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Do it better: Short bursts of intense activity burn more calories—and up to 36% more fat, according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology. Strolling around the mall or a park for an hour works off about 150 calories; pick up the pace 1 minute out of every 5 to burn over one-third more calories (try a similar method if you bike). Swimmers can switch from freestyle or breaststroke to a more challenging crawl every few laps, or just go a little faster. Give these quick calorie-burning interval workouts a try.
The authors wanted to compare low-fat vs. low-carb diets, but they also wanted to study genetic and physical makeups that purportedly (their word) could influence how effective each type of diet will be for people. Previous studies had suggested that a difference in a particular genetic sequence could mean that certain people will do better with a low-fat diet. Other studies had suggested that insulin sensitivity may mean that certain people will do better with a low-carb diet.
From celebrity-endorsed to science-backed, finding the best diet for your body and lifestyle can be an exercise in frustration—definitely not the kind of exercise you need right now! To make your search easier, we've pulled together the 10 most popular diets based on which ones have consistently ranked highest on the annual U.S. News & World Report rankings, WebMD, and other current diet lists. Just know this: It's not about finding out which diet is the most popular overall but which one fits your goals and lifestyle the best. After all, the best diet for you is the one you can stick with (and enjoy)!
●Put tempting foods out of sight, out of mind. We naturally gravitate toward foods that are easiest to reach. So put candy on a high shelf or inside another bag behind something else so you’ll be less likely to go get it, says Cynthia Sass, co-author of “The Flat Belly Diet!” Put smarter choices, such as fresh fruit or popcorn, in bowls where they’re visible and within arm’s reach. Keep a water bottle with you so you won’t have to rummage through the fridge or walk to a vending area to get a drink.
Snacking is the key to Mary Rogerson’s 60-pound weight loss but it’s not just how often she eats but what. “I aim to eat at least seven servings of vegetables a day, along with some protein, every few hours,” she says. “And The best part is that by the time she’s loaded up on her rainbow of produce, she’s usually too full to eat much else and her cravings for sweets have gone way down.
Sometimes, to whip your body into shape, you have to get a little nutty. While nuts are high in fat, it’s that very fat that makes them such powerful weapons in the war against a ballooning belly. In fact, research from Reina Sofia University Hospital reveals that study participants who consumed a diet rich in monounsaturated fats, like those in nuts, over a 28-day period gained less belly fat than their saturated fat-consuming counterparts while improving their insulin sensitivity.
"Feeling stressed can wreak havoc on our bodies. It can cause our body to produce the steroid hormone cortisol, which can make you crave sugary foods that provide instant energy and pleasure. Short-term bursts of cortisol are necessary to help us cope with immediate danger, but our body will also release this hormone if we’re feeling stressed or anxious. When our cortisol levels are high for a long amount of time, it can increase the amount of fat you hold in your belly."
Support, either in-person or online, is another key to successful dieting. The best diets offer support from both trained counselors and fellow dieters. In addition, studies show that those who keep track of their food and activity are ultimately more successful at losing weight. This personal accountability can help you shed pounds whether you follow a commercial diet program or choose a self-directed diet.
If you’re routinely skimping on the recommended seven to nine hours, or you have difficulty falling or staying asleep, it’s time to get serious about your bedtime rituals. Your better-sleep strategy includes: limiting caffeine past the early afternoon; sticking to alcohol caps of one drink for women, two for men (since alcohol can interfere with the quality of your sleep); and staying off the phone and iPad within an hour of bedtime.
The researchers hypothesize that participants who abstained from animal products dropped significantly more pounds since plant-based foods include loads of filling fiber and slow-to-digest complex carbs. Though more research is needed to confirm these results, the study authors write, "Vegetarian diets appeared to have significant benefits on weight reduction compared to non-vegetarian diets."
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.
Sometimes, you might need an external motivator—like a race or a competition—to keep you on track. After a slow start to her slimdown, Maribel Contreras decided to sign up for a 12-week body transformation contest at her gym. She swapped out her fast-food trips for healthy homemade meals and revved up her workouts, which ultimately helped her win the competition. She now maintains a 77-pounds-lighter frame.
“Exercise should not be used to purge calories,” Albers says. “Instead, to boost your mood to keep you motivated.” The thing is, exercise is great for you and can make you feel awesome. And feeling good about yourself seems to be actually useful in weight-loss efforts. Plus, some research has shown that changes in exercise behavior can lead to changes in eating behavior. “In part, it is neurochemical. Movement and exercise you enjoy boosts your serotonin and dopamine levels, which makes you feel good all the way around,” Albers says.
If you’re only getting a minimal amount of sleep each night, that leaves more time for you to snack and make otherwise unhealthy decisions that could affect your weight loss. Although it will vary from person to person on how much sleep you actually need to be most effective (and therefore make progress toward your weight loss goals), the ideal number is typically 7 or 8 hours, says Dr. Cheskin. (Struggling to get that shut-eye? This doctor-approved breathing exercise will help you fall asleep fast.)
Rather than a long and low-intensity cardio workout, try the HIIT method of cardio: intense, fast-paced intervals that leave you completely exhausted after only a 20- to 30-minute session. This form of cardio training increases the afterburn effect, allowing your body to continue burning calories long after your workout is over. You can rotate between 30 seconds of your favorite exercises, with rest in between, as long as they work different muscle groups—such as squats, push-ups and kettlebell swings.
Control Your Environments. Another simple strategy to help cut calories is to control your environment -- everything from stocking your kitchen with lots of healthy options to choosing the right restaurants. That means avoiding the temptation by staying away from all-you-can-eat restaurants. And when it comes to parties, "eat a healthy snack before so you won't be starving, and be selective when you fill your plate at the buffet," suggests Ward. Before going back for more food, wait at least 15 minutes and have a big glass of water.