Don't blame your chocolate craving on a lack of willpower. Turns out, there's a physiological reason ice cream, french fries, and cupcakes are so hard to resist: Our bodies are wired to crave rich food. Studies have shown that the taste of fat can give us the munchies by triggering a release of chemicals similar to those experienced by drug addicts. "Some people are hypersensitive to food," says Eric Stice, PhD, a senior research scientist at the Oregon Research Institute. "They find things like chocolate cake orgasmic, so they tend to overeat it."
High-intensity interval training is high on every trainer’s list, and for good reason. “My No.1 pick for fat loss would be high-intensity interval training, just because you’re burning a lot of calories in a short amount of time. You’re getting more bang for your buck. I know a lot of guys that don’t have all day to work out in a gym, so when it comes to belly fat you have to focus on calorie burn and intense workouts,” says Jim White, owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios in Virginia Beach. Think bootcamps, tabata, and series of burpees, box jumps, and sprints—those all do the trick. The best thing about HIIT is that it keeps your body working long after you leave the gym, burning calories and fat on your off hours via a phenomenon called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, aka EPOC.
“Nuts are a superior weight loss food in my book. They offer plenty of protein, healthy fat, and fiber that can really take the edge off hunger at any meal or snack. Nuts are also so versatile and convenient. They can be mixed into oatmeal or yogurt at breakfast, paired with fruit as a snack, or tossed into a hearty salad for a little satisfying crunch at lunch. — Michelle Loy, MPH, MS, CSSD, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and owner of Go Wellness in Orange County, California
Blood vessels (veh-suls): The system of flexible tubes—arteries, capillaries and veins—that carries blood through the body. Oxygen and nutrients are delivered by arteries to tiny, thin-walled capillaries that feed them to cells and pick up waste material, including carbon dioxide. Capillaries pass the waste to veins, which take the blood back to the heart and lungs, where carbon dioxide is let out through your breath as you exhale.
To prep his patients for success, Dr. Seltzer tells them to plan around a large evening meal by eating a lighter breakfast and lunch—NBD since most people who eat a meal before bed tend to wake up feeling relatively full, he says. Research suggests balanced bedtime meals may also promote steady next-day blood sugar levels, which also helps with appetite regulation.
“A study published in Nutrition Journal found that participants who ate foods high in monounsaturated fats for lunch (in this case, half an avocado) reported a 40 percent decreased desire to eat for hours afterward. Monounsaturated fats from sources like olive oil, nuts and avocados can reduce cholesterol, promote weight loss, even boost memory.” — David Zinczenko, author of the Zero Belly Cookbook
As noted, deprivation doesn’t work long term. That’s why Nathane Jackson, C.S.C.S., R.H.N,, a health and wellness coach and founder of Nathane Jackson Fitness, recommends his clients follow the 80-20 rule: 80% of your calories should come from fresh, whole “single-ingredient” foods that you eat in largely the form in which they grow in nature (produce, meat, nuts, etc.). The other 20% can be of the more “processed” variety, in which he includes foods that have a place in a healthy diet, such as whole-grain bread. Of that 20, he says 5 to 10% can be from the junk food column. But “don’t have chocolate or ice cream in the house,” he says. “Rig the game so you can win, rather that relying on willpower. If you want it, you can go get it, but make it an effort to do so.”
A body of research out of Pennsylvania State University finds that eating water-rich foods such as zucchini, tomatoes, and cucumbers during meals reduces your overall calorie consumption. Other water-rich foods include soups and salads. You won’t get the same benefits by just drinking your water, though. Because the body processes hunger and thirst through different mechanisms, it simply doesn’t register a sense of fullness with water (or soda, tea, coffee, or juice).
As you get older, your body changes how it gains and loses weight. Both men and women experience a declining metabolic rate, or the number of calories the body needs to function normally. On top of that, women have to deal with menopause. "If women gain weight after menopause, it's more likely to be in their bellies," says Michael Jensen, MD, professor of medicine in the Mayo Clinic's endocrinology division. In menopause, production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone slows down. Meanwhile, testosterone levels also start to drop, but at a slower rate. This shift in hormones causes women to hold onto weight in their bellies. The good news: you can fight this process. Read on.
Sitting around can make you flabby. No surprise there, but despite what you may think, the culprit is not just a lack of exercise. In fact, the physical act of sitting or lying down may actually speed up your body's production of fat. When we lounge on a sofa or in a chair, we exert forces on our cells that cause them to become stretched out and to generate flab, researchers say. Glued to your desk every day for eight hours or more? You need to take action, says Richard Atkinson, MD, a clinical professor of pathology at Virginia Commonwealth University. Get up and walk around for five minutes at least once an hour. Take a stroll around the office. Go talk to a coworker rather than sending her an e-mail. Pace back and forth while talking on the phone. "Just standing — even if you're not moving — uses significantly more muscles than sitting down," Dr. Atkinson says. At home, when you're watching TV, get up and jog in place or do jumping jacks during commercials. These short bursts of exercise can help you burn 148 calories an hour and keep your cells slim, not flabby.
If you get enough protein and fat, your total calorie intake should take care of itself. Because you feel full, you won't binge on a can of Pringles and blow your calorie count for the day. The remaining 45 percent of calories in our plan comes from carbohydrates — enough to give your palate a full range of tastes and your body a combination of fast- and slow-burning fuel.
Fancy coffee drinks from trendy coffee joints often pack several hundred calories, thanks to whole milk, whipped cream, sugar, and sugary syrups. A cup of regular coffee with skim milk has just a small fraction of those calories. And when brewed with good beans, it tastes just as great. You can also try nonfat powdered milk in coffee. You’ll get the nutritional benefits of skim milk, which is high in calcium and low in calories. And, because the water has been removed, powdered milk doesn’t dilute the coffee the way skim milk does.
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. Find out how to tell if you drink too many of your calories.
Nuts. It’s very easy to eat until the nuts are gone, regardless of how full you are. A tip: According to science, salted nuts are harder to stop eating than unsalted nuts. Salted nuts tempt you to more overeating. Good to know. Another tip: Avoid bringing the entire bag to the couch, preferably choose a small bowl instead. I often eat all the nuts in front of me, whether I’m hungry or not.
Pass on the movies and screen the views of a local park instead. Not only will you sit less, but you’ll be saving calories because you won’t chow down on that bucket of popcorn. Other active ideas: a tennis match, a guided nature or city walk (check your local listings), a bike ride, bowling, and these sneaky workouts you can do while hanging out with friends.
The good news is that there’s increasing evidence that the brain can, in large part, “fix” itself once new behavior patterns emerge (i.e., calorie restriction, healthy food choices, and exercise). While there may be some degree of “damage” to the brain, particularly in how hunger and satiety hormones function, it can correct itself to a large degree over time. The key is that the process does take time, and like any other behavior change, is ultimately a practice. “We want to change behavior here,” says Hill. “Anyone that tells you it’s going to happen in 12 weeks, that’s bogus. We’re trying to rewire the brain. Neurobiology has told us so much about what’s going on in weight gain and weight loss. It takes a long time to develop new habits, rituals, routines. This takes months and years. But it will happen.”
Rather than tossing a fistful of cheddar into your eggs, swap the dairy for a half cup of broccoli. One ounce of cheddar packs in about 110 calories while a half cup of steamed broccoli boasts 15 calories in addition to flab-fighting fiber and 65 percent of your daily recommended value of vitamin C. Make this morning switch and save your waistline 10 pounds in a year.
When researchers at the University of Tennessee put a group of volunteers on one of two diets—one high in calcium and one not—and cut each group’s calorie intake by 500 calories, they found that the people getting calcium lost twice as much weight (an average of 13lbs) compared with people on the standard diet. Study author Michael Zemel, Ph.D., believes extra calcium helps the body burn more—and store less—fat.
But what we’re interested in is the opposite of this… a caloric deficit. This is what happens when we consume LESS than our maintenance level amount. What happens then is that our bodies are forced to find some other source of energy to burn instead. And guess what that source most often is? Yup… your own stored body fat! And this is the one and only cause of fat loss.
You might have heard the term ‘middle-age spread’. This means, as women progress towards their middle years, the ratio of body fat increases compared to the body weight. During menopause, when the levels of estrogen go down, and the amount of androgens or male hormones increase, then there is an increased risk of fat accumulation in the waist. Hormones actually regulate the fat concentration in the body, and your figure depends entirely on it!
Want to lose that belly fat? 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.