Thoughts from a broken mind
Having trouble dropping weight? If you can’t seem to shed that stubborn muffin top, one (or more!) of these 10 diet busters may be to blame. Whether it’s poor sleep, stress, eating out too often, or clever food marketing, we’ve got smart weight-loss tips to help you fight back and lose the belly fat for good.
Nibbling a snack while you check e-mail, grabbing leftovers off your kid’s plate — such habits can add a lot of calories to your day and wreck your diet. In one USDA study, women underestimated their daily consumption by 700 calories! Fight back:Keep a food journal and track everything (yes, even that Fun Size Snickers you grabbed off a coworker’s desk). It’s a small habit that can help double your weight loss.
Stress may be hindering your weight loss. That’s because your body releases the hormone cortisol when you’re stressed, which makes you crave fatty, sugary foods that promote dreaded belly fat. Fight back: Do what you can to soothe that stress. A new study of overweight and obese women revealed that fighting stress can help shrink belly fat. The less you stress, the less you’ll crave cookies and ice cream.
You’d think food labeled “healthy” or “low calorie” would be a dieter’s best friend. Not really, says Brian Wansink, Ph.D., of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University. Low-calorie restaurant and fast-food offerings have a “health halo” that leads diners to underestimate the calories in healthy entrees and “reward” themselves by ordering high-calorie sides and drinks. The result? They gobble almost 45% more calories than they think. People also routinely underestimate the calories in food labeled “organic” by up to 40%. Fight back: Check nutrition info, if it’s available. If it isn’t, estimate the calorie count and double it, says Wansink.
Clever food marketing can trick dieters into eating all kinds of junk food: “fruit chews” that are really gummy bears, calorie-laden milkshakes masquerading as smoothies and protein drinks, and veggie chips that have as many (or more!) calories as regular potato chips. Fight back: Double-check the nutrition label and ingredients list — they tell the real story.
Individually wrapped snacks or candy seem like healthy portion control made easy, right? Wrong. A recent study revealed that people are prone to eat more candy when it’s individually wrapped because they give up control when they spy a small package, says researcher Jennifer Argo, of the University of Alberta. Fight back: Keep an eye on labels (sound familiar?) and know your weaknesses. If you can’t resist those cute little packages, says Argo, avoid them entirely
Skimping on sleep can sabotage your weight loss efforts. It throws off key appetite-regulating hormones, so you’re more likely to overeat. What’s worse: Chronic insomnia boosts your risk of diabetes, heart attacks, and strokes. Fight back: Make it priority to snooze 6 to 8 hours a night.
Americans now eat a third of their meals away from home, according to USDA research. As that number has climbed, so has our weight. Restaurant and fast-food fare tends to be higher in calories, fat, and sodium than home cooking. Fight back: Make cooking a priority. It’s one of the best things you can do for your weight. When you do eat out, choose simply prepared foods, such as salads and steamed or sauteed veggies, with dressing on the side.
We know — duh! When you don’t exercise, you don’t burn extra calories. But skipped workouts hurt your weight loss efforts in another way: You’re more likely to give into temptation. Fight back: New research reveals that physical activity boosts your brain’s ability to resist tempting caloric fare. That’s right, exercising not only helps you burn calories, it also makes it easier to say “no” to that chocolate cake.
Fat does have 9 calories per gram, compared to 4 calories per gram of protein or carbohydrates. But all fat isn’t created equal. Saturated fat — the kind in whole milk, butter, full-fat cheese, and fatty cuts of red meat — makes your body produce less leptin, a hormone that quells appetite. But unsaturated fat, like that in olive oil and avocados, helps regulate your appetite. For instance, avocados encourage your body to produce moreappetite-suppressing leptin. Fight back: Swap saturated fat from animal products, such as butter, for heart-healthy plant-based fats, such as olive oil.
You eat right, exercise regularly, sleep well, and manage stress yet your jeans are still tight? A sluggish thyroid (known as hypothyroid) may be to blame. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck that produces hormones that control your metabolism. Fight back: Ask your doctor for a simple blood test to check your TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) and free T3/T4 hormone levels. If yours are off, you may need thyroid medication.
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