Use the meal as a reward for a week’s worth of hard work, or the completion of a project you’ve been dreading. “It’s OK for people to blow one meal a week without feeling guilty,” says James W. Anderson, M.D., director of the Metabolic Research Group at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. “If you follow a healthy diet 95% of the time, you can relax and enjoy yourself the other 5% of the time without gaining weight.”
When Tufts University researchers studied the waistlines and diets of 459 people, they found that even in men of similar age and activity level, those who ate white bread frequently weighed more than those who didn’t. “The calories from white bread and refined grains just seem to settle at the waistline more than calories from other foods,” says Katherine Tucker, Ph.D., the study author.
That sour cherry is pretty sweet when it comes to your health. The results of a study conducted at the University of Michigan found that rats given high-fat foods along with tart cherries ditched nine percent more body fat than those in a control group over just 12 weeks. Cherries are also a good source of antioxidant pigment resveratrol, which has been linked to reductions in belly fat, dementia risk, and lower rates of macular degeneration among the elderly.
The reason we’re suggesting 45 minutes instead of the typical 30 as one of the ways to lose weight is that a Duke University study found that while 30 minutes of daily walking is enough to prevent weight gain in most relatively sedentary people, exercise beyond 30 minutes results in weight and fat loss. Burning an additional 300 calories a day with three miles of brisk walking (45 minutes should do it) could help you lose 30 pounds in a year without even changing how much you’re eating. Here are 20 hidden reasons your diet isn’t working.
"Inadequate intake of calories, especially protein, causes the body to breakdown muscle tissue to meet the needs for amino acids," says Cederquist. "I have my patients focus on obtaining adequate lean protein and spreading it throughout the day." Her recommendation: focus on 100 grams per day, which breaks down into three to four ounces of protein at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and a few ounces for snacks.
To banish stubborn belly fat, you have to ramp up your workouts. In a study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, people who completed a high-intensity workout regimen lost more belly fat than those who followed a low-intensity plan. (In fact, the low-intensity exercises experienced no significant changes at all.) "You need to exercise at full intensity because the end goal is to burn more calories, and high intensity exercise does just that," says Natalie Jill, a San Diego, Calif.-based certified personal trainer. High intensity workouts mean you're going all out for as long as you can. If this sounds intimidating, think of it this way: you'll burn more calories in less time.
Studies found that people who keep food diaries wind up eating about 15 percent less food than those who don’t. Watch out for weekends: A University of North Carolina study found people tend to consume an extra 115 calories per weekend day, primarily from alcohol and fat. Then cut out or down calories from spreads, dressings, sauces, condiments, drinks, and snacks; they could make the difference between weight gain and loss. Here are 50 easy ways to lose weight naturally.
It can actually help you cut back on calories. That's because capsaicin, a compound found in jalapeno and cayenne peppers, may (slightly) increase your body's release of stress hormones such as adrenaline, which can speed up your ability to burn calories. What's more, eating hot peppers may help slow you down. You're less likely to wolfed down that plate of spicy spaghetti —— and therefore stay more mindful of when you're full. Some great adds: Ginger, turmeric, black pepper, oregano, and jalapenos.
3. Up your nutrition game in the kitchen. Take a healthy-cooking class or look for free seminars about healthy eating run by health professionals, suggests Sopov. “Everyone could benefit from talking to a registered dietitian who will take the time to pinpoint what behaviors and changes in diet will work best for your lifestyle,” she says. Check out the offerings at your local grocery store — many now have nutritionists on staff to help you reach your healthy eating goals.
Plus, many other benefits come with exercise. Aerobic exercise can decrease one's risk for a number of diseases and improve cognitive performance. Both aerobic workouts and strength training are also associated with mental health benefits and lower rates of depression and anxiety. And via strength training, people can reverse the loss of muscle and bone density that comes with aging, making it easier to avoid injuries and move about the world.
Folks with fluctuating blood sugar levels are more likely to have belly fat than folks whose sugar levels are relatively steady. Try taking daily supplements of 750 mg to 1,500 mg of glucomannan, a Japanese root extract that can help you shed up to six pounds of belly fat in two months, Columbia University scientists say. (Important: Be sure to check with your doctor first.)
A recent study in the journal Obesity found that obese adults who drank about 16 oz of water 30 minutes before their main meals experienced moderate weight loss compared to a group who didn't drink before their meal. Why? For one, water starts filling you up and might help reduce your appetite. Second, another study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that that drinking about 17 oz of water increases metabolic rate by 30 percent in healthy men and women, and that this metabolic surge reached a maximum 30 to 40 minutes after drinking. Chug a few glasses of water 30 minutes before your meal, and you're prepping your metabolism to rev just in time for food consumption.
You don’t have to go low-carb to ditch those extra pounds around your waist in a short period of time. In fact, opting for more whole grains might just get you there faster. Researchers at Tufts University have linked eating three or more daily servings of whole grains to as much as a 10 percent reduction in visceral body fat, the kind that ups your risk for chronic diseases, like diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Obese people who consumed a tablespoon or two of vinegar daily for eight weeks showed significant decreases in body fat—particularly visceral fat—according to a 2009 Japanese study. "One theory is that the acetic acid in the vinegar produces proteins that burn up fat," explains Pamela Peeke, M.D., professor of medicine at the University of Maryland, author of Fight Fat After 40.
People with chronically high levels of the stress hormone cortisol tend to carry excess visceral fat. Foods that are high on the glycemic index (GI), which uses a ranking system of 0 to 100, cause more rapid spikes in your blood sugar, in turn triggering the release of cortisol when glucose levels crash. The constant up and down of your blood sugar levels can also lead to insulin resistance — the first step on the road to type 2 diabetes. To help keep cortisol levels stable, choose low-GI foods (with a rating of 55 or less) like beans, lentils, and chickpeas, instead of high-GI options like white rice and potatoes. To find the GI rating of your foods, use the University of Sydney’s database at glycemicindex.com.
If you want to work late at night, think again. When your biorhythms are off, you end up eating more. When you're tired you produce more ghrelin, which triggers cravings for sugar and other fat-building foods. Losing sleep can also alter your hormone production, affecting your cortisol levels that cause insulin sensitivity, prime reasons for belly fat! Getting about 7 hours of sleep a night is one of the best things you can do for your body shaping goals.
The 2003 research indicated that exercise is a top weapon against visceral fat, backed up by a 2011 study which found that aerobic exercise is basically a magic bullet. Aerobic exercise is known to most people as cardio — activities such as running and cycling, as opposed to resistance training (where you lift heavy stuff around). While participants in the study worked fairly hard (jogging 20km per week at a high intensity), the researchers said lower-intensity but longer workouts should have similar benefits.
When researchers at the University of Tennessee put a group of volunteers on one of two diets—one high in calcium and one not—and cut each group’s calorie intake by 500 calories, they found that the people getting calcium lost twice as much weight (an average of 13lbs) compared with people on the standard diet. Study author Michael Zemel, Ph.D., believes extra calcium helps the body burn more—and store less—fat.
Some antidepressant medications can cause weight gain, especially the older tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) such as Tryptizol, Saroten, and Clomipramine; as well as newer drugs such as Remeron (Mirtazapine). Lithium (for manic-depressive disorder) often causes weight gain. The most common antidepressants known as SSRI’s (for example Citalopram and Sertraline) usually don’t impact weight significantly. More on depression
“Under normal conditions, humans absorb only about 80% of the nutrients from the food they eat,” says A. Roberto Frisancho, Ph.D., a weight-loss researcher at the University of Michigan. But, he says, when the body is deprived of nourishment, it becomes a super-efficient machine, pulling what nutrients it can from whatever food is consumed. Start eating again normally and your body may not catch up; instead it will continue to store food as fat.
And maybe a new mattress, because it’s not just the amount of time you spend sleeping that keeps you lean, it’s also the quality of your sleep. Fat cells in your body produce a hormone called leptin that helps the body keep track of how much potential energy (i.e. fat) it has stored. But leptin is only produced during certain stages of sleep. Miss out on those stages because you’re not resting soundly enough, and you’ll disturb levels of the hormone, leaving your body with no real idea of its energy reserves. Consequently, you’ll end up storing calories rather than burning them.
“It can take 12 minutes or longer for the signal that you’ve started to eat to make its way to your brain,” says Mark S. Gold, M.D., of the McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Florida. Quick tips: Sip some water between every bite of food you eat, or at least eat more meals with friends or family members. You’ll be more likely to talk and therefore to eat more slowly.
You already know that a perfect diet doesn't exist, but many of us still can't resist the urge to kick ourselves when we indulge, eat too much, or get thrown off course from restrictive diets. The problem: This only makes it more difficult, stressful, and downright impossible to lose weight. So rather than beating yourself up for eating foods you think you shouldn't, let it go. Treating yourself to about 200 calories worth of deliciousness each day — something that feels indulgent to you — can help you stay on track for the long-haul, so allow yourself to eat, breathe, and indulge. Food should be joyful, not agonizing!