And some of these factors can go pretty deep. Albers says that people often don’t realize how dramatically past experiences influence our relationships with ourselves and bodies. For example, having to clean your plate as a child, getting sweet treats to “cheer up” after a bad day at school, or being called “fat” when you were 8 years old all likely have an impact. “Comments about your body or being urged to lose weight by a parent can do emotional damage for the rest of your life,” Albers says. Unless you deal with these issues, “many people spin their wheels and don't know why they feel so stuck,” she says. For this reason, Langer often refers clients to psychologists who specialize in food issues, and she won’t work with those clients on the nutrition side of things until they’ve started to unpack these fundamental emotional factors. Understanding your relationship to food is an important step in trying to change it.
Try on clothes and pay attention to the fit. A great way to identify weight loss is if your clothes become too big or fit loosely. Stay positive, even when the numbers on the scales increase. When building muscle, you may experience weight gain -- lean muscle tissue -- but as long as your body fat percentage is decreasing, you’re on the right track.
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.
Practice intermittent fasting. Skip breakfast and compress your daily eating into a smaller window of time. If you’re a man, fast for at least 16 hours and eat in an 8-hour window every day- noon to 8 PM works best for most people. If you’re a woman, fast for at least 14 hours and eat for 10. In either case, this means you’re having two small meals and one smaller low-calorie snack each day.
The truth is there is no “one size fits all” solution to permanent healthy weight loss. What works for one person may not work for you, since our bodies respond differently to different foods, depending on genetics and other health factors. To find the method of weight loss that’s right for you will likely take time and require patience, commitment, and some experimentation with different foods and diets.
Watch your drinks. It's amazing how many calories are in the sodas, juices, and other drinks that you take in every day. Simply cutting out a can of soda or one sports drink can save you 150 calories or more each day. Drink water or other sugar-free drinks to quench your thirst and stay away from sugary juices and sodas. Choosing nonfat or low-fat milk is also a good idea.
That means taking in fewer calories than you burn. That means making healthier choices. That means ... well, you know what that means. You know what you should eat. We all do. White flours and white sugars are the enemy. Foods like white breads, cookies, white pasta, white rice, and white potatoes are out. (The same is true for "white fats" like butter and full-fat cheese.)
We don’t always eat simply to satisfy hunger. All too often, we turn to food when we’re stressed or anxious, which can wreck any diet and pack on the pounds. Do you eat when you’re worried, bored, or lonely? Do you snack in front of the TV at the end of a stressful day? Recognizing your emotional eating triggers can make all the difference in your weight-loss efforts. If you eat when you’re:
“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.
“The best way to stick with a diet, is for people to put the fewest restrictions on themselves as possible,” Langer says. “There shouldn't be anything in the world that they shouldn't ever eat again.” Similarly, Albers recommends ditching the “don’t” list entirely. “Instead of trying to stop an old negative habit, focus on building a positive new one,” she says. “New habits crowd out the old without the struggle of trying to stop a behavior.”
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Two weeks doesn’t give you much time to trigger noticeable changes in your body. To negate the time factor, you’ll be condensing the work schedule. Over the next 14 days, you’ll put in 12 total workouts, with two rest days built in. The increased frequency of workouts will up the number of calories you’re burning over the course of the program. By keeping repair and recovery constant between workouts, you’ll have your metabolism working overtime to keep up. This type of schedule is not sustainable in the long term, but you’ll find that your body can do almost anything for a two-week block, often with positive results.
Although you do want to increase your walking over time, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be working your way up to a more intensive form of cardio like swimming or running. “Moving on to new exercises is not something someone should feel they have to do unless their goals change and a new exercise is needed to support those goals,” says Gagliardi. “Walking alone can be progressed by changing the distance, speed, terrain, and by adding intervals.”
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.
To start off, aim to do ab work 3 or 4 times a week on non-consecutive days with at least 24 hours of rest in between sessions, says Gagliardi. During those sessions, you can start with simpler moves like crunches, bicycle crunches, and planks. Even though you may only be directly targeting your abs 3 or 4 times a week, you should still be activating your core (aka, tightening your ab muscles) in every workout you do, says Gagliardi.
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.
While many people turn to artificial sweeteners in a misguided attempt to whittle their waistlines, those fake sugars are likely to have the opposite effect. According to Yale researchers, artificial sweeteners are actually linked with an increased risk of abdominal obesity and weight gain, possibly because they can trigger cravings for the real stuff and spike insulin levels in a similar fashion to real sugar.