Eating Habits to Healthy Eating Habits

Eating Habits to Healthy Eating Habits. Many people consider a new relationship with food in the new year. But beginning an Instagram-popular diet like Whole 30, or trying to reduce your sugar intake, often seems intimidating with all it requires. Reading and listing all those ingredients. Dedicating time at the grocery store. Cooking regularly.

Last week, U.S. News & World Report ranked the best diets for 2018, tying the Mediterranean and DASH diets on top. Both are flexible and don’t require drastic food-group reductions.

Kathryn McMurry, a nutrition coordinator at the National Institutes of Health, which designed the DASH diet, said it was created to test the effects of nutrition for lowering blood pressure.

And she has good news — it recommends starting small. You don’t need to clear out the entire pantry or restock the entire fridge.

“What we recommend are small gradual changes,” she said. “Small changes are more sustainable; they’re more likely to stick. You’re more likely to stick with them.”

Here are a few small steps you can take to change your eating habits to Healthy Eating Habits:

1. First, decide your goals. Eating Habits to Healthy Eating Habits

It can really seem overwhelming and confusing because there’s so many different options in healthy eating,” McMurry said. Whether you want to reduce your risk for heart disease or lose weight, different diets exist for different purposes. Taking stock of what you want to accomplish can lead you toward the right food plan for you.

2. Start with adding in one new food. Eating Habits to Healthy Eating Habits

Buying one new food item at the grocery store is one way Lindsey Smith revised her eating habits. Smith is the author of “Eat Your Feelings: The Food Mood Girl’s Guide to Transforming Your Emotional Eating.” While seeking a better relationship with food, she experimented with one new thing a week, trying a new recipe or vegetable. Trying too much at once can backfire, she said. “They spend $150 on fruits and vegetables, and they don’t eat half of them.” Avoid wasting time and money by incorporating a bit at a time. With the DASH diet, for example, McMurry recommends that if you eat one or two vegetables a day, add a serving at lunch and dinner. Substitute brown rice instead of white, whole grain bread instead of white.

3. Be flexible. Find and keep flavors you enjoy

Just because a friend posts perfectly planned meals doesn’t mean that’s your route to food salvation. If meal planning isn’t for you, don’t force it. Getting rid of everything gluten in your pantry might leave you feeling stressed two weeks later. Steer clear of actions that fill you with guilt. “Our bodies are complex, and we tend to crave things at different times,” said Smith. “So many of us think that it has to be rigid.” Find flavors you enjoy, and incorporate them. “If you find yourself feeling deprived of foods that you love, then eventually you’re going to rebel and go back to the less healthy habits,” McMurry said. So if you love macaroni and cheese, maybe make it with low-fat cheese and skim milk and eat a smaller serving, instead.

4. If you go big, keep it temporary

Some diets tell people to avoid whole food groups, notes McMurry. “They’re OK for a short period of time, but what we really like to promote about DASH is it’s a heart-healthy eating plan for life and part of a healthy lifestyle,” she said. Ideally, find something you can sustain. But if you try a diet that eliminates entire food groups, consider it a chance to see how the absence of those foods affects your body during that time. “What we want is to move something that’s very sustainable,” McMurry said.

5. Get a buddy or a coach

Someone to share goals and check in with can offer a boost. Consider connecting with a coach, like one with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, where you can put in a ZIP code and find an expert. Even meeting with someone once might be worthwhile — these are people, after all, trained in nutrition who can discuss what you like to eat and come up with a plan. Some insurance plans might cover the cost, McMurry said. “If people are trying to do it all on their own, it can be really overwhelming.”

Healthy Eating Habits

The 10 Rules of Weight Loss That Lasts

The obvious truth: Slimming down isn’t fun, but it doesn’t have to be hell. Learn these weight loss tenets and long-term success will follow. For real

Before You Even Begin

Before you even begin to attack a weight-loss plan, it pays to remember this: You are not fat. You have fat. Losing weight isn’t about blame or shame; it’s simply another achievement to accomplish, like training for a race or finally cranking out 10 push-ups. “Dieting is like any other skill—you have to buckle down and work at it,” says therapist Deborah Beck Busis, Ph.D., the diet program coordinator at the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy and a coauthor of The Diet Trap Solution. “As long as you act in a smart, reasonable way, you’ll ultimately get where you want to be.”

To help you reach your goal weight and maintain it, we examined the latest research and talked to top experts to compile the 10 tenets for weight loss that have been proved to deliver results.

1. It’s Not a Diet. It’s a Lifestyle

“Thinking of a diet as something you’re on and suffering through only for the short term doesn’t work,” Beck Busis says. To shed weight and keep it off, you need to make permanent changes to the way you eat. It’s OK to indulge occasionally, of course, but if you cut calories temporarily and then revert to your old way of eating, you’ll gain back the weight quicker than you can say yo-yo.

Use it to lose it. Research shows that one of the best predictors of long-term weight loss is how many pounds you drop in the first month, says John Apolzan, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Ingestive Behavior Lab at Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center. It makes sense: Immediate results are motivating. For that reason, nutritionists often suggest being stricter for the first two weeks of your new eating strategy to build momentum. Cut out added sugar and alcohol and avoid unrefined carbs. “After that, ease small amounts of those foods back into your diet for a plan you can live with for the long term,” says Wendy Bazilian, R.D.N., a nutritionist and an exercise physiologist in San Diego and a coauthor of The SuperFoods Rx Diet. “Figure out how you can reincorporate them in a way that’s healthy and maintainable,” adds Brooke Alpert, R.D.N., a nutritionist and a coauthor of The Sugar Detox.“Establish specific goals, such as setting a maximum number of drinks you’ll have a week or limiting pizza to one slice.” Schedule one weekly indulgence to look forward to, and give yourself one spontaneous splurge to use whenever you really want it, Bazilian suggests.

2. There’s a Right Way to Exercise

Working out burns calories and fat and boosts your metabolism by building muscle. But those trying to lose weight are notorious for overestimating the number of calories they burn and underestimating the amount they take in. Unfortunately, your system is biologically programmed to hold on to extra pounds, says Louis Aronne, M.D., a professor of metabolic research and the director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Center at Weill Cornell Medicine. That means when you start exercising, your body senses the deficit and ramps up its hunger signals, according to a review of weight-loss studies. If you’re not diligent, you’ll eat everything you burn and then some.

Use it to lose it. Cardio gets all the exercise glory, but strength and interval training are the real heroes. They help you build lean muscle, which in turn increases your metabolism and calorie-burning ability, says Lance Dalleck, Ph.D., an assistant professor of exercise and sport science at Western Colorado State University. His advice: Every week, strength-train two to three days. For the best results, also do three to five cardio sessions that burn 250 to 400 calories each.

3. Don’t Overreact to Mild Hunger

Some women have a hard time losing weight because of hunger anxiety. To them, being hungry is bad—something to be avoided at all costs—so they carry snacks with them and eat when they don’t need to, Alpert explains. Others eat because they’re stressed out or bored. While you never want to get to the point of being ravenous (that’s when bingeing is likely to happen), a hunger pang, a craving, or the fact that it’s 3:00 p.m. should not send you racing for the vending machine or obsessing about the energy bar in your purse. Ideally, you should put off eating until your stomach is growling and it’s difficult to concentrate, Alpert says.

Use it to lose it. When you feel the urge to eat, use the HALT method, Bazilian suggests. Ask yourself, Am I really hungry? Or am I angry or anxious, lonely or bored, or tired? If you’re still not certain, try the apple test. “If you’re truly hungry, an apple should seem delicious; if it doesn’t, something else is going on,” says Robin Frutchey, a behavioral therapist at Johns Hopkins University Weight Management Center. In that case, give yourself a pep talk instead of a snack. “If hunger isn’t the problem, food isn’t the solution,” Beck Busis says. “There are a lot of other ways to deal with boredom or anxiety—like going for a walk, hitting the gym, or texting a friend—and those things have zero negative consequences.”

4. Not All Calories Are Created Equal

The mechanics of weight loss are pretty simple: Take in fewer calories than you use for energy. But the kind of food you eat makes all the difference. “A calorie is not just a calorie,” Dr. Aronne says. Processed food that’s high in saturated fat and refined starch or sugar can cause inflammation that disrupts the hormone signals that tell your brain you’re full, he explains. The result: You eat a lot more. Plus, studies show that junk food can be addictive; the more you eat it, the more you need to get the same feel-good effects. “One handful of potato chips won’t cut it any longer, so you keep eating and eating,” Frutchey says.

Use it to lose it. Clean up your diet. Swap in whole, unprocessed foods, including vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats that will fill you up and give you the biggest nutritional bang for your calorie buck. In a few weeks, as your brain starts receiving regular hunger and fullness signals once again, you’ll notice that you feel less hungry overall and naturally start cutting back on the amount you eat, Dr. Aronne says.

While you’re at it, log each meal. Keeping a daily food diary (there are tons of apps for this) leads to significant weight loss because it makes you accountable, research shows. One study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that people who kept daily food records lost about twice as much weight as those who didn’t.

5. Protein, Produce, and Plant-Based Fats Are Your Weight-Loss Trinity

Here’s why eating the three Ps regularly will help you drop pounds.

Protein fills you up. You need it to build lean muscle, which keeps your metabolism humming so that you can torch more fat, Dr. Aronne says. People in a weight-loss program who ate double the recommended daily allowance for protein (about 110 grams for a 150-pound woman) lost 70 percent of their weight from fat, while people who ate the RDA lost only about 40 percent, one study found.

Produce is packed with filling fiber. “It’s very difficult to consume too many calories if you’re eating a lot of vegetables,” says Caroline Apovian, M.D., the director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at Boston Medical Center and the author of The Age-Defying Diet. Case in point: Three cups of broccoli is a lot of food, yet only 93 calories. (Fruit is another story. It can be easy to overeat and can contain a lot of calories from sugar, so be sure
to monitor your intake.)

Plant-based fats like olive oil and those in avocados and nuts are healthy and extra satiating. “Low-fat diets make people irritable and feel deprived because fat tastes good and keeps you full,” Dr. Apovian says.

Use it to lose it. Aim to incorporate each of the three Ps into every meal and snack. People who eat protein throughout the day are able to keep weight off, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In addition to meat, poultry and seafood, good sources are beans, lentils, eggs, tofu, and yogurt. As for fat, keep portion sizes in check by measuring out salad dressing, oil, and nut butters (shoot for one to two tablespoons). Finally, eat veggies or a little fruit at every meal. People who did that consumed 308 fewer calories but didn’t feel any hungrier than when they didn’t eat more produce, a study in the journal Appetite noted.

6. Meal Skipping, Juice Fasts, and Crash Diets Will Backfire. Always

When you lose weight on a fast or a crash diet, you don’t learn to eat healthier, adjust your portion sizes, or deal with whatever is triggering your overeating in the first place, so the pounds quickly return, Frutchey says. The physical damage goes deeper. “The worse the quality of a diet or the more restrictive it is, the more you end up burning precious muscle to supply energy,” Dr. Aronne says. “You’re losing muscle instead of fat, so the weight loss is just an illusion of success.”

Use it to lose it. Depending on how much weight you need to drop and how much you currently eat, try to cut 500 to 1,000 calories a day through both diet and exercise, Frutchey advises. Limiting yourself to about 1,500 calories a day won’t leave you starving, but it will help you see motivating changes on the scale.

7. How You Eat Is As Important As What You Eat

In order for your brain to register that you’re full, you need to focus on what you’re eating. “Physical satiety is closely tied to psychological satisfaction,” Beck Busis says. “People tell me all the time how difficult it is for them to lose weight because they love to eat, yet they never concentrate on their food—they eat while watching TV, reading, driving, and working.” No wonder that, according to research, eating when you’re distracted results in consuming a significant number of extra calories a day.

Use it to lose it. Sit down whenever you eat, preferably at a table. “If you ask someone to recall what she ate in a day, she’ll forget most of the food she consumed standing up,” Beck Busis says. Turn off the TV or computer, put down your phone, and look at your food. Smell it. Chew slowly, and don’t put another bite on your fork until you swallow. When women ate lunch this attentively, they consumed 30 percent less when snacking later than those who listened to an audiobook at lunchtime, according to a study in the British Journal of Nutrition.

8. Weighing Yourself Really Works

The scale provides the best evidence about whether your efforts are paying off, Beck Busis says. Seeing the numbers tick up or down or stagnate is motivation to keep going—or to rethink your approach. A 2015 study at Cornell University found that daily weigh-ins helped people lose more weight, keep it off, and maintain that loss, even after two years.

Use it to lose it. Step on the scale at the same time every day for the best results. If your weight shoots up several pounds from one weigh-in to the next, don’t freak out. Eating a lot of salt the night before or having your period is the likely culprit. The number should return to normal in a day or two. It’s a steady climb that you need to do something about.

9. Too Much Stress and Too Little Sleep Are Your Enemies

When you’re tired and frazzled, your body cranks up the production of cortisol, the stress hormone that can cause carb cravings, Frutchey says. Not getting enough sleep also boosts your levels of ghrelin, a hormone associated with hunger, while suppressing leptin, a hormone that signals fullness and satiety. People on a diet who slept only five and a half hours a night for two weeks lost 55 percent less fat and were hungrier than those who slept eight and a half hours, according to a study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Use it to lose it. Prioritize sleep, aiming for seven hours or more a night, which research shows helps lower stress. And make sure you’re getting quality zzz’s. If a snoring spouse or a fidgety cat wakes you up frequently throughout the night, you may end up getting the equivalent of just four hours of sleep, according to a study from Tel Aviv University. Keep pets out of the bedroom, and use a white-noise app to drown out snoring.

10. You Will Hit a Plateau—And You Can Bust Through It

As you slim down, your body releases much less leptin, the fullness hormone. “If you lose 10 percent of your body weight, leptin drops by about 50 percent,” Dr. Aronne says. “Your brain is programmed to think you’ve shed more pounds than you actually have, and it tells your body it needs more food and should burn fewer calories.” That’s why plateaus happen and what makes maintaining weight loss so difficult. In addition, when you’re lighter, you require fewer calories for energy. “You might have burned 100 calories taking a walk before, but now your body needs only 80 calories to go the same distance,” Frutchey explains.

Use it to lose it. We’ll reiterate: If you’re not strength training, start right now. Building muscle can raise your metabolism to help you overcome a plateau, Dr. Aronne says. To keep your body challenged and burning calories, incorporate new moves and more intense intervals into your workouts or add another sweat session to your weekly routine. Alternatively, cut an extra 100 calories or so a day from your diet. Now that you’ve lost weight, your body simply doesn’t need as much fuel. Still stuck? Try eating carbs last at every meal, after your protein and vegetables, Dr. Aronne suggests. His research shows that doing so will reduce your blood sugar by almost 40 percent. “Blood sugar influences weight,” he explains, “so this strategy could help.”

How Intermittent Fasting Can Help You Lose Weight

There are many different ways to lose weight.

One that has become popular in recent years is called intermittent fasting.

This is a way of eating that involves regular short-term fasts.

Fasting for short periods helps people eat fewer calories, and also helps optimize some hormones related to weight control.

There are several different intermittent fasting methods. Three popular ones are:

  1. The 16/8 Method: Skip breakfast every day and eat during an 8-hour feeding window, such as from 12 noon to 8 pm.
  2. Eat-Stop-Eat: Do one or two 24-hour fasts each week, for example by not eating from dinner one day until dinner the next day.
  3. The 5:2 Diet: Only eat 500-600 calories on two days of the week, but eat normally the other 5 days.

As long as you don’t compensate by eating much more during the non-fasting periods, then these methods will lead to reduced calorie intake and help you lose weight and belly fat.

How Intermittent Fasting Affects Your Hormones

Body fat is the body’s way of storing energy (calories).

When we don’t eat anything, the body changes several things to make the stored energy more accessible.

This has to do with changes in nervous system activity, as well as a major change in several crucial hormones.

Here are some of the things that change in your metabolism when you fast:

  • Insulin: Insulin increases when we eat. When we fast, insulin decreases dramatically. Lower levels of insulin facilitate fat burning.
  • Human growth hormone (HGH): Levels of growth hormone may skyrocket during a fast, increasing as much as 5-fold. Growth hormone is a hormone that can aid fat loss and muscle gain, among other things.
  • Norepinephrine (noradrenaline): The nervous system sends norepinephrine to the fat cells, making them break down body fat into free fatty acids that can be burned for energy.

Interestingly, despite what the 5-6 meals a day proponents would have you believe, short-term fasting may actually increase fat burning.

Two studies have found that fasting for about 48 hours boosts metabolism by 3.6-14%. However, fasting periods that are longer can suppress metabolism.

Intermittent Fasting Helps You Reduce Calories and Lose Weight

The main reason that intermittent fasting works for weight loss, is that it helps you eat fewer calories.

All of the different protocols involve skipping meals during the fasting periods. Unless you compensate by eating much more during the eating periods, then you will be taking in fewer calories.

According to a recent 2014 review study, intermittent fasting can lead to significant weight loss. In this review, intermittent fasting was found to reduce body weight by 3-8% over a period of 3-24 weeks.

When examining the rate of weight loss, people lost about 0.55 pounds (0.25 kg) per week with intermittent fasting, but 1.65 pounds (0.75 kg) per week with alternate-day fasting.

People also lost 4-7% of their waist circumference, indicating that they lost belly fat.

These results are very impressive, and they do show that intermittent fasting can be a useful weight loss aid.

All that being said, the benefits of intermittent fasting go way beyond just weight loss. It also has numerous benefits for metabolic health, and may even help prevent chronic disease and expand lifespan.

Although calorie counting is generally not required when doing intermittent fasting, the weight loss is mostly mediated by an overall reduction in calorie intake.

Studies comparing intermittent fasting and continuous calorie restriction show no difference in weight loss if calories are matched between groups.

Intermittent Fasting May Help You Hold on to Muscle When Dieting

One of the worst side effects of dieting, is that the body tends to burn muscle as well as fat.

Interestingly, there are some studies showing that intermittent fasting may be beneficial for holding on to muscle while losing body fat.

In one review study, intermittent calorie restriction caused a similar amount of weight loss as continuous calorie restriction, but with a much smaller reduction in muscle mass.

In the calorie restriction studies, 25% of the weight lost was muscle mass, compared to only 10% in the intermittent calorie restriction studies.

One study had participants eat the same amount of calories as before, except in just one huge meal in the evening. They lost body fat and increased their muscle mass, along with a host of other beneficial changes in health markers.

However, there were some limitations to these studies, so take the findings with a grain of salt.

Intermittent Fasting Makes Healthy Eating Simpler

In my opinion, one of the main benefits of intermittent fasting is the simplicity of it.

I personally do the 16/8 method, where I only eat during a certain “feeding window” each day.

Instead of eating 3+ meals per day, I eat only 2, which makes it a lot easier and simpler to maintain my healthy lifestyle.

The single best “diet” for you is the one you can stick to in the long run. If intermittent fasting makes it easier for you to stick to a healthy diet, then this has obvious benefits for long-term health and weight maintenance.

How to Succeed With an Intermittent Fasting Protocol

There are several things you need to keep in mind if you want to lose weight with intermittent fasting:

  1. Food quality: The foods you eat are still important. Try to eat mostly whole, single ingredient foods.
  2. Calories: Calories still count. Try to eat “normally” during the non-fasting periods, not so much that you compensate for the calories you missed by fasting.
  3. Consistency: Same as with any other weight loss method, you need to stick with it for an extended period of time if you want it to work.
  4. Patience: It can take your body some time to adapt to an intermittent fasting protocol. Try to be consistent with your meal schedule and it will get easier.

Most of the popular intermittent fasting protocols also recommend strength training. This is very important if you want to burn mostly body fat while holding on to muscle.

In the beginning, calorie counting is generally not required with intermittent fasting. However, if your weight loss stalls then calorie counting can be a useful tool.

Take Home Message

At the end of the day, intermittent fasting can be a useful tool to lose weight.

This is caused primarily by a reduction in calorie intake, but there are also some beneficial effects on hormones that come into play.

Intermittent fasting is not for everyone, but may be highly beneficial for some people.

This article contains much more information about intermittent fasting: Intermittent Fasting The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide.

Calorie Density — How to Lose Weight Eating More Food

Calorie density describes the number of calories in a given volume or weight of food.

Understanding how it works can help you lose weight and improve your diet.

What’s more, focusing on low-calorie-density foods allows you to eat a large volume of food while still cutting back on calories.

This can have many health benefits, including increased nutrient intake and weight loss.

This article explains everything you need to know about calorie density.

What is calorie density?

Calorie density is a measure of the calorie content of food relative to its weight or volume.

It is also called energy density and is usually measured as calories per 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of food.

Choosing foods with a low calorie density can help with weight loss. It makes you automatically eat fewer calories while still eating large and filling portions.

An easier way to make sense of this is to imagine a full plate of food. The fewer calories the plate contains, the lower the calorie density of the meal.

A vegetable with 30 calories per 100 grams has a low calorie density, while chocolate that has 550 calories per 100 grams has a very high calorie density.

Although calorie density may be less well known than other weight management concepts like calorie counting, choosing foods based on this measure may be simpler and more effective.

For example, basing your diet on low-calorie-density foods tends to limit you to predominantly healthy and nutrient-rich whole foods.

It can quickly clean up your diet, eliminating most calorie-dense, processed foods that are generally unhealthy and easy to overeat.

How does calorie density affect weight?

Eating too many calories is a key factor in weight gain.

Several studies have shown that individuals who consume low-calorie-density diets also eat fewer total calories per day. This is linked to a lower body weight, body mass index (BMI), and waist circumference.

Accordingly, studies reveal that those whose diets comprise mostly high-calorie-density foods have an increased risk of weight gain and obesity.

Calorie density also affects hunger.

Low-calorie-density foods tend to provide less fat and more water and fiber. This is great for making you feel full and reducing your daily calorie intake.

In contrast, many calorie-dense foods are highly processed and extremely palatable, making them easy to overeat.

Research indicates that whole foods tell your brain to stop eating, while this effect is delayed when you eat highly processed foods.

In one study, participants ate 56% more calories when provided a high-energy-density meal, compared with a low-energy-density one.

Another study compared calorie intake for high- and low-calorie-density meals that were matched for palatability and macronutrients.

People ate an average of 425 more calories when given the calorie-dense meal than when given the low-calorie-density one.

A low-calorie-density diet helps you lose weight

It focuses on whole foods and limits your intake of processed foods, naturally increasing your intake of protein, vegetables, and fruit.

All of these foods have been shown to aid weight loss by reducing total calorie intake per meal or per day.

A low-calorie-density diet can lessen hunger since your stomach senses the volume of food you have consumed in a meal.

A low-calorie-density meal also fills your plate. This helps your meal last longer and forces you to chew more, further increasing your feelings of fullness.

In one study, participants lost an average of 17 pounds (7.7 kg) after they switched their high-calorie-density fats to low-calorie-density fruits and vegetables for 1 year.

Finally, results from an observational study found that adults who consumed lower-calorie-dense diets had significantly lower measurements of waist circumference and BMI after five years.

A low-calorie-density diet may improve health

A low-calorie-density diet forces you to overhaul your eating pattern and make many positive changes.

All of these changes benefit your long-term health, including:

  • Less processed food. Your intake of processed, unhealthy food is reduced.
  • More healthy food. You will eat more low-calorie, highly nutritious foods.
  • More lean proteins. Quality protein may aid weight loss and has several other benefits.
  • More nutrients. A low-calorie-density diet encourages you to consume more micronutrient- and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables.
  • Reduced calorie intake. Reducing your calorie intake and losing weight is one of the best ways to improve your health if you’re overweight.
  • A well-balanced, sustainable diet. This way of eating teaches you to focus on healthier, low-calorie foods while not forcing you to totally eliminate other foods or occasional treats.

Foods that have a low calorie density

Most natural foods have a very low calorie density. These include:

  • Vegetables. Most green vegetables have the lowest calorie density of all foods because they’re primarily made up of water, fiber, and a very small number of carbs.
  • Meat and fish. Lean proteins like chicken, white fish, and turkey have a low calorie density, yet fattier meats and fish have a moderate to high density.
  • Fruits. These have a low calorie density because of their high fiber and water content. Berries and other watery fruits tend to have the lowest density.
  • Milk and yogurt. Reduced-fat milk and yogurts with no added sugar also have a low calorie density and provide a good source of protein.
  • Eggs. Whole eggs are a protein-packed superfood with a moderate calorie density, especially when combined with vegetables.
  • Starchy carbs. Some natural starchy carbs like potatoes, legumes, and other root vegetables have a low to moderate calorie density. This is especially true once they’re cooked, as they fill with water.
  • Sugar-free drinks. These beverages, such as water, coffee, and tea, have a low calorie density and can help keep you full.

There is no reason to eliminate high-fat foods completely. Just keep your intake moderate. Many healthy high-fat foods, such as nuts, avocados, and olive oil, may contribute to weight gain if you eat too many of them.

High-calorie-density foods to limit

If you want to try this approach and base your food selection on calorie density, you will need to limit your intake of foods with high calorie density, including:

  • Candy and chips. Candy and chips tend to be high in sugar and fat, making them very calorie-dense and easy to overeat.
  • Pastries and cakes. Like candy, pastries and cakes are very calorie-dense and easy to overeat.
  • Fast foods. These are some of the most calorie-dense foods available. Studies show that an average fast food meal packs around twice the calories of a normal, healthy meal.
  • Oils. While certain oils, such as coconut and olive oil, are healthy, they still have a very high calorie density. Consume healthy oils in moderation.
  • High-fat dairy. Foods like butter, cream, and cheese have very high calorie densities. Consume them in moderation.
  • Fatty meats. Some fatty meats have a very high calorie density. These include bacon, sausages, lamb, and fatty beef cuts.
  • Nuts. Like other healthy fat sources, nuts are very calorie-dense. While they do have many health benefits, they’re easy to overeat. Try measuring out your portions before you eat them.
  • High-fat condiments. Some sauces and condiments, such as mayonnaise, pesto, and ranch dressing, are very high in calories and should mostly be avoided.
  • Sugary drinks. Some smoothies and full-fat milkshakes are high in calories and should be avoided as much as possible.

The bottom line

Out of the many diets around, an eating plan based on foods with a low calorie density is probably one of the most sensible and effective. It’s also easy to understand and implement.

Unlike diets that focus on excluding food groups, a low-calorie-density diet allows all foods while simply shifting your focus toward healthy, whole foods.

Plus, you’ll also experience less hunger and be able to eat your fill.

By basing 90% of your intake on food with a low calorie density, you can easily reduce calorie intake and lose weight with little effort.

2 Brutal Truths About Losing Weight and Getting Fit That Few People Are Willing to Admit

If you’re looking for a complicated new approach to losing weight or getting fitter, you won’t find it here. But if you want to actually see results …

A few weeks ago, I was at the gym doing dips and realized I was stuck. I typically do 50 dips at the end of my chest and triceps workout just to round off the session. A year ago, I could accomplish that in two sets: 32 and 18, or 30 and 20, or if I was especially tired, 26 and 24, but two sets was no problem. Then, until recently, I stopped doing dips. 

And I needed 3 sets to do 50 dips. I couldn’t seem to get past that barrier. 

Finally it hit me: I had forgotten the basic principle of getting stronger: progressive overload. (More on that in a moment.)

Unfortunately, that happens to all of us. We get caught up in a new fitness program or approach, or we get bored and lose focus, and lose sight of the basic keys of health and fitness.  

We make things too complicated — and in the process, we stop seeing results.

And that’s a huge problem. Health and fitness aren’t a luxury for successful entrepreneurs; health and fitness can play a major role in success. Research shows that cardiovascular exercise improves memory and cognitive skills. Exercise improves your mood. Exercise is an effective tool for managing stress and anxiety. Higher energy levels,  the mental benefits — perseverance, resilience, determination, and mental toughness — are just as important.

So if you’re looking for a way to take your business — and yourself — to the next level, keep these two simple truths about health and fitness in mind.

And don’t say they don’t apply to you because you’re special or unique. Yes, we’re all individuals, but in most cases, we’re pretty much the same.

That’s a good thing, because it means embracing these two approaches will help you get the results you want — and deserve.

1. Want to lose weight? You have to consume fewer calories than you burn

Oh, I know. “All calories are not created equal.” Or “My metabolic rate is different.” Or “I have a thyroid problem that makes it impossible for me to lose weight.” 

True: Some calories are better for you than others. We all have different metabolic rates. And some people do have medical conditions that make losing weight really, really hard.

But for the vast majority of us, the way to lose weight is to take in less calories than you burn. (Shoot, you can go on a diet consisting solely of cookies and as long as you consume fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight.)

Still, that weight loss may not occur as quickly as you want. If you go on an extremely strict calorie reduction plan, you may not lose much weight for days — or even a week or two.

That’s because severely reducing calories triggers the release of more cortisol, which typically increases the amount of fluid you retain. So you are losing fat; you’re just retaining more water. But it all shakes itself out after a period of time (which is why some people will suddenly lose several pounds over the course of a couple days). 

So with all that said: If you want to lose four pounds in a month, you’ll need to burn 500 more calories per day than you consume. (Generally speaking, you need to burn 3,500 calories to lose one pound.)

You can do that by eating 500 calories less than you normally do, or burning 500 calories more than you normally do, or a combination of the two.

Either way, do that for a month and you will lose four pounds. If you don’t lose four pounds, that means you either undercounted the amount of calories you took in, or over-counted the amount of extra calories you burned.

If you find that — no matter what diet you’re following — you aren’t losing weight, then you need to eat a little less and move a little more.

It really is that simple. You won’t find a single scientific study that argues otherwise.

Which, if you think about it, is awesome — because that means as long as you do the math right, you will lose weight.

And isn’t that what you want?

2. Want to build muscle and gain strength? You must progressively overload your muscles

Progressive overload is a simple concept. To keep seeing improvement, you must consistently increase the workload, which means increasing either the weight you lift or the amount of reps you do (or some combination of the two).

Why? Your body is superb at adapting. Do 100 pushups a day for three weeks straight, and at first you will definitely get stronger, but eventually your body will decide that 100 pushups a day is the new normal, and you’ll stop getting stronger.

Do the same thing — with anything — long enough and your body adapts. That’s why following the same routine, no matter what the routine, eventually results in a plateau.

To avoid a plateau, instead of changing exercises, the key is to change the load you put on your muscles.

Of course, you might think that the cure to plateaus is to constantly vary your workouts. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with mixing up exercises on a regular basis (and constantly changing your workout may seem less boring), constantly doing new exercises doesn’t force your body to adapt nearly as quickly.

Again: The best way to keep building muscle and getting stronger is to follow a system that forces your body to adapt.

Let’s use pushups as an example again. Say you’ve been doing 10 sets of 10 pushups with a 45-second rest between each set. Next workout, increase one aspect: Do one more pushup per set, or rest for only 40 seconds between sets, or place a 10- or 25-pound plate across your back to add weight to the movement. Then, the next time you work out, do more pushups per set, or maybe do one additional set of 10, or maybe rest even less. You get the point.

Follow the principle of progression — by always adding a little more — and you can avoid plateaus and slowly but surely get stronger and fitter.

Just make sure you strategically change up. For example, you may start out doing seven pull-ups per set, then eight, then nine, then 10, but then, no matter how hard you try, you can’t do 11 pull-ups in a row.

No problem. Increase the load by doing fewer pull-ups per set while wearing a weight belt with a 10- or 20-pound plate attached to add resistance. Work on pulling up more weight for a week or two — and doing more reps each workout — and then go back to doing bodyweight-only pull-ups. You’ll be able to do more than 10 reps per set because you will have forced your muscles to adapt and get stronger.

(That’s how I quickly improved my number of dips per set in my quest for doing 50 in two sets: I used a weight belt to add 35 pounds to my body weight and after a few weeks was a little stronger, which made doing more reps easier.)

Also keep in mind the same principle applies to endurance sports. Think professional cyclists just go out and do the same workout every day? Nope. During the off-season, they progressively increase distance and workload and intensity, forcing their bodies to adapt and therefore improve.

And so can can you. To make sure you stay focused on progressive overload, log each workout you complete, but more important, plan each workout ahead of time. Decide what you will do, and then do it.

If you fail, fine. Try again next time. But don’t let “I’ll just do as much as I can today” be your plan. Decide what you plan to do each workout. Then do it. 

Think of it this way: Your long-term goal is to get stronger, but your immediate goal — your real commitment — is to complete every workout as planned, on schedule. Just like life finds a way, your body will also find a way. As long as you force your body to find a way.

That’s the best way to improve. That’s how you go further than you thought possible. That’s how you get stronger and fitter.

And that’s how you can feel a little better, especially about yourself — because improving, at anything, is a sure-fire way to feel more confident.And isn’t that what you want?

The number-one skill for weight loss management

The number-one skill for weight management: What do you think it is?

I’ll start by telling you what it’s not. It’s not willpower, determination or motivation. It’s not avoiding carbs or sugar or fats. And it’s not cooking, hitting the gym or sticking to your plan.

No, the most important skill in weight management is learning how to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back on with it. Whether it’s the predictable—holidays, birthdays, anniversaries or vacations—or the unpredictable—illness, death, marital discord or injury—life has a bad habit of getting in the way of our best intentions. And mark my words, you’re going to fall down.

So how do you maximize your chances of picking yourself back up? Unfortunately there’s no app for that. Instead you’re going to have to rely on these two simple strategies:

First, you need to respect reality

The fact is, life happens. If you don’t respect the fact that as a species we have comforted and celebrated with food since time immemorial, then the inevitable guilt, shame and frustration you’re going to feel when you exercise your right as a human being to use food for purposes other than fuel may well lead you to throw in the towel.

Instead of being frustrated that your weight management or healthy living strategies are affected by reality, try to remember that your best efforts vary. The best you can do over the week of Passover or Easter is undoubtedly less healthful than the best you can do the week after. If your goal is your best, you’ll never fall into the trap of repeatedly letting yourself down.

Second, you need to like the life you’re living while you’re losing

This truism is perhaps the one most regularly forgotten by newly minted dieters. Ultimately, if you don’t like the life you’re living while you’re losing, even if you lose a great deal, you’re eventually going to head back toward the life you led before you lost weight.

Putting this in the perspective of reality, when life does up and offer you a reason to stray from your plan, it’s going to be that much harder to get back into it if your plan was one you didn’t enjoy in the first place. The more weight you’d like to permanently lose, the more of your life you’ll need to permanently change. And because “permanent” is an awfully long time, truly the easiest way to evaluate the approach you’ve chosen for weight management or healthy living is to ask yourself: “Can I happily keep living this way?” If the answer’s no, you need to find a new approach.

Put another way, the most important skill in weight management isn’t a synonym of suffering, it’s one of embracing imperfection, of rolling with life’s pleasant and unpleasant punches; it smacks of reality, not reality TV.

The healthiest life that you can happily enjoy sometimes isn’t going to be that healthy. Accepting that is weight management’s most important skill.

Four Things Nobody Tells You About Successful Weight Loss

Everyone who loses weight successfully overcomes a set of similar challenges. But let us be honest: successful weight loss is relatively uncommon, making many of these challenges unheard of. Consequently, when they arise, you might think you’re doing things wrong. But you’re not, and here’s why.

1. It’s More Like Learning a Language Than Training For a Marathon

If you’re overweight, chances are that you feel some guilt about it. You may feel like you’ve been lazy, gluttonous, or lacking in self-control. Not only is this untrue, many of us try to quash the guiltiness by extreme behavior and fast fixes, such as juice fasts, teatoxes and hours of cardio a day. The goal of getting fit becomes a form of self-punishment, rather than a way to improve your wellbeing.

Contrastingly, those who have successfully lost weight and kept it off (i.e. no one from The Biggest Loser) know that weight loss success looks nothing like this. Both extreme diet and exercise are recipes for failure. They know that successfully losing weight looks more like learning a language in a foreign country.

When you’re in a different country and learning their language for the first time, the overwhelming temptation is to revert to your native tongue. Of course, you can’t do that if you want anyone to understand you. Instead, you clumsily stumble over foreign words to deliver your message.

It’s difficult at first, but over time, you get better at it. You become accustomed to pronouncing things in the correct accent, and everything becomes second nature. It may become so intuitive that you have trouble teaching the language to beginners, because you’re no longer aware of what goes on when your brain translates.

Weight loss is no different—you need to learn the language of calories and macronutrients. You’ll need to translate that skim latte into numbers, using a translator at first (in this case a calorie tracking app), then fit things into your daily nutritional targets. Not unlike continuously referring to a foreign language dictionary, it’s tedious. But if you stick with it, it becomes second nature.

This is what the path to weight loss success looks like: learning fitness like you would learn any other skill. Literally running yourself into the ground by training for a marathon straight off the bat won’t help you. Nor will copying the actions of Rocky Balboa or someone already in shape. They are the subject of survival bias, and their routines probably won’t work for you.

2. You Will Face Numerous Crushing Setbacks

You’ve probably seen the image above before. It holds true for all of life’s challenges, including weight loss. In fact, even if you do everything perfectly, weight loss shouldn’t be linear at all, thanks to the way our physiology works.

But that’s a moot point, because no one does everything perfectly. Not only will you make mistakes in your journey, you’ll face crushing, psychologically-defeating blows. Perhaps you injure yourself, or experience an emotionally devastating event. Whatever you’ve been through emotionally is then amplified worse when you step on the scale and see your progress has been erased.

But here’s the thing: from a fitness perspective, these blows are rarely as bad as you think. Overeating may cause you to gain weight, but it’s unlikely that’s all fat—the body retains water in mysterious ways.

Every setback is not only a learning opportunity, but also a self-fulfilling prophecy: whether or not you think your progress is ruined, you are right. So stay optimistic, realize it’s not ruined, and get back on that damn horse.

3. Other People Will Annoy the S#!t Out of You

There are some of the remarks that every single person will hear during their transformation. From unsolicited remarks on your dietary choices, to snide comments about how you’ve changed, they’re an inescapable obstacle in the weight loss rite of passage.

“Why can’t you just enjoy life? You should just be happy with who you are.”

“Why do you eat so much chicken? Should I be eating this much chicken?”

“I don’t think your body type was ‘meant’ to be skinny.”

So how do you deal with these little shi…errr…those who are “concerned” about your well being? The first step is to separate them into two buckets.

The first bucket consists of people who are genuinely curious. Sure, their comments might seem off-the-cuff or affronting, but they probably don’t mean it. Remember: losing weight is a very personal experience, and it’s easy to be sensitive if people are questioning your choices. For example, when someone asks you about your exercise regimen, then compares it to their CrossFit WOD (because if they do CrossFit they will tell you, guaranteed), they may just be trying to build rapport through your mutual love for exercise.

Then, there are people who are genuinely trying to sabotage you. The issue with any kind of personal change is that it threatens the status quo–something that most people, consciously or otherwise, will try to fight. This is no different for weight loss.

Understanding the reason above will greatly help you reframe and empathize with saboteurs. For example, let’s say your spouse says:

I don’t know why you’re doing this to yourself. It’s like you’re not happy and you want to become someone different than the person I fell in love with.

Here’s what it might really mean:

I’m worried that if you lose weight, you’ll no longer love me because I’m still overweight. I love you and don’t want you to leave me after your newfound success.

Empathy turns the once-impermeable emotional barrier into something you can work through. If that’s not enough, Greatist has an amazing list of specific ways to respond when people attempt to undermine your health.

4. Your Journey Is Never Over

The phrase “going on a diet” is a bit misleading. It implies a journey, with a defined beginning and an end. In reality, there is no end.

If you rely on willpower, rather than learning the “language” of fitness, sure you’ll reach an “end”—but it won’t be happy or sustainable. Everything you do should be sustainable and pass the litmus test of “Could I live like this forever?”

That’s because if you’re successful, there is no end. You’ll always have to work to incorporate fitness as a part of your new life—one where fitness is as important to you as eating, sleeping, and sex. But you won’t regret a minute of your journey, because it’s a better life.

Intermittent Fasting for Women: Your Complete Guide

Intermittent fasting for Women, also known as IF, has become a popular method for getting lean and losing weight. It’s also said to boost energy levels, increase motivation and stamina, and improve cognitive function.  Those benefits don’t sound too shabby, do they?

While intermittent fasting does seem to offer some promising benefits, it may not be for everyone — especially depending on whether you’re male or female. And as it stands now, there’s more research being done on intermittent fasting for rats than for humans.

It seems that whether or not intermittent fasting will work for you comes down to human biology. While shorter periods of fasting are generally considered safe for most people, some of the extended fasting times associated with intermittent fasting aren’t recommended for women.

Before we get into the details, let’s look closer at what intermittent fasting is, how it works, and the pros and cons of this eating trend for women.

What is Intermittent Fasting and How Does it Work?

Intermittent fasting may sound a bit technical, but you’ve probably done it before without even realizing it. First, it helps to know the difference between the fasted state and fed state.

The Fasted State vs. Fed State

When you eat every few hours, you’re in a “fed” state, which is when your body is busy digesting, absorbing, and assimilating the nutrients from your meals. Accelerated fat burning isn’t the #1 priority here. Most of us remain in the fed state during the day, aside from when we’re sleeping.

The reason why intermittent fasting can provide certain benefits for weight loss is because it allows your body to enter the fasted state, which is when your body’s fat burning can really accelerate.

How Intermittent Fasting Works

Intermittent fasting simply means you go a period of time without eating, usually between 12 to 48 hours. This length of time is known as your fasting window, during which time you only consume liquids, such as water, herbal tea, or broth.

Some experts recommend drinking low-calorie green vegetable juices and taking supplements while fasting to help keep vitamin and mineral intake consistent, while others believe only water should be consumed. Like many topics in the health realm, the rules around intermittent fasting are subjective, depending on who you ask.

If you fast for less than 24 hours, you’ll also have an eating window. This is the time allotted for meals before you begin your fast. For most people practicing intermittent fasting, their eating window is between six to 12 hours. The most common fasting times are 12,14,16, and 18 hours.

For example, if you were to do a 12-hour fast, your eating window would be 12 hours. You could start your eating window at 7am and end at 7pm. You would break the fast the next day at 7am.

Although some of the intermittent fasting methods online seem more intense than others (some can last upwards of 48 hours), the beauty of intermittent fasting is that you get to choose and experiment with how long you fast. This not only allows you to determine how intermittent fasting can fit in within your lifestyle, but to discover the fasting sweet spot that helps you feel best physically.

Pros and Cons of Intermittent Fasting for Women (And Why it Can Be Tricky)

Some of the benefits of intermittent fasting may include

  • Sustainable weight loss
  • An increase in lean muscle mass
  • More energy
  • An increase in cell stress response
  • A reduction in oxidative stress and inflammation
  • Improvement around insulin sensitivity in overweight women
  • Increased production of neurotrophic growth factor (which could boost cognitive function)

Now, here’s the tricky part. Although intermittent fasting may have its benefits, women are naturally sensitive to signs of starvation, so intermittent fasting for women is a whole different beast.

When the female body senses it’s headed towards famine, it will increase the production of the hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin, which signal the body that you’re hungry and need to eat. Additionally, if there’s not enough food for you to survive, your body is going to shut down the system that would allow you to create another human. This is the body’s natural way of protecting a potential pregnancy, even if you’re not actually pregnant or trying to conceive.

It’s not that you’re intentionally imposing a famine upon yourself — but your body doesn’t know that. It doesn’t know the difference between true starvation and intermittent fasting, which is why it defaults to this protective mechanism.

Therefore, some of the cons due to hormonal imbalances brought on by intermittent fasting may also lead to:

  • Irregular periods (or complete loss of period)
  • Metabolic stress
  • Shrinking of the ovaries
  • Anxiety
  • Fertility issues
  • Difficulty sleeping

Since all of your hormones are so deeply interconnected, when one hormone is thrown off balance, the rest are also negatively impacted. It’s like a domino effect. As the “messengers” that regulate nearly every function in your body — from energy production to digestion, metabolism, and blood pressure — you don’t want to disrupt their natural rhythm.

With all of these drawbacks, you may be wondering: could you (and would you still want to) practice intermittent fasting as a female? If you take a more relaxed approach, the answer is yes. When done within a briefer timeframe, intermittent fasting may still help you reach your weight loss goals and provide the other benefits previously mentioned, without messing up your hormones.

The Best Intermittent Fasting Methods for Women

So, what exactly is a relaxed approach to intermittent fasting? Again, since there’s little research done on intermittent fasting, we’re dealing with a bit of a gray area. The opinions also tend to vary depending on which site you visit, or which health expert you ask. From what we’ve found, the general guidelines to brief intermittent fasting for women are:

 Do not fast for longer than 24 hours at a time
 Ideally fast for 12 to 16 hours
 Do not fast on consecutive days during your first two to three weeks of fasting (for instance, if you do a 16-hour fast, do it three days a week instead of seven)
 Drink plenty of fluids (bone broth, herbal tea, water) during your fast
 Only do light exercise on fasting days, such as yoga, walking, jogging, and gentle stretching

Options for Intermittent Fasting

There are several different intermittent fasting methods discussed online. Here are a few of the most popular ones.

Crescendo Method

The Crescendo Method is one of the best ways to ease into intermittent fasting without shocking your body or aggravating your hormones. It doesn’t require you to fast every day, only a few days per week, spaced throughout the week. For example, Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

  • Fasting Window: 12-16 hours
  • Eating Window: 8-12 hours
  • Safe for Women: Yes

16/8 Method

The 16/8 method, sometimes called the “leangains method,” is another brief intermittent fasting routine that’s used specifically to target body fat and improve lean muscle mass (a.k.a. your gains!).

  • Fasting Window: 16 hours
  • Eating Window: 8 hours
  • Safe for Women: Yes

24 Hour Protocol (a.k.a. “Eat-Stop-Eat”)

The 24 hour protocol, also known as “eat-stop-eat” requires you to do a 24-hour fast, once or twice a week. You can choose the time you start fasting. Some people prefer to fast from 8pm to 8pm the following day, or begin their fast after breakfast.

  • Fasting Window: 24 hours
  • Eating Window: 0
  • Safe for Women: Yes, when done a maximum of 2 times per week.

The 5:2 Diet

The 5:2 diet, also known as the “Fast Diet,” involves restricting calories two days a week to 500 calories per day (with two 250 calorie meals), while eating normally for the other five days. For example, you might eat all of your regular meals Saturday through Wednesday, and eat 500 calories per day on Thursdays and Fridays.There isn’t a ton of research to back up this diet, although it was publicized by Michael Mosley, a British journalist and doctor. Since it doesn’t completely restrict food on the fasting days, it may also be an effective way to ease into fasting without shocking your system. The Fast Diet is considered safe for men and women.

  • Fasting Window: No fasting window, just calorie restriction to 500 calories per day for 2 fasting days per week.
  • Eating Window:  Assume regular caloric intake 5 days per week.
  • Safe for Women: Generally considered safe for women, but studies are lacking on this diet

When Should You Avoid Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting isn’t a good fit for everyone. You shouldn’t consider intermittent fasting if you are:

  • Pregnant
  • Nursing
  • Under chronic stress
  • Have a previous history of eating disorders
  • Have difficulty sleeping

Additionally, intermittent fasting is meant to complement a healthy diet and lifestyle — not act as a way to remedy five days of eating nutritionally-bankrupt foods, such as refined sugar, processed foods and fast foods.

Final Thoughts on Intermittent Fasting for Women

Intermittent fasting may work amazingly well for some people, and terribly for others. Most importantly, if you do decide to give intermittent fasting a try, be sure to listen to your body’s feedback. Easing into intermittent fasting by starting with shorter fasting windows can help with initial symptoms of hunger and discomfort. But if it becomes too uncomfortable, be honest with yourself, accept it, and move on.

At the end of the day, nothing can have a greater impact on your health than a diet consisting of real, whole foods, and a lifestyle that prioritizes your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

7 Small Changes with Big Results

7 things you can do now—as in right now—to boost your health and well-being and lose some weight.

When it comes to weight loss, it’s the little things that can really add up to make a big difference. Think “diet” and you might assume it requires a radical revamp of your life or misery-inducing restrictions. But when it comes to lasting weight loss, research shows you’re better off making small, consistent changes rather than aiming for a major diet or lifestyle overhaul.

The key is to keep the changes are practical and sustainable so that you can permanently adopt them into your everyday life. In one study, people who made tiny adjustments to their eating habits were able to stick to their new routines—and had more success slimming down compared to those who didn’t incorporate the tips.

And while it may not be possible to wake up tomorrow 10 pounds lighter or with an insatiable love of salads, there are a lot of smaller changes you can make that deliver an immediate healthy payoff—the kind that will encourage you to make another small change, and another, and, well, you get the idea. Here are 7 small changes that can have a really big payoff when it comes to your health.

1. Eat breakfast every day

Research shows dieters are more successful at losing weight—and keeping it off—when they eat breakfast. If you don’t already eat breakfast, start. If you are already a breakfast eater, try eating the same breakfast multiple days each week. Repeating the same meals can help you shed pounds, according to research. A whole-wheat English muffin topped with peanut butter and sliced banana delivers filling fiber and protein. It’s also portable and ready in less than 5 minutes, so forget about using any “I don’t have time for breakfast” excuses. Yogurt with fruit and granola, oatmeal and egg sandwiches on whole-grain bread are other good options.

2. Turn on the lights

People who eat in well-lit spaces consume about 39 percent fewer calories—and make healthier food choices—than those who dine under dim lighting, says recent research. Why? Bright spaces make us feel more alert, so we nosh more mindfully. In fact, participants who skipped the candles at mealtime ate more slowly, enjoyed their food more and, yes, ate 373 fewer calories.

3. Use Smaller Plates

Studies show that we eat less when we use smaller dinnerware. The theory is that our eyes get tricked into thinking we are eating more because our plate is full, making the food portions look bigger. The result: we are satisfied with less food. Try eating your meals on salad plates instead of larger dinner plates.

4. Tap your toes

Boost your health by (no joke) tapping your toes. You’ve heard of “sitting disease,” and how our desk-bound days can be bad for our health. Well, researchers at the University of Missouri recently discovered that simply fidgeting can reduce the arterial damage that happens from spending too much time on your derrière. In the study, healthy men and women were asked to intermittently tap one foot, while keeping the other one still. After three hours, they compared the blood flow in each leg and found that the fidgeting one showed improved vascular function, while the stationary leg was worse off. Other recent research found fidgeting mitigated the increased risk of death from sitting too much. Of course, actual exercise is still better at keeping you healthy, but considering that the average person sits 15 hours a day, a little fidgeting could have very real benefits as well.

5. Put out a fruit bowl

You know the phrase “out of sight, out of mind”? Not what you want when it comes to eating more fruits and vegetables. Produce delivers lots of nutrients but not a lot of calories. Plus, it’s packed with fiber, which helps fill you up. Don’t shove your beautiful apples to the back of the produce drawer, or bury your carrots under your other groceries. Instead, bring the fruits and vegetables front and center in your refrigerator and out in your kitchen. Try keeping fruit like bananas and oranges on the counter in a fruit bowl where they’ll be in plain sight. You’ll also be more likely to reach for diet-friendly fruits and veggies if they’re ready for easy snacking. In fact, when Google moved their fruit bowl to the front of the cafeteria, employees’ fruit consumption increased by two thirds in just one month. Wash and slice celery, peppers and other delicious produce, and then pack them in baggies so you can easily grab them for a quick—and healthy—treat.

6. Don’t eliminate treats

Banishing all your favorite foods can lead to failure. A drastically limited diet is not sustainable and feeling deprived may eventually cause you to overeat. Savoring a small treat daily really won’t sabotage your weight-loss efforts, according to research. Keep the treats small—aim for about 150 calories or less. Try savoring two squares of dark chocolate, a ½ cup of ice cream or one 5-oz. glass of wine. This is one habit most of us can stick with for the long haul.

7. Snack on Yogurt

Yogurt was recently identified as a top weight-loss-promoting food by Harvard University. It’s high in protein, which, gram for gram, helps fill you up more than carbs. Stick to plain yogurt for a healthy snack, without lots of added sugar, and add fresh fruit to sweeten your cup.

Another bonus? The probiotics in yogurt may help you burn fat. In one study, researchers gave overweight, but otherwise healthy, adults about 1/2 cup of yogurt at dinner every night for six weeks. Some ate yogurt supplemented with an added dose of probiotics (either Lactobacillus fermentum or L. amylovorus), while others got regular yogurt (which has a lower probiotic content ). Though none of the subjects lost weight, those consuming the probiotic-enriched yogurt lost 3 to 4 percent of their body fat, compared to just 1 percent body fat lost in the other group. To ensure your yogurt delivers a decent amount of probiotics, look for one that carries the “Live & Active Cultures” seal.

HOW TO LOSE STUBBORN FAT: BELLY, BUTT, HIPS & THIGHS

If you want to know how to burn stubborn fat, you have to understand a few key points. I realize many people who read TheWeightLoss.blog are not interested in the science and just want to know what to do. For those types please skip down to the section called “Overview and Action Steps”.

First, lets review the fat burning process. In order for fat to be lost from a particular area the following events need to occur:

  1. Fat needs to be released from a fat cell (this process of fat breakdown and release is called “lipolysis”).
  2. Fat needs to be carried to another cell through the blood stream (poor blood flow to an area means slow fat loss from an area).
  3. Fat needs to enter another cell to be burned (this process of fat actually being burned is called “lipid oxidation”).

It is important to note here that just because fat is broken down and released (lipolysis), does not automatically mean it will find its way to another cell and ultimately be burned (lipid oxidation). It could be restored and this is often the case in people who are very insulin resistant.

Brief biochemistry overview

To further understand stubborn fat we need to cover some basic biochemistry first. Fat enters or leaves fat cells mainly due to the activity of two enzymes, lipoprotein lipase (LPL) which acts to store fat and hormone sensitive lipase (HSL) which acts to release fat. Notice the name of the major fat releasing enzyme? Is called hormone sensitive lipase and not calorie sensitive lipase for a reason.

HSL releases fat due to signaling of a compound called cyclic AMP. And this is impacted by the activity of hormone receptors in fat tissue called adrenergic receptors (AR).

There are two type of adrenergic receptors. Alpha adrenergic receptors and beta adrenergic receptors. The alpha receptors slow fat release and beta receptors speed fat release. To keep this straight in your head think “A” for “anti-burn” and “B” for “burn”.

In addition to having an impact on fat release directly, these receptors also impact blood flow. More alpha receptors mean less blood flow to an area, and more beta receptors mean greater blood flow to an area.

Hormones & Stubborn fat

So what makes stubborn fat more stubborn? Fat gain or loss is about two things, calories and hormones. But stubborn fat may be more impacted by hormones compared to other types of fat.

Many types of hormones impact fat gain and fat loss. These hormones have this impact because of their direct or indirect effects on the enzymes and receptors we just mentioned. Hormones that store fat tend to increase the number or activity of alpha receptors and/or LPL. Hormones that stimulate fat release increase the number or activity of beta receptors and/or HSL.

Certain hormones have a very straightforward impact on fat gain or loss. For example, Insulin is a fat storing hormone because it increases LPL activity and suppresses HSL activity. Insulin also impairs the normal function of beta receptors, which is another form of HSL inhibition (i.e. insulin lowers HSL activity directly and indirectly via beta receptor disruption).

Catecholamines (adrenaline & noradrenaline to our UK/European friends and epinephrine & norepinephrine to us Americans) speed fat release when they bind beta receptors, which would increase HSL activity. But they can also slow fat release when they bind alpha receptors. This is one of the reasons stubborn fat, which has a higher concentration of alpha receptors, can be so slow to respond.

Other hormones have more complex and overlapping activity. Estrogen seems to both increase the number AND activity of alpha adrenergic receptors. The female fat distribution, where fat is stored in the lower body, is primarily due to the impact of estrogen (the subcutaneous fat and especially the lower body subcutaneous fat of women is richer in estrogen receptors).

Thyroid hormone increases beta receptor activity, blocks the activity of alpha receptors and works in opposition to estrogen making stubborn fat less stubborn. However, thyroid hormone is disrupted itself by estrogen (one of the reasons women have larger thyroid glands compared to men).

Is your head spinning yet? Don’t worry, it will all make sense soon. Here are a few takeaways regarding stubborn fat in general and some hormonal effects to keep in mind.

  1. Stubborn fat has more alpha receptors.
  2. Stubborn fat has less beta receptors.
  3. Stubborn fat stores more fat and releases less of it under the influence of insulin.
  4. Stubborn fat has less blood flow through it.
  5. Hormones that increase HSL activity and/or inhibit LPL activity stimulate fat release.
  6. Hormones that decrease HSL activity and/or stimulate LPL action encourage fat storage.
  7. Calories matter too. It is impossible to store fat regardless of hormonal action in a low calorie state and it is unlikely to lose fat if you are in calorie excess.
  8. Stubborn fat is stubborn not because it can’t be released, but rather because it releases fat much more slowly compared to less stubborn fat.
  9. The sex steroids (estrogen, progesterone and testosterone) have receptors in fat tissue and play an important role in HSL/LPL activity as well as impact alpha versus beta receptor number and activity.

The most stubborn types of fat

So based on the points above, where are the most stubborn types of fat? We store fat in several different places.

There is fat stored just underneath the skin. We call this fat “subcutaneous fat”. This is the stuff that hangs over your belt. Then there is fat we store deep in our middle area around our organs (another name for organs is viscera) and under our abdominal muscles. This fat is called visceral fat. This is the stuff that gives many men that large protruding belly. You can’t pinch this stuff. Finally there is fat stored in and around our muscles. This is called intramuscular fat.

The most stubborn fat on the body is the fat under our skin, the subcutaneous fat. Female subcutaneous fat is more stubborn compared to male subcutaneous fat. The most stubborn fat in the majority of women is lower body subcutaneous fat around the hip, butt and thighs (also called saddle bags, thunder thighs or bubble butts). The most stubborn fat on men is the subcutaneous fat of the lower abdomen (often called the love handles).

So here is how it breaks down:

  • Subcutaneous fat is far more stubborn compared to visceral fat.
  • Subcutaneous fat is stubborn because it is more reactive to insulin, has lower blood supply AND has more alpha receptors.
  • Visceral fat is less stubborn because it has more beta receptors, greater blood flow and is less reactive to insulin.
  • Female subcutaneous fat in the lower body has about 9 to 10 times more alpha receptors compared to male lower body fat.
  • The place on men that is most stubborn is the lower belly fat and love handle area.
  • The places that are most stubborn on women are the saddle bags, inner thighs, butt and lower belly fat.
  • Another reason stubborn fat is stubborn is due to poor blood supply. Both the fact that it is in colder areas AND has more alpha receptors make this so.
  • Stubborn fat is impacted directly or indirectly by many different types of hormones. These hormones have varying effects on the activity of HSL and LPL as well as alpha and beta receptors.

The shocking truth about dieting and stubborn fat

One of the most frustrating things related to stubborn fat is that dieting does not help it. In fact, dieting makes stubborn fat more stubborn!

Let me slow down here and let you take that in for a minute. When you go on a diet, and by diet I mean the popular approach of “eating less and exercising more”, the end result is that you will often make your fat parts fatter.

Many people are not aware, but dieting has never been proven by research to work over the long run. In fact, it has actually been proven not to work. 95% of people who go on diets end up gaining all of the weight back and 66% of those people end up fatter than they were before they started the diet. When they gain the weight back most of it goes straight to the stubborn fat areas. Very depressing I know.

When you diet by the popular method of “eating less and exercising more”, the law of metabolic compensation kicks in (I call it a law because it is probably the most predictable and agreed upon phenomena in all of dieting).

In short, this is how dieting (eating less and exercising more) makes your fat parts fatter. First, compensatory changes take place that make you more hungry, cause unstable energy and create insatiable cravings for high calorie palatable food. This is why 95% of people gain all the weight back or more. At the same time thyroid hormone levels decline and the fat cells themselves become more reactive to insulin. This means HSL is turned down (less fat release), LPL is turned up (more fat storage) and alpha receptor activity is elevated and beta receptor activity is supressed. Remember, stubborn fat is stubborn because of the alpha receptors so we certainly don’t want those pesky guys being any more active. All of this makes the fat cell far more greedy (more fat storage) and stingy (less fat burning).

Why did I take the time to go through all that? Because if you hope to beat stubborn body fat you have to first realize that dieting is hurting rather than helping your efforts. To beat stubborn fat one of the first things you need to do is escape the eat less, exercise more mindset.

Overview & Action Steps

Now we can get into how to lose stubborn fat. Here are the three steps up front and I will get into details below:

  1. Stop dieting. Move from an eat less exercise more approach (ELEM) to either an eat less, exercise less (ELEL) or an eat more, exercise more (EMEM) approach. This fights the law of metabolic compensation.
  2. Cycle your diet. Cycle the diet in a way to have periods of more food and exercise with periods of less food and exercise. This helps build muscle and burn fat (or at least maintain it) and keeps you from becoming skinny fat or bulking up. It also fights against the law of metabolic compensation.
  3. Target the area. Use targeted supplements, exercise and lifestyle strategies to suppress and/or bypass the alpha receptors AND elevate the beta receptors to speed fat release from stubborn areas.

1. Stop dieting

Imagine driving down the highway with your parking break on. Because of the compensatory processes dieting induces, you can’t attack stubborn fat in this way. To burn fat you require two things, a calorie deficit and hormonal balance. Eating less and exercising more (ELEM) gives you the calorie deficit but has a negative impact on metabolic balance so that you won’t maintain that deficit for long and will soon rebound back to eating more and exercising less (the law of compensation makes it so you will feel lazy/tired and feel hungry and crave. It’s only cause your body loves you ;-))

You will have better luck with a different approach. You can eat less and exercise less (ELEL) OR eat more and exercise more (EMEM). Both of these approaches can create a calorie deficit AND will balance metabolic biochemistry. This way you are not chasing your hunger, energy and cravings around all day. More importantly, this makes the thyroid decline that accompanies traditional dieting far less likely which means the alpha and beta receptors are kept in check.

2. Cycle the diet

You already learned about what I call the law of metabolic compensation. This is when dieting (eating less and exercising more) causes increased hunger, unstable energy, more cravings and metabolic slow down. There is another law of metabolism I call the law of metabolic multitasking. This law informs us about the body’s inefficiency when it comes to burning fat and building muscle at the same time. It is not good at doing both and instead likes to focus on one or the other.

Cycling your diet between periods of more food and exercise (EMEM, building phase) and less food and exercise (ELEL, burning phase) allows you to circumvent the law of metabolic multitasking. It also works against the law of metabolic compensation as well. A two for one deal.

This approach could be as simple as having one or two heavy eating and exercise days on the weekend followed by 5 weekdays eating less and exercising less. It also could mean a week or two in an eat less, exercise less state followed by a few weeks in an eat more, exercise more state.

3. Target the Area

Now that you have increased fat burning globally by taking care to control the law of compensation and multitasking, it is time to target your stubborn fat. For the sake of simplicity we will divide the stubborn fat into three areas 1) female lower body 2) female belly 3) male belly.

Female lower body fat:

  • Stop eating less and exercising more (ELEM) and use an eat less, exercise less (ELEL) or an eat more, exercise more (EMEM) approach instead.
  • For ELEL use a 3:2:1 approach for nutrition and exercise. Nutrition= 3 meals per day, 2 of the three meals are 30-40g protein shakes, 1 regular meal per day. Exercise= 3 R&R workouts, 2 traditional full body weight training workouts, 1 hour or more of leisurely walking on all or most days.
  • For EMEM use a 3:2:2 approach for nutrition and exercise. Nutrition= 3 meals per day, 2 protein shakes per day, 2 times the starch intake after workouts. Exercise= 3 traditional weight training sessions, 2 metabolic conditioning sessions, 2 traditional cardio sessions.
  • Consider using the ELEL approach in lower estrogen states (i.e. the luteal phase of menstrual cycle which is two weeks after ovulation and before menses).
  • Use supplements to bypass or block the alpha receptors. Green tea extract (GTE) and Coleus Forskohli (Forslean) are two supplements that work by increasing intracellular cAMP which increases HSL activity. This is the same thing that happens when catecholamines bind beta receptors. The only issue is catecholamines also bind alpha receptors. Using GTE and Forslean allow the beta adrenergic effect without the negative alpha effect. Yohimbine HCL, synephrine, and berberine will all have an impact on directly blocking alpha adrenergic receptors with yohimbine being the most potent. These only work in a low insulin state and work best taken before fasted exercise. Given the strong stimulating impact of yohimbine (talk to a doctor before taking), GTE and Forslean are your best bet. Metabolic Effect has a product that combines both.

Female & Male Belly Fat:

Here are the major points:

  • Female belly fat is more about stress. Women with high waist to hip ratios (i.e. bigger belly) whether overweight or underweight, are more stress reactive. This means that female belly fat is more about negative stress than food and exercise. Which is good to know, because when food and exercise are taken to the extreme they can become a stress. This is why we often say that a women with stubborn belly fat that does not respond to diet and exercise would be far better off spending an extra hour in bed than an extra hour on the treadmill.
  • The stress that causes female belly fat leads to a unique hormonal situation where testosterone and cortisol are high while estrogen is low.
  • ELEL may be the best approach to use for female belly fat since it is focused on relaxation and recovery
  • Male belly fat is a bit different and is more an issue of lower testosterone and higher cortisol and insulin.
  • Male belly fat will respond to either ELEL or EMEM and can even respond to ELEM.
  • For male belly fat carbohydrate modification (not too low though as that can cause increased cortisol) is a big piece. So that you don’t go too low find the carbohydrate tipping point. This is the amount/type/timing of carbs that give energy and keep stress hormones at bay.
  • The dominant form of activity for males with belly fat should be weight training. For male belly fat it is best to use diet NOT exercise to create the calorie deficit and then use weight training to create the proper testosterone, cortisol and insulin levels.

Final Thoughts

Stubborn fat is unique physiologically because it is far more reactive to insulin and has greater amounts of alpha adrenergic receptors. Stubborn fat in certain areas of the body varies and there is definitely gender differences due to the impact of hormones like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. To beat stubborn fat follow a three step process.

  1. Stop dieting. The eat less, exercise more (ELEM) approach makes you more hungry, increases cravings and throws off energy making it more likely you will eat more and regain all the weight back and more. The decline in thyroid hormone and the increased insulin reactivity of stubborn fat created by diets also means your fat parts will get fatter and more stubborn. Move instead to an eat less, exercise less approach (ELEL) OR an eat more, exercise more approach (EMEM). Both the ELEL and EMEM approach are wonderful at blunting the body’s natural compensatory reactions (law of metabolic compensation) and keep the body humming along in a calorie deficit and hormonal balance.
  2. Cycle the diet. In order to further reduce the natural compensation of the body AND be able to circumvent the body’ natural aversion to simultaneously burning fat and building muscle (law of metabolic multitasking), alternate between periods of ELEL and EMEM. This allows global shape change so you don’t end up creating the two most common looks of dieting, the skinny fat look and or the bulky/bloated look.
  3. Target the area. This was covered in detail above in the “overview and actions” section.

That’s it. I hope this gives you an idea of how to target stubborn body fat and the steps required to deal with it.