For even more impressive effects on body composition: aim for exercise forms which elicit a positive hormonal response. This means lifting really heavy things (strength training), or interval training. Such exercise increases levels of the sex hormone testosterone (primarily in men) as well as growth hormone. Not only do greater levels of these hormones increase your muscle mass, but they also decrease your visceral fat (belly fat) in the long term.
Grilling coaxes sweet-savory depth from endive and red onion in this delicious vegetarian side dish. Fresh figs lend a bright, jammy acidity in the summer, but don't hesitate to use dried come winter. Leave the root ends attached when trimming your onions and endive, so they hold together and don't slip through the grill grates. Serve as a salad, or eat alongside grilled chicken, steak, salmon, seared scallops or whole roasted fish.
Choose Liquid Calories Wisely. Sweetened drinks pile on the calories, but don't reduce hunger like solid foods do. Satisfy your thirst with water, sparkling water with citrus, skim or low-fat milk, or small portions of 100% fruit juice. Try a glass of nutritious and low-calorie vegetable juice to hold you over if you get hungry between meals. Be careful of alcohol calories, which add up quickly. If you tend to drink a glass or two of wine or a cocktail on most days, limiting alcohol to the weekends can be a huge calorie saver.
Use leftover spaghetti for lo mein the next night. Toss 1 cup of the spaghetti with 12 peanuts and 1 cup of chopped celery, onions and bok choy that's been sauteed in 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil for 425 calories. Make fish tacos with 3 ounces of grilled halibut stuffed into two 6-inch corn tortillas with lettuce and chopped tomatoes and served with 1/2 cup of a mix of brown rice, black beans and corn for 405 calories.
When you're eating to protect your ticker, researchers have realized that it isn't about clearing your fridge of all fat, but rather focusing on the right type. "Choosing foods with omega-3 fatty acids and mono- and poly-unsaturated fats can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol even more than limiting the cholesterol you eat," says Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD, a professor of nutrition at Penn State University.
Topping foods with heavy sauces or condiments could add extra calories and often little nutritional value. For example, ketchup often has a high amount of sugar. According to Monica Auslander, a registered dietitian and founder of Essence Nutrition, one teaspoon of ketchup is equal to eating a sugar packet. “It’s deceiving because it has no fat, so people think they can enjoy freely,” she says. “Unfortunately, we now know that sugar is far more insidious than fat.” Fortunately, there are healthier lower-calorie options such as pesto, hummus, and DIY recipes. These are the condiments that are bad for your health.
By planning your meals and logging what you eat and drink, you will start memorizing how many calories are in your favorite meals and ingredients. Best of all you will learn your own eating habits and cravings, so over time you can better plan your meals to suit your cravings. After a couple weeks if you see you consistently have a 3:00 pm craving for carbs, you can head off that craving in advance with a skinny sandwich at lunch. Or, a sweet craving at 10:00 am can be managed with a sweet oatmeal breakfast.
Eating at home puts you more in control of what you eat and how much you eat. One study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that people who ate at least five home-cooked meals per day were 28 percent less likely categorized as overweight. And they were 24 percent less likely to have excess body fat than participants who ate less than three home-cooked meals per week. Here are the weight loss rules pros cheat on.
“Don't like eating meat?” asks Ginger Hultin, RDN, a dietitian in private practice in Seattle and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Then don't be paleo! Travel a lot and rely on eating out? The DASH diet may end in frustration for you.” The bottom line: The diet you choose needs to be safe and effective, while taking into account your lifestyle.
Portion control is another key element of weight loss. Part of the process is understanding an actual serving size. Measuring high-calorie ingredients will help you learn to eyeball portions. Even calories from healthy foods add up. “One of the foods people love are healthy fats, which are great,” Amari Thomsen, MS, RD, LDN, dietitian, and founder of Eat Chic Chicago says. Your definition of a handful of nuts might be four times bigger than an actual serving size, she warns.
Switch to Lighter Alternatives. Whenever you can, use the low-fat versions of salad dressings, mayonnaise, dairy products, and other products. "You can trim calories effortlessly if you use low-fat and lighter products, and if the product is mixed in with other ingredients, no one will ever notice," says Magee. More smart substitutions: Use salsa or hummus as a dip; spread sandwiches with mustard instead of mayo; eat plain roasted sweet potatoes instead of loaded white potatoes; use skim milk instead of cream in your coffee; hold the cheese on sandwiches; and use a little vinaigrette on your salad instead of piling on the creamy dressing.
Created in 2003 by cardiologist Arthur Agatston, this low-carb diet features three phases. The first phase is the most restrictive, limiting carbs such as potatoes and rice. Each subsequent phase becomes more lenient, and the diet emphasizes lean protein, unsaturated fats, and low-glycemic carbs such as nonstarchy vegetables. South Beach promotes lasting lifestyle changes, according to the Mayo Clinic. (21)

You may be tempted to skip meals like breakfast when you're trying to lose an extreme amount of weight, but those who succeed at weight loss make breakfast a priority. Try a poached egg on a slice of whole-wheat toast covered in one-eighth of an avocado and served with 1 cup of sliced strawberries and a 6-ounce container of nonfat Greek yogurt for 420 calories. A 1/2-cup serving of low-fat cottage cheese with a sliced banana and an English muffin with 2 teaspoons of peanut butter also makes a good breakfast option on your weight-loss diet. That option contains 440 calories. Or enjoy a breakfast smoothie by blending 12 ounces of nonfat Greek yogurt with 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds, 3/4 cup of blueberries, 1 cup of raspberries and ice for 400 calories.
Consuming protein in the morning will stabilize blood sugar, Sharon Collison, RD, sports dietitian and clinical instructor at the University of Delaware says. “Make sure to have an excellent source of protein with every breakfast such as Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or two to three eggs,” she says. Eating more protein earlier in the day could also help reduce sugar cravings in the late afternoon, Collison adds.
High blood sugar levels coupled with high blood ketones, on the other hand, will mean that you have a pathologically low level of insulin – something non-diabetics do not suffer from. This can lead to ketoacidosis – a potentially life-threatening condition. If this happens, you’ll need to inject more insulin; if you’re at all unsure of what to do, contact a medical professional. Coveting really high blood ketones for weight control is not worth the risk for type 1 diabetics.
The sad truth is that conventional ideas – eat less, run more – do not work long term. Counting calories, exercising for hours every day and trying to ignore your hunger? That’s needless suffering and it wastes your time and precious willpower. It’s weight loss for masochists. Eventually almost everyone gives up. That’s why we have an obesity epidemic. Fortunately there’s a better way.

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Like protein, fiber slows the rate at which your body plows through carb calories so you feel full for longer and maintain steadier blood sugar levels, one reason why research consistently links fiber intake to weight loss. That means fibrous whole grain bread tends to be a better choice than white bread and also explains why fruits, which contain fiber and valuable vitamins in addition to sugar, beat straight-up candy every time.
Becky Duffett is a contributing nutrition editor for Fitbit and a lifestyle writer with a passion for eating well. A former Williams-Sonoma cookbook editor and graduate of San Francisco Cooking School, she’s edited dozens of cookbooks and countless recipes. City living has turned her into a spin addict—but she’d still rather be riding a horse. She lives in the cutest neighborhood in San Francisco, spending weekends at the farmers’ market, trying to read at the bakery, and roasting big dinners for friends.
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