Once you’ve completed your weight-loss plan comes the hardest part of all – maintaining your weight. Hopefully, during the course of your weight-loss plan, you’ve not only acquired some useful diet tools and exercise ideas, but you’ve also met with other people trying to achieve similar goals. Use those tools and support group to help you keep the pounds from piling back on.
Eliminating any food group strictly for weight loss is not a healthy diet approach—and it doesn’t work for long term weight loss. Research shows that food deprivation and restriction consistently increases food intake, which could lead to weight gain. More importantly, restricting food groups also inadvertently limits vitamins and nutrients. For example, dairy products are a top source of calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. Most people find that low-anything diets are hard to sustain over time because they often require a lot of cooking or buying specialty food items—and a diet certainly won’t work if you don’t follow it. Caroline Apovian, MD, director of nutrition and weight management at Boston Medical Center, adds that any diet could help you lose weight—the mistake is thinking you can indefinitely stay on a diet that eliminates one food group. “The only diet you can truly stay on forever is the Mediterranean or DASH diets,” she says.
“My dad is like a food-pushing wizard, he’s always pulling stuff out of his pockets or showing up with delicious food,” says Mary Mock. While the family tradition of surprise sweets was fun, when it came time to lose weight, she knew she had to put a stop to all that temptation. “At first, he seemed hurt when I kept saying no but when I explained it was for my health, he got on board. Sometimes I still have to remind him though!” she says.
There's no way around the fact that, when it comes to burning more fat, you have to work at it. There is no magic exercise, workout, or pill that will do the job for you. The good news is that it doesn't take much activity to push the body into that fat burning mode. Try incorporating some type of activity every day, even if it's just a quick walk, and build on that over time as it becomes more of a routine. Do that and you're on the way to burning more fat.
Replace your weekly cardio session with circuit resistance training to whittle your middle. “High-intensity circuit training with dynamic movements is one of my favorite ways to build muscle and burn fat all over the body, says Rich. “There is no possible way to spot-reduce fat, so it’s important to train the entire body to lose fat overall. Performing moves like burpees, jump squats, mountain climbers and fast push-ups are great examples. If you have 40 minutes to work out, do twenty minutes of cardio and twenty minutes of circuit resistance training. You’re sure to see the difference in your body.”
Real talk: It could take weeks or months to see the metabolic effects of exercise on the scale, and even then, building muscle, which is denser than body fat, could lead to weight gain. "Do what you like because it’s good for you," Dr. Seltzer says, noting the way exercise is awesome for your heart, mental health, and more—and that not all measure of progress can be seen on the scale.
Lifting weights is essential for gaining and preserving muscle mass. Research on individuals with fatty liver diseases and type 2 diabetes has revealed that resistance training assists in the loss of belly fat. One study carried out on obese teenagers resulted in the highest decrease in visceral fat after a combination of weight lifting and cardio.
Believe it or not, sleeping, dieting and training are equally important when it comes to sculpting a sick set of abs. No matter how many calories you cut or miles you log, it won’t get you anywhere near your goal unless you’re also getting enough sleep. In fact, losing a mere hour of shut-eye over the course of three days has been shown to negatively impact the body’s hunger hormone, ghrelin, increasing the number of calories you’re bound to consume each day. Researchers also say that skimping on sleep increases the odds you’ll wind up munching on junk food, especially at night, which can make it difficult to get chiseled abs. Conversely, quality sleep fuels the production of fat-burning hormones that can help you get you that washboard stomach you’ve been working for.
A recent study in the journal Nature found that mice who were fed a breakfast in which 45 percent of the calories came from fat tended to burn more body fat over the next 24 hours than those who ate a meal that was only 20 percent fat. This is early research—it needs to be repeated in humans—but mono and polyunsaturated fats like those found in avocados and nuts do have plenty of health benefits when you eat them in moderation.
However, if you’re already on medication and think it could be hampering weight loss efforts, speak with your doctor about your options. It may be possible to transition to a more natural option, like a natural form of birth control, coming up with a plan to transition off medication or simply trying an alternative that’s not known to cause weight gain.
The study began with 609 relatively healthy overweight and obese people, and 481 completed the whole year. For the first month, everyone did what they usually did. Then, for the next eight weeks, the low-fat group reduced their total fat intake to 20 grams per day, and the low-carb group reduced their total carbohydrate intake to 20 grams per day. These are incredibly restricted amounts, considering that there are 26 grams of carbs in the yogurt drink I’m enjoying as I write this, and 21 grams of fat in my half of the dark chocolate bar my husband and I split for dessert last night.
Many people chew gum as a way to stifle cravings or prevent mindless eating but this tactic may have an unfortunate side effect: belly bloat. Everyone naturally swallows a small amount of air when they chew but it’s magnified for people who chew gum, which causes gas and bloating. In addition, some artificial sweeteners have been shown to increase your appetite for junk food, so gum could be increasing your waistline on two fronts.