“Lifestyle changes are the best way to improve health and manage weight long term,” says Donald Hensrud, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program and editor of The Mayo Clinic Diet Book and The Mayo Clinic Cookbook Here are some of the most effective tips and tricks for changing your lifestyle and droppping those extra pounds.
You’re more likely to eat more—and eat more high-fat, high-calorie foods—when you eat out than when you eat at home. Restaurants today serve such large portions that many have switched to larger plates and tables to accommodate them. You’ll gasp when you see just how bad the unhealthiest restaurant meals in America are. If cooking sounds like too much work, steal these tips from working parents who cook every night.
You don't really want dessert, but your friends are having some, and they're urging you to join them. So you give in and order a piece of tiramisu. Sorry to say it, but you've just committed sociotropy, aka people pleasing, a behavior that can make you gain weight. In a recent study, women and men who regularly experienced negative emotions like guilt, anxiety, and anger, and were impulsive and disorganized, tended to be heavier than those who were more even-keeled. "Women score slightly higher than men on people-pleasing measures," says Julie Exline, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at Case Western Reserve University. That may be because guys are raised to be assertive while women are socialized to value relationships and "basically to be nicer," Exline explains. In other words, we're inclined to go along with what the rest of the group wants to do, which includes digging into the tiramisu after dinner. If you feel pressured to pig out, "tell your friends politely but firmly that you're fine with what you have and that you're not hungry for more right now," Exline advises. Hold your ground and your pals will get the message.
“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.”

Putting aside time on Sundays to prep for the week ahead will not only save you countless dollars in last-minute takeout meals, but it will also save you a tremendous amount of excess calories in the long run. When we make decisions based on emotions and convenience we often find ourselves tied to less-healthy fare. White suggests getting in the kitchen, throwing on some good music, and preparing your meals for the days ahead. This way you can control ingredients, portions, and also free up time during the week to tend to your usual obligations. If you stick with it in the long-term, this will translate to less overall body fat as a result.
First, the bad news: Three-quarters of Americans have a "fat gene" associated with a 20 to 30 percent higher risk for obesity. But that doesn't mean you're destined to be heavy. A recent British review found that exercise can trump your genetics. Physically active people with the fat gene are 27 percent less likely to become obese than couch potatoes who have it. We're not talking about training for a triathlon; the active people got just one hour or more of moderate-to-vigorous exercise a week. Aim for the recommended five hours a week (three days of cardio and two days of strength training) and you'll rev your weight-loss results even more.
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!”
“Accept that calories count.” Hensrud says. “This is basic, but there are many fads out there that say they don’t.” By the numbers, one pound of fat equals 3,500 calories. So in order to lose a pound per week, you’d have to reduce your calorie intake by 500 calories a day. This doesn’t mean that you need to count every morsel that goes into your mouth (though if you’re into that sort of thing, feel free).
While many people turn to artificial sweeteners in a misguided attempt to whittle their waistlines, those fake sugars are likely to have the opposite effect. According to researchers at Yale, artificial sweeteners are actually linked with an increased risk of abdominal obesity and weight gain, possibly because they can trigger cravings for the real stuff and spike insulin levels in a similar fashion to real sugar.
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