“Lifestyle changes are the best way to improve health and manage weight long term,” says Donald Hensrud, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program and editor of The Mayo Clinic Diet Book and The Mayo Clinic Cookbook Here are some of the most effective tips and tricks for changing your lifestyle and droppping those extra pounds.
Yes, there are a million other factors and components of your diet and workout that play important roles in successfully, permanently and efficiently getting you to lose fat (while also maintaining lean muscle mass and being healthy), and a million ways to go about creating that deficit in a way that is as easy, enjoyable and sustainable for you as possible.
Incorporate lean protein into your diet. Eat 5 1⁄2 to 6 1⁄2 oz (160 to 180 g) of lean protein per day. Choose lean options, such as boneless, skinless chicken breast, ground turkey, seafood, nuts, and legumes (such as beans and soy products). Avoid fatty cuts of red meat, processed meats (such as bacon and deli meats), and don’t purchase pre-marinated meats, which might contain lots of fat, sugar, or salt.
During meals, fill up on greens first. They’re packed with fiber and water volume, both of which help you to stay full and regular. So, you’ll find that you naturally begin to eat less of other less healthy food groups. Greens are also high in antioxidants, which fight inflammation, that nasty process linked to obesity. Foods high in the antioxidants vitamin C, E, and beta carotene—like greens!—may even help reduce fat storage by regulating your body’s use of the hormone insulin.
"When going out for fast food, I used to get the large-size value meal. Now, I satisfy a craving by ordering just one item: a small order of fries or a six-piece box of chicken nuggets. So far, I've shaved off 16 pounds in seven weeks, and I'm on track to being thinner than my high school self for my 10-year reunion later this year." —Miranda Jarrell, Birmingham, AL
Rather than spending hours on the treadmill, however, focus on doing fat-torching circuits that target your entire body. For example, create a circuit with goblet squats, dumbbell/barbell rows, push presses, and pushups, do them each for 30 seconds, and rest for 30 more seconds before moving to the next on. As a finisher, use an Airdyne bike, rowing machine, prowler, etc., and do max-effort intervals, 15 seconds on, 15 seconds off.
Just like you won’t overhaul your diet, you don’t need to suddenly become a gym rat. We’re aiming for sustainable activity here, so if you go from zero to five days a week at the gym, eventually you’re going to burn out. A more manageable goal, Jackson says, is to ramp up your activity slowly, starting with a half-hour walk every day. Then, he suggests some strength training two to three times per week to retain muscle as you lose fat. Choose multi-joint movements like squats, pushups, overhead presses, and rows—”your biceps are a small muscle, so they don’t burn a ton of calories,” Jackson says—and allow yourself plenty of rest between sets at first. “Working out too intensely at first can affect your appetite and energy, so finding a balance is key,” he says. A great circuit could include two or three sets, with 8-12 reps each and a few minutes rest between, of the following exercises:
“Most people who have been lean their whole lives have a much better understanding of proper portion size than people who are overweight,” says Deborah Riebe, Ph.D., a professor in the department of kinesiology at the University of Rhode Island. “If they go out to eat, they’re much more likely to ask for a doggie bag right away or to leave food on their plate rather than cleaning it up.”
In other words? “Drinking makes you more likely to eat sh*t,” Dr. Seltzer says, referring to drunk foods. At the same time, he stops short of asking patients to quit alcohol cold-turkey to lose weight. Plus, research suggests you don’t have to, as long as your intake is moderate—i.e., less than about a drink a day. “If you drink a glass of wine every night and notice you eat more afterward, eat less early to account for this,” he says. “Or, if you’re drinking four glasses of wine a week, drink three instead so you’ll won’t feel such a big difference.”
Nuts have a very high satiety power—meaning they make you feel fuller after eating than many other foods. And even though they’re high in calories, those calories appear to be processed differently in the body. University of Michigan researchers found that men who added 500 calories’ worth of peanuts a day to their diet gained no excess weight at all.
While it’s often assumed that bread is off-limits when you’re trying to lose belly fat, the right bread may actually expedite the process. Switching to sprouted bread can help out carb-lovers eager to get their fix without going up a belt size, thanks to the inulin content of sprouted grains. The results of a study published in Nutrition & Metabolism reveal that found that pre-diabetic study subjects whose diets were supplemented with inulin shaved off more belly fat and total weight than those whose meal plans didn’t pack this healthy prebiotic fiber.