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.”
If you’re actively watching your weight this season, know this: Research from the University of Chicago found that dieters lost 55% less fat when they slept for 5½ hours than when they slept for 8½ hours. To settle into slumber more easily, avoid lit screens, food and, yes, booze for a full two hours before bed, and fill your plate with foods that help you fall asleep earlier in the night (think cherries, jasmine rice, and bananas).
Going for a jog before a night out is a great way to crush calories, but if you strength train, you’ll continue to fry fat post-workout. To maximize the afterburn, do “weight-bearing exercises involving the most muscle mass,” such as mountain climbers, push-ups, and lunges, advises Len Kravitz, PhD, program coordinator of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.
Any movement counts. The numbers are daunting: The 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans suggest a minimum of 150 minutes (2.5 hour) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week (walking briskly, playing doubles tennis, raking leaves), or 75 minutes (one hour, 15 minutes) of vigorous-intensity activity (running, a strenuous fitness class, carrying groceries up stairs), as well as muscle-strengthening activities (resistance training and weightlifting) two days a week. But if you want to lose weight, work up to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week, or 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity. “But doing something just a few minutes a day to get started has benefits,” said Piercy. “So parking farther away when you’re running errands, getting up from our desks and going down the hall instead of sending an email -- those are things people can start incorporating into their daily lives now that may be a little easier than saying, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to figure out how to fit 2.5 hours of activity into my week.” If you are starting from zero physical activity, Dr. Jakicic suggests taking a 10-minute walk five times a week, shooting for 50 minutes a week, and building on from there once it becomes habit.
WeightWatchers is one of the best known weight loss programs around. The reason it’s successful is that it’s often viewed as one of the easier programs to follow, helping you to change the way you think about and behave around food. Nothing is off limits, so you can still enjoy your favorite meals and snacks, even a drink of alcohol now and then, meaning...
"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.
Are you like Old Faithful when it comes to your morning walk or evening jog? Know this: The more you do an activity, the more your body adapts to it, so you burn fewer calories. If you want to light a fire under your metabolism, consider cross-training. For example, if you normally walk, try biking instead. "Since you're not used to working all those different muscles, it's a more intense workout, which can translate into a greater metabolic after-burn because your body is working harder to recover and get oxygen to all your tissues," says Carol Espel, M.S., an exercise physiologist for Equinox Fitness Clubs in New York City.
You do have to track everything you eat, which is easy if you're following a Weight Watchers' recipe or eating a prepackaged food with the points pre-calculated. It gets a bit trickier when you prepare your own recipes as you have to break down the ingredients and do the math -- although that's certainly simpler if all you're doing is, for example, grilling a chicken breast and making a salad. And, under the new "Freestyle" program, that's a meal that could be points-free under the current guidelines, depending upon whether or not the salad is dressed.
Make sure that the diet has been studied extensively for safety — and discuss any changes with your physician or registered dietitian before beginning a new diet. (If you don’t have a dietitian, find one in your area at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website.) And do a self-check to ensure the diet fits with your own values and preferences.