But his struggle resonates with lifelong dieters. For most of his life, Stevens, now 41, believed certain foods had the power to make him fat or thin. He went on his first diet at age 10, and for 25 years he counted calories, carbs and fat while on every diet from Atkins to the Zone. He lost hundreds of pounds, but they always returned, and his weight continued to climb.
And beyond that, weight-loss efforts can take an emotional toll. “It can destroy your relationship with food. It can lead you to feel obsessed and frustrated,” Albers explains. For some people, quitting dieting is better and healthier than continuing to try to lose weight. And whatever a person’s weight-loss goal, the priority should be first and foremost on health. “Eating for health frees you up emotionally and is based on improving your body rather than rejecting your body,” she says.
You know the drill: Replace refined, overly processed foods with more natural, whole foods. Sure, all foods fit, but they don’t all fit equally. Here’s why: Every time you eat, your metabolism increases as your body works to process your meal. Studies that compare the metabolic boost of calorie-matched whole foods to processed ones find that your body can burn up to 50 percent more calories after a meal made with more real food ingredients compared to a similar meal made with more processed fare. The fact is, your body has to work harder to break down whole foods in order to grab the raw materials it needs so if you exist on a lot of packaged foods and fast foods (think: chips, donuts and drive-thru fare), it’s going to be tougher to lose weight and keep those pounds from coming back.
You're probably familiar with high-intensity interval training (HIIT). When it comes to cardio, HIIT is definitely the best way to strip off body fat, to the extent that there's literally no reason to hop on a treadmill and run at a steady pace for 30 or more minutes unless you're an endurance athlete. And if you're reading this magazine, chances are you don't desire the physique of a marathoner.
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.
In a way, moderate-intensity physical activity is that "magic pill" a lot of people are looking for, because the health benefits go beyond keeping your waistline trim: Not only can it reduce your risk of cancer, stroke, diabetes and heart attacks, but studies have shown that physical activity can significantly improve the moods of patients with major depressive disorders.