You know that protein's essential for a slimmer you. But here's why protein really needs to play a prime roll on your plate: "Your body starts to produce more insulin as you age, since your muscle and fat cells aren't responding to it properly," explains Louis Aronne, M.D., director of the obesity clinic at Cornell University. Insulin promotes fat storage—especially around your belly—and a diet high in protein may protect you against insulin resistance, says Aronne. In one study, obese women who followed a diet for eight weeks that was roughly 30 perecent protein, 40 percent carbs, and 30 percent fat lost significantly more fat—including visceral pudge—than women who stuck to a plan that was 16 percent protein, 55 percent carbs, and 26 percent fat.
What’s more, your body digests protein more slowly than carbs, so it keeps you feeling fuller longer and zaps your need to needlessly snack. “During weight loss, you want more protein—to prevent hunger, enhance satiety, and minimize muscle loss, as long as there’s some degree of physical activity,” Tom Rifai, MD, regional medical director of metabolic health and weight management for the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit told Prevention.
All meals are important, but breakfast is what helps you start your day on the right track. The best, heartiest breakfasts are ones that will fill you up, keep you satisfied, and stave off cravings later in the day. Aim to eat anywhere between 400 and 500 calories for your morning meal, and make sure you're including a source of lean protein plus filling fat (e.g., eggs, beans, unsweetened Greek yogurt, nuts, or nut butters) and fiber (veggies, fruit, or 100% whole grains). Starting your day with a blood sugar-stabilizing blend of nutrients will help you slim down without sacrifice.
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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.
Physics works, and I lost weight. By August, I was down to 175 pounds, a 30-pound drop. My belt went from 42 inches to 36 inches. My Zen-like approach to hunger also worked; I found myself declining offers of chocolate cake because I didn't want to lose the sensation of evaporation. I didn't change my level of activity, and managed to maintain my diet while taking trips to Cuba and Alaska -- and during a week-long backpacking excursion in the Sierra Nevada. A key innovation: I kept up the social aspects of lunch, without eating. I watched others gobbling cheeseburgers, while I sipped diet cola. It really wasn't that hard to do. And the mild afternoon discomfort was compensated by several positive developments. Dinner became truly wonderful. I hadn't had pre-dinner hunger for decades. A sharp appetite turns a meal into a feast. No more cheese 'appetizers' for me.
Carbohydrates are a touchy subject: while some blame them for all fat gain, it’s the type of carbs you eat that’s key. A 2011 study out of the University of Alabama found that a diet that slightly cut back on carbs, and which comprised mostly low-GI carbohydrates, lost more deep abdominal fat than those who ate a lower-fat diet. GI stands for glycemic index, a measure of how fast carbohydrates supply your body with energy: high-GI foods make you spike then crash, while low-GI foods provide a slow burn.
If you run for an hour, you'll lose that ounce of fat and also a pound or two of water. By the next day, when you've replenished the water, you might think, 'the weight came right back!' But you'd be wrong -- you really did lose an ounce. It is hard to notice, unless you keep running every day for a month or more, and don't reward yourself after each run with a cookie.
As women age, weight creeps up too, with the average women gaining about one pound per year in their 40s and 50s, resulting in an added 10 to 15 pounds. The drop in estrogen levels during this time of perimenopause (the years leading up to menopause) contributes to weight gain and can change the way you distribute fat. You may gain weight in your belly more readily than you did in younger years.
"If your diet consists of lots of sports drinks, sugar-sweetened drinks like fizzy pop and flavoured waters, or sugary foods like chocolate and cakes, it will make losing weight harder. While whole fruits and vegetables are undoubtedly good for you, they can also sometimes cause weight gain if you eat too much, as they have high levels of natural sugars in them. Low-fat food options might have high amounts of added sugar in there too, so make sure to check the food label.
Instead of piling everything on one plate, bring food to the table in individual courses. For the first two courses, bring out soup or veggies such as a green salad or the most filling fruits and vegetables. By the time you get to the more calorie-dense foods, like meat and dessert, you’ll be eating less or may already be full. Nothing wrong with leftovers!
It's easy to overeat pasta, but not if you cook the right amount at the start. For a perfect portion, keep a quarter near your spaghetti. Its diameter is exactly the size of the 2-ounce stack (about 200 calories) that you should serve per person. For an exact measurement buy a dry-pasta measurer on Amazon. (Love Italian food? Don't miss these six other ways to keep classic dishes flat-belly friendly.)
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.