A calorie isn’t always a calorie. Eating 100 calories of high fructose corn syrup, for example, can have a different effect on your body than eating 100 calories of broccoli. The trick for sustained weight loss is to ditch the foods that are packed with calories but don’t make you feel full (like candy) and replace them with foods that fill you up without being loaded with calories (like vegetables).
When the going gets tough (and it likely will from time to time along any weight loss journey), it’s important to realize that a host of non-food factors can make losing weight difficult, explains board-certified obesity medicine specialist Spencer Nadolsky, D.O., a diplomate of the American Board of Obesity Medicine and author of The Fat Loss Prescription. Hormones, genetics, and, ultimately, metabolism are three big ones, he says.
It takes more than a couple of leisurely jaunts on the treadmill to get into photoshoot-ready shape. Those who achieve the lean, muscular look of the men you see in M&F have done so by tackling tough workouts with zeal. By incorporating higher intensity protocols—such as Tabata and high-intensity interval training (HIIT)—you keep your workouts at a modest length and maximize muscle breakdown, which helps boost post-workout calorie burn. Tabata, which calls for eight 20-second cycles of work followed by 10 seconds of rest, allows you to exhaust all types of muscle fiber while elevating your metabolism.
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.
Losing weight isn’t necessarily a matter of meat vs. plants or carbs vs. fats. Repeatedly, studies suggest you can lose weight with a number of different approaches, including the ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting, and WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers). Truth be told, losing weight is much easier than keeping it off. The last decade of research on weight loss points to the fact that once you lose weight, your body is in a battle with biology. It’s an unfortunate irony, but studies show that as you drop pounds, your levels of “I’m hungry” hormones increase, while your “I’m full” hormones decrease. At the same time, your body physically needs less fuel to operate your smaller size. It’s not an easy battle, but it isn’t impossible; you can march on. Here’s what we’ve learned about weight loss, and what you can do to take charge of your weight this year.
You may have heard the widely quoted statistic that 95% of people who lose wait on a diet will regain it within a few years—or even months. While there isn’t much hard evidence to support that claim, it is true that many weight-loss plans fail in the long term. Often that’s simply because diets that are too restrictive are very hard to maintain over time. However, that doesn’t mean your weight loss attempts are doomed to failure. Far from it.
We often make the wrong trade-offs. Many of us make the mistake of swapping fat for the empty calories of sugar and refined carbohydrates. Instead of eating whole-fat yoghurt, for example, we eat low- or no-fat versions that are packed with sugar to make up for the loss of taste. Or we swap our fatty breakfast bacon for a muffin or donut that causes rapid spikes in blood sugar.
Say cheese! Adding some extra calcium and vitamin D to your diet could be the key to getting that flat stomach you’ve been dreaming about. Over just 12 months, researchers at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville found that obese female study subjects who upped their calcium intake shed 11 pounds of body fat without other major dietary modifications. To keep your calcium choices healthy, try mixing it up between dairy sources, calcium-rich leafy greens, fatty fish, nuts, and seeds.
A different way of viewing weight loss identifies the problem as not one of consuming too many calories, but rather the way the body accumulates fat after consuming carbohydrates—in particular the role of the hormone insulin. When you eat a meal, carbohydrates from the food enter your bloodstream as glucose. In order to keep your blood sugar levels in check, your body always burns off this glucose before it burns off fat from a meal.
If muscling up is key to shedding timber, you might as well do so efficiently. Rehash your recovery period by introducing short rest intervals within your sets. Switching your 120-second rest between sets to a 60-second intra-set break brings greater strength gains and increased power output, according to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
On the Shred Diet, you’ll eat four meals and up to three snacks a day. Eating smaller meals will keep you from getting hungry as you distribute your calories throughout the day. Equally important, spacing out your meals will keep your hormones stable. When you eat small meals, especially meals composed of foods that have a low-glycemic index (choices that are less likely to spike your blood sugar), you prevent surges in hormones that lead to weight gain.
Weight loss ultimately comes back to the concept of calories in, calories out: Eat less than you burn and you’ll lose weight. And while it’s possible to lose water weight quickly on a low-carb diet, I certainly wouldn’t advocate for it. The diet itself can trick you into thinking that this eating style is working — when really, you might gain back what you lost as soon as you eat carbs again. That can feel incredibly dispiriting if you want results that last longer than a week.
The diversity in tools and strategies that work for people is nicely illustrated by the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), which, since 1994, has collected data on people who have lost 30 pounds or more and kept it off for at least one year. If you take a look at some of their findings, you’ll see some commonalities in various behaviors and strategies (such as increasing eating breakfast every day, watching fewer than 10 hours of TV per week, and weighing themselves regularly). But rather than looking at the NWCR’s data as a how-to guide—after all, these are the behaviors that correlate to weight loss, we can’t know if they’re the ones that caused weight loss—look at it as further evidence that there’s no one right way to live to lose weight and keep it off, and that finding the thing that will work for you is a personal journey, specific to you.
On the physiological side of things, it’s important to realize that the vast majority of your daily caloric burn comes down to just basic functions like breathing and keeping your heart beating, Moore says. Called your basal metabolic rate (BMR), your muscle does play a role in setting it, but extra muscle isn’t going to turn you into a supercharged calorie-torching machine. And even though exercise does burn calories, that total is often significantly less than what we expect and would need to create a large daily caloric deficit, he says.
Keep a calculator handy. To calculate your waist-to-hip ratio accurately, measure the narrowest point of your waist and the broadest part of your hip. Divide the values you obtained from the measurement and you have your ratio. The waist-to-hip ratio is a more accurate parameter to measure BMI. Those with a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.8 are susceptible to cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Langer adds that when when people have good vs. bad, perfectionistic expectations for themselves, they tend to handle supposed misdeeds (like eating something they “shouldn’t”) one of two ways: languishing in their failure or compensating by restricting subsequent meals. People who do make sustainable weight loss work, however, can enjoy that piece of cake and then, in their next meal, eat just like they had before digging into that slice of cake.
Fermented foods: These enhance the function of good bacteria while inhibiting the growth of bad bacteria. Sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, yogurt, tempeh, and miso all contain good amounts of probiotics, which help to increase good bacteria. Researchers have studied kimchi widely, and study results suggest that it has anti-obesity effects. Similarly, studies have shown that kefir may help to promote weight loss in overweight women.
Your parents weren’t kidding about how important veggies are for a healthy body. What they probably didn’t tell you, however, was that snacking on veggies is also one of the easiest ways to shed unwanted belly fat, too. According to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, opting for non-starchy veggies, like cauliflower, broccoli, and cucumber, as snacks helped overweight kids shed 17 percent of their visceral fat while improving their insulin sensitivity over a five-year period. Think snacking on veggies will leave you hungry? The 20 Most Filling Fruits and Veggies will have your belly satisfied in no time.
If you're dehydrated, it can be hard to tell if you're hungry or just thirsty. If you're craving a mid-day snack, have a glass of water and wait a few minutes before reassessing how hungry you really are. Water also helps food move through your digestive system, lessening feelings of bloating. It's a good idea to keep a water bottle with you throughout the day. Add in cucumber slices or fresh fruit to infuse flavor.
Anything that contains sensitive information (name, address, social security numbers, account numbers, etc.) that you no longer need, and that you want to keep out of the hands of thieves or “dumpster divers.” These documents could include old utility invoices, bank statements, medical records, credit card offers and old tax documents (older than 7 years), just to name a few.