The zero-calorie tag is particularly tempting when you’re desperate to drop fat, but honestly you’ll see better results if you avoid any artificial sweeteners in your diet. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, when your brain registers something as sweet but fails to get those calories associated with it, it causes your body to seek them elsewhere, leading to excess calorie intake. In addition, popular sweeteners like Splenda are 300-600 times sweeter than real sugar on average, and consuming them may send your sweet cravings through the roof, potentially leading to poor food choices. Steer clear of the fake stuff and reach for the real stuff in moderation if you absolutely need something sweet. However, if you’re really serious about getting rid of your excess fat it would serve you best to avoid added sugar at all costs.
“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.”
When it comes down to it, the things we know to be true about weight loss are relatively simple, and certainly few. They’re also extremely effective when actually carried out. So, from the researchers who have studied this stuff for decades, here’s pretty much everything we know about weight loss today, whittled down to six points about how the body actually gains, loses, and maintains its weight.
"Your body needs a healthy balance of exercise and rest. Doing too much prevents the body from shifting excess fat. Exercising without rest can impact our levels of the steroid hormone cortisol and cause an increase of stubborn fat stored in the belly. Not allowing your body to recover can increase the risk of injury too, so make sure you factor in rest days to your plan."
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.
The one that concerned me after reading this was the lancet. According to the website, 3 groups of people had 3 different diets, each diet only containing 1000 calories. One was 90% of calories from carbs, one 90% of calories from fat, and one 90% of calories from protein. In the end, the group that ate 90% fat lost the most average weight, and the group that ate 90% carbs ended up gaining weight on average. How does this make sense if they all had the same calorie intake?
A heavy-handed pour will negate any of the health benefits you get from sipping a glass of wine. One serving of wine racks up 125 calories, and many of today's fishbowl-sized glasses hold three servings. (For the math-challenged, that's 375 calories—the size of a small meal.) Here, Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD demonstrates how to pour the perfect serving of wine.
Wrap up your morning meal with dessert—yes, really. In a Tel Aviv University Medical Center study, one group had a 304-calorie breakfast with 10 grams of carbs, while the other group ate a 600-calorie breakfast with 60 grams of carbs, which included a small sweet, such as chocolate, a doughnut, a cookie, or cake. Halfway through the 8-month study, both groups had lost an average of 33 pounds per person. At the end, however, the low-carb group regained 22 pounds, while the dessert group dropped an additional 15. Researchers say the dessert-eaters reported dealing with fewer cravings, and had a better chance of sticking to their calorie requirements for the rest of the day.
Ultimately, you need to pick a healthy eating plan you can stick to, Stewart says. The benefit of a low-carb approach is that it simply involves learning better food choices—no calorie-counting is necessary. In general, a low-carb way of eating shifts your intake away from problem foods—those high in carbs and sugar and without much fiber, like bread, bagels and sodas—and toward high-fiber or high-protein choices, like vegetables, beans and healthy meats.
In what is perhaps the biggest buzzkill of all time, sex doesn’t quite count as cardio or burn a significant amount of calories: Women burn about 3.6 per minute. “It’s still a good idea,” Dr. Seltzer says, citing the activity’s other benefits, like increasing the output of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which naturally reduce food cravings.
We hear a lot that a little exercise is the key to weight loss – that taking the stairs instead of the elevator will make a difference, for instance. But in fact it’s much more efficient to cut calories, says Samuel Klein, MD at Washington University’s School of Medicine. “Decreasing food intake is much more effective than increasing physical activity to achieve weight loss. If you want to achieve a 300 kcal energy deficit you can run in the park for 3 miles or not eat 2 ounces of potato chips.” It’s as simple as that. Some studies have borne out this dichotomy, pitting exercise against diet and finding that participants tend to lose more weight by dieting alone than by exercise alone. Of course, both together would be even better.
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.
A little garlic in your meals could mean a lot less weight around your middle. The results of a Korean study found that mice given a high-fat diet supplemented with garlic lost significantly more weight and abdominal fat than those who just ate fatty foods. Even better, they also improved their liver health, making it easier to stay healthy and burn off that excess fat in the long term. For more flavorful ways to make your food more enjoyable, turn to the 20 Spicy Recipes That Fire Up Your Metabolism and watch those pounds melt away.