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!
"If a client has come to me looking to lose 10 pounds, I would tell them to simply move. Move more, and more often. Walk or bike ride to class or work, even park further away from your location in the parking lot. Take the stairs or take a walk during lunch. You don't have to spend hours every day in the gym sweating, but you do have to make a conscious effort to move more, and sit less. This works great because it doesn't feel like work and you're burning more and more calories throughout the day." — Ajia Cherry, personal trainer and Founder at Functional Innovative Training
"People should pick activities they enjoy and that fit into their lifestyle in order to increase their chances of sticking with it to lose the last 10 pounds. For those who have hit a weight-loss plateau and can't seem to lose that weight, you'll need to mix things up in order to see results. Tabata-style training, HIIT classes and resistance training can all be effective weight-loss modalities for the right person." — Timothy Lyman, ACE certified personal trainer and Director of Training Programs at Fleet Feet Pittsburgh
"If I had to pick one food for weight loss, I would choose oatmeal. It's a whole grain, high-fiber carbohydrate that sticks to your ribs, so it keeps you full and satisfied. Eating it also leads to a slow rise in blood sugar, which has been shown to keep insulin levels from spiking, leading to less fat storage. The key with oatmeal is how to make it so it's not a calorie bomb. I recommend making it with nonfat milk in place of water, stirring in chopped raw nuts or natural nut butter, and topping with fresh or frozen fruits. If you need some added sweetness, a drizzle of maple syrup should do it. — Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN, culinary-nutrition consultant and founder of Nutritioulicious
Stephen Colbert may be on to something. UCLA Center for Human Nutrition researchers divided study participants into two groups, each of which were fed a nearly identical low-cal diet for 12-weeks. The only difference between the groups was what they were given to eat as an afternoon snack. One group ate 220-calories of pretzels while the other group munched on 240-calories worth of pistachios. Just four weeks into the study, the pistachio group had reduced their BMI by a point, while the pretzel-eating group stayed the same, and their cholesterol and triglyceride levels showed improvements as well.
"Nuts are a superior weight loss food in my book. They offer plenty of protein, healthy fat, and fiber that can really take the edge off hunger at any meal or snack. Nuts are also so versatile and convenient. They can be mixed into overnight oatmeal or yogurt at breakfast, paired with fruit as a snack, or tossed into a hearty salad for a little satisfying crunch at lunch. — Michelle Loy, MPH, MS, CSSD, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and owner of Go Wellness in Orange County, California
Fermented foods: These enhance the function of good bacteria while inhibiting the growth of bad bacteria. Sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, yogurt, tempeh, and miso all contain good amounts of probiotics, which help to increase good bacteria. Researchers have studied kimchi widely, and study results suggest that it has anti-obesity effects. Similarly, studies have shown that kefir may help to promote weight loss in overweight women.
Don't get me wrong — exercising at any time is good for you. But evening activity may be particularly beneficial because many people's metabolism slows down toward the end of the day. Thirty minutes of aerobic activity before dinner increases your metabolic rate and may keep it elevated for another two or three hours, even after you've stopped moving. Plus, it'll help you relax post-meal so you won't be tempted by stress-induced grazing that can rack up calories.
We just don't feel full by liquid calories in quite the same way as we do real food. Drinking a juice or caramel coffee drink just isn't as satisfying as eating a bowl of veggie- and protein-packed stir-fry. So monitor your intake of juice, soda, sweetened coffee and tea, and alcoholic beverages. If you consume each of those beverages during the day, you'll have taken in at least 800 extra calories by nighttime — and you'll still be hungry. (Incidentally, alcohol may suppress the metabolism of fat, making it tougher for you to burn those calories.)
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.
"Research continues to support the role of a high-protein diet and weight loss, however, we don't want to reach those protein needs exclusively with animal proteins. Plant proteins found in beans not only help us feel full and stabilize blood sugar but beans are associated with longevity. Who cares about being skinny if you die young?" —Jennifer McDaniel, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD, food and nutrition expert
"Keep track; whether that's every day, week or two to make sure you're on track and if not go back over your plan of action and tweak it; nothing's set in stone and it has to work for you not someone else! If it's not working, reassess other alternatives that do. There are many routes to the same destination. This doesn't mean giving up on your goals, it means finding new ways to achieve them that works for you." — Eve Dawes, Certified Personal Trainer, NASM, founder of Fitness By Eve.
It's a one-time investment you'll never regret. Here's why: Strength training builds lean muscle tissue, which burns more calories — at work or at rest — 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The more lean muscle you have, the faster you'll slim down. How do you start strength training? Try some push-ups or a few squats or lunges. Use your free weights to perform simple bicep curls or tricep pulls right in your home or office. Do these exercises three to four times per week, and you'll soon see a rapid improvement.
"The American Heart Association recommends that men eat less than 36 grams of added sugar and that women consume less than 24 grams. However, for optimal weight loss, I tell my male clients to consume less than 20 grams of sugar per day and I tell the women to consume less than 15 grams. The easiest way to cut back on the sweet stuff is by consuming less sugary drinks and dressings. Cut the sugar, lose the fat, regain your health and life." — Dr. Sean M. Wells, DPT, PT, OCS, ATC/L, CSCS
What if we told you that you could make 20 percent of your belly disappear this year—poof, just gone? Penn State University researchers compared those who consumed avocado oil with those who consumed a flax-safflower oil blend. Those on the canola oil diet—just three tablespoons daily did the trick—lost nearly 2 percent of their belly fat in just one month. For more ways to enjoy big, bold flavors, burn flab with these healthy fats.
Be choosy about carbs. You can decide which ones you eat, and how much. Look for those that are low on the glycemic index (for instance, asparagus is lower on the glycemic index than a potato) or lower in carbs per serving than others. Whole grains are better choices than processed items, because processing removes key nutrients such as fiber, iron, and B vitamins. They may be added back, such as in “enriched” bread.
"Stop focusing on calories and start focusing on the quality of the foods you eat. High-quality diet options are natural, whole, minimally processed foods, like vegetables, fruits, nuts or seeds that offer a lot more nutritional value in the form of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and fiber. These foods help tame hunger naturally and nourish our cells at the deepest level so that we aren't left with constant cravings. — Michelle Loy, MPH, MS, CSSD, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and owner of Go Wellness in Orange County, California