But before we get into how to go about losing weight, please consider this: Weight loss isn’t a healthy goal for everyone, Susan Albers, Psy.D., a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic specializing in body image and eating issues, tells SELF. “I work in a medical facility,” she says. “I have access to people’s blood work. You can be healthy or unhealthy at every size.”
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.
The very notion of going “on” or “off” a diet is self-sabotaging. The key to sustainable weight loss is creating habits that you can (happily) live with pretty much forever, registered dietitian Georgie Fear, R.D., C.S.S.D., author of Lean Habits for Lifelong Weight Loss, tells SELF. And in a previous review from the University of Toronto, after examining 59 scientific weight-loss articles, including 48 randomized control trials, researchers concluded that how easy a diet is for you to stick with may actually be a much better predictor of your weight-loss success than the actual diet you choose.
Want to lose that belly fat fast? In your dreams! Seriously, though: a good night’s sleep is one of the best ways to get rid of that extra fat around your waist for good. Among the 60,000 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study, those who snoozed for fewer than five hours a night were at the greatest risk of becoming obese and gaining 30 or more pounds over the course of the 16-year study period when compared to those who slept for seven or more hours.
Basically, the effect of exercise on our weight is vastly overrated. That’s why it’s only number 15 on this list. There are other things you need to take care of first. It’s not a good idea to eat bad food, drink sugar water (so-called “sports drinks”) or be on medications which force you to exercise for hours daily just to compensate. Metaphorically that’s like digging a hole, into which you put your ladder, on which you stand and paint the basement-level windows of your house.
So if you want to be able to eat more and still maintain your current body weight, get up earlier and exercise before breakfast. If you want to lose weight, get up earlier and exercise before breakfast. And if you want to be in a better mood all day, definitely exercise before breakfast. Researchers at the University of Vermont found that aerobic training of moderate intensity, with an average heart rate of around 112 beats a minute -- elevated, sure, but it's not like you're hammering away -- improved participants' mood for up to 12 hours after exercise.
If you eat a carbohydrate-rich meal (lots of pasta, rice, bread, or French fries, for example), your body releases insulin to help with the influx of all this glucose into your blood. As well as regulating blood sugar levels, insulin does two things: It prevents your fat cells from releasing fat for the body to burn as fuel (because its priority is to burn off the glucose) and it creates more fat cells for storing everything that your body can’t burn off. The result is that you gain weight and your body now requires more fuel to burn, so you eat more. Since insulin only burns carbohydrates, you crave carbs and so begins a vicious cycle of consuming carbs and gaining weight. To lose weight, the reasoning goes, you need to break this cycle by reducing carbs.
If you’re trying to shed pounds, regular exercise is key. A shredding workout repeated throughout the week will help you burn serious fat, so that you can show off toned and lean muscles. We especially love this 4-minute workout, since it’s simple, yet effective. You only need to know four moves, all of which will challenge your body and raise your heart rate. Additionally, the workout incorporates highly effective high-intensity intervals, so it’s super quick. Interval training has been found to help boost your metabolism so that you continue to burn calories even after you leave the gym.
Keeping a toothbrush handy can do more than polish up that smile (and counter the effects of all that belly-slimming garlic); brushing your teeth throughout the day can also help you ditch that belly fat fast. A study conducted a sample of over 14,000 participants found that brushing after every meal was linked to lower weight. That minty toothpaste flavor not only clashes with virtually every food, brushing may also trigger a Pavlovian response that tells your brain the kitchen’s closed.
You’ll start each cardio day with Tabata-timed cardio. The HIIT protocol that follows calls for sprinting “on the minute,” meaning that your sprints and active rest will always add up to a minute. You’re free to choose your method of cardio, but treadmill running has been shown to burn more calories than cycling. In the first workout, perform 10 all-out 12-second sprints, with 48 seconds of active rest. This will amount to 120 seconds of total sprinting. The next time out, do more: 11 sprints at 13 seconds each, with active rest diminishing by a second. You can expect a similar uptick in volume each cardio session.
Nuts, the second food to watch, contain a fair amount of carbohydrate, and it’s very easy to unwittingly scarf down large quantities. Cashew nuts are among the worst carb-wise – you’ll find that they contain around 20% carbohydrate by weight. For someone following a strict keto diet with a 20 grams of carbs per day allowance, this means that consuming 100 grams (which happens in a flash!) will have filled their daily quota. Peanuts tend to be around 10-15% carbohydrate – not putting them in the clear either.
Have Protein at Every Meal and Snack. Adding a source of lean or low-fat protein to each meal and snack will help keep you feeling full longer so you're less likely to overeat. Try low-fat yogurt, small portion of nuts, peanut butter, eggs, beans, or lean meats. Experts also recommend eating small, frequent meals and snacks (every 3-4 hours), to keep your blood sugar levels steady and to avoid overindulging.
We all get by with a little help from our friends, and this is especially true of people who have lost weight and kept it off. In one study among women who went through a 12-week weight loss program, 74 percent of them maintained their loss or lost more in the three years after the program ended. Those who reported having a support system around eating well were more likely to keep the weight off. (Support around exercise didn’t seem to matter.) Another study found that the type of support you receive matters, too. Your friend who’s cheering you on isn’t likely to be as helpful as your friend who will pass on the fries when you’re trying to eat well. When you’re going out to eat, join friends who will support your healthy eating goals and go to a museum or movie with those who are less likely to be in it with you. Your pals who are in the trenches with you are more likely to hold you accountable, and that’s going to help you in the long run.
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.
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."
Gaspari lives by this rule. "In the weight room, I shorten my rest periods and use advanced techniques like supersets, compound sets, and dropsets to build muscle and burn fat. The key here is to keep training hard and heavy," he says. "Don't trick yourself into thinking that you have to use really light weights and high reps. If you put your mind to it, you can still train just as heavy at a fast pace."
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.