You already know that a perfect diet doesn't exist, but many of us still can't resist the urge to kick ourselves when we indulge, eat too much, or get thrown off course from restrictive diets. The problem: This only makes it more difficult, stressful, and downright impossible to lose weight. So rather than beating yourself up for eating foods you think you shouldn't, let it go. Treating yourself to about 200 calories worth of deliciousness each day — something that feels indulgent to you — can help you stay on track for the long haul, so allow yourself to eat, breathe, and indulge. Food should be joyful, not agonizing!
Cut back on calories. The most important part of losing weight is not working out until you collapse — it's your diet. If you burn 500 to 750 more calories than what you eat every day, you will lose 1–2 pounds every week (any more than that is considered unsafe weight loss). There are tons of little changes you can make to cut calories from your diet, from replacing high-calorie dressings with vinaigrette and asking for all dressings/sauces served on the side, eating at the table instead of in front of the tv, skipping cheese and other fatty additions to your salads and meals, using smaller plates, leave off the whipped cream on your coffee drink, and on and on.
Based on my experience in nutrition counseling, most of us tend to snack on foods that aren’t nutrient-dense, but are high in calories. For example, skipping sugary beverages is often the easiest way to lose weight faster. You don’t feel full from drinks — even the ones that do contain calories — so swapping those out for sparkling water or unsweetened tea and coffee is the best place to start. Other major culprits often come in refined grains like cereals, chips, crackers, and cookies.
How often do you eat in the bathroom? Disgusting, right? Most people wouldn't even think of it because they've linked the bathroom with other activities. Yet most of us have no problem eating in other rooms—and that's not good. Eating somewhere other than the kitchen or dining room isn't recommended, because noshing linked with a specific cue (like a room) can trigger eating even when you're not hungry. That's how bad habits are developed.
Carbohydrates are converted into sugar when they enter your bloodstream. Since your body doesn’t usually need all the energy that the sugar produces, it converts most of the energy into fat. The plummet in blood sugar levels that always follows a spike causes you to feel hungry for more sugar. If this cycle is continually repeated, you won’t be able to lose weight fast; in fact, you might gain weight.
Eating can become just as disorganized and chaotic as any other activity that isn't thought out ahead of time. Planning establishes structure, which can help you stay within a calorie budget, reduce daily decision-making, and prevent overeating. Carve out some time today to think through a plan for the week. Start with a few basic foods to eat each day and add others to diversify your meals. Make a grocery list as you go. (Make it even easier! Cook quick meals at home that taste great and fight fat! Sign up for Chef'd and get all the ingredients and recipes delivered to your doorstep.)
Work your core. When many people think of core strengthening, they think of stomach crunches. Crunches are helpful for building abdominal muscles, but contrary to popular belief, crunches won't do much to lose the layer of fat stored in your belly, and can actually cause significant damage to the spine. Instead, try a workout routine that strengthens your whole core, like yoga, or try abdominal presses and planking.
You don't have to be the next Usain Bolt in the making to enjoy some serious belly-slimming results from hitting the track from time to time. Even a moderate-rate jog a few times a week can blast through that belly fat; in fact, a study conducted at Duke University Medical Center found that, over the course of an eight-month study, overweight adult study subjects who jogged 12 miles a week lost the most belly fat and burned 67 percent more calories than participants who did an equivalent amount of resistance exercise, or a combination of cardio and resistance work.
DO IT: Assume a pushup position with your hands below your shoulders and your body forming a straight line from your head to your heels. This is the starting position. Lifting your right foot off of the floor, drive your right knee towards your chest. Tap the floor with your right foot and then return to the starting position. Alternate legs with each repetition.
Avoid going down grocery aisles that tempt you with high calorie foods. It’s best to stay along the perimeter of the grocery store, which is where the fresh foods are typically located. However, when you need to go down the aisles to get something, try to stay away from areas where foods you crave are stocked, such as the candy or soda aisle. If you don’t see them, you’re less likely to be tempted.
Try a protein heavy meal like a bean tortilla with gazpacho. Warm up a two-ounce wheat tortilla in the microwave or on the stove and fill it with ½ cup cooked black beans, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, two tablespoons shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese, and half an avocado, sliced. Serve it with one cup of ready-made gazpacho or salsa. Finish with a one-ounce piece of dark chocolate for dessert.
Sprinkle cheese on each tortilla. Cover cheese with the shredded cooked chicken and top the chicken with the marinated onions. Fold the tortillas in half, press gently with a spatula to flatten, and cook for about 2 minutes, until the cheese begins to melt. Flip the quesadilla and cook for another 1-2 minutes, until the second side is golden brown. Serve with side mixed green salad and 1 tbsp. light dressing
To avoid feeling hungry after a workout, eat a snack with at least 12 grams of protein before exercising, says Dr. Cheskin. And if you’re still hungry afterward? First, check in with yourself and make sure it’s actual hunger and not dehydration, says Dr. Cheskin. Then, eat a protein-rich snack that also includes some carbs, like a protein bar with whole grains.
Nuts have a very high satiety power—meaning they make you feel fuller after eating than many other foods. And even though they’re high in calories, those calories appear to be processed differently in the body. University of Michigan researchers found that men who added 500 calories’ worth of peanuts a day to their diet gained no excess weight at all.
Your habits and cravings may both rear their heads at restaurants, where it's easy to blow your diet in seconds. To stick to the plan, says Juge, be diligent in ordering. "Ask them to grill your meat without oil or grease. Ask for steamed vegetables with no butter. Get a salad (no cheese) with either fat-free dressing or a vinaigrette." After his 14 years in bodybuilding, Juge testifies that he's found many restaurants are accommodating, so there's no reason to avoid them as long as they'll cook to your preferences.
And maybe a new mattress, because it’s not just the amount of time you spend sleeping that keeps you lean, it’s also the quality of your sleep. Fat cells in your body produce a hormone called leptin that helps the body keep track of how much potential energy (i.e. fat) it has stored. But leptin is only produced during certain stages of sleep. Miss out on those stages because you’re not resting soundly enough, and you’ll disturb levels of the hormone, leaving your body with no real idea of its energy reserves. Consequently, you’ll end up storing calories rather than burning them.