If you’re only getting a minimal amount of sleep each night, that leaves more time for you to snack and make otherwise unhealthy decisions that could affect your weight loss. Although it will vary from person to person on how much sleep you actually need to be most effective (and therefore make progress toward your weight loss goals), the ideal number is typically 7 or 8 hours, says Dr. Cheskin. (Struggling to get that shut-eye? This doctor-approved breathing exercise will help you fall asleep fast.)
While few would suggest you start hitting up the tanning beds for better health, getting some natural sunlight can help you get rid of those extra inches on your waist in a hurry. Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center found that vitamin D-deficient overweight women between 50 and 75 who upped their intake of the so-called sunshine vitamin shed more weight and body fat than those who didn’t. To practice safe sun, make sure you’re limiting yourself to 15 sunscreen-free minutes per day.
“Exercise should not be used to purge calories,” Albers says. “Instead, to boost your mood to keep you motivated.” The thing is, exercise is great for you and can make you feel awesome. And feeling good about yourself seems to be actually useful in weight-loss efforts. Plus, some research has shown that changes in exercise behavior can lead to changes in eating behavior. “In part, it is neurochemical. Movement and exercise you enjoy boosts your serotonin and dopamine levels, which makes you feel good all the way around,” Albers says.
While it will help, it’s not going to eliminate your sleep deprivation. That apart, doing this will throw off your natural sleep-wake cycle so it could end up doing more harm than good. Not only can the right food aid sleep, it works the other way too — better sleep promotes weight loss. Lack of sleep, however, has been found to stimulate production of hunger hormone ghrelin, which makes us overeat.
Excess weight in your midsection can be annoying—not only because it’s so darn tough to ditch, but because it also has an impact on your overall health. Extra belly fat ups your risk of issues such as heart disease and diabetes, and, according to certified strength and condition specialist Michele Olson, PhD, life is filled with sneaky little saboteurs that make putting on the pounds in this area way too easy.
You already know that a perfect diet doesn't exist, but many of us still can't resist the urge to kick ourselves when we indulge, eat too much, or get thrown off course from restrictive diets. The problem: This only makes it more difficult, stressful, and downright impossible to lose weight. So rather than beating yourself up for eating foods you think you shouldn't, let it go. Treating yourself to about 200 calories worth of deliciousness each day — something that feels indulgent to you — can help you stay on track for the long haul, so allow yourself to eat, breathe, and indulge. Food should be joyful, not agonizing!
In reality, a never-ending list of factors—including (yes) food and exercise, but also sleep, stress management, hormone health, self-esteem, past weights, and those pesky genetics—influence weight loss as well as the weight your body naturally gravitates toward at a given time in your life, Abby Langer, R.D., a Toronto-based dietitian and nutrition counselor, tells SELF. Of course, maintaining a caloric deficit drives weight loss, but so much more goes into a successful weight-loss effort than the math of calories in and calories out.
I’m in favor of any program that promotes whole foods over hyper-processed fare, and this is one thing the popular diet plans can agree on. Overly processed foods have been linked to weight gain, perhaps because many unhealthy packaged foods (think: potato chips, ice cream, frozen pizza, cookies and the like) lack the fiber found in many whole foods, including vegetables. Fiber helps fill us up, and research suggests that by simply adding more fiber to your menu, you can lose weight nearly as well as a more complicated approach. Consistently choosing whole foods is one way to do this.
Too little sleep or too much sleep can throw your stress and regulatory hormones out of whack, and may lead to weight gain. A single night of sleep deprivation can increase levels of ghrelin (a hormone that promotes hunger), making you more likely to overeat the next day. Reduced sleep may also lead to fatigue during the day (duh) and less physical activity, which may be another reason why people who regularly don't get enough sleep tend to gain weight.
The truth is there is no “one size fits all” solution to permanent healthy weight loss. What works for one person may not work for you, since our bodies respond differently to different foods, depending on genetics and other health factors. To find the method of weight loss that’s right for you will likely take time and require patience, commitment, and some experimentation with different foods and diets.
Based on my experience in nutrition counseling, most of us tend to snack on foods that aren’t nutrient-dense, but are high in calories. For example, skipping sugary beverages is often the easiest way to lose weight faster. You don’t feel full from drinks — even the ones that do contain calories — so swapping those out for sparkling water or unsweetened tea and coffee is the best place to start. Other major culprits often come in refined grains like cereals, chips, crackers, and cookies.
Some antidepressant medications can cause weight gain, especially the older tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) such as Tryptizol, Saroten, and Clomipramine; as well as newer drugs such as Remeron (Mirtazapine). Lithium (for manic-depressive disorder) often causes weight gain. The most common antidepressants known as SSRI’s (for example Citalopram and Sertraline) usually don’t impact weight significantly. More on depression
Fiber is found in beans, nuts, seeds, fruits, veggies, and whole grains and foods rich in fiber tend to lend themselves to weight loss. At the moment, just 10 percentof Americans are hitting fiber targets of around 25 grams per day. Studies that track what people eat over time suggest that there’s a connection between weight and fiber intake, with higher fiber intakes linked to lower body weights (the reverse is true, too). One review of 12 studies found that supplementing the diet with more soluble fiber helped people slim down. Another year-long study found that people who followed the simple suggestion to eat 30 grams of fiber each day lost about 5 pounds.
“Do what you can instead of quitting when you can't be ‘perfect,’” Fear says. As if there’s such a thing as “perfect.” After all, research suggests that perfectionism surrounding food and weight, especially coupled with body dissatisfaction, contribute to disordered eating and even obesity in women. Researchers note that perfectionism can contribute to poor self-esteem, dietary restraint, and binge eating.
It’s impossible to target belly fat specifically when you diet. But losing weight overall will help shrink your waistline; more importantly, it will help reduce the dangerous layer of visceral fat, a type of fat within the abdominal cavity that you can’t see but that heightens health risks, says Kerry Stewart, Ed.D. , director of Clinical and Research Physiology at Johns Hopkins.
SOURCES: WebMD Feature: "With Fruits and Veggies, More Matters." 2005 U.S. Dietary Guidelines. Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, author, The Pocket Idiot's Guide to the New Food Pyramids. Elaine Magee, MPH, RD,author, Comfort Food Makeovers. Brian Wansink, PhD, professor and director, Cornell Food and Brand Lab, Ithaca, N.Y.; author, Mindless Eating. Barbara Rolls, PhD, professor of nutritional sciences; and director, laboratory for the study of human ingestive behaviors, Penn State University; and author, The Volumetrics Eating Plan.