For those just starting out on their weight-loss journey, Rachael Lenzmeier Jencks, 43, wants you to know that cutting calories blindly, without thinking about the nutritional impact of the foods you're eating, isn't the answer. "The one thing that I would tell myself is that skipping fruit and veggies to save calories isn't EVER going to do the trick," she says. "What you put in your body does matter and no amount of exercise can undo a bad diet." (Need a little inspo? Check out the best pre- and post-workout snacks for every workout.)
Use a calorie-needs calculator like LIVESTRONG.COM’s MyPlate app to figure out your daily calorie needs, then subtract calories to create your energy deficit. With an app like MyPlate, you can factor in your weight-loss goal, and it will tell you the exact number of calories (as well has how much fat, protein and carbohydrates) you need to reach that goal.
There’s also the impact fiber has on your gut health. By now you’ve likely heard of the microbiome—the trillions of bacteria that live in your digestive tract. It turns out that a predominance of certain strains of bacteria may encourage inflammation and weight gain, and eating fiber-rich foods can favorably shift this balance. While it’s too soon to say that changing your microbial makeup will prompt weight loss, it’s likely to send a “hey, stop gaining weight,” message.
Weight training is the ultimate way to burn calories fast. "A pound of muscle burns up to nine times the calories of a pound of fat," explains Richard Cotton, M.A., chief exercise physiologist for myexerciseplan.com. Weight training increases your resting metabolic rate, which is the number of calories you burn while sitting on your butt. What's more, it gives your metabolism an added boost after you exercise, staying in overdrive for up to two hours after the last bench press, according to a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Strapped for time? Try these quick moves: squats, bench step-ups, lunges, push-ups, pull-ups and planks. In a pinch, just do single sets of 10 for each exercise — you'll get optimal results for the time invested.
Consuming too many starchy foods, such as potatoes, rice, pasta, and breads (especially at one sitting), provides your body with more than it needs for energy and glycogen stores; anything left over will be stored as fat. "You don't have to eliminate starchy carbs completely," says IFBB pro Mike Matarazzo. "But you should really cut back on them when trying to shed body fat." Limit total starch servings per day to 3-5, where a serving size is one cup of pasta, rice, or sliced potatoes.
Vegetables, preferably wild or organic and raw, should make up more than half of your plate. The majority of bulk should come from fresh green, leafy, vegetables such as kale, spinach, leaf lettuce, bok choy, collard greens, and other greens. Colorful vegetables are excellent, but limit starches, especially white potatoes and corn. Fresh veggies are best, but steamed, lightly cooked, frozen, and canned without preservatives or additives work, too.
Fennel, peppermint, and ginger have all been shown in research studies to have calming effects on the belly. They work by enhancing digestive enzymes so your food gets moved through your system faster. And faster-moving food means a flatter tummy. In addition, peppermint reduces cramping and gas, ginger helps with nausea and inflammation, and fennel is a diuretic to help you stop retaining water.
Sleep quality matters as much as quantity, according to Gillespie. In general, an uninterrupted seven hours is better than 12 hours of tossing and turning. Of course, for new moms or others for whom sleep is hard to come by, naps are better than nothing. But if it’s possible to get your nightly sleep done in a solid block, that’s your best bet, she says.
Eating meals frequently helps combat fat gain by giving your body long-lasting energy and preventing intense hunger that leads to irrational food choices and over eating, says Armul. At each meal, fill half of your plate with fruits and veggies, one quarter with whole grains, and one quarter with lean protein, like beans, nuts, eggs, fish, and poultry, she says. These nutrient-rich foods increase satiety by slowing the digestion and absorption of food in the stomach, which ultimately leads to less calories consumed and more weight loss.
The Mayo Clinic Diet is designed to help you lose up to 6 to 10 pounds (2.7 to 4.5 kilograms) during the initial two-week phase. After that, you transition into the second phase, where you continue to lose 1 to 2 pounds (0.5 to 1 kilogram) a week until you reach your goal weight. By continuing the lifelong habits that you've learned, you can then maintain your goal weight for the rest of your life.
It’s called a “beer belly” for a reason. Boozy bubbles are a major cause of belly bloat, as anyone who’s ever looked in the mirror after a few too many drinks can attest. But it’s not just the carbonation that is the culprit. Alcohol can lead to an overgrowth of bad bacteria in your stomach, leading to gas, not to mention all the empty calories that are going straight to your waistline. Instead, skip the alcohol altogether or limit yourself to one serving per day.