Believe it or not, weight loss isn’t just about exercising and eating right; research suggests what motivates you to get in shape can play a role in your success. A 2014 study in the journal Body Image looked at 321 college-age women and found that long-term, those who exercised primarily for appearance-based reasons had a harder time sticking to their fitness plans than those who worked out to maintain their health. In other words, stop envying those fit models on Instagram and instead remember that you and your loved ones are the people who really benefit when you slim down.
One reason for this is that many products labeled "low fat," "light," and "reduced fat" (things like yogurt, ice cream, and peanut butter) are highly processed and engineered to taste like their original full-fat predecessors. To accomplish this, food manufacturers typically add extra sugar — and sugar, unlike fat, has been strongly implicated as a leading factor contributing to obesity and weight gain.
It is always easier to stick to your weight-loss goals when you have a support system in place to help motivate you to exercise and encourage you to stick to your diet goals when temptation strikes, explains Dr. Petre. This could mean enlisting the help of a gym buddy, joining a support group, or merely confiding in a close friend who will lend an ear when things get tough. Surrounding yourself with people who will help you from sabotaging your goals will go a long way.
As far as sugar goes, high-fructose corn syrup is the worst of the lot. The man-made substance is a combination of corn syrup (which itself is 100 percent glucose) and pure fructose, making it a unique nightmare for your waistline. In one study, researchers fed subjects beverages sweetened with either glucose or fructose. Though both groups gained the same amount of weight over a two-month period, the fructose group gained its weight primarily as belly fat because of the way this type of sugar is processed in the liver. To avoid the belly-bloating HFCS trap, make sure you look at nutrition labels carefully and ditch the processed snacks and fruit drinks.
“Exercise should not be used to purge calories,” Albers says. “Instead, to boost your mood to keep you motivated.” The thing is, exercise is great for you and can make you feel awesome. And feeling good about yourself seems to be actually useful in weight-loss efforts. Plus, some research has shown that changes in exercise behavior can lead to changes in eating behavior. “In part, it is neurochemical. Movement and exercise you enjoy boosts your serotonin and dopamine levels, which makes you feel good all the way around,” Albers says.
Each strategy has the potential to work, but more often than not diets fail. It can be hard to make a changes that you can stick with long enough to see long-term results. When trying to lose weight, it’s always better to take a slow, calculated approach that involves small but impactful changes that lead to a healthier lifestyle. Use these seven proven strategies to help you out along the way.
Ok I’ve been on a calorie deficit for about 3 weeks and it appears I am not losing any body fat. I use a tape measure to track results as well as doing body weight weekly averages on the scale. My calorie intake it at 2,050 calories a day. 1 gram of protein per body weight 188. My body fat is around 19%. My TDEE 2,800. I lift 4 days a week 1.5 hours and 20-30 minute cardio sessions after lifing.
The main advantage of the low-carb diet is that it causes you to want to eat less. Even without counting calories most overweight people eat far fewer calories on low carb. Sugar and starch may increase your hunger, while avoiding them may decrease your appetite to an adequate level. If your body wants to have an appropriate number of calories you don’t need to bother counting them. Thus: Calories count, but you don’t need to count them.
The trick here is not only to avoid all obvious sources of carbohydrate (sweets, bread, spaghetti, rice, potatoes), but also to be careful with your protein intake. If you eat large amounts of meat, eggs and the like, the excess protein will be converted into glucose in your body. Large amounts of protein can also raise your insulin levels somewhat. This compromises optimal ketosis.
It might sound like slashing calories is the easiest way to ensure you will keep weight off. However, this isn’t always the case. In fact, cutting too many calories from your diet, or working out too much, may do the opposite. “Hormonal mechanisms will actually increase your appetite and slow down your metabolism to compensate for the large calorie deficit,” says Dr. Adams. Counting fiber instead of calories may be your key to keep the weight off. “Foods high in fiber are very filling. [They are] often time-consuming to eat and have fewer calories per bite than most other foods,” he says. Try incorporating high-fiber foods, such as the skins of apples, pears, and plums; as well as non-starchy vegetables like peas, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, into your diet. You will feel more satisfied while consuming less food overall.
In her book The Naughty Diet, author Melissa Milne—whose own essay, “I Eat Slim-Shamers for Breakfast” also went viral—interviewed thousands of women about the body shaming and they all said the same thing: “They were sick and tired of feeling bad while trying to be good,” she writes in The Naughty Diet. “And here’s the secret of all secrets: You don’t feel bad about yourself when you get fat. You get fat when you feel bad about yourself.” This could be because chronic stress raises levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body, which can trigger belly fat storage. Try being kinder to yourself, which will reduce stress and help melt the pounds away effortlessly.
Your body has a hard time distinguishing between hunger and thirst. Being dehydrated can fool you into reaching for a snack you don't really need. Drinking water throughout the day, especially before a meal fills up your stomach, keeps you energized and slows down the urge to snack. Find plain water boring? Make a pitcher of de-bloating spa water. Slice whole lemons and oranges and add them to your water. An antioxidant in the peel, d-limonene, gives sluggish bowels a kick and stimulates liver enzymes to help flush toxins from the body. Switch things up with unsweetened green tea, which contains EGCC, an antioxidant that helps the body burn fat faster. Or try any of these 4 Teas That Melt Fat Fast.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is a great belly-blasting option for those who already feel comfortable in the gym because it helps you drop fatty tissue and build muscle simultaneously. “High-intensity interval training is when you perform an exercise at or close to your maximum ability for a short period of time and then take a brief respite and do it again. HIIT should usually be done on a 2:1 interval, meaning if you did an exercise for one minute, you rest for 30 seconds and then repeat,” explains Dr. Alex Tauberg, DC, CSCS, EMR in 50 Ways to Shrink Your Belly. To use HIIT to shrink your belly, do workouts that engage your core such as abdominal crunches or bridges. “By performing core workouts using a HIIT plan, you can burn calories and build muscle at the same time,” Alex adds. “This can be a great way to flatten that stomach when you don’t have too much time to work out.”
Plain and simple: We just don't feel full by liquid calories in quite the same way as we do real food. Drinking a juice or caramel coffee drink, for instance, won't make you feel full the way eating a bowl of veggie- and protein-packed stir-fry will. So monitor your intake of juice, soda, sweetened coffee and tea, and alcoholic beverages. If you consume each of those beverages during the day, you'll have taken in at least 800 extra calories by nighttime — and you'll still be hungry. (Incidentally, alcohol may suppress the metabolism of fat, making it tougher for you to burn those calories.) Some other ways to skip sugar? Check 'em out here.
“Repetition builds rhythm. Be boring. Most successful losers have just a couple of go-to breakfasts or snacks,” says registered dietitian Lauren Slayton. “Make an effort to pinpoint these for yourself. ‘Hmm, I’m starving what should I have?’ doesn’t often end well. You can change the rotation every few weeks, but pre-set meals or workouts on certain days will help tremendously.”
"Order without looking at the menu. Almost every restaurant has the basics—veggies, grains, and protein. If you go in knowing what you want, I guarantee you'll be able to make a meal. If you're too uncomfortable to ask for what you need, tell a white lie: Say you're allergic. I know it's controversial to suggest this, but women in particular can really have trouble standing up for their own needs. So if you want the broccoli soup puréed without cream, tell the waiter you're lactose intolerant."
Talk about a catch-22: Doing something healthy, like eating a low-cal meal, can make you less likely to exercise and more likely to gorge yourself with food later on. This is because of a phenomenon scientists call licensing, which happens when we feel that we've earned the right to be self-indulgent. Most people have a tendency to want to balance things out, says Kathleen Vohs, PhD, an associate professor of marketing at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. So when we do one thing that's good for our health, which often requires exerting plenty of discipline and self-control, we like to follow it up with something that lets us indulge ourselves.
You don’t need to have some kind of apocalypse-ready jump bag ready (although, why not?), but grabbing one or two dependable snacks and throwing them in your work bag or gym tote is a good idea, says Rissetto. That’s because people tend to graze on unhealthy stuff more when they feel like they don’t have other options. Be prepared, weight-loss scout, and you’ll avoid the hangry times.
If you need some Meatless Monday inspiration, look for veggies that contain less starch. In addition to being excellent sources of fiber, protein, and a host of other nutrients, healthy picks such as broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes can help combat fat. In fact, one Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics study found that consuming more non-starchy veggies resulted in an impressive 17 percent decrease in visceral fat in overweight kids. Although you may be all grown up, it’s safe to assume that adding more veggies can help adults trim their fat, too.
A 2012 study also showed that people on a low-carb diet burned 300 more calories a day – while resting! According to one of the Harvard professors behind the study this advantage “would equal the number of calories typically burned in an hour of moderate-intensity physical activity”. Imagine that: an entire bonus hour of exercise every day, without actually exercising. A later, even larger and more carefully conducted study confirmed the effect, with different groups of people on low-carb diets burning an average of between 200 and almost 500 extra calories per day.
As for your question, this depends mostly on you. If you’re happy with your current level of BF and would rather focus strictly on building muscle for a while… then by all means do it. If however you want to get even leaner first, you can do that… although you will have to accept that fact that you’re not going to get leaner without losing more weight overall (details here).
Whether or not you’re specifically aiming to cut carbs, most of us consume unhealthy amounts of sugar and refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pizza dough, pasta, pastries, white flour, white rice, and sweetened breakfast cereals. Replacing refined carbs with their whole-grain counterparts and eliminating candy and desserts is only part of the solution, though. Sugar is hidden in foods as diverse as canned soups and vegetables, pasta sauce, margarine, and many reduced fat foods. Since your body gets all it needs from sugar naturally occurring in food, all this added sugar amounts to nothing but a lot of empty calories and unhealthy spikes in your blood glucose.
So, obviously, what is going to work for each person is different, and that’s OK. If your weight-loss practices help you identify areas for behavioral change and give you tools on how to make that happen, or just help keep your motivation up or feeling good, great. “But if you are not losing weight, then the tools you are using aren't working for you,” Fear says. “Many people keep doing the same monitoring even though it's actually not helping them. A sense of control and organization are not to be confused with efficacy.” Use this as an opportunity to try something else.
A different way of viewing weight loss identifies the problem as not one of consuming too many calories, but rather the way the body accumulates fat after consuming carbohydrates—in particular the role of the hormone insulin. When you eat a meal, carbohydrates from the food enter your bloodstream as glucose. In order to keep your blood sugar levels in check, your body always burns off this glucose before it burns off fat from a meal.
It’s true that a caloric deficit—burning more calories per day than you take in—is a requisite of weight loss. But creating a deficit doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t) involve deprivation. That goes for calories, carbs, sugar, fat, or any other commonly demonized nutrient. “No one food is responsible for your weight,” Langer says, explaining that a good vs. bad mentality sets people up for disordered eating and exercise habits. In fact, caloric deprivation increases how the brain responds to food, setting you up for binge-eating down the line, according to research from the Oregon Research Institute.