Constantly eating when you don’t need the fuel is a major contributor to weight gain. Before you pop something into your mouth, ask yourself why you’re eating. (We’re lookin’ at you Ms. Office Candy Bowl.) Are you actually hungry or are you just angry, stressed, anxious or board? If it’s any of the latter feelings, healthy snacks like carrot sticks and apples won’t seem appealing. If you’re not hungry enough to eat a plant, vow to not eat anything at all.
We know you love binge-watching your favorite reality series, but it’s important to enjoy your meals sitting at your kitchen table—not in front of the television. Why? Carolyn Brown, MS, RD, of Foodtrainers, told us that in addition to commercials of unhealthy food and drinks increasing our cravings, TV is so distracting that it makes it harder to realize when we’re actually satiated. Science agrees with Brown: A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that paying attention while eating can aid weight loss efforts while distracted eating can lead to a long-term increase in food consumption.
The final possible culprit behind stubborn weight issues may be the stress hormone, cortisol. Too much cortisol will increase hunger levels, bringing along subsequent weight gain. The most common cause of elevated cortisol is chronic stress and lack of sleep (see tip #10), or cortisone medication (tip #9). It’s a good idea to try your best to do something about this.
Instead of depriving yourself of all your favorite indulgences or meticulously counting calories to drop a size, simply consume at least 30 grams of fiber daily. This simple, no-fuss method fuels weight loss and improves health just as effectively as more complex diet approaches, University of Massachusetts Medical School researchers discovered. “Very few people reach the goals that are recommended,” said lead study author Yunsheng Ma, MD, PhD, adding that “Telling people to reduce this or reduce that is just too hard to do.” However, asking people to focus on eating more of a certain nutrient—rather than eliminating things from their diet–can help people reach their weight loss goals, he explains. Interested in giving the diet strategy a try? Check out these 11 Best High-Fiber Foods for Weight Loss and start slimming down!
Others RDNs emphasize a focus on individual nutrients. "Oftentimes, the first place I start is to help someone get adequate protein throughout the day," says Megan Ostler, MS, RDN. "This can help with appetite control. Second, I focus on fiber." In addition to curbing appetite, Ostler says fiber helps stabilize blood sugar and improve gastrointestinal health, important factors that can correlate with healthy weight. Combine good sources of fiber and protein with choices like beans, lentils, and certain grains, such as quinoa and oats.
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.
No, you aren’t dreaming. According to Peterson, many adults are so busy with work and family that they skimp on shut-eye, which actually makes it harder to lose weight. “Lack of sleep causes your appetite to surge and increases the desire for higher-calorie foods,” Peterson says. Several studies now show that adults who routinely get less than six hours of slumber a night are more likely to have significant weight gain over time than those who sleep seven or more hours on most nights. While optimal hours of sleep are highly individualized, most adults need somewhere between seven and nine hours a night.
Cutting butter and oil can slash calories, and it’s easy to swap in foods like applesauce, avocado, banana or flax for baking. But, it’s important to remember that we still need fat in our diets as a source of energy and to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Plus it helps us feel full. Get healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats from olive oil, nuts, coconuts, seeds and fish. Pro tip: Combining fat with fiber has been shown to increase fat’s power to make us feel full.
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.
Schedule "cheat meals" and gym breaks into your routine. “It’s hard to be consistently motivated and always be on your game. Give yourself a little bit of a reprieve," says Delaney. "Mentally, it’s not normal to constantly be on all the time, we need to unwind and relax. By doing something that’s not perfect, were allowing ourselves to revel in the moment and celebrate our success; it gives us a renewed energy to move on.” To do this, Delaney says to schedule one cheat meal a week, and to pick 1-2 days where you let your body rest. "Go out and have a slice of pizza and a glass of red wine. Your body needs that, not just physically, but mentally. Same with the gym. You don’t need to work out every day. Give your body that recoup time; physically and mentally it needs it. Give yourself a break so you can sustain that motivation. It’s an allowance instead of creating the ‘I messed up syndrome’ which causes you to get off track.”
Diet experts say that we need about one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight to aid muscle growth and weight loss. So if that’s what you’re eating each day, you’re bound to get the body of your dreams, right? Unfortunately, there’s more to it than that. According to University of Texas researchers, the timing at which you consume your protein can make or break how much lean muscle mass you pack on. If you’re like most Americans, you likely consume little to no protein for breakfast, a bit of protein at lunch and the bulk of your daily intake during dinner—which the researchers discovered isn’t ideal for muscle synthesis. Luckily, fitness-minded friends, the fix is a simple one: Just distribute your protein intake evenly throughout the day. The scientists found that those who followed this simple trick had 25 percent higher protein synthesis than those who ate the majority of the nutrient after the sun went down. To hit the mark and start leaning out, try one of these 35 Best-Ever Chicken Recipes for Weight Loss!
Health (both physical and mental… my breakdown of “starvation mode” and eating “1200 calories day” covers some of the lovely effects of very low calorie diets), the potential for nutrient deficiencies, the potential for disordered eating habits to develop, the potential for food and body image issues to develop, strength, performance, recovery, muscle maintenance, hunger, mood, metabolic issues, etc. etc. etc. and just your overall ability to consistently stick to your diet in the short term and then sustain it in the long term are all factors that need to be taken into consideration as well.
27. Use tech and other tools to your advantage. "I started out just by cutting little things like soda out one by one so I wouldn't burn myself out mentally and give up. I then discovered counting calories on MyFitnessPal, which was [a huge help] for me in my weight loss. A few years in, I lost my way a little bit and found Renaissance Periodization diet templates, which helped me rebuild a healthy relationship with food."
Are your portion control issues making it hard for you to shrink your man boobs? Stop yourself from going back for seconds by grabbing a box of mints. People often yearn for that second cookie or helping of mac and cheese because the taste of the first still lingers. To cleanse your palate, keep mints or breath strips on hand and pop them when it’s time to quit noshing. Not only will this rid the alluring taste from your tongue, it will also keep your mouth busy and act as a distraction. Drinking water or tea are also helpful tactics.
But if navigating these choices seems confusing, that’s where Eat This, Not That! comes in. What really works are making little lifestyle tweaks, simple moves that help you slash calories, boost nutrition and build a healthy foundation. We’ve gathered up some of the easiest, most effective new tricks and tactics to help you shed those unwanted pounds and slim down for good.
Your deficit can very easily be created through diet alone and not a second of cardio, metabolic training, strength training or anything else ever needs to be done at all. (Which, by the way, is a point I wish all of the “I want to lose weight so badly but I just don’t have any time to exercise” people would realize. Details here: How To Lose Weight Without Working Out)
Have trouble eating reasonably sized portions? Try dimming the lights and cueing up some soft music. According to a study published in Psychological Reports, soft lighting and music lead noshers to eat less and enjoy their food more. That’s what we call a win-win. Looking for the perfect date night dish? Check out these 35 Healthy Crockpot Recipes.
New research from the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute has determined that the popular holiday spice can help fight obesity thanks to cinnamaldehyde, an essential oil that gives cinnamon its flavor. According to researchers, cinnamaldehyde improves metabolic health by acting directly on fat cells, inducing them to start burning energy via thermogenesis. To work cinnamon into your diet, try sprinkling some on oatmeal or sipping on cinnamon tea.
Losing weight is hard. It takes a lot of dedication, planning, and time. Rather than trying to go at it alone, recruit a friend who is also trying to beat the bulge. Research has found that people are more successful at losing weight when they do it with a partner. Not only will your weight loss buddy provide support, hold you accountable, and keep you inspired, but they may instigate your competitive side, which will provide you with the drive necessary to drop the weight.
Sure, you know the main weight-loss tactics: drink plenty of water, eat veggies, and exercise regularly. But just when you thought you had tried it all, there’s a whole new mix of methods that could help drop the number on the scale as well. Whether it’s upping your vitamin D intake, working out on an empty stomach, or eating dessert for breakfast (no, seriously!), anyone can use these surprising, fat-burning tips. And for more calorie-incinerating advice, learn the 20 Weight-Loss Techniques Every Successful Dieter Uses.
The average American consumes 15.5 pounds of pasta each year—and most of it is the refined white stuff. What’s the trouble with that? This type of noodle is almost completely void of fiber and protein, two vital nutrients for weight loss. To boost the belly-filling fiber and hunger-busting protein in your meal, opt for a bean-based noodle like Banza Chickpea Shells (2 oz., 190 calories, 8 grams of fiber, 14 grams of protein) or Explore Asian Black Bean Low-Carb Pasta (2 oz., 180 calories, 12 grams of fiber, and 25 grams of protein). Alternatively, whip up a batch of zoodles, or spiralized veggie noodles with the help of these 21 Mouthwatering Spiralizer Recipes.
For even more impressive effects on body composition: aim for exercise forms which elicit a positive hormonal response. This means lifting really heavy things (strength training), or interval training. Such exercise increases levels of the sex hormone testosterone (primarily in men) as well as growth hormone. Not only do greater levels of these hormones increase your muscle mass, but they also decrease your visceral fat (belly fat) in the long term.
Depriving yourself of the foods you love in hopes of fitting into your skinny jeans won’t do you any favors in the long run. While limiting your daily caloric intake will help you shed the pounds, you should allow yourself a little wiggle room. According to Harvard Medical School, “People who followed a calorie-restricted diet regained an average of nine pounds, but those who ate what they wanted—within healthy eating guidelines—regained less than half that amount.”
I've learned that if I am around food for long enough, I will eat it. It doesn’t matter if I am hungry or if the food even looks good; I'll just start nibbling out of habit. When my husband would get home late from work, I would typically eat a dinner by myself and then eat more with him when he got home. I tried to sit with him at the table and not eat, but eventually, I would start picking at his plate. Over time, I realized that I needed to sit either across the table or on a nearby couch to avoid the thoughtless habit. He didn’t mind either way and moving away from the food actually allowed me to focus more on him.
If this cycle has occurred more times than you'd like to admit, you’re not alone. Setting a weight-loss goal is easy to do, but following through on it is a different story. Which is why losing weight is consistently one of the most popular resolutions, but few of us actually accomplish it. In fact, one survey found that at the end of the first week of January, 30 percent of people have already called it quits.
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.
Intermittent fasting (IF) is the hottest ticket in the nutrition world right now, with reported benefits ranging from improved immunity, faster metabolism, better insulin sensitivity, lower cancer risk, and of course, weight loss. While we'd all love these rewards, not eating for 24 hours or more can feel like a marathon of deprivation. A way to ease into IF is to try to eat just one meal a day. People often find that once they get past the habit of eating all the time, they really don't miss the extra meals.
“That first day was so tough, I almost caved and reached for the vending machine at work but I remembered a quote I had on my Facebook page that said ‘The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullshit story you keep telling yourself as to why you can't achieve it’ and that was enough to make me turn away from the machine,” she says.
One thing restaurants (and individuals) typically overdo it on when cooking is salt, and that can easily cause unhealthy bloating and weight gain. In fact, one British study found that for every additional 1,000 milligrams of sodium you eat a day, your risk of obesity spikes by 25 percent, so ditch the salt and stick to metabolism-boosting spices such as cayenne and mustard instead.
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.
The holidays can feel like an extended open bar, but switching to water occasionally can be helpful for your weight-loss strategies—and not just because you’re missing out on a calorie-hit in the moment. That’s because alcohol affects your liver’s ability to process sugar, according to Joshua Scott, M.D., primary care sports medicine physician at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles. It can also lower your ability to burn calories efficiently, he adds, not to mention tanking your inhibitions when it comes to food choices.
And, save the bread for the end of the meal. Eating simple carbs first dramatically increases blood sugar, which causes your body to pump out insulin and store the calories as fat—the opposite of what you want if you're trying to lose weight, says obesity expert Louis Aronne, M.D., a professor of metabolic research at Weill Cornell Medical College. "Having some vegetables and protein before simple carbs blunts that unhealthy blood sugar response," he adds.
And beyond that, weight-loss efforts can take an emotional toll. “It can destroy your relationship with food. It can lead you to feel obsessed and frustrated,” Albers explains. For some people, quitting dieting is better and healthier than continuing to try to lose weight. And whatever a person’s weight-loss goal, the priority should be first and foremost on health. “Eating for health frees you up emotionally and is based on improving your body rather than rejecting your body,” she says.