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.
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!
Sleep takes all that hard work you’re doing in the kitchen and the gym, and fast tracks those results. A good night’s sleep helps your body recover from activity and also regulates hormones responsible for hunger cues. “Sleep is essential [for fat loss and overall health]. It’s recommended that adults get 7-8 hours per night. There are a lot of studies on [sleep and fat loss], showing that good sleep can help us eat better and help us to lose weight,” says White. The two specific hormones sleep has an influence over are leptin and ghrelin. Leptin works to keep your energy steady and appetite low. Alternatively, ghrelin increases feelings of hunger. When you fail to get adequate sleep, ghrelin is increased and leptin is decreased, which messes with your hunger signals and can cause you to eat more. By getting your 7-8 hours a night you’ll avoid any wacky cravings and emotional eating, which will make your fat-loss goals that much easier to achieve.
When it comes to melting fat it’s not all fiber and protein. A balanced diet rich in nutrient-dense foods like berries is extremely important if you want your body to function at its optimal level. “As far as fruit, I would recommend blueberries because they’re one of the highest foods in antioxidants. They’re great to throw into your protein shake for a healthy added sugar after your workouts to help speed up recovery. Per cup we’re looking at around 60 calories, so it’s very low-calorie and very versatile,” says White. Antioxidants not only fight free radicals, but, according to a study from the University of Michigan, rats who were fed blueberry powder with their meals wound up with less belly fat at the end of the 3-month study vs. rats who consumed no berries in their diet, suggesting that the antioxidant compounds help fight and diminish stubborn fat cells.
To banish stubborn belly fat, you have to ramp up your workouts. In a study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, people who completed a high-intensity workout regimen lost more belly fat than those who followed a low-intensity plan. (In fact, the low-intensity exercises experienced no significant changes at all.) "You need to exercise at full intensity because the end goal is to burn more calories, and high intensity exercise does just that," says Natalie Jill, a San Diego, Calif.-based certified personal trainer. High intensity workouts mean you're going all out for as long as you can. If this sounds intimidating, think of it this way: you'll burn more calories in less time.
Make sure to program your cardio exercise in with your weight training the right way, though — a 2017 study found that performing cardio and weight training workouts on alternate days was far more effective for burning belly fat than stacking the workouts on top of each other in the same session. Put the two together, and watch that unhealthy midsection shrink.
“If a client has come to me looking to lose 10 pounds, I would tell them to simply move. Move more, and more often. Walk or bike ride to class or work, even park further away from your location in the parking lot. Take the stairs or take a walk during lunch. You don’t have to spend hours every day in the gym sweating, but you do have to make a conscious effort to move more, and sit less. This works great because it doesn’t feel like work and you’re burning more and more calories throughout the day.” — Ajia Cherry, personal trainer and Founder at Functional Innovative Training
Control Your Environments. Another simple strategy to help cut calories is to control your environment -- everything from stocking your kitchen with lots of healthy options to choosing the right restaurants. That means avoiding the temptation by staying away from all-you-can-eat restaurants. And when it comes to parties, "eat a healthy snack before so you won't be starving, and be selective when you fill your plate at the buffet," suggests Ward. Before going back for more food, wait at least 15 minutes and have a big glass of water.
It’s stunning how often we eat out of boredom, nervousness, habit, or frustration—so often, in fact, that many of us have actually forgotten what physical hunger feels like. If you’re hankering for a specific food, it’s probably a craving, not hunger. If you’d eat anything you could get your hands on, chances are you’re truly hungry. Find ways other than eating to express love, tame stress, and relieve boredom.
Keeping a toothbrush handy can do more than polish up that smile (and counter the effects of all that belly-slimming garlic); brushing your teeth throughout the day can also help you ditch that belly fat fast. A study conducted a sample of over 14,000 participants found that brushing after every meal was linked to lower weight. That minty toothpaste flavor not only clashes with virtually every food, brushing may also trigger a Pavlovian response that tells your brain the kitchen’s closed.
Non-surgical fat reduction includes minimally invasive treatments that selectively break down fat cells in specific areas to reduce the size of subcutaneous fat pockets (fat deposits that sit beneath the skin, but above the muscle). A number of FDA cleared treatments are available, each achieving gradual, modest fat loss without surgery or downtime. Choose from the options below, or read our entire guide to learn more:
Nuts, the second food to watch, contain a fair amount of carbohydrate, and it’s very easy to unwittingly scarf down large quantities. Cashew nuts are among the worst carb-wise – you’ll find that they contain around 20% carbohydrate by weight. For someone following a strict keto diet with a 20 grams of carbs per day allowance, this means that consuming 100 grams (which happens in a flash!) will have filled their daily quota. Peanuts tend to be around 10-15% carbohydrate – not putting them in the clear either.
We’ve now arrived at tip number 16. If you’re still having trouble losing weight, despite following the 15 pieces of advice listed above, it might be a good idea to bring out the heavy artillery: optimal ketosis. Many people stalling at weight plateaus while on a low-carb diet have found optimal ketosis helpful. It’s what can melt the fat off once again.
Most low-carb diets advocate replacing carbs with protein and fat, which could have some negative long-term effects on your health. If you do try a low-carb diet, you can reduce your risks and limit your intake of saturated and trans fats by choosing lean meats, fish and vegetarian sources of protein, low-fat dairy products, and eating plenty of leafy green and non-starchy vegetables.
High in good bacteria, the benefits of yoghurt on gastrointestinal health have been said to provide health benefits for certain gastrointestinal conditions, including lactose intolerance, constipation, IBS, colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, Helicobacter pylori infection, and allergies. Look for the nutrition label and make sure no added sugar is used. Opt for Greek yoghurt varieties and use your own frozen berries and cinnamon to sweeten.
The body doesn't react to all fats in the same way. Research correlates high intake of saturated fat (the kind in meat and dairy) to increased visceral fat, says Patton. On the other hand, monounsaturated fats (the kind in olive oil and avocados) and specific types of polyunsaturated fats (mainly omega-3s, found in walnuts, sunflower seeds, and fatty fish like salmon) have anti-inflammatory effects in the body, and if eaten in proper portions may do your body good. But Patton warns that eating too much fat of any kind increases your calorie intake and could lead to weight gain, so enjoy healthy fats in moderation. More: Good Fats, Bad Fats: How to Choose
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.
Early-morning exercise stokes your metabolism and helps you burn more calories for the rest of the day. In fact, if you can get in 45 minutes, then Appalachian State University research shows you could experience a metabolic spike that torches an additional 190 calories over the rest of the day. Try a circuit of the basics like jumping jacks, squats, and push-ups. And for mornings you really don't have any time, try this 2-minute fat-burner.
Will your body tell you when its exhausted of your caloric deficit? I have lost fat at the rate I am happy with, but recently I started to feel faint, dizzy, and experienced headaches while working out. Each set I completed I am winded, and feel that I will faint at any second. I still want to lose fat but I feel that if I maintain a 20% caloric deficit I will surely start fainting.
Many of us were brought up with the notion that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And for good reason: It revs your metabolism after a nightlong fast, nourishes your body with essential macros, boosts your energy levels, and helps you shed weight. But if you start your day with a plate full of the wrong foods, you may actually be doing your body a disservice.
So boiling it down even further: reduce calories, eat better, exercise, and most of all, remember it is a practice that has to be repeated over time – months or years. The fact that you'll have to work harder at maintenance than your never-overweight best friend is depressing, but it's worth coming to terms with. And, most important to remember, your brain (the organ behind all this, after all) is plastic, and it will respond to the changes you make – better than you think. And so will your body.
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.
Excess and added sugars hide in all forms under the wrapping of most packaged foods. This one sneaky ingredient can be what’s holding you back from feeling amazing after zipping up that little black dress. Do your own sugar detox. Read your labels and avoid all added sugar (yes, even your jarred pasta sauce, yogurt and ketchup are culprits of sneaking in the sweet stuff). Eat as many whole, real, unprocessed foods as possible and you’ll automatically be reducing your added sugar intake.
Set a workout schedule that fits into your life (i.e. you’ll actually stick to it!) but that doesn’t leave you exhausted and starving, AKA ready to emotionally overeat. Doing High Intensity Interval sessions seven days a week, for instance, will just send you off a cliff and stress your body. Instead, alternate high-intensity workouts with rest days and lower intensity forms of exercise like LISS Cardio and yoga.
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.
Beans are an excellent source of slow-release carbohydrates, as well as a good source of protein and fiber, which slow the digestive process to help you stay fuller, longer. “Research finds that eating just three-quarters of a cup of beans a day for six weeks can help you lose close to six pounds. And if you’re trying to lower your cholesterol, it’s a double win as the soluble fiber in beans helps whisk cholesterol out of your body,” says Ansel. She also says you don’t necessarily need to cook dry beans from scratch. Canned beans are one of the most underrated convenience foods, so keep a rotation of all kinds - like black, pinto, chickpea and cannellini - in your pantry. Try adding beans to your soups and salads, add them minced to meat dishes, enjoy a bean dip like hummus, or toss them in a salad.
To get the best measurement, use a flexible tape measure. Wrap it around the widest part of your stomach, across your belly button. The tape measure should rest gently on your skin; not so loose that it falls away and not so tight that it digs into your skin. Once the tape measure is positioned correctly, breathe in and then take the measurement on the exhale.
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.