Harvard Diet Review: Gluten-Free for Weight Loss

Finding yourself confused by the seemingly endless promotion of weight-loss strategies and diet plans? In this series, we take a look at some popular diets—and review the research behind them.

What Is It?

A gluten-free diet is not new. It is the sole treatment for 1-2% of Americans who have celiac disease, a serious condition where the body attacks a protein called gluten, naturally found in many whole grains, causing a spectrum of symptoms that range from bloating to intestinal damage. Up to 6% of people have a related stomach-upsetting but less threatening condition called non-celiac gluten sensitivity. With such a small number truly needing this diet, why have sales of gluten-free products topped $12 billion according to market research?

What is new—and driving these sales upwardis the use of a gluten-free diet for weight loss, partly fueled by celebrity endorsements and personal testimonies of not only pounds quickly shed, but increased energy, improved digestion, and even clearer skin. Consumer surveys reveal that people perceive gluten-free products to be healthier than their gluten-containing counterparts, and almost a third of Americans are now avoiding or reducing their intake of gluten.

How It Works

A gluten-free diet eliminates all foods containing or contaminated with gluten. Gluten is largely ubiquitous in foods, found as a main ingredient (in wheat, rye, barley, triticale, cross-contaminated oats), in sauces (soy sauce, malt vinegar, flour), and as additives or fillers (maltodextrin, wheat starch). See What Is a Gluten-Free Diet?

When first going gluten-free, perhaps the most noticeable change is having to relinquish favorite staples of bread, pasta, cereals, and processed snack foods. Because some of these products, which are typically highly processed, may be low in nutrients and high in calories, one may feel better and even lose some weight soon after removing them from the diet. Although there are now plenty of gluten-free counterparts to take their place, a gluten-free diet usually causes one to revisit naturally gluten-free whole foods like fruits, vegetables, and grains like brown rice, quinoa, and millet. Including these minimally processed, high-fiber foods may also help to promote weight loss and a feeling of well-being.

The Research So Far

Though research has explored the effects of a gluten-free diet on gastrointestinal disorders, autism, and fibromyalgia, there is none that examines the diet’s effects on weight loss alone or for general health benefits. Because of the lack of experimental studies on weight loss, some researchers have instead examined the long-term effects of people with celiac disease on gluten-free diets, or who are generally healthy and consume a diet low in wheat and other gluten-containing grains. They have found that gluten-free diets: 1) may promote certain nutrient deficiencies, 2) may increase the risk of some chronic diseases, and 3) may actually cause weight gain.

  • Intakes of people with celiac disease on a strict gluten-free diet were found to have inadequate intakes of fiber, iron, and calcium. Other research has found gluten-free cereal products to be low not only in those nutrients but also B vitamins including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate.
  • A study of over 100,000 participants without celiac disease found that those who restricted gluten intake were likely to limit their intake of whole grains and experienced an increased risk of heart disease compared with those who had higher gluten intake. Many studies have found that people with higher intakes of whole grains including whole wheat (2-3 servings daily) compared with groups eating low amounts (less than 2 servings daily) had significantly lower risk of heart disease and stroke, type 2 diabetes, and deaths from all causes.
  • Gluten may act as a prebiotic, feeding the “good” bacteria in our bodies. It contains a prebiotic carbohydrate called arabinoxylan oligosaccharide that has been shown to stimulate the activity of bifidobacteria in the colon, bacteria normally found in a healthy human gut. A change in the amount or activity of these bacteria has been associated with gastrointestinal diseases including inflammatory bowel disease, colorectal cancer, and irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Research is conflicting, but some studies have shown weight gain or increased BMI in people with celiac disease after starting a gluten-free diet. This may be partly due to improved absorption of nutrients, a reduction in stomach discomfort, and increased appetite after starting the diet. However, another suspected reason is an increased intake of gluten-free processed food options containing high amounts of calories, fat and sugar.

Potential Pitfalls

Gluten-free foods wear a health halo, a belief that a food product is healthful even when it may not offer special health benefits for most people. Research has shown that if one aspect of a food is advertised as healthy or people believe it to be healthy (in this case, the term “gluten-free”), there is a tendency to eat more of it. This may promote weight gain. Also, an overreliance on processed gluten-free products may lead to a decreased intake of certain nutrients like fiber and B vitamins that are protective against chronic diseases.

Bottom Line

Although a gluten-free diet is the primary treatment for celiac disease and may help to alleviate symptoms in various conditions related to gluten sensitivity, there is currently no evidence showing that a gluten-free diet is effective for weight loss or for general health benefits.  For individuals who don’t have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, there is no need to restrict gluten consumption. A healthy dietary pattern typically includes higher amounts of whole grains and lower amounts of refined grains and added sugar.

Is Eating Before Bed Actually Unhealthy?

Eating late at night gets a bad rap, but skipping meals isn’t the answer either. Here, the lowdown on choosing the best foods to eat before bed.

You worked (or worked out) super late and have nothing in the fridge, and your howling stomach is begging for something, anything to refuel you after a long day. We’ve all done it. And while there have been various studies on eating at night and its effects on your metabolism, nutritionists say that it’s more about the nutrients you put into your body, like loading up on fiber to fill you, than the exact time you chow down.

Here, what you need to know about eating at night and which foods are best to eat before bed.

Is Eating Before Bed Unhealthy?

One study published in the journal Cell Metabolism found that mice that had access to the same high-fat diet for only eight hours, namely during daylight hours, were healthier and slimmer than those who had access to the food for the whole day—despite consuming the same number of calories.

Other research states that eating late can rev your metabolism, and that protein can give you an energy boost for your morning workout the next day.  More studies dispute the potential benefits of late-night eating and claim that the hormones that control satiation slow down later in the day, but research has stated that a small snack toward bedtime is fine—especially if your hunger could mess with your sleep.

“Going to bed with a growling stomach can make it difficult to fall asleep, or worse, increase the temptation to eat in the middle of the night if hunger disrupts sleep,” says Heather Mangieri, R.D., a board-certified specialist in sports nutrition and spokesperson for The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The key is to nail the combo of protein and a little carbs: like snacking on nuts or Greek yogurt and pairing that with fruit or veggies. (Keep reading for more on the worst and best foods to eat before bed or late at night.)

Ultimately, researchers say, your late-night eating habits come down to self-control in making nutritious choices. “Food restriction in humans is much less controlled, and relies more on keeping a healthy environment and willpower—something many people struggle with,” says Mangieri. “The evening hours are when most people will admit to out-of-control eating since that’s the time when the work is done and it’s time to relax.”

Sometimes eating late at night is our only choice, though. With longer work hours and post-work obligations, some days you don’t even think about dinner until 8 p.m. The good news, according to Mangieri, is it’s less about what time you’re dining, and more about what foods are on your plate.

Here’s what to remember if you’re eating at night and which foods are best to eat before bed.

The Best Foods to Eat Before Bed

  • Follow the 30–30 rule: Active young women who had 30 grams of protein about 30 minutes before sleep experienced no negative metabolic effects, the British Journal of Nutrition reports. In fact, before-bed protein built muscle in a study on strength-training men, and experts believe the same would be true for women. The protein should come from casein in dairy products like cottage cheese (a cup contains a little less than 30 grams). It’s slow digesting and will leave you satiated without spiking blood sugar. (It’s worth noting: If you typically don’t snack after dinner, there’s likely no benefit to adding a high-protein snack before bed.)
  • Include some carbs for sleep benefits: If you have trouble drifting off, include a small amount of healthy carbs with your protein snack when eating before bed, like half a slice of whole-grain toast or a few grapes, says Shape Brain Trust member Susan Kleiner, Ph.D., R.D. author of The New Power Eating. These can help the body move the essential amino acid tryptophan into the brain to produce serotonin, a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep.

The Worst Foods to Eat Before Bed

  • Skip high- fat and -sugar treats: The worst foods you can eat before bed are high in fat or sugar, says Kleiner: “High-fat foods take a long time to digest, and sugar increases your blood sugar, both of which can disturb sleep.”
  • Reconsider the whey: Whey protein causes insulin spikes that could keep you up as well, says Kleiner.
  • Cut the carbs: “If dinner is at 8 p.m. and bedtime is two hours later, the meal size should be smaller and include a smaller amount of carbohydrates,” says Mangieri. “Stick to a serving of lean protein and load up on veggies so you’ll still meet your nutrient needs without all the late-night calories.”

Harvard Diet Review: DASH

Finding yourself confused by the seemingly endless promotion of weight-loss strategies and diet plans? In this series, we take a look at some popular diets—and review the research behind them.

What Is It?

The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is sometimes prescribed by doctors to help treat high blood pressure. Blood pressure is the amount of pressure that blood places against the walls of arteries. It will normally vary throughout the day but if it remains too high, this is called high blood pressure or hypertension. Untreated high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, kidney disease, and blindness.

DASH was first introduced at a meeting of the American Heart Association in 1996 and later published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1997. The DASH trial randomly assigned 456 people to different diets to test the effects of dietary patterns on lowering blood pressure. The authors surmised that eating a diet with many different foods with blood pressure-lowering nutrients would show a greater effect on blood pressure than eating single nutrients, such as found in supplements or in a limited diet. Three diets were tested: 1) a control diet, or a standard American diet, 2) a fruits and vegetables diet, similar to the control diet but providing more fruits and vegetables and less snacks and sweets, and 3) a combination diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and low-fat dairy foods with reduced amounts of saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol. The last two diets were richer in nutrients associated with lower blood pressure, such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, fiber, and protein. All three diets provided about 3000 mg sodium, which is more than the recommended amount from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans but less than the average sodium intake for Americans.

Despite no weight changes, the combination diet reduced blood pressure more than the other two diets. Those with hypertension showed greater decreases in blood pressure than those without hypertension. The reduction of blood pressure in the DASH combination diet was comparable to that of people on medication for stage 1 hypertension.

The results of this landmark study contributed much of the scientific basis for the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 and later editions.

How It Works

DASH is based on the following foods: fruits, vegetables, low fat milk, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, and nuts. It recommends reducing sodium, foods and beverages with added sugars, and red meat. The diet is heart-friendly as it limits saturated and trans fat, while increasing the intake of potassium, magnesium, calcium, protein, and fiber, nutrients believed to help control blood pressure.

The diet suggests a specific number of servings of the recommended foods listed above. The sample plans provided by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) are based on 1600, 2000, or 2600 calories daily. For 2000 calories a day, this translates to about 6-8 servings of grains or grain products (whole grains recommended), 4-5 servings vegetables, 4-5 fruits, 2-3 low fat dairy foods, 2 or fewer 3-ounce servings of meat, poultry, or fish, 2-3 servings of fats and oils, and 4-5 servings of nuts, seeds, or dry beans per week. It advises limiting sweets and added sugars to 5 servings or less per week. The plan defines the serving sizes of each these food groups.

To follow the plan, one must decide their calorie level and then divide the suggested servings of each food group throughout the day. This requires meal planning ahead of time. The NHLBI guide provides many tips on how to incorporate DASH foods and to lower sodium intake; a one-day sample menu following a 2300 mg sodium restriction and a 1500 mg sodium restriction; and one week’s worth of recipes. The NHLBI also publishes an online database of “heart healthy” recipes.

The Research So Far

Numerous studies show wide-ranging health benefits of the DASH diet. A consistent body of research has found that DASH lowers blood pressure in people with high blood pressure but also normal blood pressure even without lowering sodium intake. It can produce greater reductions in blood pressure if sodium is restricted to less than 2300 mg a day, and even more so with a 1500 mg sodium restriction. When compared with a standard American diet (e.g., high intake of red and processed meats, beverages sweetened with sugar, sweets, refined grains) DASH has also been found to lower serum uric acid levels in people with hyperuricemia, which places them at risk for a painful inflammatory condition called gout. Because people with gout often also have high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases, DASH is optimal in improving all of these conditions.

Adherence to the DASH-style pattern may also help prevent the development of diabetes, as analyzed in a recent meta-analysis, and kidney disease as found in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) cohort that followed more than 3700 people who developed kidney disease. Dietary components of DASH that were protective in the ARIC cohort included a high intake of nuts, legumes, and low-fat dairy products. A high intake of red meat and processed meats increased kidney disease risk.

Potential Pitfalls

  • DASH requires each person to plan their own daily menus based on the allowed servings. People who are not used to meal planning or cooking may need more specific guidance.
  • The types of foods listed are not comprehensive. For example, avocados are not included so it is not clear if they would be categorized as a fruit or a fat serving. Certain foods are placed into questionable categories: pretzels are placed in the grain group even though they have fairly low nutrient content and no fiber; frozen yogurt is placed in the dairy group even though most brands contain little calcium and vitamin D and are high in added sugar. The general term “cereals” are placed in the grain group but different types of cereals can be highly variable in nutrient and sugar content.
  • Those with lactose intolerance or food allergies (e.g., nuts) may need to modify the diet to include lactose-free alternatives to dairy and seeds instead of nuts.
  • Some people may experience gas and bloating when starting the diet due to the high fiber content of plant foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. This can be minimized by adding one or two new high fiber foods a week instead of all at once.

Bottom Line

Research supports the use of the DASH diet as a healthy eating pattern that may help to lower blood pressure, and prevent or reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, kidney disease, and gout.

The Secret To Losing Weight

The secret to losing weight involves 10 key essentials. Here is a quick summary:

1. Healthy, satisfying eating starts with super salads, soups, whole grains, and fruit

Start every lunch and dinner with a large, delicious salad or soup. Super-sizing actually makes good sense when applied to salads. People joke that the salad bowls at Pritikin are so big they have a diving board on one end.

2. Eliminate high-calorie beverages

One in every five calories we consume comes from a beverage—and those calories don’t do much to quell hunger. Soft drinks and frappacinnos are calorie-rich, but so are fruit juices. One glass of orange juice has twice the calories (100 to 110) of a whole orange (50) – or about the same as in a regular soft drink.

3. Trim portions of calorie-dense foods

Very quickly, guests at the Pritikin Longevity Center who come for weight loss discover that they never need to go hungry. Every day they’re enjoying large portions of water-rich, fiber-rich foods so that they’re satisfied and have less room for calorie-dense foods.By switching your morning bowl of corn flakes for a bowl of hot oatmeal and fruit, you’d take in approximately 250 fewer calories each day. That one simple change to your daily diet could help you drop about 25 pounds in one year.

4. Snack smarter

Every snack counts—and choosing healthier options like yogurt and fruit will keep you satiated and energized without packing on the pounds. Eating just one less 100-calorie cookie a day can cause you to shed 10 pounds in a yearHere are more suggestions for healthy, satisfying, and non-fattening snacks.

5. Forget fast food; dine unrefined

Fast food restaurants are part feed lots and part salt licks. Two large orders of fries and two regular soft drinks provide enough calories to sustain a 135-pound person for an entire day without eating anything else. Of course, no one exists on just two orders of fries and two soft drinks in a typical day, which is exactly why 135-pound Americans are an endangered species.

6. Watch less, walk more

We were meant to chase lunch, not order it. If you walk an extra mile a day, you’ll likely lose 10 pounds in a year.

7. Go lean on meat, but catch a fish

The absolute best fats for your heart are omega-3s, found in fish and flaxseed oil. But no oil, even so-called “good” ones, should be considered a weight-loss food. Coating your salad with olive oil can tally up as many calories as two scoops of premium ice cream.

8. Shake your salt habit

Excess salt intake is a major contributor to high blood pressure, yet most Americans ingest 4,000 to 5,000 milligrams of sodium a day—far more than the recommended 1,500 milligrams. Salt has snuck into all kinds of foods. Many breads contain more salt, ounce for ounce, than potato chips. In cooking classes at the Pritikin Longevity Center, guests learn how to prepare food that sings with flavor without added salt.

9. Don’t smoke your life away

Every minute spent smoking shortens your life by a minute, not to mention the wrinkles and erectile dysfunction it causes. The good news is that you will gain back years of your life if you quit.

10. Step around stress

The link between our emotions and health can’t be overstated. One study found that people who didn’t take annual vacations were 32 percent more likely to die of heart disease. Managing stress by getting enough sleep, making time for friends and loved ones, and trying techniques like meditation will help keep your heart and waistline in shape.

Why? Because obesity, inactivity, heart disease, and emotions are intricately connected. Couch potatoes tend to be depressed; depressed people eat more; people who eat more gain weight; those who gain weight tend to sack out on the couch rather than exercise; lack of exercise contributes to heart disease and obesity; both can trigger depression… you get the picture.

To lose weight, you need to understand the psychology of why you crave the wrong things

The diet industry is thriving to say the least. More than half of adults try to lose weight by controlling their calorie intake each year. Unfortunately, losing weight is not as easy as turning down a biscuit, or opting for salad. And even those who have been successful in their dieting endeavours find it difficult to do.

So why is it that even when we have the best of intentions, dieting is so difficult? Why can’t we control those cravings?

1. Food cues

We’ve all done it: walked past a tasty-looking supermarket stand, or smelled something delicious and immediately started drooling over whatever treat is on display, regardless of calorie content or nutrition. Sensory food cues like these can be difficult to ignore and aren’t just triggered by taste or smell—advertising or brand logos can tempt us in too.

When we are hungry, the hormone gherlin stimulates the brain, which means that we notice food cues more. Researchers have also found that our brains pay more attention to cues for unhealthy foods—those which are high in sugar and fat—than healthy foods, when we are hungry. In studies where pictures of high-calorie foods were shown to participants, it was found that the cues elicited anticipatory appetite responses, such as salivation, cravings and a reported desire to eat.

All of this together means that the attention-grabbing properties of high-calorie foods are likely to present a significant challenge for individuals who are attempting to lose weight—particularly if their diet makes them feel hungry.

On a positive note, it may be possible to train ourselves to ignore tempting cues. One study has shown that participants who were taught to ignore high calorie food cues on a computer-based task consumed less snack foods than those who were trained to pay attention to them

2. Forbidden foods are more tempting

Dieting often involves “giving up” more pleasurable foods in an attempt to reduce calorie intake. But if we are asked to avoid eating a food we enjoy, researchers have found that we will crave it—and even have a greater desire to consume the forbidden item than if we had not been deprived.

In another study, frequent consumers of chocolate were asked not to eat any for a week. In this case the participants found images of chocolate and other high-calorie food items more salient—the deprivation had made them want the high calorie foods more—than the chocolate eaters who had not been deprived. In addition, when asked to taste a forbidden food, it has been found that research participants who have been deprived of it will typically consume more calories.

All of this means that even when dieters attempt to avoid foods that are pleasurable, the behavioral and cognitive response to deprivation may inadvertently be creating more temptation.

3. The “what-the-hell” effect

When trying to lose weight, choices about what to eat and when it should be eaten are usually constrained by the rules of a chosen diet plan. But rigid dieting rules are problematic, as any eating behaviour that does not rely on the physiological signals of hunger increases the risk of overeating.

Another problem with dieting rules is that only a small violation—a sneaky slice of cake, for example—is enough to derail the whole diet. Researchers call this the “what-the-hell effect”—and it has been demonstrated in a number of laboratory experiments. Studies consistently show that dieters who believe they have consumed a high-calorie snack—and so have broken the rules of their diet—will consume more calories during a later meal than those who do not think they have violated the rules.

Although in real terms eating a few extra calories is unlikely to have a major impact on a diet, such lapses can have a bigger psychological impact. Dieting “failure” is likely to trigger negative emotions such as guilt or stress, both of which are known to cause overeating.

So what can be learned from all of this? Diets which require the dieter to follow rigid rules or forbid them from consuming foods they enjoy appear to be problematic, as they paradoxically increase the risk of overeating. Instead, it may be useful for dieters to acknowledge that humans are inherently drawn to high-calorie foods and that these cues present the most temptation if we are hungry.

Rising rates of obesity mean that many more of us are turning to diets to lose weight. However, while there is no perfect diet to help us achieve our health goals, understanding how the brain works, and recognizing the psychological effects of dieting may help us regain control in the face of temptation.

Why Your Brain Might be Holding You Back

Why can’t we simply make a decision and get on with it? What puzzles and frustrates many trying to lose weight is why changing one’s eating habits is so darn hard.

If you gave a test to a million people and three-quarters of them flunked, would you attribute their failure to a lack of willpower or laziness? Or would you wonder if the test was flawed?

If the test measured the ability to lose weight, the results would parallel the failure rates for Americans who are trying to reduce their girth. According to the 2011 Food & Health Survey conducted by the International Food Information Council Foundation, 77 percent of Americans are trying to lose weight or avoid gaining weight. Despite their efforts, nearly 70 percent of Americans are overweight or obese.

Given the inability of the majority of us to manage our weight, are we all just weak-willed slackers? Or are other factors operating to make failure the most likely outcome?

For the most part, the test takers do not blame others for their failure; they blame themselves. Desperate to succeed despite a history of dangerous scams and diet schemes, consumers continue their search for a magical solution to weight loss and willingly throw money at the problem. Growing at an annual rate of nearly 11 percent for the past five years, the market for weight-loss products (food, drugs, supplements, services, ingredients, devices, accessories and cosmetics) in 2014 is projected to reach $586 billion.

Designed to Eat

So why is it so difficult to lose weight? Obesity psychologist Jim Keller, Director of Behavioral Health at the WeightWise Bariatric Program in Oklahoma City, asserts that the human body and brain are designed to eat — thus explaining why losing weight proves so challenging for so many.

Keller, who has conducted 14,000 psychological interviews of individuals considering bariatric surgery, says that the causes of obesity are complex. Obesity is not simply a function of laziness or an indication of emotional instability. In addition, genetic and biological factors do not act in isolation, but are constantly interacting with an array of environmental factors. Keller notes that both the availability and persuasive advertising of unhealthy food contribute to the obesity epidemic.

Why Is Changing Eating Habits So Difficult?

While external and genetic factors play a role, no one questions that individuals are in charge of their daily decisions about what and how much to eat. So once we make up our minds to change a habit, why do we find ourselves falling back into old ones? Why can’t we simply make a decision and get on with it? What puzzles and frustrates many trying to lose weight is why changing one’s eating habits is so darn hard.

According to Dr. Howard Rankin, an expert on behavioral change, a key part of the problem is that we believe we have more control over our behavior than we really do. Stress, anxiety and addiction can limit the conscious control we have over our choices. Dr. Rankin asserts:

What drives our behavior is not logic but brain biochemistry, habits and addiction, states of consciousness and what we see people around us doing. We are emotional beings with the ability to rationalize — not rational beings with emotions. If we are stressed, depressed or addicted, no matter how good the advice we are given, chances are that we will not be able to act on it. The more primitive, emotional brain generally has precedence over the newer, more rational brain.

But even if we removed those individuals who are stressed, depressed or addicted from the test group, we still would be left with a large population of individuals who are unable to stick with their resolve to lose weight.

I speak from personal experience. I’ve started many a day resolved to eat healthfully for the rest of my life. But by late evening, a piece of chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream has somehow found its way into my stomach.

One possibility is that I have multiple personalities. Another is that resolve is not constant. According to Dr. Rankin, resolve ebbs and flows like the tide. One moment we can be fired up to be mindful of our eating, but in the next instant, our mood, our state of consciousness or the context has changed. Much to our chagrin, we find ourselves indulging in unhealthy treats.

Dr. Rankin also has a healthy respect for people’s extraordinary ability to rationalize almost any behavior. We can persuade ourselves to do almost anything we want to do — especially when the behaviors are ones that our brains are used to doing. But trying to persuade ourselves to do things that we don’t really want to do — behaviors our brain is not used to — is not easy. We are very adept at making wonderful (and plausible) excuses as to why we can’t do what we don’t want to do.

Five Tips to Help You Lose Weight

The obstacles to losing weight, however, are not insurmountable. The National Weight Registry is tracking over 5,000 individuals who have lost an average of 66 pounds and kept the weight off for five years. Insights from their success stories are consistent with these five tips from Dr. Rankin:

1. Focus on a change of heart, not a change of mind.

Losing weight through changing what and how much you eat doesn’t happen because you rationally decide to lose weight. You have to have a change of heart; that is, you must get in touch with your deepest, heartfelt desires.

Your motivation may not be positive. Indeed, it may stem from a fear of loss. For example, you may not want to get sick. Or you may not want to be ostracized. To get in touch with your motivation, think about the negative consequences of not changing as well as the positive ones. Getting fit must become a priority and your life must be organized accordingly. Nobody can change you but you, and once you’ve made the changes, you need to stay focused. Successful individuals keep their motivation in the forefront of their minds all the time.

2. Practice self-discipline.

Self-control is a muscle that, like other muscles, needs exercise and strengthening. Change doesn’t happen because you want it to happen. Each time you resist temptation, you are developing greater self-control. Success breeds success. Facing down temptations builds strength for future decision moments. Some of my clients throw away their favorite food as a symbolic act that shows they have control over the food and not the other way round.

Self-discipline is required for behavior change, but does that mean that the lack of self-discipline causes obesity? No. That would be like saying aspirin helps a headache go away, so headaches are caused by a lack of aspirin — which is nonsense!

3. Eliminate or reduce sugary, fat-laden foods.

Such foods create physical changes at a cellular level that alter how our brains and bodies react. When analyzing your level of addiction, consider both physical dependence (changes at the cellular level) and psychological dependence (the habitual repetition of a behavior in an attempt to satisfy an emotional need). For example, how often do you use a sugary treat to lift your spirits?

What is often misunderstood is that these dependences exist on a continuum. You can be mildly, moderately or severely dependent, and the degree of dependence determines how difficult it will be to change.

4. Make history your teacher, not your jailer.

You can learn from your mistakes. Instead of [beating yourself up] when you fail to keep your promises to yourself, seek to gain self-knowledge so you won’t repeat the error. No one is perfect. Be sure to acknowledge what you are doing right, not just what isn’t working.

5. Surround yourself with friends, family and colleagues who will support your effort.

Getting fit and losing weight absolutely require others. Although you alone can make the changes you need to make, you can’t make the changes alone. Not only in terms of eating, but in all areas of our lives, we are much more influenced by other people than we imagine. One of the most potent forces for positive change is the emotional support of the individuals who surround you.

You must, however, ask for the support you need. Don’t assume that others know what would be most helpful to you. Similarly, you need to avoid those people who aren’t on the same page as you. Social pressure can work for you or against you. Hang out with the right people.

Change is difficult, and whoever finds a way to bottle and market motivation and self-discipline will make a fortune. In the absence of such a product, however, the next best thing is helpful insights into the process of changing our behavior.

Dr. Rankin reminds us that, for better or worse, our core, emotional values will ultimately determine our choices. Once we identify our heartfelt desires, we can use them to create a healthy lifestyle that reflects our best self. Our deepest values can be summoned to keep us on track, especially when we are facing temptations and distractions. They can also serve as our compass when we go astray.

If we are willing to remain diligently committed to our emotional values, we can be confident that we will succeed in realizing our health and fitness goals. And when we do, maybe some of us will go one step further and give support to family and friends so that they can join us in becoming healthier and happier.

Seven Proven Tips for Weight Loss Success

If you’re looking for tips to lose weight, it is not difficult to find them. The weight loss industry is a 60 billion dollar business, involving a plethora of experts, coaches, and companies advocating every diet and remedy under the sun. Unfortunately, much of the advice out there consists of empty promises. Two-thirds to 90 per cent of dieters regain the lost weight within a year or two. The best weight loss experts know that it’s not the specific diet you choose, but how you individualize it to your lifestyle, and what types of behavioral strategies you have in your toolbox to help you stick with it, that makes the most difference to success. Read about seven proven weight loss strategies based on large-sample clinical trials conducted by researchers at well-known Universities.

1. Count The Number of Bites You Eat

 In one research study, obese participants  were divided into two groups.  Both  groups ate the same amount of daily calories , but one group was asked to  count the number of bites they took, using a simple pitch counter, while the other ate normally. The group counting bites lost more weight and reported feeling satisfied more quickly.  Deliberately paying mindful attention to what you’re eating makes you more tuned in to the body’s natural satiety cues.

2. Eat  Like a King at Breakfast

 There is a lot of truth to the old saying, “Breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, sup like a pauper.” When two groups of obese dieters were compared,those assigned to eat a protein-rich 600 calorie breakfast, including a slice of cake, cookie, or small doughnut lost more weight than those eating a 300 calorie breakfast. Both groups ate the same number of restricted total daily calories. Those eating the bigger breakfast were more able to stick to the daily calorie regimen and less tempted to eat junk food during the day.

3. Exercise, But Only for 30 Minutes

 In a European study of previously sedentary obese men, those assigned to high-impact exercise for 30 minutes each day lost more weight than those assigned to a 60-minute, high-impact exercise regimen. Researchers speculated that those exercising for 60 minutes were more likely to compensate by eating non-prescribed foods. The longer period of exercise may have used up the dieter’s willpower, giving them less to use for dieting.  Also, recent research suggests that exercise does not necessarily stop our metabolism from slowing down when we restrict calories, as was previously thought.

4. Eat Your Vegetables

Israeli researchers compared over 300 dieters on the Atkins diet (low-carb), the Mediterranean  diet  (which prescribes healthy fats and legumes), or a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet.  While those on the low-carb diet lost the most weight  and were most successful at keeping it off over two years, the amount of meat, fish, and dairy consumed was not the most important factor. When the diets were divided into 12 food groups (vegetables, fruit, liquid, dairy etc.), the amount of vegetables consumed was the most important factor predicting weight loss. Vegetables contain important nutrients and fibre and therefore seem to have a bigger “bang for the calorie buck.” Other studies have shown low fat diets can increase risk of heart disease, as the body needs some healthy fats.

5. Get Your Beauty Sleep

In another study, participants were either allowed to sleep up to 9 hours a night, for several days, or had their sleep restricted to only four hours a night. Besides probable grumpiness, it was found that those with more sleep restriction were more likely to eat junk food and less compliant with a weight loss regimen.  When we are sleep-deprived, high-fat and sugary foods seem much more attractive, probably because they give us a quick burst of energy. Alternatively, lack of sleep may lessen our brain’s ability to inhibit unhealthy, yet tempting behaviors.

6. Choose a Diet You Can Stick to for the Long Haul

Most people on diets do lose some weight and improve cholesterol and insulin sensitivity within a few months. Unfortunately, few dieters maintain the weight loss over the long haul.  Most gain the bulk of weight back within a year or two.  Therefore, instead of trying to lose the weight more quickly, rather choose an eating plan with foods you enjoy, that you will be most likely to stick to. Meeting with a nutritionist to design an individual plan based on your personal and cultural preferences and lifestyle can increase your chances of success. Cognitive-Behavioral  psychologists can help you structure your life to decrease temptation and combat the type of thinking that leads to giving up.  National guidelines recommend ongoing weight loss counseling for obese people who want to lose weight and keep it off.

7. Get a Weight Loss Buddy

 In research published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology in 2005, researchers at Brown Medical School and Dartmouth University found that people were more successful at losing weight when they had an exercise buddy who successfully lost weight at the same time. Friends keep us honest and accountable, may offer helpful advice to address barriers, and encourage us to keep going when we feel like throwing in the towel.

 Armed with these proven strategies and a healthy dose of self-acceptance and sef-compassion, you can begin to revitalize your weight loss and fitness program.