When the going gets tough (and it likely will from time to time along any weight loss journey), it’s important to realize that a host of non-food factors can make losing weight difficult, explains board-certified obesity medicine specialist Spencer Nadolsky, D.O., a diplomate of the American Board of Obesity Medicine and author of The Fat Loss Prescription. Hormones, genetics, and, ultimately, metabolism are three big ones, he says.
Gaspari lives by this rule. "In the weight room, I shorten my rest periods and use advanced techniques like supersets, compound sets, and dropsets to build muscle and burn fat. The key here is to keep training hard and heavy," he says. "Don't trick yourself into thinking that you have to use really light weights and high reps. If you put your mind to it, you can still train just as heavy at a fast pace."
That doesn't mean that we don't have certain areas where we're predisposed to put on fat. If I gain a few excess pounds, most seem to appear on my stomach. Other people tend to put on pounds in their thighs or rear. They're gaining weight everywhere, of course, but it seems to appear more readily in a certain area. On the flip side, if I lose five or six pounds, my waistline gets noticeably less soft.
And that raises the most important point: Thinking about exercise as a way to work off food or simply allow you to eat sets up a host of unhealthy and unhelpful thought patterns and habits around food and exercise. For instance, one 2013 research review found that, not only did people generally overestimate how many calories exercise burned—when they did work out, they ramped up their food intake. And if you overeat following exercise, any caloric deficit created during your workout can become a wash. And related: thinking of food as a reward and exercise as a punishment is likely to sabotage your weight loss efforts anyway.
If you want to shrink your gut, get enough protein in your diet. In this case, about 25 percent of calories. Why? For starters, protein makes you feel full and helps you build muscle (which increases metabolism, thereby making it easier to lose weight). Just as important, high-protein diets have been shown to be the best way of attacking belly fat. In one study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, Danish researchers put 65 people on either a 12 percent protein diet or a 25 percent protein diet. The low-protein dieters lost an average of 11 pounds, which isn't bad. But the high-protein subjects lost an average of 20 pounds--including twice as much abdominal fat as the low-protein group.
“Do what works for you,” Langer says. “And if something doesn’t, change it. There’s a million other ways to go about it. There are no absolutes in nutrition.” Case in point: In a 2018 JAMA study, when more 600 adults who were classified as overweight followed a low-fat or low-carb eating plan over the course of 12 months, everyone lost about the same amount of weight.
While many people turn to artificial sweeteners in a misguided attempt to whittle their waistlines, those fake sugars are likely to have the opposite effect. According to Yale researchers, artificial sweeteners are actually linked with an increased risk of abdominal obesity and weight gain, possibly because they can trigger cravings for the real stuff and spike insulin levels in a similar fashion to real sugar.
Ultimately, you need to pick a healthy eating plan you can stick to, Stewart says. The benefit of a low-carb approach is that it simply involves learning better food choices—no calorie-counting is necessary. In general, a low-carb way of eating shifts your intake away from problem foods—those high in carbs and sugar and without much fiber, like bread, bagels and sodas—and toward high-fiber or high-protein choices, like vegetables, beans and healthy meats.
Write down everything you eat this week. People who keep food diaries, according to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, lose an average of 6 pounds (2.75 kg) more than people who don't keep a record of everything that they eat.[10] So force yourself to write down the good, the bad and the ugly. Keep these tips in mind:
Losing weight isn’t necessarily a matter of meat vs. plants or carbs vs. fats. Repeatedly, studies suggest you can lose weight with a number of different approaches, including the ketogenic diet, intermittent fasting, and WW (formerly known as Weight Watchers). Truth be told, losing weight is much easier than keeping it off. The last decade of research on weight loss points to the fact that once you lose weight, your body is in a battle with biology. It’s an unfortunate irony, but studies show that as you drop pounds, your levels of “I’m hungry” hormones increase, while your “I’m full” hormones decrease. At the same time, your body physically needs less fuel to operate your smaller size. It’s not an easy battle, but it isn’t impossible; you can march on. Here’s what we’ve learned about weight loss, and what you can do to take charge of your weight this year.
In addition to improving your health, maintaining a weight loss is likely to improve your life in other ways. For example, a study of participants in the National Weight Control RegistryExternal* found that those who had maintained a significant weight loss reported improvements in not only their physical health, but also their energy levels, physical mobility, general mood, and self-confidence.
Although you do want to increase your walking over time, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be working your way up to a more intensive form of cardio like swimming or running. “Moving on to new exercises is not something someone should feel they have to do unless their goals change and a new exercise is needed to support those goals,” says Gagliardi. “Walking alone can be progressed by changing the distance, speed, terrain, and by adding intervals.”
Switch to Lighter Alternatives. Whenever you can, use the low-fat versions of salad dressings, mayonnaise, dairy products, and other products. "You can trim calories effortlessly if you use low-fat and lighter products, and if the product is mixed in with other ingredients, no one will ever notice," says Magee. More smart substitutions: Use salsa or hummus as a dip; spread sandwiches with mustard instead of mayo; eat plain roasted sweet potatoes instead of loaded white potatoes; use skim milk instead of cream in your coffee; hold the cheese on sandwiches; and use a little vinaigrette on your salad instead of piling on the creamy dressing.
Don't get me wrong — exercising at any time is good for you. But evening activity may be particularly beneficial because many people's metabolism slows down toward the end of the day. Thirty minutes of aerobic activity before dinner increases your metabolic rate and may keep it elevated for another two or three hours, even after you've stopped moving. Plus, it'll help you relax post-meal so you won't be tempted by stress-induced grazing that can rack up calories.

Don't get me wrong — exercising at any time is good for you. But evening activity may be particularly beneficial because many people's metabolism slows down toward the end of the day. Thirty minutes of aerobic activity before dinner increases your metabolic rate and may keep it elevated for another two or three hours, even after you've stopped moving. Plus, it'll help you relax post-meal so you won't be tempted by stress-induced grazing that can rack up calories.
"Feeling stressed can wreak havoc on our bodies. It can cause our body to produce the steroid hormone cortisol, which can make you crave sugary foods that provide instant energy and pleasure. Short-term bursts of cortisol are necessary to help us cope with immediate danger, but our body will also release this hormone if we’re feeling stressed or anxious. When our cortisol levels are high for a long amount of time, it can increase the amount of fat you hold in your belly."
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