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.
“There are many diet plans on the market today that promote good health,” says Emily Kyle, RDN, who is in private practice in Rochester, New York. “The key is finding one that does not cause you stress or agony.” Ask yourself questions such as: Would the diet guidelines make you happy? Anxious? Stressed? Are you able to follow them long term? “Factors such as enjoyment, flexibility, and longevity should be strongly considered,” adds Kyle.
First, as women near midlife, their ratio of fat to body weight increases rapidly. Second, many women see that new fat mostly around their bellies. This is “visceral fat” and it can change the entire shape of your midsection. Visceral fat cells are like miniature endocrine organs that are especially active, setting off inflammation and increasing insulin resistance. Third, visceral fat gets a huge boost from lifestyle issues like depression and stress, poor sleep, smoking (proven to increase belly fat ), irritability, and drinking fructose-sweetened beverages (leads to more visceral fat and decreases insulin sensitivity).
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.”
Tip #1: Eat nutrient-dense foods daily, like green smoothies, hearty salads, and bone broth. Green smoothies should be made of primarily leafy greens that are packed with vitamins and minerals, filling fiber, and raw food enzymes to aid digestion (add Future Greens for a boost to the flavor and nutrition). And the low, slow cooking of the bones of pasture-raised animals to make bone broth draws out the collagen, marrow, and other healing elements from the bones, including amino acids, minerals, glycine, and gelatin—which helps heal the gut, provide nutrients, and reduce inflammation.
The scale is not necessarily your friend. You may want to lose fat – but the scale measures muscles, bone and internal organs as well. Gaining muscle is a good thing. Thus weight or BMI are imperfect ways to measure your progress. This is especially true if you’re just coming off a long period of semi-starvation (calorie counting), as your body may want to restore lost muscles etc. Starting weight training and gaining muscle can also hide your fat loss.
SouthBeachDiet.com offers a comprehensive weight loss service which includes coaching, recipes, exercises, tracking tools and more. They now produce a range of additive-free snacks to help you during cravings, plus community support if you need it. The diet was initially designed by a cardiologist and Professor of medicine, but rather than a simple quick fix, it aims to change the way you think about...
Non-food related factors could be why you can’t lose weight. One common and underappreciated factor in is sleep deprivation, according to Malkani. Studies show that poor sleep may lead to an increase in body fat and is a risk factor for obesity. “This is potentially because sleep deprivation affects the production of hormones that regulate hunger and satiety,” Malkani, creator of the Wholitarian Lifestyle, says. Stress or emotional eating has a similarly negative impact on weight. Studies show that extreme dieting increases cortisol, the stress hormone, which is known for causing weight gain. Malkani adds that adopting healthy alternatives to mood-triggered eating—like taking a walk, meditating, or taking with a friend—are healthy tools for dealing with stress rather than distracting yourself with food.
For even more impressive effects on body composition: aim for exercise forms which elicit a positive hormonal response. This means lifting really heavy things (strength training), or interval training. Such exercise increases levels of the sex hormone testosterone (primarily in men) as well as growth hormone. Not only do greater levels of these hormones increase your muscle mass, but they also decrease your visceral fat (belly fat) in the long term.
Over the past five or six days of this protocol, you’ve been in deep ketosis and burning only fat, but you haven’t had to be particularly calorie restricted. In order to reset leptin levels and prevent a large drop in energy levels, you need to re-feed. Contrary to our normal recommendations, you need to pound down the carbs. When it comes to normalizing leptin levels, fat has no effect, while carbs are going to send them sky high.
That doesn’t mean you need to ditch the scale, though. Studies continue to point to the fact that monitoring your weight can be an effective strategy for losing weight and discouraging weight gain (another healthy pursuit) provided it doesn’t cause any emotional distress. Just don’t get married to a number on the scale or get caught up in a set number of pounds you’d like to lose. Instead, settle on how you’d like to feel. Maybe you’d like to be more energetic or perhaps you’d like to manage your health without the need for medications. You can accomplish these goals without losing much weight.
To start off, aim to do ab work 3 or 4 times a week on non-consecutive days with at least 24 hours of rest in between sessions, says Gagliardi. During those sessions, you can start with simpler moves like crunches, bicycle crunches, and planks. Even though you may only be directly targeting your abs 3 or 4 times a week, you should still be activating your core (aka, tightening your ab muscles) in every workout you do, says Gagliardi.
Even tiny changes in thyroid function can meddle with the way your body processes food for fuel because thyroid hormones affect metabolism and how your body deals with weight. When thyroid hormone levels drop too low, you can start gaining weight. You may also have other symptoms that don’t seem connected — low energy, feeling cold a lot, skin issues or hair loss.
Even if you eat well and exercise, constantly pulling your hair out can prevent your abs from showing. When we stress out, the body starts pumping out the hormone cortisol, which encourages the body to store cholesterol-raising fat around the midsection. The good news is that vitamin C-rich foods like peppers, broccoli and Brussels sprouts can help keep you trim. How does eating the produce squash stress? According to German researchers, the nutrient can lower levels of cortisol during stressful situations, helping those abs take center stage.
Ranging from just-juice to just-tea cleanses, these typically short-term plans can be dangerous. “Detoxes and cleanses are usually low in calories, protein, and fiber, all nutrients that our bodies need to function,” says Alissa Rumsey, RD, who is in private practice in New York City. “These plans leave you feeling hungry and cranky, causing a rebound food binge once you stop the detox.”
Spending more time in the kitchen can help you shed belly fat, as long as you’re cooking with the right foods, according to one 2017 study. After analyzing data from more than 11,000 men and women, UK researchers found that people who ate more than five homemade meals per week were 28 percent less likely to have a high body mass index, and 24 percent less likely to carry too much body fat than those whole only downed three meals at home.
Good news: You might not be as flabby around the middle as you think, says Roberts. “Many people are just bloated,” he says. Focusing on eliminating your bloat can work wonders in terms of achieving a flatter stomach. Some people may need to cut out gluten, while others will see results when they eliminate dairy, he says. And then there are people who without sensitivities who can see results by simply reducing their salt intake and eating foods high in potassium, a powerful mineral that’s been shown help the body rid itself of excess sodium. Bananas, avocados and fresh figs are all potent sources of the nutrient.
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.
If planning for and preparing healthy foods is the biggest obstacle to your weight loss, look no further than Jenny Craig. The program delivers prepackaged food to your home; you just heat (or open) and eat, and experts and users say the food tastes good, too. There's no counting calories, no forbidden foods, and little planning required. Reviewers say Jenny Craig is an ideal program for someone who wants a no-hassle diet. It's pricey, though, and, there's very little room for eating out or home-cooked meals.
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.
In what is perhaps the biggest buzzkill of all time, sex doesn’t quite count as cardio or burn a significant amount of calories: Women burn about 3.6 per minute. "It’s still a good idea," Dr. Seltzer says, citing the activity’s other benefits, like increasing the output of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which naturally reduce food cravings.
This popular plan recently underwent a rebranding to create a more balanced program, changing its four-phase approach with the help of a science advisory board. The Atkins Diet is still low-carb, but you won't be chowing down on steak and eggs all the time to promote weight loss. Lean protein is still key, but there's more of a spotlight on fiber, fruit, vegetables, and healthy fats.