The menstrual cycle itself doesn’t seem to affect weight gain or loss. But having a period may affect your weight in other ways. Many women get premenstrual syndrome (PMS). PMS can cause you to crave and eat more sweet or salty foods than normal.4 Those extra calories can lead to weight gain. And salt makes the body hold on to more water, which raises body weight (but not fat).
Stress causes our bodies to pump out a hormone called cortisol which causes us to build and retain belly fat. If you’ve tried every health food, trick, cheat, and exercise under the sun but you just can’t seem to lose the weight around your waist, relax. It may be the stress itself that is to blame. Instead of worrying about your weight, set aside some time each day to do something you love. Think about what makes you happy and find a way to include that in your daily routine.
You can eat twice as much pasta salad loaded with veggies like broccoli, carrots, and tomatoes for the same calories as a pasta salad sporting just mayonnaise. Same goes for stir-fries, omelets, and other veggie-friendly dishes. If you eat a 1:1 ratio of grains to veggies, the high-fiber veggies will help satisfy your hunger before you overeat the grains. Bonus: Fiber is highly beneficial for preventing constipation, which can make you look bloated.
Packaged meal programs: Many diet plans rely on meal-replacement bars, shakes, or other snack type foods. Still others rely on frozen entrees as a major part of your diet. Ask yourself if you are okay with a bulk of your diet relying on prepackaged snacks, shakes, or frozen meals, or if you prefer the flexibility of cooking your own meals or eating out frequently.
"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.
It’s a little counterintuitive, but consuming calories after you’ve just burned them appears to be vital to fat-burning. Your muscles need a combo of protein and carbs to replenish energy stores and build new muscle. In one study, people who downed a 270-calorie shake with 24 grams of protein and 36 grams of carbs after their workout lost about four more pounds of fat and built more lean muscle than those who didn’t refuel post-exercise. Eating protein after a workout may help with lean muscle gains and could also help to prevent overeating later in the day, says Lesli Bonci, RD, a nutritionist and owner of Active Eating Advice. Find out what fitness instructors eat post-workout.
You don’t have to go low-carb to ditch those extra pounds around your waist in a short period of time. In fact, opting for more whole grains might just get you there faster. Researchers at Tufts University have linked eating three or more daily servings of whole grains to as much as a 10 percent reduction in visceral body fat, the kind that ups your risk for chronic diseases, like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
As with many foods, there are healthy versions and ones that make promises they can’t deliver. Some bars that promise “pure protein” have the same nutritional value as a candy bar, so it’s important to research before purchasing. Rather than just counting calories, check out the actual ingredients; is it made up of real food? Skip protein bars for weight loss that include soy in favor of ones that use proteins that include leucine, valine and isoleucine. The protein, plus the fiber and fat, will be what plays a key role in keeping you full throughout the day.
Unfortunately for beer lovers, a six-pack of cold ones and six-pack abs are mutually exclusive. “My clients repeatedly hear my reminders that I can’t help them out-train their poor nutritional and lifestyle choices, and this includes drinking alcohol,” says Horton. When you down a drink, be it beer, wine or liquor, your body has to break down the alcohol before it can process all the other food in your system. This slows down the metabolic process, and can make it difficult to strip away the layer of fat that’s covering your abs. What’s more, research suggests that consuming just half a drink (a 6-ounce beer, a 2.5-ounce glass of wine or half a shot of liquor) can significantly increase appetite and the number of calories you subsequently consume—even if you still feel stone-cold sober. The bottom line: Ditch the booze if you really want to see your abs shine through.
And at the gym, that difference just gets exacerbated. Women, worried about bulking up, tend to lift lighter weights and focus more on cardiovascular fitness, while men tend to gravitate toward the kind of heavy lifting that boosts muscle composition and metabolic rate, says Jim White, a Virginia Beach-based nutrition expert and certified personal trainer.
It's not just what you eat that can make you pack on pounds—it's also how much. Before dropping 102 pounds, DeGennaro did not have a grip on proper serving sizes. "Sitting down to dinner with my husband and three kids, I'd scarf down mounds of pasta and endless rolls," she says. "Adjusting to smaller portions was tricky at first; I'd round out meals with extra veggies to keep from getting hungry."
Processed foods are one of the biggest sources of salt in Americans’ diets—and the scary part is you probably don’t even realize it. Because of the way these addictive foods are formulated, salt is hidden in everything from soups to pasta sauces to even sweet things like boxed cakes. Swap out processed foods in favor of fresh fare and your tummy will thank you. Not only will you lose the salt-bloat but you’ll also lose the extra empty calories and lose weight. Learn about these 50 more ways you can lose weight without a lick of exercise.