Real talk: It could take weeks or months to see the metabolic effects of exercise on the scale, and even then, building muscle, which is denser than body fat, could lead to weight gain. "Do what you like because it’s good for you," Dr. Seltzer says, noting the way exercise is awesome for your heart, mental health, and more—and that not all measure of progress can be seen on the scale.
Little treats keep you from feeling deprived, so every day, allow yourself a bit of something you love (aim for 150 calories each). This kind of moderation is the difference between a "diet" and a lifestyle you can stick with forever. For salon owner Caitlin Gallagher, who lost 125 pounds, that meant replacing her nightly bowl of ice cream with a square of chocolate; social worker Brittany Hicks, who lost 100 pounds, started baking mini versions of her favorite pies.
“There are many diet plans on the market today that promote good health,” says Emily Kyle, RDN, who is in private practice in Rochester, New York. “The key is finding one that does not cause you stress or agony.” Ask yourself questions such as: Would the diet guidelines make you happy? Anxious? Stressed? Are you able to follow them long term? “Factors such as enjoyment, flexibility, and longevity should be strongly considered,” adds Kyle.
Make sure that everything you're eating is whole — as in nothing processed or packaged. Since salt is a preservative, these are the foods that are highest in sodium — something to keep in mind when planning your meals. Plan on making sure that all items you choose are fresh. That means filling up on fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean protein.
You know all those high-calorie, sugar-laden recipe videos that litter your Facebook newsfeed? Fast-paced hands arranging layers of cookie dough, peanut butter cups, and chocolate brownie batter that come together to make a mouthwatering, decadent dessert that’s also ridiculously fattening. “The internet and social media sites are basically making you fat,” Lisa Hayim, MS, RD, and founder of The WellNecessities, told us for our article on The 30 Worst Flat Belly Mistakes Women Make. “If it isn’t 25 ways to eat tater tots then it’s [another] national [something] day. The internet has made it basically impossible to stay away from cravings and indulgences. These are not excuses to eat unhealthy food.” Next time you see one of these videos, scroll quickly past. Or better yet, unfollow the page completely, and follow Eat This, Not That! on Facebook for healthier videos and more slimming tips.
Sugar contains calories but nothing else, and "empty calories" are the last thing you want on a diet, says Stephanie Karpinske, MBA, M.S., R.D. Sugar is also digested quickly so you're hungry soon after you eat it. It raises insulin levels, which promotes fat storage. Plus, it can be addictive because it raises levels of serotonin -- the feel-good chemical in the brain that helps us relax during times of stress. That's one reason why weaning yourself off sugar is so difficult.
Oatmeal can help you lose weight in two ways. First, it's packed with fiber and it keeps you feeling fuller longer. Second, a recent study in the reported that eating a breakfast made with "slow-release" carbohydrates—such as oatmeal or bran cereal—3 hours before you exercise may help you burn more fat. How? Eating "slow-release" carbohydrates doesn't spike blood sugar as high as eating refined carbohydrates (think: white toast). In turn, insulin levels don't spike as high. Because insulin plays a role in signaling your body to store fat, having lower blood sugar levels may help you burn fat.
"Sleep is a cornerstone of weight management because of the impact it has on your hormones that control how you burn fat, how you store fat, and how you're maintaining muscle. The better your hormone balance, the better your weight management. I work my butt off to get eight hours a night, but right now I'm at six—the show is murdering me! Even if I go to bed early my son wakes up."
At breakfast, go ahead and drink orange juice. But throughout the rest of the day, focus on water instead of juice or soda. The average American consumes an extra 245 calories a day from soft drinks. That’s nearly 90,000 calories a year—or 25 pounds! And research shows that despite the calories, sugary drinks don’t trigger a sense of fullness the way that food does.
While the American College of Sports Medicine warns that women who eat less than 1,300 calories a day and men who eat less than 1,800 risk slowing down their metabolism over time. But a rev-up stage that only lasts two weeks is approved by doctors and isn’t as difficult as it seems. Our tester found the Mayo Clinic day pretty satisfying, and still had enough energy to hit the gym.
You know the kind, says Jillian: "Everyone's like: 'Give up carbs!' 'Give up fat!' 'Wait, no, now I'm taking pills!' None of them are manageable long-term—and they wreak havoc with your metabolism! Because you're either starving yourself or you're cutting out a major food group. Then you go back into weight-gain mode, but it's even worse, because your body has adjusted to all that crazy fad crap."
Nature's Variety Healthy Weight Chicken is another grain-free cat food that is made without corn or wheat. If your cat is a picky eater, putting him on a low-calorie diet can be frustrating, as weight control foods tend to offer fewer of the fatty additives that cats get addicted to. Nature’s Variety has a boost of freeze-dried raw chicken, which makes this dry food more appetizing to finicky cats. Nature’s Variety has 37% protein and 12% fat, so it’s great for keeping your pet fuller longer.
You might feel silly, but it works. When Alan R. Hirsch, MD, neurological director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, tried this with 3,000 volunteers, he found that the more frequently people sniffed, the less hungry they were and the more weight they lost—an average of 30 pounds each. One theory is that sniffing the food tricks the brain into thinking you’re actually eating it.
You’ve heard of a self-fulfilling prophecy? If you keep focusing on things you can’t do, like resisting junk food or getting out the door for a daily walk, chances are you won’t do them. Instead (whether you believe it or not) repeat positive thoughts to yourself. “I can lose weight.” “I will get out for my walk today.” “I know I can resist the pastry cart after dinner.” Repeat these phrases and before too long, they will become true for you.
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Conversely, the more food in front of you, the more you’ll eat—regardless of how hungry you are. So instead of using regular dinner plates that range these days from 10 to 14 inches (making them look empty if they’re not heaped with food), serve your main course on salad plates (about 7 to 9 inches wide). Instead of 16-ounce glasses and oversized coffee mugs, return to the old days of 8-ounce glasses and 6-ounce coffee cups.
What's more trustworthy than a diet built by experts from the Mayo Clinic? Created by doctors, nutritionists, and all-star chefs, the plan has a few phases: In the first, you should lose 6 to 10 pounds in two weeks. After that, you can expect to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week until you reach your goal weight. You're also given plenty of resources and advice to help you keep the weight off.