Maybe you had a particularly stressful month, leading to sky-high cortisol levels and overeating. Maybe you went on the Italian vacation of a lifetime and decided pasta was going to be a main food group for that period of your life (duh). Or maybe you’ve simply been sticking to healthy habits but still feel like there’s just a little bit of extra weight that won’t budge.
Perhaps none—and it may even help you drop pounds. Weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint, and of course you'll indulge. But you've just used up your daily calorie allowance. "Your junk-food allotment shouldn't take up more than 10 to 20 percent of your total daily calories," says MH nutrition advisor Alan Aragon, M.S Let's do the math: On a 2,000-calorie diet, that's 200 to 400 calories on a splurge item. A medium order of fries can run about 400 calories, and keep in mind that it's also a starch infused with unhealthy fats. But if you deprive yourself of foods you love, you might be more likely to binge later on, says Aragon.
SOURCES: WebMD Feature: "With Fruits and Veggies, More Matters." 2005 U.S. Dietary Guidelines. Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, author, The Pocket Idiot's Guide to the New Food Pyramids. Elaine Magee, MPH, RD,author, Comfort Food Makeovers. Brian Wansink, PhD, professor and director, Cornell Food and Brand Lab, Ithaca, N.Y.; author, Mindless Eating. Barbara Rolls, PhD, professor of nutritional sciences; and director, laboratory for the study of human ingestive behaviors, Penn State University; and author, The Volumetrics Eating Plan.
Food journaling may not sound sexy, but time and time again research proves that it works. In fact, according to a study from Kaiser Permanente's Center for Health Research, keeping a food diary can double a person's weight loss. “Without this tool, many people forget the snacks and bites taken while standing, preparing food for others or munching in the car. Over time these unrecognized snacks can lead to several extra pounds gained per year,” says Gueron. If you’re not the pad and paper type, Ansel recommends keeping a running journal on your smartphone or trying an app like MyFitness Pal or Lose It.
Saturated fats in food will pack on more visceral fat than polyunsaturated ones, according to a 2014 Swedish study. When subjects ate 750 more calories daily for seven weeks, either in the form of palm oil (saturated) or sunflower oil (polyunsaturated), the former gained more visceral fat while the latter gained more muscle mass and less body fat. The study authors believe different fat types can impact both the way your body forms fat and stores it. What’s more, including healthy fats in your meals can make them more satiating and keeps hunger at bay.
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.