“Patients can diet themselves down to any weight they put their minds to, but to maintain that weight, they need to actually enjoy the lifestyle that got them there,” writes Yoni Freedhoff, M.D., the medical director of the Bariatric Medical Institute in Ottawa, Canada, and Arya M. Sharma, M.D., Ph.D., the founder and Scientific Director of the Canadian Obesity Network, in Best Weight, a manual for clinicians who treat patients pursuing weight loss. “A patient’s best weight is therefore whatever weight they achieve while living the healthiest lifestyle they can truly enjoy.”
Surround yourself with encouraging people. Your social environment has a huge impact on your success, so make sure the people you talk to are encouraging you to stay fit. Ideally, you should have a few friends who are losing weight or have done so in the past. Note that friends who want to lose weight but have never done so may not be supportive- look for successful people who will bring you up with them.
After your last training session (Wednesday, in this example, two full days before Saturday’s event), eat two to three grams of carbs per pound of body weight for the rest of the day. If you train at night and it’s hard to eat enough carbs before bed, you can split up the total and eat the rest of the carbs on Thursday night. Insulin sensitivity remains high for 48 hours post- workout, so glycogen will still go to your muscles. Otherwise, on Thursday, go back on the diet prescribed in Step 2.
“Do what you can instead of quitting when you can't be ‘perfect,’” Fear says. As if there’s such a thing as “perfect.” After all, research suggests that perfectionism surrounding food and weight, especially coupled with body dissatisfaction, contribute to disordered eating and even obesity in women. Researchers note that perfectionism can contribute to poor self-esteem, dietary restraint, and binge eating.
In what is perhaps the biggest buzzkill of all time, sex doesn’t quite count as cardio or burn a significant amount of calories: Women burn about 3.6 per minute. "It’s still a good idea," Dr. Seltzer says, citing the activity’s other benefits, like increasing the output of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which naturally reduce food cravings.
And that raises the most important point: Thinking about exercise as a way to work off food or simply allow you to eat sets up a host of unhealthy and unhelpful thought patterns and habits around food and exercise. For instance, one 2013 research review found that, not only did people generally overestimate how many calories exercise burned—when they did work out, they ramped up their food intake. And if you overeat following exercise, any caloric deficit created during your workout can become a wash. And related: thinking of food as a reward and exercise as a punishment is likely to sabotage your weight loss efforts anyway.
Simply take a good hard look at your diet, make a few modifications you can stick with and get your body moving. Not sure where you stand on diet? Write down everything you eat this week, then compare it to the list above and see where you could have made better choices. Don’t beat yourself up though, learning how to lose stomach fat fast is a process. Simply find areas to improve and work on them next week.
Drink sugar water once a day. This brain hack works by suppressing production of the hunger hormone ghrelin and is a small exception to the no sugar rule above. It was discovered by the late Dr. Seth Roberts, and tested and verified by Drs. Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt, of Freakonomics fame. Done properly, it has a dramatic appetite-suppressant effect, making your diet much easier to follow.
Using a layered approach is another great way to build a good veggie habit. For example, start with a food you already enjoy — say, pasta — and layer some veggies into your bowl. This can help you explore a new food with one you already love eating, and from there, you can try new ways to savor it. Take spinach, for instance. After trying it with pasta, you may want fold it into an omelet or another favorite food, or explore it on its own with different cooking techniques (sautéed or steamed) or different flavor additions (garlic or golden raisins). The possibilities are limitless!
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.
Regular exercise is key to weight loss and maintenance. And since there’s no consensus on whether the ideal workout is aerobic or resistance training, your best bet is to do a little of both. Resistance training is especially important for people over 30, who will otherwise begin to lose bone density. Contrary to popular belief, abdominal crunches are not going to melt away belly fat, though they will help build muscle that could help define the area. And since muscle mass has a higher resting metabolic rate and energy expenditure than fat, it could help you trim down. Mix up your workout routine with these exercises that flatten your belly—without a single crunch.
But just because belly fat comes off a bit more easily doesn’t make it less dangerous. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. “Belly fat is unfortunately the most dangerous location to store fat,” says Dr. Cheskin. Because belly fat—also known as visceral fat, or the deep abdominal fat that surrounds your organs—is more temporary, it’s more active in terms of circulating in the bloodstream. That means it’s likely to raise the amount of fat in your blood (known as blood lipid levels) and increase your blood sugar levels, which as a result raises your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Still, it remains to be seen whether Stevens has unusual willpower or whether his idea can be translated to the masses. "Not everyone has the resolve he came to," said Laura Concannon, medical director of the bariatrics program at Illinois Masonic Medical Center, who recommends Stevens' book to overweight patients. "I think he just hit bottom, and not everyone in my practice has hit bottom. If they have, they'll do well with the approach. But they have to be ready and committed to make the change."
Don’t let extra hours lounging in bed stand between you and a flatter belly. While getting enough sleep can help boost your metabolic rate, sleeping in may undo any benefit you’d enjoy from catching a few extra winks. One Obesity study reveals that late sleepers who snoozed past 10:45 in the morning ate nearly 250 more calories over the course of the day, despite eating half as many fruits and vegetables as their early bird counterparts. Even worse, they chowed down on more salty, sugary, and trans-fat-laden fast food than those who woke up earlier. If you happen to head out of the house early, you’re in for an additional metabolic boost; researchers at Northwestern University have found that people exposed to just a short period of early morning sunlight had lower BMIs than their late-waking counterparts.