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.
There are plenty of fun ways to get moving and exercise. The key is figuring out what you find fun and then going and doing it. Many find classes like cycling, Zumba, hip hop, step, boot camp to be great fun, while others find their fun hitting the trails, playing tennis, biking, swimming, or even just walking with their dog. Sometimes a personal trainer, a friend, or even an online program can make any format of fitness fun as well. Be open minded and try everything you can. You won't be disappointed.
Sleep quality matters as much as quantity, according to Gillespie. In general, an uninterrupted seven hours is better than 12 hours of tossing and turning. Of course, for new moms or others for whom sleep is hard to come by, naps are better than nothing. But if it’s possible to get your nightly sleep done in a solid block, that’s your best bet, she says.
Trim Portions. If you did nothing else but reduce your portions by 10%-20%, you would lose weight. Most of the portions served both in restaurants and at home are bigger than you need. Pull out the measuring cups to get a handle on your usual portion sizes, and work on paring them down. Get instant portion control by using small bowls, plates, and cups, says Brian Wansink, PhD, author of Mindless Eating. You won't feel deprived because the food will look plentiful on dainty dishware.
"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.

“Diets rich in trans fats not only promote belly fat but also mobilize fat stored in other areas of the body to the stomach,” explains McDaniel. “Sources of trans fats include vegetable shortenings, processed baked goods such as cookies and crackers and fried foods. Avoid foods that contain the ingredient “partially hydrogenated oil” in the ingredient list at all costs,” she cautions.

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.)

OnlinePlus provides tracking as well as community through WW Mobile’s clean and sophisticated Connect news feed, and it costs you just under $36 a month. If you like the idea of getting together IRL, Meetings+OnlinePlus costs about $77 a month. Our tester found the meetings genuinely nice, if a little cheesy. And if you need extra help, there’s a Personal Coaching option for about $107 a month. At every level of membership, you have access to a live coach via Expert Chat.
When you want to turn your diet around, don’t focus on the idea of restriction, Zeratsky says. Instead, think about the foods you can eat and how you can manage your hunger. “Eat foods that are more filling and have more water, like fruits and veggies, which will help your stomach respond to the weight to food,” she says. Plus, they’re low-cal and you still need that calorie deficit to drop belly fat.
While you can get tests to evaluate the cortisol level in your blood, only you can determine your own innate level of stress. Take some time to evaluate if you are living in a constant (or close to constant) state of stress. You might also notice increased anxiety levels, mood swings, trouble sleeping, fatigue (including feeling tired but unable to wind down) and high blood pressure.
Even though artificially sweetened drinks are calorie-free, drinking too many can actually hinder your fat-loss progress. It seems that beverages like diet soda mess with your brain’s ability to regulate calorie intake, causing you to feel hungrier than normal so you eat more total calories. Other research suggests that the sweet taste of these drinks can increase the release of insulin, which can blunt fat-burning and enhance fat storage.
“Starting slow and working your way up is better than overdoing it and giving up,” says Gagliardi. “I like the idea of attaching the new behavior of taking a walk to an existing behavior.” An easy way to approach it: Commit to going for a quick 10-minute walk after dinner, and slowly increase the time as you become more comfortable with daily movement.
If you don’t have an established exercise routine, simply walking is the best first step toward weight loss. “Walking is a pretty good entry point for people,” says Gagliardi. This is particularly true if you have been out of the gym for a while and want to ease back into a workout routine. One small study published in The Journal of Exercise Nutrition & Biochemistry found that obese women who did a walking program for 50 to 70 minutes three days per week for 12 weeks significantly slashed their visceral fat compared to a sedentary control group.

Hi. I’ve been a subscriber of your podcast for a few years and have heard bits and pieces of your recommendations. I followed a modified paleo diet for the last 3 years and have lost 30-40lbs (not sure about the exact weight since I stopped weighing myself when I got so fat). By modified, I mean I did the best I could but wasn’t 100% compliant and didn’t even workout on a regular basis. Seeing that I got such great results with half arss effort, I’d like to step it up a bit and get healthier and more toned. How much sweet potatoes or other carbs and when should I eat them if I’m attempting something like the Beachbody Body Beast? I find that I lack energy and am too wiped out to do the workouts if I’m doing the paleo strictly. Also, is it safe to paleo during pregnancy? Btw, I’m a physician, but none of this was actually taught in my formal education. I wish it was though. So thank you for doing what you do!!!
Giancoli also recommends finding a diet that fits in with how you really live. She notes that if you enjoy going out to eat but try to commit to a diet that forbids you from ever going to a restaurant, you’re just going to cheat. “It’s not sustainable… You’re most likely going to have a healthier meal if you’re going to cook yourself, but you’re depriving yourself of that social interaction if you never go out.” To put it another way: Your eating practices shouldn’t isolate you or keep you from having fun.
This is a very simple method that you can use even when you're in the midst of doing something else. Whenever you notice you’re feeling tense and uptight check and see how you’re breathing. Most people under stress either alternate holding their breath with short breaths, or take rapid shallow breaths. After you become aware of your own breathing, consciously relax your belly and slow down the breathing. This works best if you focus on slowing down the exhalation rather than your inhalation. With each exhalation you can say to yourself "slow down". That is all there is to it- Simple but surprisingly effective!!!
Also, while your menstrual cycle may not affect weight gain or loss, losing or gaining weight can affect your menstrual cycle. Women who lose too much weight or lose weight too quickly may stop having a period, or have irregular periods. Women who have obesity may also have irregular periods. A regular period is a sign of good health. Reaching a healthy weight can help women who have irregular periods to have cycles that are more regular. Learn more in our Menstrual Cycle section.

“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.


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“Poor sleep quality or quantity can make it difficult to lose or even maintain your weight,” says Darria Long Gillespie, MD, a clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine at The University of Tennessee. When you are sleep deprived, your body becomes less sensitive to the effects of leptin, the hormone that usually signals that you’ve had enough to eat. At the same time, the amount of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, increases, so you want to eat more. Together, it’s a recipe for overeating.
There’s mounting evidence that our body’s natural internal clocks, or circadian rhythms, drive a lot of our biological processes, including weight maintenance. They tend to sync up with daylight. That could be why studies have shown that shift workers tend to have a higher rate of obesity and weight gain—their body clocks are out of sync. One study even found that a third of people who experienced an interrupted sleep cycle for less than two weeks became prediabetic; all of the poor sleepers saw markers for the risk of obesity and type two diabetes climb.
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!)
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