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."
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“When you’re anxious, your body feels like it’s under a tremendous amount of stress all the time. This is why anxiety is a powerful trigger for weight gain. Two of the most proven cures for anxiety are exercise and spending time in nature. Combine both with an outdoor run or bike ride and race away from the anxiousness. Making this habit part of your lifestyle can help you stay lean for life.” — David Zinczenko, author of the Zero Belly Cookbook
Most people who want to lose weight have more than 12 pounds to lose. That’s why even the best weight loss drug in the world can only be an optional complement to other treatment. That’s why this piece of advice is number 18 out of 18. It may be a helpful addition for some people, but the advice higher on the list is what can make the biggest difference, by far.
“Stop focusing on calories and start focusing on the quality of the foods you eat. High-quality diet options are natural, whole, minimally processed foods, like vegetables, fruits, nuts or seeds that offer a lot more nutritional value in the form of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and fiber. These foods help tame hunger naturally and nourish our cells at the deepest level so that we aren’t left with constant cravings. — Michelle Loy, MPH, MS, CSSD, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and owner of Go Wellness in Orange County, California
And what fat loss comes down to is simply a caloric deficit. Which means either burning more calories, eating less calories, or a combination of the two. And when you get down to it, it’s just a whole lot easier for most people to eat (for example) 500 less calories per day than it will be for them to try to burn those same 500 calories every single day. That’s why diet alone gets the job done just fine, and diet and exercise combined gets the job done too. But exercise alone? That’s the least effective of the group by far.
“I always start [my day] with ginger tea, which is black tea with milk, honey, ginger, and cardamom. Then I’ll have a green juice with kale, beets, mint, apple, carrots, and ginger or a three-egg-white, one-yolk scramble. If I’m hungry, I’ll add half a cup of 1 percent cottage cheese to the eggs.” — Padma Lakshmi, who drops 10 to 15 pounds after every season of Top Chef
Fresh, in-season produce gives you the biggest nutritional boost, but frozen veggies come in a close second. Very shortly after being picked, these fully ripe veggies are frozen, allowing them to lock in many of their nutrients. Having a stash of veggies in your icebox makes healthy eating on the fly oh-so-easy—and reduces the chance you'll order in a pizza.
The upshot of all these chemicals floating around is big trouble for big-bellied guys. In a study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, researchers took 137 men of all ages and sizes and used seven different measurements to determine their risks of cardiovascular disease. The single best sign of multiple heart-disease risks? No, it wasn't the guys' family histories or their cholesterol profiles. It was the amount of abdominal fat they carried.
Have Protein at Every Meal and Snack. Adding a source of lean or low-fat protein to each meal and snack will help keep you feeling full longer so you're less likely to overeat. Try low-fat yogurt, small portion of nuts, peanut butter, eggs, beans, or lean meats. Experts also recommend eating small, frequent meals and snacks (every 3-4 hours), to keep your blood sugar levels steady and to avoid overindulging.
It's a one-time investment you'll never regret. Here's why: Strength training builds lean muscle tissue, which burns more calories — at work or at rest — 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The more lean muscle you have, the faster you'll slim down. How do you start strength training? Try some push-ups or a few squats or lunges. Use your free weights to perform simple bicep curls or tricep pulls right in your home or office. Do these exercises three to four times per week, and you'll soon see a rapid improvement in your physique.
It's not uncommon to have belly fat that you want to lose. Whether the fat around your midsection is visceral fat or subcutaneous fat, your plan will be the same. To lose fat, you need to increase your daily activity and reduce your food intake. You might see pills and supplements advertised online that claim to reduce belly fat, but most of those products don't work—and some can even be dangerous.
The trick to keeping your appetite in check is avoiding foods that make you lose control. That's tough to do when you're surrounded by mouthwatering choices everywhere you go, but Stice says that a technique called mindful resistance can help. "If you're tempted to have a scone with your coffee at Starbucks, instead of thinking about how delicious it will taste, tell yourself you'll get health benefits such as a smaller waist or a healthier heart from not having it," he says. "Doing this actually changes your brain by strengthening the area that helps you resist things and weakening the region that makes you think of treats as a reward."
This advice isn’t intended to dissuade you from going for a six-pack. It’s just there to offer some perspective. You don’t need to lose those last few pounds; you want to lose those last few pounds. So don’t stress about it—because excess stress is the enemy of results. You’ll get there. Just be patient. Once you get there, enjoy your moment and then relax a little.
So what does stress have to do with weight loss? Stress increases your levels of cortisol, a hormone in your body that can increase your appetite and lead you to eat more. This response used to make sense in “fight or flight” situations, where we need that energy to defend ourselves. Now, a more common situation is to come home after a long day at work and chow down. Elevated cortisol levels also lower your cognitive functions such as learning and memory, decrease your immune function and bone density, and increase your blood pressure, cholesterol and risk of heart disease. Need a reminder to breathe? Set an alarm for every hour on your mobile phone, and take a few long, deep breaths every time it pings. It’ll help your weight and your sanity.
Finally, don’t push yourself too hard in the gym, either. Jill explains her own pet peeve: “One of my biggest pet peeves is when an inexperienced personal trainer tries to make a Baby Boomer complete a workout that is so challenging that they are so sore the next day that they can barely brush their teeth or get up off the toilet. That is NOT necessary!”
For patients at or near their ideal body weight who do not need significant reshaping in an area, non-surgical treatments can be a great option to reduce isolated pockets of diet and exercise resistant fat without surgery, and with little to no downtime. However, it is important to have realistic expectations about what results a non-surgical treatment can achieve.
“Don’t skip breakfast—it really is the most important meal of the day. Eat breakfast within 90 minutes of waking, and then have something healthy to eat every three to four hours after that. When we skip breakfast or wait too long to eat in the morning, our bodies start to conserve energy and our metabolism slows down. Skipping breakfast also leads to overeating throughout the day.” — Ilyse Schapiro, MS, RD, CDN, author of Should I Scoop Out My Bagel?
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.