods fill you up so you eat less, flattening your stomach over time. Try one of these 5 easy ways to turn off your fat genes and keep the weight off for good.
HCG, or Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, is a hormone produced during pregnancy by the placenta after implantation, and doctors sometimes prescribe it for fertility issues. But this hormone has also gained popularity as a weight-loss supplement — and using it as such can be dangerous. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns against purchasing over-the-counter hCG, as these supplement products are illegal. (34)
The reason we’re suggesting 45 minutes instead of the typical 30 as one of the easy ways to lose weight is that a Duke University study found that while 30 minutes of daily walking is enough to prevent weight gain in most relatively sedentary people, exercise beyond 30 minutes results in weight and fat loss. Burning an additional 300 calories a day with three miles of brisk walking (45 minutes should do it) could help you lose 30 pounds in a year without even changing how much you’re eating. Here are 20 hidden reasons your diet isn’t working.
When you go on a "program" to lose body fat, you may set yourself up for failure. A program implies an end point, which is when most people return to their previous habits. If you want to lose fat and keep it off, make changes that you can live with indefinitely. Don't over-restrict calories, and find an exercise program that adequately challenges you, provides progression, and offers sufficient variety so that you can maintain it for years to come.
Good news: You might not be as flabby around the middle as you think, says Roberts. “Many people are just bloated,” he says. Focusing on eliminating your bloat can work wonders in terms of achieving a flatter stomach. Some people may need to cut out gluten, while others will see results when they eliminate dairy, he says. And then there are people who without sensitivities who can see results by simply reducing their salt intake and eating foods high in potassium, a powerful mineral that’s been shown help the body rid itself of excess sodium. Bananas, avocados and fresh figs are all potent sources of the nutrient.
Choose workouts that require your entire body to exert an effort. This way, you work every muscle group and burn calories with more muscles at one time, like multi-tasking with your exercise. For instance, combine a form of resistance training (try raising small dumbbells overhead as you work) with your arms while you jog or cycle with your legs.
Some people pay close attention to their food intake, but not enough to what they drink making it harder to lose weight, according to Malina Linkas Malkani, MS, RDN, CDN, Media Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “People who drink more sugar-sweetened beverages tend to have higher body weights, and alcoholic beverages don’t satisfy hunger and can actually stimulate the appetite further,” she says. “If weight loss is a goal, it’s helpful to limit them both.” Here are 17 weight loss “tricks” that don’t actually work—and what to do instead.
You start to link up the cost of points with the cost of certain foods on your body, without any item every becoming taboo or strictly off-limits. Our tester found the point system both easy-to-use and eye-opening. “I can’t believe how many ‘healthy’ or at least innocuous foods are actually bad for you,” she remarked, noting how diet staples like granola bars took a big bite out of her daily allotment of points.
Losing weight on autopilot is appealing. But in the age of meal-delivery services (Blue Apron happens to be Whole 30-approved) — is there really a market need for gimmicky Nutrisystem? Our taste buds tell us no. You could easily recreate its no-prep diet by stocking up on breakfast bars, Lean Cuisine lunches, and signing up with the likes of HelloFresh for fast, healthy dinners. (Rough calculations tell us this approach would be equal or less than the monthly price of Nutrisystem.)
Little treats keep you from feeling deprived, so every day, allow yourself a bit of something you love (aim for 150 calories each). This kind of moderation is the difference between a "diet" and a lifestyle you can stick with forever. For salon owner Caitlin Gallagher, who lost 125 pounds, that meant replacing her nightly bowl of ice cream with a square of chocolate; social worker Brittany Hicks, who lost 100 pounds, started baking mini versions of her favorite pies.
You know that recording what you consume is a good way to keep your weight in check, but Brittany Hicks, who dropped 110 pounds in college, didn't only write down what she ate—she also wrote down why she was eating it. "I realized I'd been using food to cope with stress," she says. "Just noticing that helped me do it less." Make sure you're not making these food journal mistakes so you can reap the rewards of eating and jotting, too.
Eating dessert every day can be good for you, as long as you don’t overdo it. Make a spoonful of ice cream the jewel and a bowl of fruit the crown. Cut down on the chips by pairing each bite with lots of chunky, filling fresh salsa, suggests Jeff Novick, director of nutrition at the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa in Florida. Balance a little cheese with a lot of fruit or salad.
Sorry keto -- the Mediterranean diet is king. Endurance athletes and celebrities like LeBron James and the Kardashians have raved about the high-fat, low-carb ketogenic diet -- which was among Google’s most-searched terms this year. But Dr. Louis Aronne, an endocrinologist at NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medicine who runs the Comprehensive Weight Control Center, noted that the Mediterranean diet “is the only diet that has been proven in trials to promote weight loss and reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.” This meal plan includes using olive oil rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids as your main cooking oil, and loading your plate with fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein like fish and chicken, with the occasional piece of red meat. The American Heart Association recommends a similar diet that emphasizes whole, unprocessed foods, particularly fruits, veggies and whole grains, as well as low-fat dairy products, nuts and legumes, and non-tropical vegetable oils, while reducing salt, sugar and trans fats.
This is a typical problem for anyone with abdominal fat (visceral fat). When a body part is cold to the touch, it often indicates restrictive blood flow. In belly fat, it’s to and from the abdominal tissue. Especially in contrast to subcutaneous fat. Blood supply to a fat tissue you want to get rid of is a key ingredient. This is often the reason why people manage to lose fat everywhere, expect for stubborn areas. No circulation means no oxygen and growth hormone where you need them.
Summertime is the season for all things outdoors. For many of us, the warmer months mean donning sleeveless shirts, shorts, and bathing suits. It’s also the time of year when people worry the most about their appearance, or more importantly, losing that stubborn fat that clings to your waistline and reminds you of all of the culinary indulgences you enjoyed over the winter. While there are countless miracle pills and quick fixes available out there, most of them either don’t work or carry incredible health risks.
This formula will help you lose weight faster, says Kristin Kirkpatrick, R.D., manager of wellness nutrition services at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. A 2016 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that increasing your protein intake while decreasing the amount of calories you consume ensures that you lose fat instead of muscle. This 35-35-30 breakdown doesn't mean you can eat any old carb or fat though, she says. Aim to get most of your healthy fat from nuts and fish, your carbs from beans and whole grains, and protein from lean sources like eggs, chicken, and fish, she says.
Studies have also shown a link between high sugar intake and increased abdominal fat. But as Healthline.com points out, you should realize belly fat doesn't just come from refined sugars. Even natural or "healthier" sugars (such as honey) should be limited. Cutting back on your sugar intake is a simple way to lose belly fat without exercising or burning calories.
If you don’t have an established exercise routine, simply walking is the best first step toward weight loss. “Walking is a pretty good entry point for people,” says Gagliardi. This is particularly true if you have been out of the gym for a while and want to ease back into a workout routine. One small study published in The Journal of Exercise Nutrition & Biochemistry found that obese women who did a walking program for 50 to 70 minutes three days per week for 12 weeks significantly slashed their visceral fat compared to a sedentary control group.
I love this study because it examined a realistic lifestyle change rather than just a fad diet. Both groups, after all, were labeled as healthy diets, and they were, because study investigators encouraged eating high-quality, nutritious whole foods, unlimited vegetables, and avoiding flours, sugars, bad fats, and processed foods. Everyone was encouraged to be physically active at a level most Americans are not. And — this is a big one — everyone had access to basic behavioral counseling aimed at reducing emotional eating.
Intermittent fasting has become famous when it comes to weight loss. Intermittent fasting consists of an eating pattern involving cycling between eating periods and fasting periods. A popular intermittent fasting method comprises 24-hour fasts twice or once a week. Another one includes fasting each day for 16 hours and having all your meals within 8 hours. Research has shown that participants lose 4-7% of their fat when they fast within 6-24 hours.