Are frequent meals your ticket to a better body? Experts say so! In a Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics study that sampled 2,385 adults, research participants who ate less than four times a day consumed more calories and had a higher BMI than those who sat down to eat at least six times. The scientists noticed that those who ate fewer meals consumed most of their calories at night and were more apt to drink alcohol with their meals while their ever-grazing counterparts tended to eat healthier, less calorically dense foods. To keep the weight flying off your frame, nosh on these high-protein snacks between meals.
Most of us eat quickly, chewing each bite just a few times, which means we consume more food than we realize. Slow down and you'll slim down: In a recent study, people who chewed each bite 40 times ate almost 12 percent less than those who chewed just 15 times. When we chew longer, our bodies produce less ghrelin, a hormone that boosts appetite, and more of the peptide hormones that are believed to curb hunger. "Chewing seems to stimulate the gut to make appetite-suppressing peptide hormones," Dr. Cypess explains. Plus, the more you chew, the more thoroughly you break down food, which may release nutrients into your blood faster and give your brain time to register that you're full. From now on, focus on eating slowly at every meal. Put down your fork between bites and work your way up to 40 chews per mouthful of food.
We applaud you for getting off the couch and making it to your weekly spin class. But if you refuse to venture beyond stationary bikes, you might give the pounds the green light to creep back on. “If you’ve been doing the same workout for the past few months, your body isn’t being challenged anymore, meaning it’s not burning as many calories as it otherwise could,” Dr. Sean M. Wells, personal trainer and author of Double-Crossed: A Review of the Most Extreme Exercise Program, tells us in 17 Reasons Why You’re Regaining Weight. Spike your metabolism and switch things up by exploring different fitness classes or trying a HIIT routine at home.
Having a healthy option at your fingertips when you’re starving can make all the difference between sticking to your goals and giving in to temptation. “I keep little containers of hummus and carrots, pickles, nuts and dried apricots, salsa and rice crackers, and other healthy combos in the front of my fridge and pantry so they are literally the first thing I see when I open the door,” says Lita Moreno. “I don’t even give myself a choice to cheat.” This one little change has helped her drop almost 80 pounds.
Adding a wide variety of flavorful spices to your foods can help you control portion sizes and lose weight. Research shows that people eat less when their food tastes new and spicy (perhaps because we're forced to pay attention to it?). The crazier the blends of spices, the more novel the food will taste and the more benefits you'll reap, so don't be afraid to mix spices and go out of your comfort zone. Plus, traditional spices like turmeric, cinnamon, and cumin are chock-full of powerful antioxidants.
Berries are more than just morsels of sweetness that you can toss on yogurt or work into a smoothie; they can help you lose weight, too! Raspberries pack more fiber and liquid than most other fruits, which boosts satiety. They’re a rich source of ketones, antioxidants that can make you slimmer by incinerating stored fat cells. And like other berries, raspberries are loaded with polyphenols, powerful natural chemicals that have been shown to decrease the formation of fat cells and eliminate abdominal fat. Not to be outdone, research suggests blueberries can also help blast away stubborn belly fat by engaging your get-lean genes. After a 90-day trial, University of Michigan researchers discovered rats that were fed a blueberry-enriched diet showed significantly reduced belly fat compared to those who skipped the berries.
Getting your daily dose of fruits and veggies is even more important than you thought it was. Not only is colorful produce healthy and low-cal, but it’ll often contain flavonoids, a plant compound that can stave off weight gain. A recent study in the British Medical Journal found that out of 124,000 middle-aged and older people, those eating a flavonoid-rich diet had more success maintaining their weight than those who didn’t. Get a liquid boost of the stuff with a glass of green tea; it’s full of flavonoids as well.
We probably don’t have to tell you that heavy boozing will pack on the pounds. And you’ve likely heard the phrase “drink in moderation.” The point is, alcohol houses a lot of sneaky calories and has the ability to inhibit healthy eating decisions (midnight pizza delivery, anyone?). Even after you’ve sobered up, alcohol can have negative impacts on strength and may leave you lagging in the weight room days later.
Want to stay on track with your diet while dining out? Leave your lady at home, guys. Strange but true: When men dine with women, they eat up to 93 percent more, according to researchers at Cornell University. “These findings suggest that men tend to overeat to show off,” lead author of the study, Kevin Kniffin, explained. “Instead of a feat of strength, it’s a feat of eating.” Women, on the other hand, ate the same amount food no matter who they broke bread with.
Dieters and ETNT staffers alike fell head over heels for green tea—and it’s easy to see why: The cornerstone brew of The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse is packed with compounds called catechins, belly-fat crusaders that blast belly fat by revving the metabolism, increasing the release of fat from fat cells, and then speeding up the liver’s fat burning capacity. In a recent study, participants who combined a daily habit of 4-5 cups of green tea with a 25-minute sweat session (or 180 minutes a week), lost 2 more pounds than the non-tea-drinking exercisers. Meanwhile, a research team in Washington found that the same amount of coffee (5+ cups a day) doubled belly fat. Make the most of the benefits from tea with The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse, by food journalist Kelly Choi and the editors of Eat This, Not That!, test panelists lost up to 10 pounds in one week!
Eat More Produce. Eating lots of low-calorie, high-volume fruits and vegetables crowds out other foods that are higher in fat and calories. Move the meat off the center of your plate and pile on the vegetables. Or try starting lunch or dinner with a vegetable salad or bowl of broth-based soup, suggests Barbara Rolls, PhD, author of The Volumetrics Eating Plan. The U.S. government's 2005 Dietary Guidelines suggest that adults get 7-13 cups of produce daily. Ward says that's not really so difficult: "Stock your kitchen with plenty of fruits and vegetables and at every meal and snack, include a few servings," she says. "Your diet will be enriched with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, fiber, and if you fill up on super-nutritious produce, you won't be reaching for the cookie jar."
One thing restaurants (and individuals) typically overdo it on when cooking is salt, and that can easily cause unhealthy bloating and weight gain. In fact, one British study found that for every additional 1,000 milligrams of sodium you eat a day, your risk of obesity spikes by 25 percent, so ditch the salt and stick to metabolism-boosting spices such as cayenne and mustard instead.
Track what you eat, when you ate it, how much you ate and how that food made you feel, Glazer recommends. “Being completely honest with yourself and writing down every single thing that passes through your lips will help you start to notice that maybe you actually do snack, possibly take in more sugar than you thought, eat when you’re bored rather than just hungry or maybe that you have a habit of snacking before bed while watching TV.”
Hypothyroidism, in which the pituitary gland produces too little of a key hormone that regulates metabolism, is one of the key reasons for weight gain that stubbornly refuses to reverse itself. And it's surprisingly common; endocrinologists say as many as one out of five adults over age 40 suffer from an under active thyroid. If you think this might be you, get a thyroid test. But beware: The first-line thyroid blood test, known as the TSH, is controversial and the cut-off for "normal" used by most labs may be too high. In 2003, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists began recommending that the cutoff for normal TSH should be 3.0 versus the older standard of 5.5, but this news hasn't reached many labs or doctors. So check your results yourself and if they're between 3 and 5 and your doctor notes them as normal, make sure she's aware of the new recommendation. Pay attention to other signs as well; if you feel tired and lethargic and notice that you're cold all the time, or have poor circulation in your hands and feet, or hair loss (including eyebrows and eyelashes), these are all symptoms of hypothyroidism. Not to mention uncharacteristic weight gain that stubbornly refuses to respond to typical weight loss strategies such as making dietary changes, increasing exercise, and trying the strategies outlined here. You can also ask for further testing; there a number of additional tests that many experts believe give more accurate readings of thyroid function. And lots of endocrinologists think having a TSH between 1 and 2 is ideal for maintaining normal body weight and function, so if your doctor isn't sympathetic, get a referral to an endocrinologist known to treat thyroid disorders aggressively.
And beyond that, weight-loss efforts can take an emotional toll. “It can destroy your relationship with food. It can lead you to feel obsessed and frustrated,” Albers explains. For some people, quitting dieting is better and healthier than continuing to try to lose weight. And whatever a person’s weight-loss goal, the priority should be first and foremost on health. “Eating for health frees you up emotionally and is based on improving your body rather than rejecting your body,” she says.
“Patients can diet themselves down to any weight they put their minds to, but to maintain that weight, they need to actually enjoy the lifestyle that got them there,” writes Yoni Freedhoff, M.D., the medical director of the Bariatric Medical Institute in Ottawa, Canada, and Arya M. Sharma, M.D., Ph.D., the founder and Scientific Director of the Canadian Obesity Network, in Best Weight, a manual for clinicians who treat patients pursuing weight loss. “A patient’s best weight is therefore whatever weight they achieve while living the healthiest lifestyle they can truly enjoy.”
Other diabetes medications. Insulin-releasing tablets (e.g. sulphonylureas) often lead to weight gain. These include: Minodiab, Euglucon, Daonil, and Glibenclamide. Tablets like Avandia, Actos, Starlix and NovoNorm also encourage weight gain. But not Metformin. The newer drugs Victoza and Byetta (injectable) often lead to weight loss, but possible long-term side effects are still unknown. More on diabetes
Ah, the über-popular “know your why” strategy. One Brown University study found that when people are motivated to lose weight for appearance and social reasons, they stick with their weight-loss habits for significantly less time than those who are motivated by their health. After all, these external motivators (like looking a certain way or fitting into a cultural ideal) aren’t going to get you going when you’re feeling down, have had a bad day, or are frustrated with a plateau, Albers says.