What smells like an exotic vacation and can shrink your waist faster than your favorite Zumba class? You got it: coconut oil. A study of 30 men published in Pharmacology found that just two tablespoons per day reduced waist circumference by an average of 1.1 inches over the course of a month. However, the health benefits of coconut oil are still debated—coconut oil is high in saturated fat. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing; it’s in the form of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which aren’t processed in the body the same way long chain triglycerides (LCTs). A study published in International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders found that when MCTs replaced LCTs in the diets of overweight women, they were less likely to gain weight.
If you used a very low-energy diet to help you slim down (think shakes and soups), you’ll be widening that waist in no time if you jump right back into normal food. While no one’s saying you have to live off of this strict regimen forever, you do need to ease your way back into the good stuff. And by ease back into it, we mean you should take six weeks to slowly incorporate your favorite foods back onto your plate. Researchers from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden found that people who were eating normally within a week gained back twice as much weight in ten months as those who took six weeks to reintroduce regular food. So it must be true; slow and steady does win the race.
Decision fatigue is real, and it could be hindering your ability to shed some pounds. A study published in Social Science and Medicine found those who have high levels of what’s called “skill discretion”—i.e., they exercise control by getting things done themselves—tended to have lower BMIs. In contrast, those who are constantly deciding on courses of action for others may eventually come down with decision fatigue and make ill-informed choices, such as ordering that piece of cheesecake for dessert.
Ilana Muhlstein, M.S., R.D.N., is the co-creator of Beachbody’s 2B Mindset program. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in nutrition and dietetics from the University of Maryland, sits on the executive leadership team for the American Heart Association, and leads the Bruin Health Improvement Program at UCLA. Ilana acts as a nutrition consultant for several companies, including Beachbody and Whole Foods Market. At home, she is a wife and mother of two.
“I wish people knew that there is no one-size-fits-all diet that works for everyone. Individuals have different food preferences, dining habits, schedules, body types, past experiences, and obstacles. Stop falling for restrictive diet plans, America! Start by changing one simple habit and build from there,” Stephanie Brookshier, RDN, ACSM-CPT tells us in 22 Top Weight Loss Tips, According to Nutritionists.
Think of sweet potatoes as nature’s dessert. Not only do they satisfy your sweet tooth, these taters digest slowly and keep you feeling fuller for longer thanks to their satiating fiber. They’re also brimming with carotenoids, antioxidants that stabilize blood-sugar levels and lower insulin resistance—which prevent calories from being converted into fat.
When people tell me that they have a sugar addiction, I tell them to narrow it down. I used to eat anything and everything that looked sweet and tasty. I knew I had to cut back in that area so I realized that I am a chocolate lover, first and foremost. Berry tarts, gummy bears, and sprinkles won’t ever do it for me the same way chocolate does. Once I discovered this, I found it extremely easy to pass on these things and not be tempted by them. However, if I'm faced with good chocolate, I usually decide it’s totally worth it.
Meatless Monday is more than just an alliteration; it’s an easy way to drop a few pounds. Numerous studies have shown that those who eat the least amount of meat are less likely to be obese, have lower BMIs, and lower body fat levels. Though it’s perfectly fine to eat meat a few times a week, these high-protein foods tend to fill you up before you can work your way over to the veggies, which possess fat-fighting, waist-trimming powers. Try spotlighting just greens and healthy grains in your meals a few times a month.
“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.”
Spirulina is a high-protein seaweed supplement that’s typically dried and sold in powdered form. The dried stuff is about 60 percent protein, and, like quinoa, it’s a complete protein—deeming it a great weight loss tool. A tablespoon of the blue-green algae delivers 8 grams of metabolism-boosting protein for just 43 calories, plus half a day’s allotment of vitamin B12, which can encourage weight loss by giving you more energy and boosting your metabolism. Try tossing some spirulina into a smoothie and watch the pounds melt off.
Adding a wide variety of flavorful spices to your foods can help you control portion sizes and lose weight. Research shows that people eat less when their food tastes new and spicy (perhaps because we're forced to pay attention to it?). The crazier the blends of spices, the more novel the food will taste and the more benefits you'll reap, so don't be afraid to mix spices and go out of your comfort zone. Plus, traditional spices like turmeric, cinnamon, and cumin are chock-full of powerful antioxidants.
Your workouts aren’t the only things you need to plan ahead to stay fit for life, you’ll also need to map out your meals. “People have a much better chance of having a slim waistline if they plan when they are going to eat and what they are going to eat,” says Mark Langowski, celebrity trainer and author of Eat This, Not That! For Abs. “Before I go to bed, I look at my schedule for the next day and plan out what I am going to eat and where I will eat it. If you let the day begin without planning, it will be 3 p.m. before you know it and you’ll wind up making an unhealthy decision.” Registered dietitian Christine M. Palumbo agrees, but takes a slightly different approach meal prep: “Identity three meals you can prepare with pantry staples and start cooking. Store the meals in your freezer so you always have something healthy on hand when hunger strikes. For example, my go-to meals include risotto with frozen shrimp and asparagus, vegetable barley and a red lentil soup. Your goal should be to replace the meals whenever your stash starts running low”.
Just as big-box stores can be a psychologically tricky terrain for dieters, so to can healthy-sounding labels on the food that we eat. A Cornell University study printed in the Journal of Marketing Research suggests people eat more of a snack that’s marketed as “low fat.” Participants in the study ate a whopping 28 percent more M&Ms that were labeled “low fat” than when the colorful candies didn’t have the label. As we suggested earlier, avoid being fooled by simply opting for full-fat foods.
When many of us have too many options to choose from, we often become flustered and make the wrong decision. Same goes for food. If you have a few different boxes of cereal and a handful of flavors of potato chips, you’re likely to eat more of the packaged stuff. Limiting your options to just one can cut down on your grazing habits and prevent a snack attack.
Though it’s hardly realistic to keep people from moving north, there’s evidence to suggest that those living in northern latitudes may need to be a bit more careful about their gut health than the rest of us. A study in the journal Biology Letters found that living in northern latitudes encourages the growth of Firmicutes microbes, which have been linked to weight gain while decreasing the number of microbes linked with slim body types called Bacteroidetes. Generally speaking, the research showed that the number of Firmicutes increases with latitude and the number of Bacteroidetes decreases with latitude. To help ensure a healthy gut no matter where you reside, make sure your diet includes fermented and probiotic-rich foods, both of which encourage the growth of healthy gut bacteria.
I’ve never been one to focus too much on “mindful eating” because the idea of meditating on a grape is not my style. But I learned it does take more than that just focusing on what's on my plate. And yes, that means to eat more consciously. Here, I'm sharing the weight-loss tips and rules that work for me (and a glimpse at what you'd find on my 2B Mindset program).
There’s healthy belly bacteria, and then there’s bad belly bacteria, which studies indicate overweight people have more of in their gut. To keep the fat-causing bugs at bay, you need to eat a variety of foods that support their healthy counterparts—the kind found in the bellies of slim people. Examples of probiotic-rich foods that help you lose weight by aiding digestion include kimchi, kombucha, bone broth, and kefir.
Berries are more than just morsels of sweetness that you can toss on yogurt or work into a smoothie; they can help you lose weight, too! Raspberries pack more fiber and liquid than most other fruits, which boosts satiety. They’re a rich source of ketones, antioxidants that can make you slimmer by incinerating stored fat cells. And like other berries, raspberries are loaded with polyphenols, powerful natural chemicals that have been shown to decrease the formation of fat cells and eliminate abdominal fat. Not to be outdone, research suggests blueberries can also help blast away stubborn belly fat by engaging your get-lean genes. After a 90-day trial, University of Michigan researchers discovered rats that were fed a blueberry-enriched diet showed significantly reduced belly fat compared to those who skipped the berries.
Calcium and vitamin C team up well to boost metabolism, and broccoli is just one of several healthy foods that contains both nutrients. What sets broccoli apart from the others, however, is that the green veggie also contains kind of fiber that’s been shown to increase the digestion, absorption and storage of food, also known as the thermic effect of food (TEF). A revved up metabolism combined with an increased TEF is a match made in weight loss heaven, so consider incorporating broccoli into a tasty stir-fry, or serving it as its own side dish.