Whether it’s a pre-summer juice fast, a post-holiday sugar cleanse or the tabloid-selling technique—we’ve all tried a diet or two.
While that Master Cleanse or calorie-restricted regimen may work in the short-term, maintaining the weight loss is another story.
“Diets don’t work in the long run,” says Traci Mann, director of the Health and Eating Lab at the University of Minnesota. “People can lose around ten percent of their weight on almost any diet. For the majority, the weight comes right back.”
Juice cleanses have plenty of benefits, but they typically serve a different purpose—to clear out toxins and jumpstart your energy. However, it’s unrealistic to live off of liquids, so it’s essential to find a few long-term tools that’ll help you live with healthier habits to help you find, and maintain a healthy weight.
According to a review in the International Journal of Endocrinology, how much you sleep dramatically affects your metabolism. Missing just a few hours of shut-eye can decrease hormones that help you feel full, causing you to overeat. Further, those who sleep less are more likely to be overweight or obese.
Your Action Plan: You’ve heard over and over again you should set a regular sleep schedule, avoid caffeine in the afternoon, and steer clear of screens in the evening. But practicing this can be challenging. Make your afternoon cup of joe half-caff, and slowly wean yourself from it. Download apps like f.lux that remove sleep-inhibiting blue light from your devices at night and make your bed a work-free zone so that when you lie down, your body knows it’s time to rest.
Stress wreaks havoc on your waistline. High stress is linked to lower levels of physical activity and higher caloric consumption. Chronic sleep deprivation spikes cortisol levels, which causes your body to store fat in your midsection.
Your Action Plan: Take stock of your stressors and cut out non-essentials. Then determine what activities relieve your stress. Journaling, meditation, or walking with friends are all great, but only if they work for you. Once you’ve trimmed the fat from your schedule and included time for relaxation, you'll find your waistline follows suit.
When you pay attention as you eat, you enjoy it more and eat less. Mindlessly shoveling food while online shopping can easily lead to over consumption. If you aren’t mindful while eating, it’s difficult to know when you’ve had enough.
Your Action Plan: Start paying attention to what you eat and how it makes you feel. Krista Scott-Dixon, Lean Eating Program Director at Precision Nutrition, recommends taking notes on how you feel before, while, and after you eat. “You’ll start to notice what makes you feel like crap and what leaves you feeling energized.” Aim for satisfying eating experiences. Savoring tastes, textures, smells, and sounds can increase satiety levels, helping you feel satisfied with less.
Researchers at the Cornell Food and Brand Lab know that when it comes to your waistline, your surroundings matter. They’ve found that individuals eat up to 52 percent more calories using bigger bowls, that junk food consumption increases when stored at eye-level and that a messy kitchen can lead you to overeat.
Your Action Plan: The Food and Brand Lab recommends the CAN approach: Make healthy foods convenient, attractive and normal. This might mean finding healthy foods you enjoy, pre-washing and cutting produce or batch cooking for the week. With a little work at the front end, you can make the healthy option the easy option when it comes time to eat.
If you drive to work, sit at the office, and recline in front of the TV at night, I hate to break it to you, but your 45-minute Barre class isn’t going to cut it. Researchers have found that NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis—or the amount of non-exercise type movement you do) is more predictive of a healthy weight than including a single exercise session in an otherwise sedentary day.
Your Action Plan: Bike to work, get a sit-to-stand desk, set an hourly alarm to climb a flight of stairs, play with your kids, or take an after-dinner stroll. Increasing daily NEAT time by two and a half hours can help you burn an additional 350 calories a day.
There’s no magic trick when it comes to weight loss. But over time, these guidelines can have a huge impact. So drop the delusion of dieting your way to a smaller waist and start taking steps towards achieving a healthy weight that lasts.