Real talk: It could take weeks or months to see the metabolic effects of exercise on the scale, and even then, building muscle, which is denser than body fat, could lead to weight gain. "Do what you like because it’s good for you," Dr. Seltzer says, noting the way exercise is awesome for your heart, mental health, and more—and that not all measure of progress can be seen on the scale.
Visceral fat, commonly known as belly fat, is the layer of fat below the muscles of your abdomen. Due to its crucial location surrounding many of your vital organs, belly fat supplies a constant source of energy but also exposes the body to harmful toxins and hormones. When you have too many fat cells or your fat cells get too large, they can overproduce toxins that increase your risk for chronic inflammation, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. This is why belly fat can be more dangerous than subcutaneous fat—or the outer layer of fat that you can pinch with your fingers. That said, the reason you're having trouble buttoning your pants may not be visceral fat: what we're calling "belly fat" these days could be bloating or water retention rather than a fat buildup. Read on for steps you can take to beat the bulge.
The Volumetrics Diet (Est. $10), based upon the well-regarded book "The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet: Smart, Simple, Science-Based Strategies for Losing Weight and Keeping It Off" is a sensible, sustainable approach that draws rave reviews from experts and dieters. You swap high-density foods, which tend to have more calories, for lower-density foods like fruits, vegetables, soups and stews. This swap of foods with more bulk but fewer calories helps fill you up, thus eliminating one big problem with dieting: hunger. It's a top pick in most of our expert roundups, and its author, Barbara Rolls, is a leading researcher in the field of nutrition. Many other diets, most notably Jenny Craig (Est. $20 and up per month, plus food) (covered in our discussion of the best prepackaged diet plans) and Weight Watchers, have adopted, at least in part, the Volumetrics approach to meal planning to help keep hunger at bay.
If you've been trying to eat healthy for a long time, you know how quickly you get sick of chicken breasts and broccoli. Break out of your diet rut with the Middle Eastern diet. It's based on the same principles as the Mediterranean diet but with more of an emphasis on plant-based foods and a different flavor profile. With all the tasty and healthy spices, you'll never get bored of making dinner and you'll get all the same heart-healthy benefits as its geographical cousin's diet.
Of course, you want to get to the bottom of why you’re not feeling so hot. One study found that practicing relaxation techniques helped obese women who were emotional eaters lose weight over the course of three months, along with helping them reduce depression and anxiety. (7) Engaging in other activities that can help you relax are a better option than emotional eating.
Instead of subjecting yourself to another endless workout, crank up the intensity and you’ll see results faster than you ever thought possible. The results of a study conducted at McMaster University in Ontario reveal that adult male study subjects who exercised intensely for a single minute had equivalent respiratory and metabolic changes to those who worked out at a slower pace for close to an hour, so if you want to burn through that belly fat, say so long to slow and steady.
Burning body and belly fat with cardio exercises is half the battle. Next is strengthening abdominal muscles so you have something to show once the fat is shed. In a recent study, ab exercises were ranked from best to worst. The bicycle exercise ranked as #1 because it requires abdominal stabilization, body rotation, and more abdominal muscle activity.
Weight Watchers is still the best choice for both short-term weight loss and long-term healthy eating, while Jenny Craig rules in the prepackaged convenience category. But if neither of those works for you, we also review the top diet books, low carb diets, the Paleo diet and more. We even recommend less-expensive alternatives to the top commercial diets.
"When you're stressed out or tired, it's very easy to forget when your hand goes into the cookie jar," says Marisa Sherry, RD, a registered dietitian in private practice in New York City. "Are you being honest with yourself about taking just one handful here and there? When you have a cup, are you really having one cup? Most drinking glasses hold about three cups. By the end of the day, it all adds up."
The researchers explain that people who cook their own meals may simply have other good-for-you habits, like exercising more. However, they also concluded that home cooks ate more fruits and vegetables (along with a wider variety of foods), have healthier methods of prepping their food, and splurge less on foods high in calories and sugar. No clue where to start? Check out these 25 high-protein chicken recipes for weight loss.
For Gretchen Schupbach, 40, the key was sustainability. "I started with a lifestyle change from eating out every day to once a week. I started walking every day. When that got easy, I would add five more minutes until I worked myself up to an hour. Then, I started lifting weights every other day. I swapped white bread and rice for whole grain. I tried to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into my day, and brushed my teeth right after dinner so I wouldn't eat after," she says. By making these slow, steady changes, she was able to meet her goals.
“For some people, it’s knowing, ‘Typically I eat a whole sandwich,’” says Gagliardi. “‘Now, I’m going to make the decision to eat half a sandwich at lunch and save the other half for my dinner and essentially cut my calories in half. And they feel good about that. They’re not having to do math.” To get started, check out these 25 simple ways to cut 500 calories a day.
"Anytime you’re stressed, you probably go for food," Dr. Seltzer says. (Have we met?!) That’s because cortisol, the stress hormone, stokes your appetite for sugary, fatty foods. No wonder it’s associated with higher body weight, according to a 2007 Obesity study that quantified chronic stress exposure by looking at cortisol concentrations in more than 2,000 adults’ hair.
It's not just what you eat that can make you pack on pounds—it's also how much. Before dropping 102 pounds, DeGennaro did not have a grip on proper serving sizes. "Sitting down to dinner with my husband and three kids, I'd scarf down mounds of pasta and endless rolls," she says. "Adjusting to smaller portions was tricky at first; I'd round out meals with extra veggies to keep from getting hungry."
Also, the natural sugar in fruit does affect your carbohydrate intake — especially if you eat a lot of fruit. This may temporarily raise your blood sugar or certain blood fats. However, this effect is lessened if you are losing weight. If you have diabetes or any other health conditions or concerns, work with your doctor to adjust the Mayo Clinic Diet for your situation. For example, people with diabetes should aim for more vegetables than fruits, if possible. It's a good idea to snack on vegetables, rather than snacking only on fruit.
The South Beach Diet is also considered low-carb, but it's not as restrictive as Atkins in its later phases. In fact, even in the early phases of the South Beach Diet, small servings of complex, non-vegetable carbs are allowed. South Beach earns high praise for weight loss and as an overall healthy way of eating, but gets panned for its complicated meal plans and time-consuming recipes by both users and experts. The ingredients in its recipes can jack up your grocery bill as well. Still, it's popular for those who love to cook, or prefer meals that aren't just a hunk of meat and a vegetable (or two).
Ultimately, you need to pick a healthy eating plan you can stick to, Stewart says. The benefit of a low-carb approach is that it simply involves learning better food choices—no calorie-counting is necessary. In general, a low-carb way of eating shifts your intake away from problem foods—those high in carbs and sugar and without much fiber, like bread, bagels and sodas—and toward high-fiber or high-protein choices, like vegetables, beans and healthy meats.
Schedule a workout with a friend—you'll be less likely to skip out on it knowing that she is expecting you to show up. Or, use your workouts as "dates" where you can catch up with friends. "Every Wednesday, I take a Zumba class with the friends I met at Weight Watchers," says Michele August, who lost 117 pounds. "It's our weekly girls' night. We catch up, bond, and even enjoy a fun workout that burns a bunch of calories!"
Notes: Defrost the shrimp under cool running water and pat dry. In a nonstick pan over medium-high heat, toss the shrimp with a little all-natural cooking spray, and cook until bright pink, tightly furled, and warmed through. Chop and steam the carrots and broccoli until tender-crisp, about 5 minutes for the carrots, 3 minutes for the broccoli. Drizzle everything with the teriyaki sauce and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.
The purpose of the Mayo Clinic Diet is to help you lose excess weight and to find a way of eating that you can sustain for a lifetime. It focuses on changing your daily routine by adding and breaking habits that can make a difference in your weight, such as eating more fruits and vegetables, not eating while you watch TV, and moving your body for 30 minutes a day.
Leafy Greens – Help you feel satisfied longer, boost your metabolism and turn off your hunger receptors. You will eat less and lose more belly fat just by increasing your leafy greens! They’re low in calories and high in fiber, making them the perfect weight loss food. Not a fan? Try one of our yummy green smoothies. Examples include spinach, romaine lettuce, kale, bok choy, arugula, chard, and mustard greens.