Jim said people can healthily lose half a pound to two pounds a week. In a month, that could add up to four to eight pounds lost. Since one pound of fat equals 3,500 calories, to lose one pound a week, you would have to burn approximately 500 extra calories a day. This can be achieved through eating in a healthy calorie deficit or working out to burn extra calories (or a combination of both). Other lifestyle factors also play a role. Getting enough sleep will ensure your body recovers well and that you'll be energized for your workouts the next day. And too much stress increases the stress hormone cortisol, which can increase your cravings for caloric refined carbs and comfort food, which will prevent you from losing weight (especially in your belly). Make sure, in addition to eating in a calorie deficit, that you're also getting at least seven hours of sleep a night and managing your stress.
The diversity in tools and strategies that work for people is nicely illustrated by the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), which, since 1994, has collected data on people who have lost 30 pounds or more and kept it off for at least one year. If you take a look at some of their findings, you’ll see some commonalities in various behaviors and strategies (such as increasing eating breakfast every day, watching fewer than 10 hours of TV per week, and weighing themselves regularly). But rather than looking at the NWCR’s data as a how-to guide—after all, these are the behaviors that correlate to weight loss, we can’t know if they’re the ones that caused weight loss—look at it as further evidence that there’s no one right way to live to lose weight and keep it off, and that finding the thing that will work for you is a personal journey, specific to you.
For example, you might not realize just how much you eat when you go out to happy hour with friends. But if you take the split second to take a step back and make yourself aware of that fact, you’re more able to make a healthy decision. “The awareness and then planning and coming up with strategies for what else I can be doing—that might give me the same benefit of eating those comfort foods that make me feel better,” says Gagliardi.
While some people respond well to counting calories or similar restrictive methods, others respond better to having more freedom in planning their weight-loss programs. Being free to simply avoid fried foods or cut back on refined carbs can set them up for success. So, don’t get too discouraged if a diet that worked for somebody else doesn’t work for you. And don’t beat yourself up if a diet proves too restrictive for you to stick with. Ultimately, a diet is only right for you if it’s one you can stick with over time.
On the physiological side of things, it’s important to realize that the vast majority of your daily caloric burn comes down to just basic functions like breathing and keeping your heart beating, Moore says. Called your basal metabolic rate (BMR), your muscle does play a role in setting it, but extra muscle isn’t going to turn you into a supercharged calorie-torching machine. And even though exercise does burn calories, that total is often significantly less than what we expect and would need to create a large daily caloric deficit, he says.
Snacks are misunderstood in the weight-loss world – many people don’t realize that snacks can help you lose weight rather than gain it. If consumed in moderation as a way to relieve minor hunger pangs, snacks are a perfect bridge between meals and prevent you from consuming too many calories at your next meal. Choose snacks between 100 and 150 calories. Some or Dr. Smith’s favorites include shrimp cocktail, olives stuffed with blue cheese, an English muffin pizza, or a banana with dark chocolate. Try these shredder snack recipes.
But just because belly fat comes off a bit more easily doesn’t make it less dangerous. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. “Belly fat is unfortunately the most dangerous location to store fat,” says Dr. Cheskin. Because belly fat—also known as visceral fat, or the deep abdominal fat that surrounds your organs—is more temporary, it’s more active in terms of circulating in the bloodstream. That means it’s likely to raise the amount of fat in your blood (known as blood lipid levels) and increase your blood sugar levels, which as a result raises your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
"It’s easy to become impatient and frustrated when you’re trying to lose weight and haven’t seen the results yet. But be realistic – you won’t see the affect overnight. Your brain’s wiring plays a huge part in resisting changes in lifestyle, and it takes time to establish new habits – up to 12 weeks. Stick with it for at least eight weeks and you should notice a change."