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!"
The Biggest Loser program has come under attack with recent revelations that its amazing, as-seen-on-TV results are both pharmaceutically assisted and likely to reverse. Living proof that the medical community’s understanding of weight loss is still evolving: The diet still stands in third place on US News’ & World Report’s list for Best Fast Weight Loss.
It’s called a “beer belly” for a reason. Boozy bubbles are a major cause of belly bloat, as anyone who’s ever looked in the mirror after a few too many drinks can attest. But it’s not just the carbonation that is the culprit. Alcohol can lead to an overgrowth of bad bacteria in your stomach, leading to gas, not to mention all the empty calories that are going straight to your waistline. Instead, skip the alcohol altogether or limit yourself to one serving per day.
When you have the option to choose between dried fruit and fresh fruit, always opt for the fresh variety. “Dried fruits have a lot of calories and added sugar for very little volume,” says Summer Yule, MS, RDN. “For instance, one cup of raisins (not packed) contains 434 calories and 86 grams of added sugar. By comparison, a cup of grapes contains only 62 calories and 15 grams of sugar. This means that you could eat 7 cups of grapes for the same amount of calories as 1 cup of unpacked raisins.”
Even tiny changes in how and when you eat can add extra pounds or shut down the weight loss process. Did you start skipping breakfast or other meals? Did you try to lose weight by cutting out all sugar but now you’re bingeing on sweets ? Are you eating too many dairy foods to get extra calcium for bone health? If you’ve eliminated meals or changed your diet for what you thought were health reasons, your weight can go up.
Add a cup of low-fat milk, a part-skim mozzarella stick, or a half cup of low-sodium cottage cheese to breakfast, and you may have a belly-busting win. While lots of research links calcium with lower body weights, results from a 2014 study suggest that calcium-containing foods may reduce waist circumference in those genetically predisposed to carrying weight in their midsection.
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.
The Mayo Clinic Diet provides practical and realistic ideas for including more physical activity and exercise throughout your day — as well as finding a plan that works for you. The diet recommends getting at least 30 minutes of exercise every day and even more exercise for further health benefits and weight loss. The diet also emphasizes moving more throughout the day, such as taking the stairs instead of an elevator.
Some diet plans, such as the MIND diet and the DASH diet, are meant to focus on certain areas of health — and weight loss may be a bonus. Others are created with weight loss as a primary goal. “It is important to remember that we are all very unique individuals,” says Kyle. “We all have different states of health and different lifestyles, which could affect what diet plan is best for us. That means that you should not be considering what is working for your friends or family members — and instead should pay attention to what works for you individually.”
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.
In other words? "Drinking makes you more likely to eat sh*t," Dr. Seltzer says, referring to drunk foods. At the same time, he stops short of asking patients to quit alcohol cold-turkey to lose weight. Plus, research suggests you don’t have to, as long as your intake is moderate—i.e., less than about a drink a day. "If you drink a glass of wine every night and notice you eat more afterward, eat less early to account for this," he says. "Or, if you’re drinking four glasses of wine a week, drink three instead so you’ll won’t feel such a big difference."
The "all meat all the time" low-carb approach or strict veganism can be great options for people who thrive on clear diet rules (and those two are actually the most popular diets out there) but these extremes are not for everyone. If you prefer more of a moderate approach, the Flexitarian diet is the clear winner. The "flexible vegetarian" mindset allows you a healthy balance of plant-based foods, responsibly sourced meats, and quality fats. The best part? It's not super restrictive, so you have plenty of nutritious food options. (Start here: How to Adopt a Flexitarian Diet)
Acai had a major health food moment, thanks to the incredibly delicious acai bowl, which is basically a super thick acai berry smoothie mixed with nuts, oatmeal, and fresh fruit. But not only does acai cost a lot more than other berries, it doesn’t quite live up to all of its hype. “Acai has been touted for many benefits, including aiding in weight loss, but there is no evidence that this berry will have you shedding pounds,” says Amidor. Find out exactly what food to buy at the supermarket to lose weight.
“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.
The South Beach Diet started as a book that was originally published in 2003, The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss (Est. $9). The book is still considered to be the best way to get information on the basic diet, but there are also many follow up books and cookbooks to supplement the original, as well as South Beach compliant recipes available around the Internet. The official South Beach Diet website is mostly fee-based.
All workouts are created equal. Should you be focusing on high intensity interval training (HIIT), training for a marathon or getting on the bodyweight bandwagon to torch the most calories and fat? “The best exercise is one that you enjoy, and one that you will actually do,” said Lieutenant Commander Katrina Piercy of the U. S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and the federal lead for the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Dr. John Jakicic, who chairs the American College of Sports Medicine Obesity interest group, agreed. “There is no perfect exercise,” he said. “They all count, and they all contribute in different ways. You might get something with HIIT that you might not get with yoga, and you get some benefits from yoga that you might not get with HIIT. It’s about moving, and it’s about burning calories.” So find what you can stick with in your life for weeks, months and years -- not just the first week of January. But don’t become one of the 67% of gym membership holders who never go; at around $60 a month on average, that’s wasting $720 a year.
In a way, moderate-intensity physical activity is that "magic pill" a lot of people are looking for, because the health benefits go beyond keeping your waistline trim: Not only can it reduce your risk of cancer, stroke, diabetes and heart attacks, but studies have shown that physical activity can significantly improve the moods of patients with major depressive disorders.
The trick here is not only to avoid all obvious sources of carbohydrate (sweets, bread, spaghetti, rice, potatoes), but also to be careful with your protein intake. If you eat large amounts of meat, eggs and the like, the excess protein will be converted into glucose in your body. Large amounts of protein can also raise your insulin levels somewhat. This compromises optimal ketosis.
Physical activity helps burn abdominal fat. “One of the biggest benefits of exercise is that you get a lot of bang for your buck on body composition,” Stewart says. Exercise seems to work off belly fat in particular because it reduces circulating levels of insulin—which would otherwise signal the body to hang on to fat—and causes the liver to use up fatty acids, especially those nearby visceral fat deposits, he says.
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.
It’s wise to want to eliminate sugary drinks from your diet, but replacing them with “diet” versions or drinks with artificial sweeteners is not the solution. One study conducted by researchers from Marquette University and the Medical College of Wisconsin showed that artificial sweeteners could actually contribute to weight gain in a way that does not happen with natural sugars. Other studies have shown that drinking artificial sweeteners was highly correlated to an occurrence of dementia and stroke.
Regardless of how it happens, the direct benefits of weight loss are numerous. Even relatively modest amounts of weight loss can result in positive health benefits. According to a review study by D.J. Goldstein at Indiana University School of Medicine, even if you only lose less than 10% of your body weight, you can see a substantial improvement in markers associated with chronic disease (6).
If you're a woman trying to lose weight and get fit, there's something you should know: It often takes longer for women to lose weight than men. And, if you've had a baby, you may have to factor in even more time. That said, women can do some things to speed up their weight loss. The following resources will help you learn more about how to maximize your cardio and strength training workouts, how to set realistic goals and how you can burn more calories.
I’m in favor of any program that promotes whole foods over hyper-processed fare, and this is one thing the popular diet plans can agree on. Overly processed foods have been linked to weight gain, perhaps because many unhealthy packaged foods (think: potato chips, ice cream, frozen pizza, cookies and the like) lack the fiber found in many whole foods, including vegetables. Fiber helps fill us up, and research suggests that by simply adding more fiber to your menu, you can lose weight nearly as well as a more complicated approach. Consistently choosing whole foods is one way to do this.
That’s where these tips come in. We talked with eight women over 40—all of whom have lost 40 or more pounds!—about the tools and methods that helped them make lasting healthy changes. And we've got to admit that they’re pretty darn genius! Try incorporating a few into your weight loss plan, and you just might find yourself on the fast track to getting into those skinny jeans. (Looking for even more slim-down secrets? Don’t miss these 6 things you must do to lose weight over 40.)