And while the weight room can be intimidating for women, pumping iron is key to getting a toned and fit physique. Don’t worry, lifting heavy weights won’t make you bulky — you just don’t have the testosterone to build the size of a man. Lifting will improve your posture, make your arms, core and lower body more shapely and boost your metabolism by building muscle. Resistance training also helps you hold onto muscle that you naturally lose as you age.
If you're mostly sedentary (and let's face it—with 9-to-5 desk jobs being the norm, it's hard to avoid), you'll start to see noticeable results with just a slight increase in your activity level. Break up the hours in front of the computer by using your lunch break to move around. "I started walking for 45 minutes during my lunch break," says Melissa Leon, who ultimately dropped 53 pounds. "The area was super hilly, but feeling the burn in my butt and quads as I powered up those hills let me know I was making progress."
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.
When your body is low on calcium, it produces a hormone that signals the body to store visceral fat. Meeting your recommended daily calcium needs (that’s 1,000 milligrams for adults) can help reduce levels of this hormone. And a recent study published in Obesity Research found that calcium from dairy has a stronger effect than calcium from other sources. I recommend eating low-fat Greek yogurt as a daily snack (just six ounces contain about 20 percent of your recommended dietary allowance for calcium), though any low-fat dairy will do.
Dairy products contain varying amounts of lactose (milk sugar), which slows down weight loss. What’s more, part of the protein in milk generates a significant insulin response, which can have the same effect. Consequently, cutting back on dairy products may accelerate weight loss. This applies especially to dairy products typically lacking in fat, such as regular milk and various yogurts, but be careful with full-fat dairy such as cream and cheese all the same. And don’t forget whey protein powder, which is pure milk protein.
Eat Breakfast Every Day. One habit that's common to many people who have lost weight and kept it off is eating breakfast every day. "Many people think skipping breakfast is a great way to cut calories, but they usually end up eating more throughout the day, says Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, author of The Pocket Idiot's Guide to the New Food Pyramids. "Studies show people who eat breakfast have lower BMIs than breakfast-skippers and perform better, whether at school or in the boardroom." Try a bowl of whole-grain cereal topped with fruit and low-fat dairy for a quick and nutritious start to your day.
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).
Weight training is the ultimate way to burn calories fast. "A pound of muscle burns up to nine times the calories of a pound of fat," explains Richard Cotton, M.A., chief exercise physiologist for myexerciseplan.com. Weight training increases your resting metabolic rate, which is the number of calories you burn while sitting on your butt. What's more, it gives your metabolism an added boost after you exercise, staying in overdrive for up to two hours after the last bench press, according to a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. Strapped for time? Try these quick moves: squats, bench step-ups, lunges, push-ups, pull-ups and planks. In a pinch, just do single sets of 10 for each exercise — you'll get optimal results for the time invested.
It’s called a “beer belly” for a reason. Boozy bubbles are a major cause of belly bloat, as anyone who’s ever looked in the mirror after a few too many drinks can attest. But it’s not just the carbonation that is the culprit. Alcohol can lead to an overgrowth of bad bacteria in your stomach, leading to gas, not to mention all the empty calories that are going straight to your waistline. Instead, skip the alcohol altogether or limit yourself to one serving per day.