Being healthy is really about being at a weight that is right for you. The best way to find out if you are at a healthy weight or if you need to lose or gain weight is to talk to a doctor or dietitian, who can compare your weight with healthy norms to help you set realistic goals. If it turns out that you can benefit from weight loss, then you can follow a few of the simple suggestions listed below to get started.
“This is a great way of eating that I highly recommend to many clients, and I even model in my own life,” says Elizabeth Shaw, RDN, who is in private practice in San Diego and is the co-author of Fertility Foods Cookbook. “Since the premise of the diet is designed to help people who have high blood pressure, low-sodium foods are recommended. But considering that most Americans exceed their daily sodium levels anyway, it’s not surprising that dietitians recommend this style of eating for treating many different conditions, such as heart disease and obesity.”
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.
Too little sleep or too much sleep can throw your stress and regulatory hormones out of whack, and may lead to weight gain. A single night of sleep deprivation can increase levels of ghrelin (a hormone that promotes hunger), making you more likely to overeat the next day. Reduced sleep may also lead to fatigue during the day (duh) and less physical activity, which may be another reason why people who regularly don't get enough sleep tend to gain weight.
Now, while there aren't foods that literally target burning belly fat, there ARE foods that can drive the production of certain hormones that can trigger our body to store more fat on our tummy. The two most infamous are cortisol and insulin. So, making sure to keep your processed sugar, refined flour, sodium content, and alcohol consumption low can go a long way toward helping you burn off the muffin top.
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”.
Have you ever decided to skip a meal to cut back on your daily calorie count? Despite saving a few calories in the moment, this strategy almost always backfires. When you skip breakfast, or any meal, you'll begin to experience excessive hunger that can lead to craving unhealthy foods—and lots of them. You may also eat faster than you normally do after skipping a meal, causing you to miss the warning signs that you're full and resulting in overeating.
Giancoli also recommends finding a diet that fits in with how you really live. She notes that if you enjoy going out to eat but try to commit to a diet that forbids you from ever going to a restaurant, you’re just going to cheat. “It’s not sustainable… You’re most likely going to have a healthier meal if you’re going to cook yourself, but you’re depriving yourself of that social interaction if you never go out.” To put it another way: Your eating practices shouldn’t isolate you or keep you from having fun.
The Volumetrics Diet (Est. $10), based upon the well-regarded book "The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet: Smart, Simple, Science-Based Strategies for Losing Weight and Keeping It Off" is a sensible, sustainable approach that draws rave reviews from experts and dieters. You swap high-density foods, which tend to have more calories, for lower-density foods like fruits, vegetables, soups and stews. This swap of foods with more bulk but fewer calories helps fill you up, thus eliminating one big problem with dieting: hunger. It's a top pick in most of our expert roundups, and its author, Barbara Rolls, is a leading researcher in the field of nutrition. Many other diets, most notably Jenny Craig (Est. $20 and up per month, plus food) (covered in our discussion of the best prepackaged diet plans) and Weight Watchers, have adopted, at least in part, the Volumetrics approach to meal planning to help keep hunger at bay.
HCG, or Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, is a hormone produced during pregnancy by the placenta after implantation, and doctors sometimes prescribe it for fertility issues. But this hormone has also gained popularity as a weight-loss supplement — and using it as such can be dangerous. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns against purchasing over-the-counter hCG, as these supplement products are illegal. (34)
“A lot of people think the foundation of a paleo diet is high-fat meat, but I suggest that it’s vegetables,” says Hultin. The concept is to eat only foods — including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, fruits, and vegetables — that would have been available to our Paleolithic ancestors. This means grains, dairy, legumes, added sugar, and salt are all no-no’s.
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.
If you do buy snacks and other convenience products like salad dressings, read the ingredients list and nutrition facts. Buy brands that are organic and free of pesticides and dyes. Skip the flavored version of foods like yogurt and add your own fresh fruit and honey to it. And when possible, make your own foods. Spend a few hours meal prepping on the weekends to make staples you can eat throughout the week, like sauce, dressings and healthy on-the-go snacks.
Food preferences: Think about whether the foods on a given diet are things that you generally enjoy. If you hate eating greens, you won’t like a diet filled with salads; but if you have a sweet tooth, a diet that substitutes milkshakes for meals might be more your speed. Consider a diet's overall approach to food and ask yourself, realistically, if you can eat the foods on this plan more or less for the rest of your life? And will you enjoy the foods on a given diet plan, or if it will feel like a “diet” food that you won’t be able to stick with long-term?
You have to sign up, and they come at a cost -- some higher than others depending upon the program -- but commercial diet programs offer a lot of tools for the dieter. These may include in-person and online support, smartphone and tablet apps, journaling and record-keeping programs specific to the diet, pre-calculated calorie counts, guides for eating out and plenty of proven recipes for any cooking skill level. They also provide the most support, both in person and online.
If HIIT workouts and strength training aren’t part of your exercise routine, it’s time to add them in. Instead of just running or walking on the treadmill do bursts of high intensity running or sprinting followed by a cool down. For example, you can sprint full force for 30 seconds, slow down and walk for two minutes, then rev it up and sprint again for 30 seconds. Continue this routine for 10 to 20 minutes. If your gym offers Tabata workouts, check those out, too.
There are hundreds of healthy living apps that can help you lose weight. Find one that aligns with your goal, whether it's to get stronger, get faster, get off the couch, or eat healthy. Cyr found that using MyFitnessPal helped her get a better grip on what she was eating every day. "Once I started logging my meals, I realized I was scarfing 1,700 calories a day," she says.
Loads of research demonstrates people who log everything they eat — especially those who log while they're eating — are more likely to lose weight and keep it off for the long-haul. Start tracking on an app like MyFitnessPal when the pounds start sneaking up on you. It'll help you stay accountable for what you've eaten. Plus, you can easily identify some other areas of your daily eats that could use a little improvement when it's written out in front of you.
Not only does strength training tone your body and help to prevent injuries, but it also increases your metabolism for days after the fact, meaning you'll burn more calories even after the workout is finished. To supplement her cardio training, Goetke started lifting weights. "It totally transformed my body," she says. The extra calorie burn will help the pounds melt right off of you.
One note about this diet plan before we dive in. A personal trainer by profession, Jillian Michaels’ weight-loss plans are not for the fainthearted. She’ll take you on a journey, transform your body, and make you reach the fitness goals you’ve been craving…but it won’t come easy. Go into this plan with the determination and awareness that you’ll be working hard, and the results will really amaze you.
The notion that abdominal obesity is the most dangerous kind isn't new. Back in the 1940s, the French physician Jean Vague observed that some obese patients had normal blood chemistry, while some moderately overweight patients showed serious abnormalities that predisposed them to heart disease or diabetes. Almost always, the latter patients carried their fat around their middles. And, almost always, they were men.
Stavrou, S., Nicolaides, N. C., Papageorgiou, I., Papadopoulou, P., Terzioglou, E., Chrousos, G. P., … Charmandari, E. (2016, July 31). The effectiveness of a stress-management intervention program in the management of overweight and obesity in childhood and adolescence. Journal of Molecular Biochemistry, 5(2), 63–70. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4996635/
Even better, once you start lifting challenging weights, you'll see major changes happen in your body, more than you do with cardio which burns calories but doesn't help you build muscle. Don't forget that you're building strong bones and preserving your muscle mass, which means you can control the weight gain that comes with age and lack of exercise.
One of the biggest mistakes women make when trying to figure out how to lose belly fat: too many crunches, too little cardio. No matter how toned your abs are, your belly won't look flat until you get rid of the layer of fat on top of them, says Jessica Smith, a certified personal trainer and star of fitness DVDs. For that, you need to rev your calorie burn. Interval training, in which you alternate high-intensity bursts of activity with easier bouts, has been shown to zap more belly fat than steady-paced moderate workouts.
If you’ve been eating fast food for years, get real about your approach: You’re probably not going to stick to an organic, gluten-free, paleo overhaul for very long. "You want to change as little as possible to create calorie deficit," says Dr. Seltzer, who insists the best way to support sustainable weight loss is to incorporate small changes into existing habits. So instead of giving up your daily BLT bagels in favor of an egg-white wrap, try ordering your sandwich on a lighter English muffin. Or say you eat a snack bar every afternoon: Swap your 300-calorie bar for a 150-calorie alternative. "Your brain will feel the same way about it, so you won’t feel deprived," he says.
If you’re allergic or sensitive to a certain ingredient and continue eating it, you’re likely to struggle with losing weight. The food is triggers inflammation, as your body fights against it. As you continue eating the same food that’s making you ill, the inflammation continues, making you a lot more susceptible to extra pounds and other health issues.
Dairy products contain varying amounts of lactose (milk sugar), which slows down weight loss. What’s more, part of the protein in milk generates a significant insulin response, which can have the same effect. Consequently, cutting back on dairy products may accelerate weight loss. This applies especially to dairy products typically lacking in fat, such as regular milk and various yogurts, but be careful with full-fat dairy such as cream and cheese all the same. And don’t forget whey protein powder, which is pure milk protein.