Real talk: It could take weeks or months to see the metabolic effects of exercise on the scale, and even then, building muscle, which is denser than body fat, could lead to weight gain. "Do what you like because it’s good for you," Dr. Seltzer says, noting the way exercise is awesome for your heart, mental health, and more—and that not all measure of progress can be seen on the scale.
“The best thing you can do for your belly is to give up processed foods. A study in the journal Food & Nutrition Research found that our bodies burn only 50 percent as many calories digesting processed foods as they do real foods. So it’s like eating twice as much, even if the calories are the same!” — Mark Langowski, celebrity trainer and author of Eat This, Not That! for Abs
It can actually help you cut back on calories. That's because capsaicin, a compound found in jalapeño and cayenne peppers, may (slightly) increase your body's release of stress hormones such as adrenaline, which can speed up your ability to burn calories. What's more, eating hot peppers may help slow you down. You're less likely to wolfed down that plate of spicy spaghetti — and therefore stay more mindful of when you're full. Some great adds besides hot peppers: ginger and turmeric.
Keep in mind that the initial weight lost on a fast is primarily fluid or "water weight," not fat. And when you go back to eating, any lost weight usually gets a return ticket back. Not only do most people regain weight lost on a fast, they tend to add a few extra pounds because a slower metabolism makes it easier to gain weight. Worse, the weight that is regained is likely to be all fat -- lost muscle has to be added back at the gym.
A randomized controlled trial that followed 100 obese individuals for one year did not find intermittent fasting to be more effective than daily calorie restriction.  For the 6-month weight loss phase, subjects were either placed on an alternating day fast (alternating days of one meal of 25% of baseline calories versus 125% of baseline calories divided over three meals) or daily calorie restriction (75% of baseline calories divided over three meals) following the American Heart Association guidelines. After 6 months, calorie levels were increased by 25% in both groups with a goal of weight maintenance. Participant characteristics of the groups were similar; mostly women and generally healthy. The trial examined weight changes, compliance rates, and cardiovascular risk factors. Their findings when comparing the two groups:
For us ladies there is a dreaded week each month that we hold onto water weight (and usually a bar of chocolate) and guess what, you will be much more forgiving at the end of the week weigh in if you know once a month you just happen to be 5 pounds heavier. You’ll say to yourself, yep that’s my pattern, it’s OK and it will be gone next week. See… sometimes homework can be beneficial.
If you want to lose weight fast, your best bet is the HMR Program, according to the health experts who rated the diets below for U.S. News. While these diets enable quick weight loss for those with a short-term goal – there's a strong chance you'll drop significant weight within the first 12 months – keep in mind that this is markedly different from long-term weight loss, which is more important for your health.
Do you mindlessly sprinkle salt on your food without even tasting it first? Stop it! Seriously. Extra sodium can lead to water weight gain and bloating, which will make your pants fit tighter (and the number on the scale tick up). Be sure to read your labels, too; sodium is typically lurking in in processed foods, even “healthy” ones like frozen dinners and canned soups.
But one clarification: Our focus will be primarily on long-chain n-3 PUFAs, commonly known as omega-3s. Researchers theorize that the weight-loss benefits of omega-3s may be a result of their anti-inflammatory effects (inflammation in the body has been strongly linked to obesity). I also love the fact that these healthy fats are associated with protection from cardiovascular disease and enhanced mood.
Eat more of foods that fill you up. Some foods help you feel full faster and may help you stay fuller longer. Many of these foods contain protein, fat, or fiber. However, foods that help keep your blood sugar stable are also great options, as this helps you keep your appetite in check. Here are some great foods to incorporate if you want to feel fuller longer:
Eat regular meals or snacks every 2-4 hours. Skipping meals isn’t the answer to losing weight, and it may even derail your efforts. Food gives you energy, so going too long without eating can leave you feeling tired, which decreases your activity level. Additionally, it triggers your body to crave high-calorie, high-sugar snacks for a quick energy boost. Instead of starving yourself, plan frequent, healthy meals.
Drinking plenty of water is essential for overall health, and is a great way to boost your weight-loss efforts. But if you’re getting your H2O from cheap bottled water, the bottle itself could pose a problem; Bisphenol A, commonly referred to as BPA, has been linked to obesity, and it’s still found in many cheap plastics. A 2011 Harvard study found that adults with the highest concentration of BPA in their urine had significantly larger waists and a chance of being obese than those without as much of the chemical in their systems. So if you must drink store-bought bottled water, check to see if the bottle is BPA-free. And whatever you do, don’t reuse the same bottle; constantly refilling the same plastic bottle can cause BPA to leak into the water.
Refined white breads are simple carbohydrates that your body processes as sugar, and can really hinder your weight-loss efforts. Whole grain bread, on the other hand, is chock-full of slimming fiber and can help you feel fuller, longer. Just be sure to read your labels. “If the ingredients at the top of the ingredient list read sugar, sucrose, fructose, corn syrup, white or wheat flour, these foods contain mostly simple carbs and should be limited,” Rebecca Lewis, RD, told us. “A food is only considered a whole grain if the first ingredient on the packaging says, ‘whole grain’ or ‘whole wheat.’”
Scrolling through your social media one last time may be most people’s pre-bed ritual, but it can seriously mess with your sleep cycle. The light from your screen can suppress melatonin, the hormone that controls sleep. And getting plenty of shut-eye is important for your waistline; a study published in the journal Sleep found that people who didn’t get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep a night were more at risk for weight gain. Try to put your phone away 20 minutes before your bedtime to avoid the light distraction.
“Oolong, or ‘black dragon,’ is a kind of Chinese tea that’s packed with catechins, nutrients that help promote weight loss by boosting your body’s ability to metabolize fat. A study in the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine found that participants who regularly sipped oolong tea lost a pound a week, without doing anything else to change their diet or exercise habits.” — Kelly Choi, author of The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse
Fermented foods: These enhance the function of good bacteria while inhibiting the growth of bad bacteria. Sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, yogurt, tempeh, and miso all contain good amounts of probiotics, which help to increase good bacteria. Researchers have studied kimchi widely, and study results suggest that it has anti-obesity effects. Similarly, studies have shown that kefir may help to promote weight loss in overweight women.