The sad truth is that conventional ideas – eat less, run more – do not work long term. Counting calories, exercising for hours every day and trying to ignore your hunger? That’s needless suffering and it wastes your time and precious willpower. It’s weight loss for masochists. Eventually almost everyone gives up. That’s why we have an obesity epidemic. Fortunately there’s a better way.
“Do what you can instead of quitting when you can't be ‘perfect,’” Fear says. As if there’s such a thing as “perfect.” After all, research suggests that perfectionism surrounding food and weight, especially coupled with body dissatisfaction, contribute to disordered eating and even obesity in women. Researchers note that perfectionism can contribute to poor self-esteem, dietary restraint, and binge eating.
When the scale won't budge, dietitians often take the focus off diet and exercise entirely, exploring issues of stress and sleep instead. "Both lack of sleep and high cortisol levels are associated with lower levels of leptin, a hormone that is key in energy metabolism, weight, and our hunger signals," says Jen Scheinman, RDN. "Individuals must tackle sleep and stress to succeed in weight loss."
Or any activity that lowers stress. "The lower your stress, the lower your cortisol levels," says Fred DeVito of Exhale Spa. That means your body will store fewer calories as fat. If you're not sure yoga's for you, check out all the amazing things it can do for your body besides stress reduction in our report on 7 Surprising Reasons You Should Be Doing Yoga Now.
In addition to blasting belly fat, you should also be working out and trying to build up your muscle mass. Even when you’re at rest, your body is constantly burning calories, and the “resting metabolic rate” is much higher in people with more muscle. That’s because every pound of muscle uses about six calories a day just to sustain itself. If you can pack on just five pounds of muscle and sustain it, you’ll burn the caloric equivalent of three pounds of fat over the course of a year, and be even closer to obtaining that lean physique you’ve always wanted.
But don't worry: Most of the research does not suggest a need to slash meat, dairy, or fish from your diet. In fact, the best results typically appear to come from diets that combine high amounts of vegetables with healthy sources of protein, which can include seafood, eggs, and meat. Eating plans like these include the popular Mediterranean diet and MIND diet.
Other diabetes medications. Insulin-releasing tablets (e.g. sulphonylureas) often lead to weight gain. These include: Minodiab, Euglucon, Daonil, and Glibenclamide. Tablets like Avandia, Actos, Starlix and NovoNorm also encourage weight gain. But not Metformin. The newer drugs Victoza and Byetta (injectable) often lead to weight loss, but possible long-term side effects are still unknown. More on diabetes
As far as sugar goes, high-fructose corn syrup is the worst of the lot. The man-made substance is a combination of corn syrup (which itself is 100 percent glucose) and pure fructose, making it a unique nightmare for your waistline. In one study, researchers fed subjects beverages sweetened with either glucose or fructose. Though both groups gained the same amount of weight over a two-month period, the fructose group gained its weight primarily as belly fat because of the way this type of sugar is processed in the liver. To avoid the belly-bloating HFCS trap, make sure you look at nutrition labels carefully and ditch the processed snacks and fruit drinks.
Since tomatoes can be grown indoors, they never really go out of season, making them a reliable weight loss staple to add to your diet. The tasty fruits have a high water content that will help keep you hydrated, and they’re also low in calories. What’s more? A study published in Nutrition Journal found that eight weeks of tomato juice consumption helps the body burn about an additional 100 calories per day—that adds up to around 3,000 calories a month!
While it’s possible to lose weight without doing a single pushup or burpee, in order to keep it off, physical activity is must, says James O. Hill, PhD, co-founder of the National Weight Control Registry. But not all workouts are created equal. Although cardio gets all of the glory, interval and strength training are the real heroes in the world of weight maintenance. These methods of exercise will help you replace flab with hard, sexy muscle which will boost your metabolism and make it easier to keep off those sneaky pounds. For the best results, do strength or interval training twice a week and aim for an hour of physical activity a day—that could mean walking, swimming or running errands. Just get off your tush and move! Why an hour? The majority of successful losers who have maintained their weight loss for an average of 5.5 years report moving for about an hour a day, according to the National Weight Control Registry.
Most people think of their protein or meat as their meal’s main event, but that shouldn’t be the case. “Place flavorful vegetables front and center on lunch and dinner plates, accompanied by sides of protein and whole grains,” registered dietitian Cheryl Forberg said. By simply rearranging your plate, you’ll automatically consume fewer calories and take in more health-protective vitamins and nutrients.
Your purchases may not be as virtuous as you think. Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill recently analyzed Americans' shopping habits and found that 61 percentof the calories in the food we buy are from highly processed items like refined breads, cookies, crackers, soda and chips. These foods also provide higher-than-optimal levels of saturated fat, sugar and sodium. To healthy-up your cart and help with weight loss, the study authors suggest buying mostly single-ingredient foods and shopping the perimeter of the store, where the fresher, healthier stuff like produce and fish tends to live. Chew some gum while you're at it too. Research shows it could help you buy 7 percent less junk food when you shop (minty gum works best).
We applaud you for getting off the couch and making it to your weekly spin class. But if you refuse to venture beyond stationary bikes, you might give the pounds the green light to creep back on. “If you’ve been doing the same workout for the past few months, your body isn’t being challenged anymore, meaning it’s not burning as many calories as it otherwise could,” Dr. Sean M. Wells, personal trainer and author of Double-Crossed: A Review of the Most Extreme Exercise Program, tells us in 17 Reasons Why You’re Regaining Weight. Spike your metabolism and switch things up by exploring different fitness classes or trying a HIIT routine at home.
Loads of research demonstrates people who log everything they eat — especially those who log while they're eating — are more likely to lose weight and keep it off for the long-haul. Start tracking on an app like MyFitnessPal when the pounds start sneaking up on you. It'll help you stay accountable for what you've eaten. Plus, you can easily identify some other areas of your daily eats that could use a little improvement when it's written out in front of you.
Can’t bear the thought of rising before the sun? At the beginning of each week, take out a planner and schedule all of your workouts for the day’s ahead. If you just let your week and unfold randomly, odds are far lower you’ll fit in your fitness. Schedule an appointment with a trainer or a friend, book a class, or fit it in at home with our 15-Minute Lower Back Workout for Killer Abs.
We’ve all been told that salmon, packed with heart-healthy omega-3s and belly-flattening protein, is a great way to get strong, lean and healthy. But not all salmon is created equal. Farmed salmon, which is what’s commonly sold in restaurants, can have the opposite effect on your waistline. Farmed salmon has over 100 more calories and nearly twice as much fat as wild-caught salmon. Plus, it’s much higher in saturated fat and lower in heart-healthy omega-3s. When dining out, you’re better off skipping the salmon altogether unless you are 100 percent sure it’s wild-caught.
I absolutely love your site. I am 51 years old and have spent years following the bull-shit fad diets, gimmicks, quick-fixes, etc to weight loss. I have always lost weight then just re-gained it plus some. I have been following your advice for the last 10 weeks and have lost 20 pounds by creating a calorie deficit like you have explained. I set a goal on how much I need to lose and it really has been easy sticking to it. I have cut out a lot of the high-fat/caloric foods that I used to eat and eat healthier because that is my preference, but it is foods that I love to eat and can live with eating the rest of my life. I have not began the cardio exercising yet, but do plan on it in a couple more months. I have some problems with plantar faciitis and some back problems that make weight bearing exercises painful. I believe losing weight will also help with these problems so right now my goal is to lose fat (I still have about 90 pounds to go to reach my goal). My husband decided to make some changes also, but he has also incorporated strength training in his daily routines and has already seen a huge difference in the way he feels, the way his body looks and the rise in his energy level. He is only 10 pounds away from his goal and doing great. Again, thank you so much for your publications. We think it is awesome and have recommended it to anyone who has commented our weight loss.
University of Pennsylvania researchers found that about 65 percent of dieters gain back the weight they lost within three years. How come? While diets are meant to be followed short-term, many people end up veering back to their old habits. To reap a long-lasting lean body, make sure that your diet is maintainable and that you can continue following your slim-down plan for the long haul.
Let's face it: the prospect of losing 20 pounds—or more—is daunting. That's why Rachel Beller, M.S., R.D.N., author of Eat to Lose, Eat to Win, recommends setting a nearer-term goal weight that's around half of the total amount you want to lose—and focusing on that. "Having an easier-to-reach goal can help keep you motivated," she says. "And when you hit that first milestone, it gives you a chance to celebrate, re-evaluate your strategy and re-up your enthusiasm for the next stage."
“For busy people, [planning ahead] is the most efficient way to get done what you need to get done — whether it’s your job, your workout, meal planning ... It’s not easy and we have so many things going on. Putting things down on paper clears your brain. Now you don’t have everything in your head; it frees up the space to focus on what you need to do. “
The benefits of exercise, at least as far as weight loss is concerned, have a lot more to do with building (think: health, energy, confidence, muscle) than burning calories or fat, says Zach Moore, C.S.C.S., a fitness and lifestyle coach at Precision Nutrition, tells SELF. After all, Albers notes that exercise is linked to improved moods, stress reduction, and the “wow, my body’s pretty cool!” attitude that you need to crush your goals.
In her book The Naughty Diet, author Melissa Milne—whose own essay, “I Eat Slim-Shamers for Breakfast” also went viral—interviewed thousands of women about the body shaming and they all said the same thing: “They were sick and tired of feeling bad while trying to be good,” she writes in The Naughty Diet. “And here’s the secret of all secrets: You don’t feel bad about yourself when you get fat. You get fat when you feel bad about yourself.” This could be because chronic stress raises levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body, which can trigger belly fat storage. Try being kinder to yourself, which will reduce stress and help melt the pounds away effortlessly.
You TOTALLY need to do a podcast!! I absolutely love reading your articles, Jay! The people who are the best at what they do and get the results they are looking for are masters of the basics! The basics aren’t usually ‘sexy’ or revolutionary pieces of information, but they seem to be the things people are lacking while they continue to be confused as to why they’re not making progress. You do an amazing job of providing ‘basic’ information in a way that puts things into perspective for the reader. I’ve really appreciated articles like yours during my fitness journey. When I’m not making progress, I know exactly why. It’s not because I ate too many ‘dirty’ carbs or didn’t maximize my metabolic window or some other bullshit dogmatic theory that other ‘gurus’ push, it’s because I was slacking ass and my caloric deficit was nonexistent. Yep…that’s it. So, thanks so much for the awesome content in your articles that bring me back down to reality! MUCH appreciated!!!
If you want to lose weight, you’d better avoid special “low-carb” products that are full of carbs. This should be obvious, but creative marketers are doing all they can to fool you (and get your money). They will tell you that you can eat cookies, pasta, ice cream, bread and plenty of chocolate on a low-carb diet, as long as you buy their brand. They’re full of carbohydrates. Don’t be fooled.
In addition to watching what you eat, you should also take note of the hours you spend watching television. Not only is sitting in front of a screen for too long detrimental to eye health, it can also wreak havoc on your newly-trim waistline. Members of the National Weight Control Registry, who were able to lose weight and keep it off, nixed their binge-watching habit: 62 percent report watching less than 10 hours of TV per week. And it seems like the majority of the NWCR members also found a new, more productive pastime—just take a look at our next savvy hack.
So using this same example, if you eat 2500 calories per day but then burn an additional 500 calories through exercise such as cardio (e.g. steady state or HIIT) or metabolic training (which is essentially turning more strength-focused weight training into a form of high intensity cardio), that same 500 calorie deficit would exist and you would lose weight.