If you want to get a six-pack, you should cut out sugary beverages and replace them with diet versions, right? Wrong. Recent studies have found an association between the consumption of diet sodas and a wider waist circumference. What’s more, diet soda drinkers have a higher percentage of belly flab than those who don’t sip the beverage, a study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found. Why? Researchers think diet soda drinkers may overestimate how many calories they’re “saving,” then overeat.
Once you’ve established a regular cardio routine, add two or three weight training sessions on nonconsecutive days to your weekly workouts; everyone naturally gains some fat as they age, but building muscle tone can significantly slow the production of belly fat. In a study conducted at the University of Minnesota, overweight women who did twice-weekly strength training routines that included eight to 10 exercises of major muscle groups, from biceps curls to leg presses, gained 67 percent less visceral fat over two years than women who didn’t do strength training regularly.
Sure, there's your one friend who swears by the Taco Cleanse. And that other friend who ate nothing but broccoli soup for a month and dropped 20 pounds, found the love of her life, and got promoted at work. But before you start blending 80 stalks of broccoli into a cup or crunching your way through a crate of tacos, check out which diets are backed by science. Because don't you want to try one that will do the trick for you?
If you’ve been eating fast food for years, get real about your approach: You’re probably not going to stick to an organic, gluten-free, paleo overhaul for very long. "You want to change as little as possible to create calorie deficit," says Dr. Seltzer, who insists the best way to support sustainable weight loss is to incorporate small changes into existing habits. So instead of giving up your daily BLT bagels in favor of an egg-white wrap, try ordering your sandwich on a lighter English muffin. Or say you eat a snack bar every afternoon: Swap your 300-calorie bar for a 150-calorie alternative. "Your brain will feel the same way about it, so you won’t feel deprived," he says.
Additionally, many women have to face one lifestyle change before getting to another, such as overhauling eating habits before taking on exercise. For example, Michelle DeGennaro got a handle on her diet and soon after found that she was more inclined to exercise. "Feeling lighter on my feet was thrilling, and it gave me the confidence to start walking every day," she says. And as Blanca Valdez noticed, "Eating right made my energy soar, which I channeled into exercise." She has kept off 78 pounds.
Foods rich in the amino acid leucine can help build the lean muscle mass that’s needed to trim excess fat from your frame. Leucine is one of the most important amino acids to consume to develop lean muscle mass, says McDaniel. It literally jumpstarts the process. Great sources of the nutrient include beef, chicken, pork, tuna, milk, peanuts, lentils and eggs.
While many people turn to artificial sweeteners in a misguided attempt to whittle their waistlines, those fake sugars are likely to have the opposite effect. According to researchers at Yale, artificial sweeteners are actually linked with an increased risk of abdominal obesity and weight gain, possibly because they can trigger cravings for the real stuff and spike insulin levels in a similar fashion to real sugar.
There's a reason you've been hearing so much about cutting meat out of your diet lately. It's not just great for your body, but also a quick way to shed some extra pounds. "Consider swapping a few meat-centric meals each week for ones centered around vegetarian proteins — or give a full-fledged vegetarian diet a try if that's of interest to you," Gorin says. "Research shows eating a vegetarian diet may boost and speed up weight loss, resulting in a loss of up to 10 pounds." Gorin recommends topping a salad or filling a veggie taco with vegetarian protein sources like pulses — which are beans, chickpeas, lentils, and dried peas — to give your weight loss a boost. One study found eating ¾ cup of pulses daily led to a loss of close to a pound over about six weeks, versus people not eating pulses daily.
Suspect you have a sluggish metabolism? You might have hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid gland, which afflicts about 25 percent of American women — many of whom don't know they have the condition, according to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. "The thyroid gland controls your body's metabolism, so one of the first signs that it may be off is an inability to lose weight," explains Pamela Peeke, M.D., professor of medicine at the University of Maryland and author of Fight Fat After Forty. Your doctor can determine if you're suffering from hypothyroidism by running a blood test. If you do have an underactive thyroid, you'll be treated with a synthetic thyroid supplement, which you will need to take for the rest of your life (it will return your metabolism to normal, so it should be easier to drop unwanted pounds).
Caloric intake: Some people need more calories because of metabolic issues or high activity levels, and low-calorie plans might be insufficient. While it is true that less calories usually means more weight loss, and it’s normal to feel hungry some of the time while dieting, some diet plans are too strict and leave you feeling uncomfortably hungry most of the time. Consider if a diet plan will keep you satisfied.
A lot of us are slaves to the clock. It’s best to make sure you eat regularly to keep from getting so ravenous that you lose control and can’t stop eating. But if you’re in the habit of eating when the clock says to, instead of when you’re actually hungry, you tend to lose touch with what “hungry” feels like and eat more than you really need. Research shows that mindful and or intuitive eating has health and potentially weight loss benefits, too.
Mason, A. E., Epel, E. S., Aschbacher, K., Lustig, R. H., Acree, M., Kristeller, J., … Daubenmier, J. (2016, May 1). Reduced reward-driven eating accounts for the impact of a mindfulness-based diet and exercise intervention on weight loss: Data from the SHINE randomized controlled trial. Appetite , 100, 86–93. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4799744/
There are lots of individuals and companies out there keen to get their slice of the pie, so to speak. With the US weight loss industry’s net worth sitting at around $66 billion at the end of 2017, it’s obvious that diet supplements, plans, and programs are doing well but that doesn’t mean you have to help them. Pay for a plan, by all means, but try to sustain yourself on natural foods rather than dietary supplements or detox drinks.
Be choosy about carbs. You can decide which ones you eat, and how much. Look for those that are low on the glycemic index (for instance, asparagus is lower on the glycemic index than a potato) or lower in carbs per serving than others. Whole grains are better choices than processed items, because processing removes key nutrients such as fiber, iron, and B vitamins. They may be added back, such as in “enriched” bread.