Sure, you know the main weight-loss tactics: drink plenty of water, eat veggies, and exercise regularly. But just when you thought you had tried it all, there’s a whole new mix of methods that could help drop the number on the scale as well. Whether it’s upping your vitamin D intake, working out on an empty stomach, or eating dessert for breakfast (no, seriously!), anyone can use these surprising, fat-burning tips. And for more calorie-incinerating advice, learn the 20 Weight-Loss Techniques Every Successful Dieter Uses.
Live Science is bringing our readers a monthly series of personal health goals, with tips and tricks we've gathered from the many health experts we've interviewed. Each month, we'll focus on a different goal, and the goal for January is Lose Weight. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to connect with other readers who are working toward these goals.
Studies of successful dieters reveal a hard truth: "They remain fairly strict about their eating forever," says James O. Hill, Ph.D., cofounder of the National Weight Control Registry, which keeps data on thousands of people who have lost weight and kept it off. Sound depressing? Think of it this way, suggests Eat to Lose, Eat to Win author Beller: "You just need to find a nutritional strategy you can live with long-term—like allowing yourself to have dessert or a cocktail or two every so often. It's like moving to a new city. For the first year or so it's difficult, but once you establish a routine you get comfortable. You might still miss things about your old life, but you're happy with your new one too."
Plate sizes have increased over the past millennium. When it’s time to sit down for dinner, choose a size-appropriate plate or bowl. Using a smaller plate (eight to 10 inches) instead of a tray-like plate (12 inches or more) can make us feel fuller with the same amount of food. How does that work? The brain may associate any white space on your plate with less food. Plus, smaller plates generally lead to smaller portions.
We know you love binge-watching your favorite reality series, but it’s important to enjoy your meals sitting at your kitchen table—not in front of the television. Why? Carolyn Brown, MS, RD, of Foodtrainers, told us that in addition to commercials of unhealthy food and drinks increasing our cravings, TV is so distracting that it makes it harder to realize when we’re actually satiated. Science agrees with Brown: A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that paying attention while eating can aid weight loss efforts while distracted eating can lead to a long-term increase in food consumption.
For many people, losing weight is only half the battle — the bigger challenge is keeping the weight off over the long term. And it's no surprise that keeping weight off is difficult — studies have shown that the brain and the body are hardwired to regain lost weight. But don't despair: Research also has revealed that people who are successful in keeping weight off share some habits. They tend to do the following:
Even if you’re a sweet tooth, it’s wise to eliminate as much sugar from your diet as you can, especially if you’re trying to keep weight off. “Sugar has been linked to leptin resistance, which is the hormone that tells you when you are full,” explains Dr. Petre. “Bad bacteria also consume sugar and compromise your immune system. [This] causes cell aging and a decline in tissue function and elasticity.” Heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes are just a few additional reasons to avoid it at all costs. She recommends reading food labels closely so that you know just how much sugar you’re really consuming.
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!
Pumping iron not only gives us muscles, but it can boost resting metabolism (meaning you burn more calories outside the gym) plus improve mood and confidence. Lifting a little weight can also help you sleep, another factor in effective weight loss. If we haven’t convinced you to take to dumbbells quite yet, there’s also this: Strength training takes just a few weeks to see results.
Many dietitians begin by asking clients to access the organ with the most powerful effect on weight: the brain. "I always ask my clients to monitor their food intake by keeping a food journal," says Karolin Saweres, RDN, LD. "I often find that my clients are not aware of how many meals, snacks, nibbles, or handfuls of food they eat each day." Becoming aware of our actual intake may initially be an uncomfortable surprise but can lead to more mindful eating throughout the day.
The average American consumes 15.5 pounds of pasta each year—and most of it is the refined white stuff. What’s the trouble with that? This type of noodle is almost completely void of fiber and protein, two vital nutrients for weight loss. To boost the belly-filling fiber and hunger-busting protein in your meal, opt for a bean-based noodle like Banza Chickpea Shells (2 oz., 190 calories, 8 grams of fiber, 14 grams of protein) or Explore Asian Black Bean Low-Carb Pasta (2 oz., 180 calories, 12 grams of fiber, and 25 grams of protein). Alternatively, whip up a batch of zoodles, or spiralized veggie noodles with the help of these 21 Mouthwatering Spiralizer Recipes.
Your body has a hard time distinguishing between hunger and thirst. Being dehydrated can fool you into reaching for a snack you don't really need. Drinking water throughout the day, especially before a meal fills up your stomach, keeps you energized and slows down the urge to snack. Find plain water boring? Make a pitcher of de-bloating spa water. Slice whole lemons and oranges and add them to your water. An antioxidant in the peel, d-limonene, gives sluggish bowels a kick and stimulates liver enzymes to help flush toxins from the body. Switch things up with unsweetened green tea, which contains EGCC, an antioxidant that helps the body burn fat faster. Or try any of these 4 Teas That Melt Fat Fast.
I know it's cliché, but let me get specific: When I arrive at a party, I don’t go immediately to the food. I first think about how many hours I plan on being there and try to pace myself accordingly. If I know it’s a three-hour buffet dinner, I may not start eating until an hour into being there. I’ll focus on drinking lots of water first and talk to people, so I don’t stuff my face too early and overdo it.
Tart cherries are grown exclusively in Michigan, but if you’re able to get your hands on them there is strong evidence to suggest they can help you achieve your weight loss goals. Need proof? Researchers at the University of Michigan conducted a 12-week study that found that rats fed tart cherries showed a 9 percent belly fat reduction over those fed a standard western diet. Scientists believe this is because tart cherries are especially high in anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid with strong antioxidant activity. These and other flavonoids found in tart cherries have also been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects.
“This seemingly-innocent food is almost always loaded with added sugar. In fact, most companies use synonyms or alternative words for plain old ‘sugar’ to disguise it. ” Lisa Hayim, registered dietitian and founder of The Well Necessities tells us in 37 Worst Breakfast Habits for Your Waistline. And she’s right: Choosing a cup of Kashi Indigo Morning Organic Corn Cereal over ¾ cup of Kashi Organic Promise Cranberry, Spelt and Flax Granola, will slash 160 calories off your breakfast!
Good point: Even if a weight or body fat percentage is achievable, at a certain point, the investment required to make it happen or sustain it just isn’t worth it, Moore says. And as Albers explains, the ultimate goals are to have energy, be healthy, be able to lead the life you want, and feel that your healthy habits add to, rather than take away from, the quality of your life.
Not only is pomegranate packed with fiber (which is found in its edible seeds) but it also contains anthocyanins, tannins, and high levels of antioxidants, which research published in the International Journal of Obesity says can help fight weight gain. A half-cup of the colorful fruit gives you 12 grams of fiber and more than half a day’s vitamin C. Snack on these fruits raw or toss ’em into a smoothie and you’re good to go!
If you used a very low-energy diet to help you slim down (think shakes and soups), you’ll be widening that waist in no time if you jump right back into normal food. While no one’s saying you have to live off of this strict regimen forever, you do need to ease your way back into the good stuff. And by ease back into it, we mean you should take six weeks to slowly incorporate your favorite foods back onto your plate. Researchers from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden found that people who were eating normally within a week gained back twice as much weight in ten months as those who took six weeks to reintroduce regular food. So it must be true; slow and steady does win the race.
Leaving the comforts of your gym can be difficult, but outdoor workouts have their own unique set of benefits. Research has shown that breaking a sweat outdoors may be more beneficial than burning calories inside. According to a study published in Environmental Science and Technology, exercising in a natural environment outdoors may improve energy levels and decrease stress more than working out indoors can.
Forgive yourself: “We beat ourselves up all the time and you can’t do that because the most successful people in life take risks, and part of taking risks is failure," says Delaney. "I learned this through business: If you fail, you were brave enough to take the risk, so don’t beat yourself up. What people need to understand is, it’s okay to mess up, what isn’t okay is to let that ruin your motivation. Get back on the wagon and regroup; think about why you messed up so you don’t keep repeating the same problem.”
Just because you’re trying to slim down, that doesn’t mean you have to forgo the occasional dessert splurge. There’s a simple solution to having your cake and eating it, too: Eat healthfully 80 percent of the time and reserve the remaining 20 percent of the time to cheat meals. Balance is key to sticking to your diet and dropping weight and maintaining it in the long run.
Of all the activities you can do in an effort to shed a few pounds, gardening is one of the most beneficial and relaxing options. Research conducted by the University of Utah shows that people who garden are about 11 to 16 pounds lighter than those who don’t, so throw on some gardening gloves and get to planting. For added weight loss benefits, consider planting herbs such as cilantro and mint, which combat bloating and suppress your appetite, respectively.
“I wish people knew that almond milk is no nutritional match to cow’s milk. In addition to being a great source of calcium and potassium, a cup of cow’s milk has eight grams of protein, which is about the same as a whole egg. Almond milk has only 1.5 grams of protein and can have added sugar when people buy the flavored or sweetened versions. Protein is important for making us feel full and energized longer, and that’s key for being able to have a productive weekday morning,” Libby Mills, MS, RDN, LDN, Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics tells us in 22 Top Weight Loss Tips, According to Nutritionists.
Eating frequently might sound counterintuitive if you’re trying to keep the pounds off, but munching consistently throughout the day is key to blood sugar and hunger management, explains registered dietitian Isabel Smith. When you eat something every three or four hours, it keeps your metabolism humming and you’ll never get too hungry. This ensures you’ll always be in a position to make smart diet decisions which is key to keeping the weight off long term. Not sure what to eat between meals? Check out these 50 Snacks With 50 Calories or Less!
In terms of weight loss, relief of symptoms, and overall good health, for many thyroid patients, it's not enough for your doctor to diagnose hypothyroidism and hand you a prescription. More than standard treatment, you may need optimal treatment to ensure that your cells are getting the oxygen and energy they need to allow your metabolism to do its job.
While you might not think there’s a huge difference between eating a whole piece of fruit and drinking fruit juice, nutritionally speaking, the two entities are most definitely not one and the same. Whereas whole fruit contains naturally occuring sugars and fiber that can help counteract the bad effects of too much sweet stuff, fruit juice is often loaded with added sugar (such as high-fructose corn syrup) and no fiber to speak of. According to a study led by Harvard School of Public Health researchers, eating more whole fruits, particularly blueberries, grapes, and apples, was significantly associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, a greater consumption of fruit juices was associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. To get the fruit flavor without all the bad stuff, try stirring up a batch of fruity detox water instead.
“You don’t have to eat salad all the time to lose weight. There are so many ways to tweak ingredients and make food you actually love to eat—even pancakes. (Try almond flour.) That being said, the type of food you eat also defines your lifestyle. You can eat junk food and lose weight, but you will probably be hungry all the time. So give yourself an occasional cheat day or reward for sticking to your plan. In the end, you want to lose weight in a healthy way, without feeling like you’re hurting yourself.”
Others RDNs emphasize a focus on individual nutrients. "Oftentimes, the first place I start is to help someone get adequate protein throughout the day," says Megan Ostler, MS, RDN. "This can help with appetite control. Second, I focus on fiber." In addition to curbing appetite, Ostler says fiber helps stabilize blood sugar and improve gastrointestinal health, important factors that can correlate with healthy weight. Combine good sources of fiber and protein with choices like beans, lentils, and certain grains, such as quinoa and oats.