So what can we do with all this knowledge? Tempting as it is to get discouraged, we can actually find it encouraging. Biology is not destiny, after all. “Lifestyle choices are immensely powerful,” Peeke says. And on the heels of any tidal wave of new research is sure to come a trickle of weight-loss advice that can be more customized and more effective to help men and women with their weight-loss obstacles, no matter what they are.
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.
A similar program, TOPS (Est. $32 per year, plus $5 chapter dues), pairs a wealth of educational material with group meetings in your community, also called "chapters." TOPS, which stands for Take Off Pounds Sensibly, uses The Food Exchange System, which users say is easy to understand and follow. It has categories of foods with similar serving sizes and caloric loads, and it's easy to swap one food for another. You can even purchase exchange cards that give you food options within categories at a glance, as well as a variety of other accessories, such as food prep tools scaled to accurate portion sizes.
Good point: Even if a weight or body fat percentage is achievable, at a certain point, the investment required to make it happen or sustain it just isn’t worth it, Moore says. And as Albers explains, the ultimate goals are to have energy, be healthy, be able to lead the life you want, and feel that your healthy habits add to, rather than take away from, the quality of your life.
"These diets are so restrictive that of course you're going to lose weight fast because you're not eating enough calories to sustain basic activities of your body, let alone any exercise. That's nothing that any person can sustain for the long term," Hogan said. "The weight's going to come back if you do lose any weight, and then it's going to be harder to lose weight in the future."
Illescas-Zarate, D., Espinosa-Montero, J., Flores, M., & Barquera, S. (2015, April 19). Plain water consumption is associated with lower intake of caloric beverage: Cross-sectional study in Mexican adults with low socioeconomic status. BMC Public Health, 15, 405. Retrieved from https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-015-1699-0
Stress skyrockets your levels of cortisol, often called “the belly fat” hormone because it signals to the body to store fat around your waist. Add the daily stressors of living our modern lifestyle and you can see how cortisol can be constantly coursing through your veins. This perma-stress mode isn’t good for a lot of healthy reasons, your tummy being just one of them, so it’s important to take time every day to de-stress. Yoga, meditation, walking, journaling, doing a hands-on hobby, or playing a musical instrument are all great time-tested methods. (Hint: Know what isn’t? Watching television. The boob tube actually increases your levels of cortisol!)
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There’s a reason why protein takes center stage in many popular diet plans: it helps you feel full and stokes your metabolism enough to help you avoid the typical one or two pounds most adults gain each year. Your body burns slightly more calories after eating protein compared with fats or carbs, and protein from food also helps keep your muscles from deteriorating as you age. (Strength-building exercise is another important part of this process.) In order to get these benefits, you need to include protein at each meal, and getting adequate amounts of protein at breakfast — about 20 grams — is especially important. Making a beeline for the bagels or cereal means your body misses a key opportunity to rebuild muscle tissue, which naturally breaks down as you sleep. If this is your morning routine, your muscle mass will start to decline, and that means your metabolism will slow down. So skip the AM pastries and other carb-rich fare, and opt for an omelet or smoothie made with Greek yogurt or protein powder, instead.
Too much variety in your diet can mess with your satiety cues and make you overeat, so add some (tasty) monotony to your routine. One easy way: Eat the same healthy breakfast and/or lunch each day during the week, and savor new tastes on the weekend. The best thing about that plan, says 69-pound-loser (er, winner?) Melanie Kitchen: "I didn't have to keep coming up with new recipes!"
Walking puts all of the abdominal muscles to work. Make sure you swing your arms and contract your midsection while you walk, and maintain a brisk pace. Once you get your body accustomed to a daily walk, you'll hate to go a day without it. Walk for at least thirty minutes each time to achieve the aerobic effect, and be sure to drink plenty of water.
It’s true that a caloric deficit—burning more calories per day than you take in—is a requisite of weight loss. But creating a deficit doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t) involve deprivation. That goes for calories, carbs, sugar, fat, or any other commonly demonized nutrient. “No one food is responsible for your weight,” Langer says, explaining that a good vs. bad mentality sets people up for disordered eating and exercise habits. In fact, caloric deprivation increases how the brain responds to food, setting you up for binge-eating down the line, according to research from the Oregon Research Institute.
Lifestyle fit: Figure out whether a plan is compatible with your lifestyle before committing. Some meal plans are very simple; others require more work. Think about how much time and planning goes into each weight loss program. Some people find that meal planning and preparation takes up too much time, while others enjoy planning meals and spending time in the kitchen.
Consider a weight loss program’s overall approach to food. What will you be eating every day? Does the meal plan react poorly with your food allergies or intolerances? Does the program cater to your special dietary needs, for example, if you are vegan or diabetic? If most (or even some) of the foods are not enjoyable to you, within your budget or readily available, you're going to find that plan tough to stick with.
Frozen meals are super-convenient. They’re cheap, easy to throw in your bag as you’re running out the door, and take just three minutes to cook. While your 300-calorie Lean Cuisine may seem like a waist-friendly option, it’s not. Most frozen meals are loaded with sodium—as much as you should eat over a full day, not just in one meal—and lots of other synthetic additives. Sodium packs on water weight, as the body needs to maintain a balance in the body, and when you’re thirsty, you could reach for a sugary beverage, which adds hundreds of more calories. Salt also makes food taste better, prompting you to shovel more of it in your mouth. Another problem with frozen meals is they frequently lack sufficient fiber to keep you full, so you’re likely to find yourself sneaking back into the kitchen shortly after you’ve eaten. If you must eat a frozen meal, consider adding a serving or two of frozen vegetables to boost the fiber and fullness quotient and dilute the sodium.
So she started researching. She found something called the 21-Day Meal Plan, which seemed like it would work with their lives. The plan showed them what foods they could eat and what they should skip. They started by cutting sugar, junk and processed foods and added vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains and lean meats, such as chicken and turkey. In the first week, Parent noticed a difference.
One review found that people who sleep between 3.5 and 5.5 hours a night consume nearly 385 more calories the next day when compared to those who sleep between 7 and 10 hours. (6) Sleep is critical for our bodies to repair and function properly. When you consistently don’t get enough sleep, not only are you more likely to gain weight, but you’re also at a higher risk for chronic diseases, anxiety, irritability and more.
Avoid fad diets. It's never a good idea to trade meals for shakes or to give up a food group in the hope that you'll lose weight — we all need a variety of foods to get the nutrients we need to stay healthy. Avoid diet pills (even the over-the-counter or herbal variety). They can be dangerous to your health; besides, there's no evidence that they help keep weight off over the long term.
“Don’t bring home foods you don’t want to snack on. If others in the house like treats, buy ones you dislike to avoid temptation. And keep your healthier foods—including veggies and high-protein snacks—front and center in the pantry, fridge, and freezer. When it came to losing 100 pounds, this is one of the things that helped me the most.” —Jamie Gold, 56, certified kitchen designer and author of New Bathroom Idea Book