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.
"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
Like a marathoner stretching before the big run, eating half a grapefruit before a meal can enhance your body's fat-burning performance. A study published in the journal Metabolism found that this "warm-up" tactic can help whittle your middle—by up to an inch—in just six weeks! The scientists attribute the powerful effects to the grapefruits' fat-zapping phytochemicals. The fruit can interact negatively with certain medications, so as long as you get the green-light from your M.D, plan to have half of a grapefruit before your morning meal and add a few segments your starter salads to reap the benefits.
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.
"Don't buy low-fat dairy products. They're usually loaded with sugar. Besides, an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that the more high-fat dairy products a person ate, they lower their risk of diabetes; the more low-fat dairy products, the higher their risk. — Mark Langowski, celebrity trainer and author of Eat This, Not That! for Abs
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.
"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.
"Alcohol not only contributes extra calories, but often keeps company with juice/tonic, slows metabolism, triggers hunger, and can lead to poor food judgement (drunk people order cheese fries, not salads). 'A glass of wine' (or two) 5x a week definitely adds up. It may behoove you to go cold turkey on booze temporarily and see if it makes a different. Plus, alcohol can be rather bloating." — Monica Auslander Moreno, MS, RD, LD/N, nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition
"When you're anxious, your body feels like it's under a tremendous amount of stress all the time. This is why anxiety is a powerful trigger for weight gain. Two of the most proven cures for anxiety are exercise and spending time in nature. Combine both with an outdoor run or bike ride and race away from the anxiousness. Making this habit part of your lifestyle can help you stay lean for life." — David Zinczenko, author of the Zero Belly Cookbook
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.
"One of the keys to long-term and sustainable weight loss is to cut total calorie intake, and there's no better way to do that than by eating just a little bit less of what you currently eat. Once you get into a habit of reducing portions—especially of sugary, fatty and other nutrient-poor foods—you can fine tune your diet to incorporate more nutrient-rich foods. But paring portions is still the best first step [in an effort to lose 10 pounds]." — Elisa Zied, MS, RDN, CDN, author of Younger Next Week
"When clients come to me, many of them have been through the diet wringer. They've tried every fad and gimmick and, of course, they've failed to maintain long-term success. The key to losing 10 pounds and weight loss, in general, is to never feel like you're on a diet, because diets don't work. If you feel deprived, you will never make it past a few weeks. The only way to achieve long-term weight loss is to learn to appreciate food as fuel and slowly replaced processed food that cannot properly energize the body with real food that can. After a while this will become second nature and won't feel like a daily struggle." — Laura Burak, MS, RD, CDN
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!
Not much of a coffee drinker? Tea is also a natural diuretic, and types of herbal tea such as dandelion or fennel root can also lend a hand. In fact: When a recent study compared the metabolic effect of green tea (in extract) with that of a placebo, researchers found that the green-tea drinkers burned about 70 additional calories in a 24-hour period.
"A study by David Jenkins, MD, PhD—the University of Toronto pioneer in low-glycemic eating — demonstrates that eating small portions at frequent intervals is good for your health in a number of remarkable ways. Within the study, they found that people who ate every three hours reduced their blood cholesterol by over 15% and their blood insulin by almost 28%. That's key, because in addition to regulating your blood sugar level, insulin plays a pivotal role in fat metabolism, inflammation and the progression to metabolic syndrome. When your body produces less insulin, you're much less likely to convert dietary calories into body fat.