Women who ate low-fat dairy products, such as non-fat yogurt and low-fat cheese three to four times a day lost 70 percent more fat than low-dairy dieters, according to a study published in the journal Obesity Research. "Calcium serves as a switch that tells your body to burn excess fat faster," explains study author Michael Zemel, M.D., director of the Nutrition Institute at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Sorry, but you won't reap the same benefits from calcium-fortified O.J. Research shows that you get the best results from dairy products themselves, not fortified foods. Aim for 1,200 mg, which includes about three servings of dairy a day.
And that’s not just the junk food sabotaging your diet, or the time suckers keeping you from working out. We’re also talking about the fad diets, fitness trends and questionable studies that have made reaching and maintaining a healthy weight more confusing than ever by promising this superfood or that super intense workout is the quick fix to tip the scale in your favor. (They’ve also spawned a $66 billion weight loss market.)
Losing weight isn’t necessarily a matter of meat vs. plants or carbs vs. fats. Repeatedly, studies suggest you can lose weight with a number of different approaches, including the ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting, and WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers). Truth be told, losing weight is much easier than keeping it off. The last decade of research on weight loss points to the fact that once you lose weight, your body is in a battle with biology. It’s an unfortunate irony, but studies show that as you drop pounds, your levels of “I’m hungry” hormones increase, while your “I’m full” hormones decrease. At the same time, your body physically needs less fuel to operate your smaller size. It’s not an easy battle, but it isn’t impossible; you can march on. Here’s what we’ve learned about weight loss, and what you can do to take charge of your weight this year.
Because men are larger than women on average and have more muscle to support, men can usually eat more calories while still losing weight, compared to women. Portion control may be especially important for women. In one study, women who ate smaller portions of food (and less food overall) had lower BMIs than women who limited or avoided a certain type of food.2 This approach seems to work better for women than men.3
If you dislike cooking, abhor making food choices, or simply want low-calorie options shipped to your door, Nutrisystem might slot into your life. But it can get expensive, and food selection and flavor are hit-or-miss. Mostly miss. “It’s enough substance to call it a meal, but the texture of every ingredient was lacking,” our tester reported without enthusiasm.
For example, you might not realize just how much you eat when you go out to happy hour with friends. But if you take the split second to take a step back and make yourself aware of that fact, you’re more able to make a healthy decision. “The awareness and then planning and coming up with strategies for what else I can be doing—that might give me the same benefit of eating those comfort foods that make me feel better,” says Gagliardi.
Gym memberships can be expensive, and some days you just can't make it into the gym. Or maybe, you might not feel comfortable in a gym quite yet. At the start of her weight loss journey, Suheily Rodriguez says he was too embarrassed to go to a gym. "So I built a home one," she says, "where I exercised an hour a day, six days a week." She credits this to her 96-pound weight loss.
Like protein, fiber slows the rate at which your body plows through carb calories so you feel full for longer and maintain steadier blood sugar levels, one reason why research consistently links fiber intake to weight loss. That means fibrous whole grain bread tends to be a better choice than white bread and also explains why fruits, which contain fiber and valuable vitamins in addition to sugar, beat straight-up candy every time.
High-intensity interval training—HIIT—has gained a reputation as an efficient way to get fast results. This workout involves short (30 seconds to five minutes), vigorous bursts of activity interspersed with periods of rest for maximum results. Incorporating HIIT into your strength training may offer even more results, according to a recent study by the American Council on Exercise—the results suggest the combo may be even more effective in burning fat fast.
In other words? "Drinking makes you more likely to eat sh*t," Dr. Seltzer says, referring to drunk foods. At the same time, he stops short of asking patients to quit alcohol cold-turkey to lose weight. Plus, research suggests you don’t have to, as long as your intake is moderate—i.e., less than about a drink a day. "If you drink a glass of wine every night and notice you eat more afterward, eat less early to account for this," he says. "Or, if you’re drinking four glasses of wine a week, drink three instead so you’ll won’t feel such a big difference."
Though not always followed for weight loss per se, an anti-inflammatory diet is rich in whole foods (including fresh fruits and veggies), and low in packaged, processed ones (like french fries and pastries), so there is a chance you will still shed pounds with this approach. But usually, folks follow this diet to help prevent or treat chronic diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and cancer. And that’s smart, considering there’s a bounty of research to support this notion. Adopting this diet is relatively simple. It isn’t focused on counting calories or carbs, or following any sort of specific protocol. Instead of constantly thinking about the quantity of food you are eating, an anti-inflammatory is all about prioritizing the quality of what is on your plate.
Load up on low energy density foods, like vegetables, fruits and fat-free broths. A few minor tweaks can lower the energy density of your favorite meals, too. For example, substitute a half-cup of spaghetti and a half-cup of spiralized zucchini "zoodles" for a full cup of spaghetti. Or make a chicken, vegetable and brown rice soup instead of serving grilled chicken with brown rice and veggies; the broth is often very low or virtually free of calories, lowering the energy density of your meal, so you may fill up on fewer calories.
There's a pretty dizzying amount of research backing up this regime as a solid option to enhance your health, lower cholesterol, and encourage healthy, lasting weight loss. DASH (the acronym stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) has you loading up on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (surprise!) and removing foods high in saturated fat from your diet. Research also shows that this diet may even ward off the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Salads are the go-to diet food, you’re probably thinking. How could they possibly keep me from losing weight? The problem is with what you put on the salad. “Salad items like nuts, fruits, some dressings and extras like croutons and cran-raisins, can actually add an extra 300-400 calories to the meal,” says Angela Godwin, FNP-BC MSN, clinical instructor at the NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing. “Instead, greens and proteins can make a salad more filling with less fat.” Also, steer clear of “lite” salad dressings that secretly have high sugar content. Look out for these other weight-loss mistakes nearly everyone makes.
Fiber is found in beans, nuts, seeds, fruits, veggies, and whole grains and foods rich in fiber tend to lend themselves to weight loss. At the moment, just 10 percentof Americans are hitting fiber targets of around 25 grams per day. Studies that track what people eat over time suggest that there’s a connection between weight and fiber intake, with higher fiber intakes linked to lower body weights (the reverse is true, too). One review of 12 studies found that supplementing the diet with more soluble fiber helped people slim down. Another year-long study found that people who followed the simple suggestion to eat 30 grams of fiber each day lost about 5 pounds.
Many diet plans cut out entire food groups, which can create nutrient deficiencies as well as health problems. For instance, if the diet is very low in carbohydrates and you have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, it’s probably not a good fit. And if it’s too restrictive and you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s not a good idea, either. Keep in mind that pregnancy is not a time for weight loss. Speak with your doctor before making any changes to your diet if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.
Set yourself up to lose excess belly fat by setting realistic goals. You won't be able to lose fat exclusively from your belly -- it will come from all over your body, including your midsection -- or shed 20 pounds in just a week. You can, however, lose 1 to 2 pounds of fat to start slimming your midsection, using sustainable methods that'll allow for larger weight loss over longer periods of time.
Cortisone as an oral drug is another common culprit (e.g. Prednisolone). Cortisone often causes weight gain in the long run, especially at higher doses (e.g. more than 5 mg Prednisolone per day). Unfortunately, cortisone is often an essential medication for those who are prescribed it, but the dose should be adjusted frequently so you don’t take more than you need. Asthma inhalers and other local cortisone treatments, like creams or nose sprays, hardly affect weight.
Yes, you read that right! “Get rid of your low-fat and fat-free yogurts, milk, and cheeses. Full-fat dairy (and many of these 20 Best Full-Fat Foods for Weight Loss) contains anti-inflammatory fatty acids, like butyrate and conjugated linolenic acid (CLA), that can support healthy metabolic function and fat-burning, says Minchen. “Additionally, full-fat dairy contains vitamins A and K, two vitamins that need fats to be absorbed and metabolized.” However, fair warning: full-fat products do carry more calories, so be sure to cut back elsewhere so you don’t up your total calorie count.
For some, this is the hardest part of life after a diet. Working out how much of each component make up a healthy, well-portioned and flavorsome meal can be tricky and takes a bit of practice. Nonetheless, it’s crucial if you’re going to maintain your optimum weight. If this aspect worries you, why not consider a meal delivery service where each ingredient comes pre-portioned? After a month or so, you’ll probably feel a lot more confident about how much you should be eating at any given meal.
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Markwald, R. R., Melanson, E. L., Smith, M. R., Higgins, J., Perreault, L., Eckel, R. H., & Wright, Jr., K. P. (2013, April 2). Impact of insufficient sleep on total daily energy expenditure, food intake, and weight gain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 110(14), 5695–5700. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3619301/
“If you already have a regular exercise regimen and aren’t seeing the fat-loss results you want, it’s probably what you’re putting in your mouth that’s holding you back, says Justin Thomas Sanchez, Reebok Sponsored Athlete and trainer at Drill Fitness in NYC. “I’m known for telling my clients that they’re flushing their money down the toilet if they pay me to train them and aren’t sticking to their diet. Results are 70% nutrition and 30% fitness,” he adds.
Moving isn’t just for the gym. Americans tend to sit too much in general. You can combat that, finds research, by engaging in “spontaneous physical activity”—fidgeting, tapping, and getting up from your desk or the couch frequently. Make moving a habit by standing when you take calls, for instance, using the stairs when possible, or bouncing your legs when you’re seated. Every calorie burned helps.
"Anytime you’re stressed, you probably go for food," Dr. Seltzer says. (Have we met?!) That’s because cortisol, the stress hormone, stokes your appetite for sugary, fatty foods. No wonder it’s associated with higher body weight, according to a 2007 Obesity study that quantified chronic stress exposure by looking at cortisol concentrations in more than 2,000 adults’ hair.
Stress skyrockets your levels of cortisol, often called “the belly fat” hormone because it signals to the body to store fat around your waist. Add the daily stressors of living our modern lifestyle and you can see how cortisol can be constantly coursing through your veins. This perma-stress mode isn’t good for a lot of healthy reasons, your tummy being just one of them, so it’s important to take time every day to de-stress. Yoga, meditation, walking, journaling, doing a hands-on hobby, or playing a musical instrument are all great time-tested methods. (Hint: Know what isn’t? Watching television. The boob tube actually increases your levels of cortisol!)