So you’ve “banned” chocolate cake, but decide to have a small taste. Instead, you polished off two slices. It’s easy to go overboard on an old habit. Instead of beating yourself up if you fell short, think of the big picture. Focus on the change rather than what’s being eliminated (think: it’s not about the chocolate cake, it’s about not overdoing unhealthy sweets). Live in the moment to successfully make new healthy habits.

The scale is not necessarily your friend. You may want to lose fat – but the scale measures muscles, bone and internal organs as well. Gaining muscle is a good thing. Thus weight or BMI are imperfect ways to measure your progress. This is especially true if you’re just coming off a long period of semi-starvation (calorie counting), as your body may want to restore lost muscles etc. Starting weight training and gaining muscle can also hide your fat loss.
Wansink and his team found that people who sat by a window or in a well-lit part of a restaurant tended to order healthier foods than those who sat at darker tables or in booths. And diners sitting within two tables of the bar drank an average of three more beers or mixed drinks (per table of four) than those sitting farther away. Additionally, the closer a person was to a TV, the more fried food he or she ordered. Whether or not these choices are causal remains to be determined, but it can't hurt to request a table by the window, right?

Take time to toss the junk. If you’ve got favorite not-so-great items you’d like to save as a treat, tuck them in the back of the pantry with healthier items, like whole grain pasta, rice, beans and nuts up front. We know that just because the bag of lentils are right in front doesn’t mean you’ll forget about the brownie mix, but it can help. Just seeing or smelling food can stimulate cravings, and increase hunger (especially for junk food).
Researchers at the University of Minnesota did a series of studies in which they had participants eat vegetables before they put any other food on their plates—and even the researchers were surprised by what they found. "People consumed up to five times more veggies than usual," says Traci Mann, Ph.D., who led the study. And participants who munched carrots before being offered M&Ms subsequently ate one-third less candy than those who were just given the candy first. Why does this trick work? Because when any food is put in front of us, we generally go for it—and the veggies aren't competing with other foods on our plate (which we tend to go for first, if given the option). So start with a salad or crudités.

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?
Getting your daily dose of fruits and veggies is even more important than you thought it was. Not only is colorful produce healthy and low-cal, but it’ll often contain flavonoids, a plant compound that can stave off weight gain. A recent study in the British Medical Journal found that out of 124,000 middle-aged and older people, those eating a flavonoid-rich diet had more success maintaining their weight than those who didn’t. Get a liquid boost of the stuff with a glass of green tea; it’s full of flavonoids as well.
Make sure that everything you're eating is whole — as in nothing processed or packaged. Since salt is a preservative, these are the foods that are highest in sodium — something to keep in mind when planning your meals. Plan on making sure that all items you choose are fresh. That means filling up on fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean protein.
Speaking of sweets, if you’re going to choose something for dessert, it should probably be chocolate. A 2012 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found those who regularly ate chocolate were thinner than those who ate it less often. Just make sure what you’re eating is the antioxidant-packed dark variety of 70-percent cocoa rating or higher.
“The best way to stick with a diet, is for people to put the fewest restrictions on themselves as possible,” Langer says. “There shouldn't be anything in the world that they shouldn't ever eat again.” Similarly, Albers recommends ditching the “don’t” list entirely. “Instead of trying to stop an old negative habit, focus on building a positive new one,” she says. “New habits crowd out the old without the struggle of trying to stop a behavior.”
The very notion of going “on” or “off” a diet is self-sabotaging. The key to sustainable weight loss is creating habits that you can (happily) live with pretty much forever, registered dietitian Georgie Fear, R.D., C.S.S.D., author of Lean Habits for Lifelong Weight Loss, tells SELF. And in a previous review from the University of Toronto, after examining 59 scientific weight-loss articles, including 48 randomized control trials, researchers concluded that how easy a diet is for you to stick with may actually be a much better predictor of your weight-loss success than the actual diet you choose.
Weight loss isn’t a linear event over time. When you cut calories, you may drop weight for the first few weeks, for example, and then something changes. You eat the same number of calories but you lose less weight or no weight at all. That’s because when you lose weight you’re losing water and lean tissue as well as fat, your metabolism slows, and your body changes in other ways. So, in order to continue dropping weight each week, you need to continue cutting calories.
Yep, it might be possible to sniff your way to weight-loss. In one study, 200 overweight participants wore different patches — which included vanilla, lemon, a placebo patch, or no patch — to find out if any affected their ability to shift the scale. It turns out that, after four weeks, those with the vanilla-scented patches significantly reduced their cravings for high-calorie sweets. Spritz on some vanilla-scented fragrance for a similar effect.
On paper, it seems like weight loss should be so simple: Calories in through food; calories out through activity. It doesn't take a Ph.D. in nutrition or exercise science to understand this basic equation—and for some people, weight loss follows this tried-and-true path. But many dieters find themselves hitting a wall, unable to achieve their weight-loss goals through this strategy, and research increasingly shows that a one-size-fits-all approach may set us up for failure.

For many people, losing weight is only half the battle — the bigger challenge is keeping the weight off over the long term. And it's no surprise that keeping weight off is difficult — studies have shown that the brain and the body are hardwired to regain lost weight. But don't despair: Research also has revealed that people who are successful in keeping weight off share some habits. They tend to do the following:

“Don’t just write down everything you eat. Write down how you feel that day, what is going on in your life and how you feel after eating. After a while, look through your journal for patterns. Chances are you’ll find some. I’m a recovering food addict, and nothing was more freeing than realizing what behaviors or events were triggering my addiction. It wasn’t that I had no willpower; my brain was reacting to certain habits that made it hard for my willpower to do its job. Once I removed those patterns—like keeping cookies around the house—my willpower muscle could finally flex.”
Cutting carbs altogether can often cause a guilt-ridden binge that will leave you unmotivated and packing on the pounds. Instead of prohibiting yourself from eating the foods you love, set a carb curfew. “For dinner, contestants always have a high-protein, high-fat meal with plenty of fibrous veggies,” Chris Powell of ABC’s reality series Extreme Weight Loss tells us in Chris Powell’s Behind-The-Scenes Extreme Weight Loss Tips. “If they have a post-dinner snack, they stick to protein-rich, high-fat foods like almonds or 2 percent milkfat string cheese.” Nixing carbs at night flips the fat-burning switch by increasing the amount of fat-burning hormones released while we’re asleep, Powell adds.

Since it was established in 1994, The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) in the United States, has tracked over 10,000 individuals who have lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off for long periods of time. The study has found that participants who’ve been successful in maintaining their weight loss share some common strategies. Whatever diet you use to lose weight in the first place, adopting these habits may help you to keep it off:
Boredom is dangerous and so easily leads to weight gain. While free time gets perceived as relaxing, it actually makes me feel anxious, which can lead to bad eating habits. My busiest days are the ones when I tend to focus less on my food and more on what I need to get done. That's why I always try to fill my schedule with things that make me feel productive—so I don’t find myself rummaging through the pantry for a lack of something to do.

Plain and simple: We just don't feel full by liquid calories in quite the same way as we do real food. Drinking a juice or caramel coffee drink, for instance, won't make you feel full the way eating a bowl of veggie- and protein-packed stir-fry will. So monitor your intake of juice, soda, sweetened coffee and tea, and alcoholic beverages. If you consume each of those beverages during the day, you'll have taken in at least 800 extra calories by nighttime — and you'll still be hungry. (Incidentally, alcohol may suppress the metabolism of fat, making it tougher for you to burn those calories.) Some other ways to skip sugar? Check 'em out here.
Though it’s hardly realistic to keep people from moving north, there’s evidence to suggest that those living in northern latitudes may need to be a bit more careful about their gut health than the rest of us. A study in the journal Biology Letters found that living in northern latitudes encourages the growth of Firmicutes microbes, which have been linked to weight gain while decreasing the number of microbes linked with slim body types called Bacteroidetes. Generally speaking, the research showed that the number of Firmicutes increases with latitude and the number of Bacteroidetes decreases with latitude. To help ensure a healthy gut no matter where you reside, make sure your diet includes fermented and probiotic-rich foods, both of which encourage the growth of healthy gut bacteria.
You probably know that strength training is important to help you retain your muscles and keep your metabolism up, but cardiovascular exercise – think walking, jogging, cycling or swimming – is important, too. “I see patients who do a lot of strength training, yoga or Pilates, but aren’t doing any cardio," Politi says. "Cardio helps you burn lots of calories, so you create a negative calorie balance that results in weight loss.” She recommends adults strive to get at least 30 minutes of exercise at least five days a week. And in this case, more is better.
Bumping up vegetable consumption has long been recognized as a way to protect against obesity. Add veggies to omlets, baked goods, and of course, pasta dishes (Bonus: Try zucchini ribbons, or spaghetti squash instead or traditional grain pastas). Pump pureed veggies, like pumpkin, into oatmeal or casseroles. Adding a little vegetable action into a meal or snack will increase fiber levels, which helps make us fuller, faster.
Next time you need groceries, circle the perimeter of the store before going up and down every aisle. Why? You’ll load up on the healthy stuff first. The edges of grocery stores generally house fresh produce, meat,] and fish, while the inner aisles hold more pre-packaged, processed foods. Browsing the perimeter can help control how many unwanted additives are in your basket.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that teaming up with a diet buddy will  ensure that you stick with your healthy-eating goals (and the easiest compadre to recruit would be your romantic partner). However, social psychologist Jennifer Jill Harman, PhD, associate professor of psychology at Colorado State University, recently surveyed people about how confident they feel about controlling their portion sizes while alone and also in the presence of others. She found that among 50 overweight, romantic couples who had resolved to lose weight, the more successful one partner was at restricting his or her diet and eating healthier, the less self-assured the other partner was about controlling his or her own food portions. "People feel less confident in their ability to achieve their goals when they see others succeeding at those same goals," says Harman. Which makes a weight-loss partnership tricky. So try something different: Set your own goals, alone. 


Just because you're denying yourself calories doesn't mean you should deny yourself intense aromas and flavors—in fact, just the opposite. Research published in the journal Flavour found that stronger aromas, such as garlic- and onion-infused fare, lead to smaller bite sizes, and smaller bite sizes are often linked to the sensation of feeling fuller sooner. The study results suggest that enhancing the odor of the foods you eat could result in a 5 to 10% decrease in intake per bite. Together, amping up aroma as you tamp down on portion size could trick your body into thinking its fuller sooner.


We probably don’t have to tell you that heavy boozing will pack on the pounds. And you’ve likely heard the phrase “drink in moderation.” The point is, alcohol houses a lot of sneaky calories and has the ability to inhibit healthy eating decisions (midnight pizza delivery, anyone?). Even after you’ve sobered up, alcohol can have negative impacts on strength and may leave you lagging in the weight room days later.
“This hits me in the heart every day I wake,” he says. “It gets me on my foam roller and my Versaclimber in the morning. It allows me to choose a healthy salad over junk food because I visualize myself running on the track with my children. Moment to moment, we are faced with decisions and it’s about being mindful to the ones that follow your ‘why’ path. Sure, I may be willing to drop a cheeseburger down the gullet because I am hungry and inconsiderate of the long game. However, if I am unwilling to be a father who is out-of-shape, my short game will match my long game vision and I will opt for a cleaner meal.”
Cutting carbs altogether can often cause a guilt-ridden binge that will leave you unmotivated and packing on the pounds. Instead of prohibiting yourself from eating the foods you love, set a carb curfew. “For dinner, contestants always have a high-protein, high-fat meal with plenty of fibrous veggies,” Chris Powell of ABC’s reality series Extreme Weight Loss tells us in Chris Powell’s Behind-The-Scenes Extreme Weight Loss Tips. “If they have a post-dinner snack, they stick to protein-rich, high-fat foods like almonds or 2 percent milkfat string cheese.” Nixing carbs at night flips the fat-burning switch by increasing the amount of fat-burning hormones released while we’re asleep, Powell adds.

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.


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.
“Suddenly cutting calories or ramping up exercise causes the body to go into famine mode and defend its calories,” explains Robert Herbst, personal trainer, weight loss and wellness coach, and powerlifter. “That’s why people who suddenly start eating only salads on New Year’s Day are starving and miserable a week later—and their resolution diet comes to a crashing halt.” Instead, he recommends that his clients aim to lose one pound every week by cutting out calories here and there, such as snacks or sugary coffees. “The body will feel comfortable and the gradual weight loss will add up.”
Studies of successful dieters reveal a hard truth: "They remain fairly strict about their eating forever," says James O. Hill, Ph.D., cofounder of the National Weight Control Registry, which keeps data on thousands of people who have lost weight and kept it off. Sound depressing? Think of it this way, suggests Eat to Lose, Eat to Win author Beller: "You just need to find a nutritional strategy you can live with long-term—like allowing yourself to have dessert or a cocktail or two every so often. It's like moving to a new city. For the first year or so it's difficult, but once you establish a routine you get comfortable. You might still miss things about your old life, but you're happy with your new one too."
According to researchers, late sleepers—defined as those who wake up around 10:45 a.m.—consume 248 more calories during the day, as well as half as many fruits and vegetables and twice the amount fast food than those who set their alarm earlier. If these findings sound troubling to you night owls, try setting your alarm clock 15 minutes earlier each day until you’re getting out of bed at a more reasonable hour.
Instead of caving in to that hot fudge sundae or slice of banana bread, practice your most-preached virtue. “Research shows cravings usually last between 5-10 minutes, sometimes as short as 3 minutes. So take some deep breaths and a walk around the block until it passes,” Carolyn Brown, MS, RD at Foodtrainers in New York City, tells us in How to Lose Weight and Keep It Off Long Term. Oftentimes, we also mistake thirst for hunger, so guzzling down a glass of H2O is your best bet when cravings kick in.

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.


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!
Even if you’re stocking up on fruits and veggies, buying inorganic may be doing your body a disservice, thanks to the pesticides. “They have been shown to poison the mitochondria so it cannot burn fuel,” says Walter Crinnion, N.D., chairman of the environmental medicine department at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Phoenix in Weight Loss Tricks You Haven’t Tried. “Fuel that is not burned turns to fat.” If you’re worried about breaking your budget at Whole Foods, start by stocking up on these 17 Cheap Organic Foods You Must Buy.
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