Studies show that eating breakfast plays a part in successful weight loss — almost 80 percent of people who successfully keep weight off chow down on this meal, according to a study published in Obesity Research. "Your metabolism slows as you sleep, and the process of digesting food revs it up again," explains Heller. Aim for a 300- to 400-calorie breakfast, such as a high-fiber cereal (another metabolism booster) with skim milk and fruit.
Support, either in-person or online, is another key to successful dieting. The best diets offer support from both trained counselors and fellow dieters. In addition, studies show that those who keep track of their food and activity are ultimately more successful at losing weight. This personal accountability can help you shed pounds whether you follow a commercial diet program or choose a self-directed diet.
When you’re trying to flatten your stomach, reducing your intake of artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols and sugar substitutes can help, notes Shay Kostabi, Master Trainer and Creative Director for ReXist360 Resistance Training Systems. “These sneaky devils can wreak havoc on your whole digestive system, which can cause weight gain and bloating. To nix bloating in the long run, Kostabi suggests eliminating the sweeteners altogether. They can be hiding in everything from protein bars to gum, so be sure to read labels carefully. For immediate deflation, she suggests increasing your water intake. Though any H20 will get the job done, she’s a big fan of Essentia, an electrolyte-enhanced water that comes in a BPA-free bottle.
As a result, about four in 10 Americans are obese -- that’s a whopping 93.3 million adults -- which increases their risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and early mortality, and cost the country $147 billion in medical costs in 2008, according to the CDC. Nearly 80% of American adults are also not getting enough aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity, which is linked to about $117 billion in annual health care costs and 10% of premature mortality, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Any weight loss that occurs because of these programs is almost always connected to a dramatic reduction in calories, not magical properties of the program itself. However, sudden and dramatic dietary changes can cause losses in muscle mass and general fatigue, as well as more serious complications such as disrupted gut bacteria, deficiencies in vital micronutrients, and even organ damage.
"When going out for fast food, I used to get the large-size value meal. Now, I satisfy a craving by ordering just one item: a small order of fries or a six-piece box of chicken nuggets. So far, I've shaved off 16 pounds in seven weeks, and I'm on track to being thinner than my high school self for my 10-year reunion later this year." —Miranda Jarrell, Birmingham, AL
No, we’re not telling you that you need a tummy tuck (although that would flatten your belly, we suppose). Rather, there are several common health conditions that can make your belly bulge and until you fix the anatomical issues underneath, nothing else can flatten it out. For instance, many women have a diastisis recti, or separation of the abdominal muscles, after pregnancy. In about 25 percent of these women, the muscles never quite come back together, leading to a permanent protrusion. Similarly, a hernia (congenital or from an injury) can also cause your belly to stick out. Both conditions can be resolved surgically.
Lose It! This two-week phase is designed to jump-start your weight loss, so you may lose up to 6 to 10 pounds (2.7 to 4.5 kilograms) in a safe and healthy way. In this phase, you focus on lifestyle habits that are associated with weight. You learn how to add five healthy habits, break five unhealthy habits and adopt another five bonus healthy habits. This phase can help you see some quick results — a psychological boost — and start practicing important habits that you'll carry into the next phase of the diet.
Picking healthy foods is not as simple as finding a “healthy” brand and sticking to it. Every restaurant and every brand has some dishes and products that are healthier than others. It’s key to look beyond advertised health claims on the front of the box. In fact, research from Washington State University shows that reading food labels can improve weight loss.
"What I don't like about any commercial diet is that the focus is not on your actual food choices," Hogan said. "It's about calories or points or numbers, and that really takes away from your ability to be in tune with your hunger cues and your fullness cues and what you're really craving. If we become more in tune with those things, we naturally consume how much the body needs. Paying too much attention to numbers takes away from that."
Anecdotally, many people say they feel great on the Paleo diet -- losing weight and lowering health markers such as blood pressure and cholesterol. However, like most programs, many simply don't stick with this way of eating over the long term -- they keep lapsing and going back -- the same issue we see with all eating plans. Again, there is no formal "Paleo" diet, but there are plenty of books and online resources for anyone interested in exploring the idea.
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.
Spanx are maybe no one’s idea of a good time, but sometimes you just need a little extra (firm) help to flatten your tummy to wear your favorite dress or for a special evening out. And there’s nothing wrong with turning to technology to help you get there. Body shaping undergarments have come a long way in the past few years with more breathable fabrics and styles for both men and women.