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.
So it’s no wonder that losing weight and getting in shape are among the most popular resolutions year over year, because so many people can’t keep them; 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February. So Moneyish spoke with several leaders in the field of obesity research and prevention who have reviewed the science surrounding weight gain and loss to explain what to eat and avoid; how much exercise you need and which workouts work best; as well as their tips for making these moves a part of your new, well-balanced life in the New Year.
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.
Carb crazy? Consider this: Refined carbohydrates, such as bread, potatoes and rice, create a surge in insulin that in turn drives down your resting metabolic rate, explains Aronne. "It's important to keep carbohydrates in your diet, but really focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains, which have less of an effect on insulin levels," he explains. And when buying whole-grain breads and cereals, make sure the first ingredient listed is whole wheat, whole oat or cracked wheat.
Klein, S., Burke, L.E., Bray, G.A., Blair, S., Allison, D.B., Pi-Sunyer, X., et al. (2004). Clinical Implications of Obesity With Specific Focus on Cardiovascular Disease: A Statement for Professionals From the American Heart Association Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism: Endorsed by the American College of Cardiology Foundation. Circulation; 110(18): 2952-2967.
When you’re eating to deal with your emotions, like anxiety, stress or unhappiness, you’re likely not reaching for carrot sticks and blueberries, but carbohydrates, processed foods and even alcohol. Those calories eventually add up and, at the same time, you’re avoiding learning how to deal with difficult emotions and situations. It’s pretty much a lose-lose situation.
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.
If you want to get a six-pack, you should cut out sugary beverages and replace them with diet versions, right? Wrong. Recent studies have found an association between the consumption of diet sodas and a wider waist circumference. What’s more, diet soda drinkers have a higher percentage of belly flab than those who don’t sip the beverage, a study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found. Why? Researchers think diet soda drinkers may overestimate how many calories they’re “saving,” then overeat.
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.
“For some people, it’s knowing, ‘Typically I eat a whole sandwich,’” says Gagliardi. “‘Now, I’m going to make the decision to eat half a sandwich at lunch and save the other half for my dinner and essentially cut my calories in half. And they feel good about that. They’re not having to do math.” To get started, check out these 25 simple ways to cut 500 calories a day.
And some emotional eaters, in an effort to feel better, are prone to reach for foods that will ignite the reward center of the brain, which tend to be the sugary, fatty, salty, hyper-palatable foods that can lead to weight gain, says Pamela Peeke, author of the “The Hunger Fix: The Three-Stage Detox and Recovery Plan for Overeating and Food Addiction.”
Much has been made of the recently published results of the DIETFITS (Diet Intervention Examining the Factors Interacting with Treatment Success) study. Most of the headlines emphasized the fact that the two diets involved — low-fat and low-carb — ended up having the same results across almost all end points studied, from weight loss to lowering blood sugar and cholesterol.
"Order without looking at the menu. Almost every restaurant has the basics—veggies, grains, and protein. If you go in knowing what you want, I guarantee you'll be able to make a meal. If you're too uncomfortable to ask for what you need, tell a white lie: Say you're allergic. I know it's controversial to suggest this, but women in particular can really have trouble standing up for their own needs. So if you want the broccoli soup puréed without cream, tell the waiter you're lactose intolerant."
Some popular beliefs attached to weight loss have been shown to either have less effect on weight loss as commonly believed or are actively unhealthy. According to Harvard Health, the idea of metabolism being the "key to weight" is "part truth and part myth" as while metabolism does affect weight loss, external forces such as diet and exercise have an equal effect. They also commented that the idea of changing one's rate of metabolism is under debate. Diet plans in fitness magazines are also often believed to be effective, but may actually be harmful by limiting the daily intake of important calories and nutrients which can be detrimental depending on the person and are even capable of driving individuals away from weight loss.
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.
There’s a reason why protein takes center stage in many popular diet plans: it helps you feel full and stokes your metabolism enough to help you avoid the typical one or two pounds most adults gain each year. Your body burns slightly more calories after eating protein compared with fats or carbs, and protein from food also helps keep your muscles from deteriorating as you age. (Strength-building exercise is another important part of this process.) In order to get these benefits, you need to include protein at each meal, and getting adequate amounts of protein at breakfast — about 20 grams — is especially important. Making a beeline for the bagels or cereal means your body misses a key opportunity to rebuild muscle tissue, which naturally breaks down as you sleep. If this is your morning routine, your muscle mass will start to decline, and that means your metabolism will slow down. So skip the AM pastries and other carb-rich fare, and opt for an omelet or smoothie made with Greek yogurt or protein powder, instead.
If you are looking to kick start a new weight loss routine or conquer a diet plateau, try Dr. Oz's new two-week rapid weight-loss plan. By loading up on healthy food, like low-glycemic vegetables and small portions of protein, you can help curb your cravings and give your body a healthy start to the year. Plus, all of the meals can be automated and prepped, so you can drop pounds without spending a ton of time in the kitchen doing prep work. Read on to find out all the details!
Cinnamon contains powerful antioxidants called polyphenols that are proven to alter body composition and improve insulin sensitivity. A Metabolism journal study showed that the addition of dietary cinnamon can activate thermogenesis and potentially help you burn fat. Add it to your overnight oats or sprinkle some in your coffee to reap the benefits.
And as people get older they tend to become less active, which means you burn fewer calories all day long. Plus, you naturally lose muscle mass due to hormonal changes, which further drops your daily calorie-burn rate. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue, so a body with less lean tissue has a lower metabolism and is prone to weight gain.
Weight Watchers, which not only champions a sustainable diet but has sustained itself for over fifty years, is a favorite amongst nutritionists. Its practical, flexible philosophy of saving and splurging SmartPoints boils down to balancing out food choices. You can get tips, tools, and motivation by attending the traditional weekly meetings, or get the same resources through its user-friendly app. Either way, research proves that Weight Watchers’ social element supports weight loss. At about $4 a week, OnlinePlus costs about half as much as Meetings+OnlinePlus, which runs around $8 (your fees vary depending on the length of your commitment).
Cancer, a very common and sometimes fatal cause of unexplained (idiopathic) weight loss. About one-third of unintentional weight loss cases are secondary to malignancy. Cancers to suspect in patients with unexplained weight loss include gastrointestinal, prostate, hepatobiliary (hepatocellular carcinoma, pancreatic cancer), ovarian, hematologic or lung malignancies.
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.
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.)
Thus it's best to avoid thinking about a weight-loss diet in terms of a temporary diet designed to help you get to your goal weight. Doing this only sets you up for failure. You’ll either fail to adhere to the diet and never reach your goal weight, or you’ll regain the weight after you’ve reached your goal weight. This is biggest reason why most people regain the weight they lost. Albert Matheny, a dietitian cited in an article about the University of Toronto study, sums it up perfectly, "You didn't gain 20 pounds overnight. It took time. The same goes for losing 20 pounds. Consistency and change of lifestyle over the long term is what leads to health and weight-loss success.”
Even if you have specific health or weight loss goals, you may have no idea what type of program will yield the results you're looking for, especially if certain diet programs have failed you in the past. For this reason, we were specifically interested in the motivational aspects of each service. Programs that provide more motivation through the community, weight loss challenges, tools and tips scored higher than programs that didn't offer these features. The number of tools and motivational features also helped us determine whether or not the price of membership was warranted. While we didn't score programs based on their membership fees, we did note whether or not they were on the costlier side of the spectrum.
A trim midsection is good for many things, like fitting into your favorite jeans or walking the beach in a swimsuit with confidence. But there are even better reasons to work off extra baggage around your stomach. That baggage, known as visceral fat, isn’t just the most annoying kind — it’s also the most dangerous. As it forms between your organs, deep within your abdominal cavity, it secretes proteins that can trigger chronic inflammation, putting you at risk for heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer.