7 weight-loss tips that work

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There seems to be a new message from the weight-loss industry every day. People are confused. Should you cleanse, go gluten-free or drop all grains to get the needle on the scale to go down?

After more than 12 years in the field as a nutritionist, I’ve found there are key steps that can help you achieve your goal weight quickly and healthily. Whether it’s five or 50 pounds, here are some tips to consider.

1. Water is a game changer. If you feel you’ve tried every weight-loss program and are still not losing weight, examine your water intake. Ideally, you should be drinking two litres of water each and every day. (Herbal tea counts; coffee does not.) It’s extremely hard to lose weight efficiently if your body is dehydrated.

2. Diet drinks are not so diet. I cannot tell you how many times I meet with a client who has 10 to 15 pounds to lose and is drinking two to three diet sodas per day. Research shows artificial sweeteners can promote fat storage and increase your body mass index. While some people drink diet sodas to curb a sweet tooth, it’s not a habit that will produce positive effects. Instead of drinking diet drinks, substitute water with lemon, sparkling water and sweet herbal teas, such as berry and cinnamon tea.

3. Supper is supplementary. Most people start their day off well, only to finish it not as well. In order to “hit it out of the park” with your weight-loss results, make supper your lightest meal of the day. As the saying goes, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.”

Of course, there will be times where you go out for dinner or enjoy a larger meal in the evening. However, keeping your evening meal on the lighter side for five days out of the week will ensure the pounds on the scale drop. Enjoy a dinner of protein and vegetables drizzled with some healthy fat.

4. One cheat does not blow the entire deal. Many feel if they cheat on their diet, they’ve blown the entire thing and may as well throw in the towel and binge. This is the opposite of what you should do! If you do have a cheat meal or drink, simply compensate by doing an extra workout, eating light the next day, dropping your grain or increasing your water intake.

5. Food and emotions go hand in hand. How you eat is a reflection of how you feel. If you’re using food to numb an emotion, soothe or self-sabotage, it’s time to make peace with it. Keeping a food journal to track your food intake and emotions will help you to discover the “why” behind what you’re eating. Until you get your behavior under control, plan out all your meals. Similar to the way you would lay your clothes out the day before, plan the food you’ll be eating and stick to it!

6. Nutrient-dense, lighter-calorie food goes a long way. When you’re hungry or on the verge of a food binge, opt for calorie-light, nutrient-dense foods, such as vegetables or pureed vegetable soups. Red pepper slices, baby carrots, cucumber slices and cherry tomatoes can help fill you up.

7. Follow the five-year rule. Before you join a weight-loss program, ask yourself the very important question, “Can I see myself following a version of this program for five years?” If the answer is no, don’t do it! The one thing the body hates more than being overweight is gaining and losing weight routinely. Chronic yo-yo dieting is a one-way ticket to excess weight and a sluggish metabolism. When picking your weight-loss program, make sure it’s one that can be followed long-term. If the diet is overly restrictive and impossible to follow for a long time, chances are you’ll lose the weight, only to gain it back.

Vegetarian diets almost twice as effective in reducing body weight, study finds.

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Dieters who go vegetarian not only lose weight more effectively than those on conventional low-calorie diets but also improve their metabolism by reducing muscle fat, a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition has found.

Losing muscle fat improves glucose and lipid metabolism so this finding is particularly important for people with metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes, says lead author, Dr. Hana Kahleová, Director of Clinical Research at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington DC.

Seventy-four subjects with type 2 diabetes were randomly assigned to follow either a vegetarian diet or a conventional anti-diabetic diet. The vegetarian diet consisted of vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits and nuts, with animal products limited to a maximum of one portion of low-fat yoghurt per day; the conventional diabetic diet followed the official recommendations of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD). Both diets were restricted by 500 kilocalories per day compared to an isocaloric intake for each individual.

The vegetarian diet was found to be almost twice as effective in reducing body weight, resulting in an average loss of 6.2kg compared to 3.2kg for the conventional diet.

Using magnetic resonance imaging, Dr. Kahleová and colleagues then studied adipose (fat-storage) tissue in the subjects’ thighs to see how the two different diets had affected subcutaneous, subfascial and intramuscular fat (that is, fat under the skin, on the surface of muscles and inside muscles).

They found that both diets caused a similar reduction in subcutaneous fat. However, subfascial fat was only reduced in response to the vegetarian diet, and intramuscular fat was more greatly reduced by the vegetarian diet.

This is important as increased subfascial fat in patients with type 2 diabetes has been associated with insulin resistance, so reducing it could have a beneficial effect on glucose metabolism. In addition, reducing intramuscular fat could help improve muscular strength and mobility, particularly in older people with diabetes.

Dr. Kahleová said: “Vegetarian diets proved to be the most effective diets for weight loss. However, we also showed that a vegetarian diet is much more effective at reducing muscle fat, thus improving metabolism. This finding is important for people who are trying to lose weight, including those suffering from metabolic syndrome and/or type 2 diabetes. But it is also relevant to anyone who takes their weight management seriously and wants to stay lean and healthy.”

Why our brain cells may prevent us burning fat when we’re dieting

A study carried out in mice may help explain why dieting can be an inefficient way to lose weight: key brain cells act as a trigger to prevent us burning calories when food is scarce.

“Weight loss strategies are often inefficient because the body works like a thermostat and couples the amount of calories we burn to the amount of calories we eat,” says Dr Clémence Blouet from the Metabolic Research Laboratories at University of Cambridge. “When we eat less, our body compensates and burns fewer calories, which makes losing weight harder. We know that the brain must regulate this caloric thermostat, but how it adjusts calorie burning to the amount of food we’ve eaten has been something of a mystery.”

Now, in research published in the open access journal eLife, a team of researchers has identified a new mechanism through which the body adapts to low caloric intake and limits weight loss in mice. Mice share a number of important biological and physiological similarities with humans and so are a useful model for studying how our bodies work.

The researchers tested the role of a group of neurons in a brain region known as the hypothalamus. These ‘agouti-related neuropeptide’ (AGRP) neurons are known for their major role in the regulation of appetite: when activated, they make us eat, but when fully inhibited they can lead to almost complete anorexia.

The team used a genetic trick to switch the AGRP neurons ‘on’ and ‘off’ in mice so that they could rapidly and reversibly manipulate the neurons’ activity. They studied the mice in special chambers than can measure energy expenditure, and implanted them with probes to remotely measure their temperature, a proxy for energy expenditure, in different contexts of food availability.

The researchers demonstrated that AGRP neurons are key contributors to the caloric thermostat that regulates our weight, regulating how many calories we burn. The findings suggest that when activated, these neurons make us hungry and drive us to eat — but when there is no food available, they act to spare energy, limiting the number of calories that we burn and hence our weight loss.

As soon as food becomes available and we start eating, the action of the AGRP neurons is interrupted and our energy expenditure goes back up again to normal levels.

In addition, the researchers also describe a mechanism through which AGRP neurons regulate their activity by detecting how much energy we have on-board and then controlling how many calories we burn.

“Our findings suggest that a group of neurons in the brain coordinate appetite and energy expenditure, and can turn a switch on and off to burn or spare calories depending on what’s available in the environment,” says Dr Blouet, who led the study. “If food is available, they make us eat, and if food is scarce, they turn our body into saving mode and stop us from burning fat.”

“While this mechanism may have evolved to help us cope with famine, nowadays most people only encounter such a situation when they are deliberately dieting to lose weight. Our work helps explain why for these people, dieting has little effect on its own over a long period. Our bodies compensate for the reduction in calories.”

Dr Luke Burke, the study’s first author, adds: “This study could help in the design of new or improved therapies in future to help reduce overeating and obesity. Until then, best solution for people to lose weight — at least for those who are only moderately overweight — is a combination of exercise and a moderate reduction in caloric intake.”