“I have one heck of a sweet tooth, and so I have to refuse to bring candy, cake, or sweets into the house, period,” say Lin Williams, who’s lost 105 pounds. Instead, if she wants a treat she has to want it bad enough to get up, get in the car, leave her home, and go to the store—a process that rarely feels worth it. And on the rare occasion she does indulge? “I get exactly what I want and enjoy every bite of it!” she says.
You snack on fruit, count calories, and get some form of exercise most days. So when you step on that scale and the needle stays put, you wonder what the heck you're doing wrong. Even with clean eating and good fitness habits, you may be making a few small mistakes that can lead to a plateau and derail your results. Here's how to upgrade your already-healthy habits to finally reach your get-slim goal. (Snack AND lose weight with this box of Prevention-approved treats from Bestowed.)
Harvie, M. N., Pegington, M., Mattson, M. P., Frystyk, J., Dillon, B., Evans, G., … Howell, A. (2011, May). The effects of intermittent or continuous energy restriction on weight loss and metabolic disease risk markers: A randomized trial in young overweight women. International Journal of Obesity (London), 35(5), 714–727. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3017674/
Weight Watchers is a household name for the majority of Americans. Why? Because it works. In fact, the U.S News and World Report named this the best weight-loss diet for 2016 in their annual rankings — and with good reason. The balanced program lets you eat what you want, track your choices via a points system, and build a weight loss support network with fellow Weight Watchers' members.
Obviously, it’s still possible to lose weight on any diet – just eat fewer calories than you burn, right? The problem with this simplistic advice is that it ignores the elephant in the room: Hunger. Most people don’t like to “just eat less”, i.e. being hungry forever. That’s dieting for masochists. Sooner or later, a normal person will give up and eat, hence the prevalence of “yo-yo dieting”.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AKA the top nutrition authority in America) released a revised paper this year saying that both vegetarian and vegan diets are best for people's health as well as the environment. If you're not ready to make a complete shift to meatless and cheese-less, consider "part-time" vegan and vegetarian plans, where you eat mostly plant-based at breakfast and lunch or on weekdays, and then eat fish, meat, dairy, and eggs only during designated times.
For example, you might not realize just how much you eat when you go out to happy hour with friends. But if you take the split second to take a step back and make yourself aware of that fact, you’re more able to make a healthy decision. “The awareness and then planning and coming up with strategies for what else I can be doing—that might give me the same benefit of eating those comfort foods that make me feel better,” says Gagliardi.
Take a walk through the supermarket, and you’ll be assaulted with aisle after aisle of low-fat and no-fat foods, “healthy” chips and cookies and juices and sodas galore. You likely already know that if you want to lose weight, cutting out processed foods and sweets is the first and most obvious step. But those healthy-sounding options can be just as bad, too.
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.
But I've seen some women beat themselves up over a few extra pounds, even though this does little more than destroy their self-worth. Berating yourself will not help motivate you to control your weight and improve your health. So the next time those negative thoughts creep into your head, recognize them for what they are and replace them with positive ones.
Don't get me wrong — exercising at any time is good for you. But evening activity may be particularly beneficial because many people's metabolism slows down toward the end of the day. Thirty minutes of aerobic activity before dinner increases your metabolic rate and may keep it elevated for another two or three hours, even after you've stopped moving. What that means for you: You're less likely to go back for seconds or thirds. Plus, it'll help you relax post meal so you won't be tempted by stress-induced grazing that can rack up calories, quickly.
As a result, about four in 10 Americans are obese -- that’s a whopping 93.3 million adults -- which increases their risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and early mortality, and cost the country $147 billion in medical costs in 2008, according to the CDC. Nearly 80% of American adults are also not getting enough aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity, which is linked to about $117 billion in annual health care costs and 10% of premature mortality, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Getting a little more protein in your diet may be the way to go when you're trying to lose weight, according to a 2011 study published in The Journals of Gerontology. This study found that women over 50 lost more weight with a higher protein intake than with a higher carb intake eating the same number of calories. The researchers concluded that the improved weight loss was due to the preservation of lean body mass in the higher protein group. It's important to note, however, that the 2011 study increased protein intake using a whey protein supplement. Examples of weight-loss programs that are higher in protein include Weight Watchers, with 26 percent of calories from protein; the Atkins Diet, with 29 percent of calories from protein; and the South Beach Diet, with 30 percent of calories from protein.
The best low-cal diet plan isn't a diet so much as it is a method. CICO stands for "calories in, calories out" and is based on the mathematically sensible principle that as long as you're burning more calories than you're eating, you'll lose weight. All you need to get started is a way to track your calories—there are plenty of apps on the market although a pen and paper works great too—and a food scale to keep you honest about your portion sizes. (Also read this guide on how to safely cut calories to lose weight.) People love the simplicity and straightforwardness of the plan. And while it may not be the fastest way to lose weight, you're guaranteed to have success long term. (Just know that some weight-loss experts actually don't recommend calorie counting.)
Visceral fat, commonly known as belly fat, is the layer of fat below the muscles of your abdomen. Due to its crucial location surrounding many of your vital organs, belly fat supplies a constant source of energy but also exposes the body to harmful toxins and hormones. When you have too many fat cells or your fat cells get too large, they can overproduce toxins that increase your risk for chronic inflammation, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. This is why belly fat can be more dangerous than subcutaneous fat—or the outer layer of fat that you can pinch with your fingers. That said, the reason you're having trouble buttoning your pants may not be visceral fat: what we're calling "belly fat" these days could be bloating or water retention rather than a fat buildup. Read on for steps you can take to beat the bulge.
Just because you’ve now achieved your target weight, it doesn’t mean you sit on the sofa all day watching TV. If you suddenly stop exercising after dieting, then you need to reduce your calories even further as the amount you are burning off with have slumped. Exercising for an hour a day is good for your overall health, energy levels, and sleep quality, as well as weight control. Don’t forget, exercise can include gardening, housework and other chores – it doesn’t have to take place in the gym.
Regardless of which camp you're in, if you do decide to try out a low carb diet, the Atkins Diet is the gold standard. Atkins has been proven effective for both short- and long-term weight loss, and studies show it is just as effective in lowering cholesterol levels over the long term as low fat diets for many people. As with any diet program, it may not be effective for everyone. While Atkins does initially restrict carbs to very low levels, the plan adds in more carbohydrates as you lose weight. It's also easy to follow, say users, and it's restaurant friendly -- hold the bread and order an extra vegetable instead of a potato.
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.