Rather than relying on the drive-thru when hunger strikes, prep your meals in advance so that you have healthy grub on hand. “Identity three meals you can prepare with pantry staples and start cooking. Store the meals in your freezer so you always have something healthy on hand when hunger strikes,” Dietitian Christine M. Palumbo, RD, explains in 20 Ways to Lose Weight Forever. “For example, my go-to meals include risotto with frozen shrimp and asparagus, vegetable barley and a red lentil soup. Your goal should be to replace the meals whenever your stash starts running low.”
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.
Plus, working out early could mean you get more sunlight, which is key to properly setting your body's internal circadian rhythm. In one study, people who basked in bright sunlight within two hours after waking were thinner and better able to manage their weight than those who didn't get any natural light, regardless of what they ate throughout the day.
As seasoned professionals, registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) have an arsenal of info at the ready to use as starting points for clients, regardless of their individual weight journey. But when these approaches don't achieve the desired results, they can also help clients explore other avenues. We spoke with several nutrition pros to get the lowdown—what general advice works for most people, and which factors might be standing in the way of weight loss? Faced with these obstacles, how do dietitians tailor their advice to the individual?
The degree to which exercise aids weight loss is open to debate, but the benefits go way beyond burning calories. Exercise can increase your metabolism and improve your outlook—and it’s something you can benefit from right now. Go for a walk, stretch, move around and you’ll have more energy and motivation to tackle the other steps in your weight-loss program.
If you’d rather not channel your inner bunny, try dancing as a way to help shed fat on the body as a whole. “It is obviously a cardio workout, but because your body is forced to move in all different directions in different planes, it is making every single muscle in your body work,” Pedraza explains. “Similar to the benefits of a high-intensity interval training workout, you get the cardio plus toning benefit all in one.” Turn up the volume on your iPod and start moving!
Everyone knows that smell plays a huge part of how we taste our food—remember your fourth grade science experiment where you ate an onion and an apple with your nose pinched and couldn't tell the difference? So while it may seem a little extreme (and get you some weird looks at restaurants) clipping your nose shut during meals will help you only eat until you're full. Although it does make your favorite foods a lot less enjoyable.
Choose Liquid Calories Wisely. Sweetened drinks pile on the calories, but don't reduce hunger like solid foods do. Satisfy your thirst with water, sparkling water with citrus, skim or low-fat milk, or small portions of 100% fruit juice. Try a glass of nutritious and low-calorie vegetable juice to hold you over if you get hungry between meals. Be careful of alcohol calories, which add up quickly. If you tend to drink a glass or two of wine or a cocktail on most days, limiting alcohol to the weekends can be a huge calorie saver.
“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.
So, obviously, what is going to work for each person is different, and that’s OK. If your weight-loss practices help you identify areas for behavioral change and give you tools on how to make that happen, or just help keep your motivation up or feeling good, great. “But if you are not losing weight, then the tools you are using aren't working for you,” Fear says. “Many people keep doing the same monitoring even though it's actually not helping them. A sense of control and organization are not to be confused with efficacy.” Use this as an opportunity to try something else.
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.
“Repetition builds rhythm. Be boring. Most successful losers have just a couple of go-to breakfasts or snacks,” says registered dietitian Lauren Slayton. “Make an effort to pinpoint these for yourself. ‘Hmm, I’m starving what should I have?’ doesn’t often end well. You can change the rotation every few weeks, but pre-set meals or workouts on certain days will help tremendously.”
Of all the activities you can do in an effort to shed a few pounds, gardening is one of the most beneficial and relaxing options. Research conducted by the University of Utah shows that people who garden are about 11 to 16 pounds lighter than those who don’t, so throw on some gardening gloves and get to planting. For added weight loss benefits, consider planting herbs such as cilantro and mint, which combat bloating and suppress your appetite, respectively.
Out of sight, out of mouth? Simply reorganizing your pantry staples could translate into serious calorie savings. A study published in the Journal of Marketing found that people are more likely to overeat small treats from transparent packages than from opaque ones. For this reason, many nutritionists suggest keeping indulgent foods in the pantry on a high shelf so that you’re less apt to mindlessly grab them.
Not all fat is bad. Healthy or “good” fats can actually help to control your weight, as well as manage your moods and fight fatigue. Unsaturated fats found in avocados, nuts, seeds, soy milk, tofu, and fatty fish can help fill you up, while adding a little tasty olive oil to a plate of vegetables, for example, can make it easier to eat healthy food and improve the overall quality of your diet.
Healthy fats certainly play an important role in keeping your belly trim, but these satiating foods—and, more importantly, their less healthy counterparts—must be noshed on in moderation. For example, less-healthy foods like pizza are among the top sources of saturated fat in the U.S. diet. According to a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, The National Weight Control Registry participants maintained the majority of their weight loss when they stuck to a low-fat diet. What’s more, increases in fat intake were linked to increased weight regain during the study’s 10-year follow-up period.
If you often find yourself binge-watching your favorite reality series or catching up on emails come midnight, you may be doing your body a disservice. A study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine found that participants who slept over seven hours a night and reported better sleep quality, longer sleep duration, and shorter latency to sleep onset were actually able to maintain their weight loss more successfully than those who got less than six or seven hours of shut-eye. Plus, those who considered themselves early birds also reported better weight-loss maintenance. If you need help clocking in more hours of beauty rest, turn to our tried-and-true 20 Ways to Double Your Sleep Quality.
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.
Garlic may leave your breath smelling funky, but don’t let that stop you from incorporating it into your diet, especially since it can help you lose weight and keep you healthy. A 2016 study found that garlic powder reduces body weight and fat mass among people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Recent studies have also shown that garlic supports blood-sugar metabolism and helps control lipid levels in the blood. What’s more? Eating garlic can help boost your immune system, help ward off heart disease, fight inflammation, increase memory retention, and lower blood pressure.
There's no magic pill for weight loss, and people should be wary of any over-the-counter supplements that claim to help you shed pounds. These supplements can be dangerous because they can contain ingredients not listed on the label. A 2015 study found that weight-loss supplements send more than 4,600 people to the ER every year in the United States.
Adding whole, natural, and anti-inflammatory foods to your diet is a great start for better health and to keep weight off. “People who consume natural, whole foods have lower rates of diabetes, obesity, cancer, and heart disease,” says Luiza Petre, M.D., NYC-based cardiologist and weight management specialist. “Anti-inflammatory foods in particular, such as low-fat dairy, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, poultry, and fish, can make a significant difference when trying to shed pounds and belly fat. They are easily digested, keep you satiated, and boost energy levels.”
Most low-carb diets advocate replacing carbs with protein and fat, which could have some negative long-term effects on your health. If you do try a low-carb diet, you can reduce your risks and limit your intake of saturated and trans fats by choosing lean meats, fish and vegetarian sources of protein, low-fat dairy products, and eating plenty of leafy green and non-starchy vegetables.
Step far away from the TV — particularly during commercials. All the ads for high-calorie foods and snacks might not seem like they’re doing any harm, but researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute found that they can activate your brain, making you crave the sweet or fatty foods you see on your screen. And, those signals could end up making you put unhealthy foods on your own plate.
One reason for this is that many products labeled "low fat," "light," and "reduced fat" (things like yogurt, ice cream, and peanut butter) are highly processed and engineered to taste like their original full-fat predecessors. To accomplish this, food manufacturers typically add extra sugar — and sugar, unlike fat, has been strongly implicated as a leading factor contributing to obesity and weight gain.
Bad diet decisions are often made when you’re starving and have nothing healthy to eat in your kitchen. Ward off diet-derailing decisions by stocking up on frozen, deveined shrimp—one of Insanity trainer Shaun T’s! go-to proteins. Once you throw it on the stove, it’s ready to eat in just a few minutes, and it’s a great source of lean, low-cal protein. Organic, low-sodium turkey breasts, pre-grilled chicken and hard-boiled eggs are also smart meal-starters to keep on hand.
Even if you don’t typically order take-out, research suggests that just the mere presence of take-out food increases your risk of being overweight. One study printed in the British Medical Journal found that just having a lot of take-out options near your work or along your commute to work makes you twice as likely to be obese. Though you obviously have little control over what kind of establishments populate where you live and work, this is just another reason to practice healthy eating as often as you can.
Some antidepressant medications can cause weight gain, especially the older tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) such as Tryptizol, Saroten, and Clomipramine; as well as newer drugs such as Remeron (Mirtazapine). Lithium (for manic-depressive disorder) often causes weight gain. The most common antidepressants known as SSRI’s (for example Citalopram and Sertraline) usually don’t impact weight significantly. More on depression
“Patients can diet themselves down to any weight they put their minds to, but to maintain that weight, they need to actually enjoy the lifestyle that got them there,” writes Yoni Freedhoff, M.D., the medical director of the Bariatric Medical Institute in Ottawa, Canada, and Arya M. Sharma, M.D., Ph.D., the founder and Scientific Director of the Canadian Obesity Network, in Best Weight, a manual for clinicians who treat patients pursuing weight loss. “A patient’s best weight is therefore whatever weight they achieve while living the healthiest lifestyle they can truly enjoy.”
Stop mindless munching in front of the TV. Not only do certain shows up your odds of overeating—action movies and cooking shows, we're looking at you—but you're also less aware of internal satiety cues, which is why it's so easy to polish off the whole chip bag before realizing how much you ate. Eat at the dining room table or in the kitchen only, says McGee, and you're much less likely to overeat or grab seconds.
Speaking of dressing, you could even take it one step further and buck the suggested choice entirely. While we bet Panera’s Greek salad pairs well with a dressing of the same name, a splash of olive oil and vinegar will also bring out the flavors of the dish and save you a few hundred calories along the way. For a healthy, belly-blasting dressing when you’re eating salad at home, try incorporating some apple cider vinegar or a squeeze of lemon.
While you might not think there’s a huge difference between eating a whole piece of fruit and drinking fruit juice, nutritionally speaking, the two entities are most definitely not one and the same. Whereas whole fruit contains naturally occuring sugars and fiber that can help counteract the bad effects of too much sweet stuff, fruit juice is often loaded with added sugar (such as high-fructose corn syrup) and no fiber to speak of. According to a study led by Harvard School of Public Health researchers, eating more whole fruits, particularly blueberries, grapes, and apples, was significantly associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, a greater consumption of fruit juices was associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. To get the fruit flavor without all the bad stuff, try stirring up a batch of fruity detox water instead.
The benefits of chowing down on whole fruits are clear, and eating an apple each day can help prevent metabolic syndrome, a disorder associated with abdominal fat, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. The red or green fruits are a low-calorie, nutrient-dense source of fiber, which research has proven to be integral to reducing visceral fat. A study at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center found that for every 10-gram increase in soluble fiber eaten per day, visceral fat was reduced by 3.7 percent over five years.
A study in the journal Cell found that our gut microbes are just as affected by changes to our circadian clock as we are. When we shift our sleep-wake cycles, our gut flora changes, and beneficial bacteria are replaced by the growth of bacteria that have been linked to obesity and metabolic disease. When traveling across different time zones, it’s important you travel armed with healthy, fiber-rich snacks your gut will love.
Finally, if you’re looking for a balanced, healthy eating plan that is nutritionist-approved, sign up to our free Healthy Diet Plans. They're a great way to kickstart healthy habits and try out delicious and nutritious recipes. We bring out a brand-new Healthy Diet Plan twice a year, plus plenty of extra recipes, fitness tips and healthy eating inspiration – and if you sign up, you’ll get this all sent straight to your inbox.
I’m a new reader of your website and just wanted to say how much I’m enjoying all the articles, your straightforward approach no BS attitude. Its frustrating that people around me who want the same things as me – drop fat and look better seem- to be ignoring my passion for your articles, I keep hearing ‘I’ll read that sometime’ or ‘haven’t got time to read’- it’s too much effort for them to sit and read! However the important thing is that I listen to you – create a calorie deficit and train intelligently – I’m only 1 week in and am hopeful of success – thanks for sharing your great work.
Healthy midnight snacks are OK, but try not to graze in the window of time between breakfast and lunch. A study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found mid-morning snackers typically eat more over the course of a day than afternoon snackers. Furthermore, researchers found that dieters with the mid-morning munchies lost an average of 7 percent of their total body weight while those who did not snack before lunch lost more than 11 percent of their body weight.
Leaving the comforts of your gym can be difficult, but outdoor workouts have their own unique set of benefits. Research has shown that breaking a sweat outdoors may be more beneficial than burning calories inside. According to a study published in Environmental Science and Technology, exercising in a natural environment outdoors may improve energy levels and decrease stress more than working out indoors can.
A study published in The Journal of Nutrition found that after just two weeks, those who sipped four to five cups of the green brew daily in addition to working out for 25 minutes lost more belly fat than those who didn’t sip. We can chalk up these favorable results to the tea’s catechins, a type of antioxidant that hinders the storage of belly fat and aids rapid weight loss.
People tend to find one workout routine and stick to it but it’s important to switch things up every now and then, especially in terms of cardio. Instead of simply running or walking, try to vary your speeds as you go. Researchers at Ohio State University found that walking at varying speeds can burn up to 20 percent more calories compared to maintaining a steady pace, so get moving!
If you’re the type of person who likes to eat a full breakfast before hitting the gym, you might want to change up your eating schedule. According to a study published in the American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism, researchers found getting your sweat on with an empty stomach could get rid of excess fat cells. So, give it a try: your healthy bowl of oatmeal can wait. To make the most of this technique, start with any of the 30 Workouts That Burn More Than 500 Calories An Hour.
“I wish people knew that there is no one-size-fits-all diet that works for everyone. Individuals have different food preferences, dining habits, schedules, body types, past experiences, and obstacles. Stop falling for restrictive diet plans, America! Start by changing one simple habit and build from there,” Stephanie Brookshier, RDN, ACSM-CPT tells us in 22 Top Weight Loss Tips, According to Nutritionists.
Diets that involve removing – or severely limiting – specific foods or food groups that are nutritionally important are not going to be a long-term solution. The more extreme high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets limit fruit, vegetables and fibre, particularly in the early stages, while faddy diets based on single foods (cabbage soup, anyone?) involve eating a lot of one type of food and not much of others. Some diets also drastically limit calorie intake so you get results fast. However, a very low-calorie intake can leave you tired and hungry, so you give up, regaining the weight as quickly as it came off.
3. Be realistic about which habits need to go. "When I was heavy, I'd eat French fries every single day, plus carbs at almost every meal—like a sandwich for lunch or bread with pasta for dinner. A diet so heavy in fried food and carbs just isn't conducive to weight loss. To lose the weight, I went from three large meals a day to six small meals, mostly made of fresh vegetable salads with lean meats and nuts. And no more bread!"