10 Strategies for Successful Weight Loss
By: David Schipper
The great ones have great strategies for success—Odysseus hiding in the Trojan horse, Ali using the rope-a-dope, Bugs Bunny dressing in drag.
Your weight-loss strategy should be similarly inspired. Willpower alone won’t shrink your waist—you need facts and wisdom on your side if you’re going to maintain the resolve you showed in January.
There are scientists who study weight loss so the rest of us can keep track of the important stuff, like spring training and Rotisserie drafts. These researchers regularly come up with good advice, the latest and greatest of which we’ve gathered for you. Pick a few tips, put them in your lineup, and get back in the weight-loss game.
Weight-Loss Success Strategy #1
Weigh Yourself Often
Time was, experts said to stay off the scale—it can be discouraging. But after studying 3,500 individuals from the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) who’ve maintained 60 or more pounds of weight loss for at least a year, researchers found that 44 percent weighed themselves daily.
Unhealthy obsession? No, says James Hill, Ph.D., NWCR cofounder and director of the center for human nutrition at the University of Colorado. “They use it as an early warning system for preventing weight regain,” he explains. “If your goal is to keep your weight at a certain level, you have to have feedback to see whether you’re successful.”
Weight-Loss Success Strategy #2
Turn Off the TV
Scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York recently determined that simply seeing food can trigger a physiological “feed me” response. In the study, visual food cues caused brain activity to jump by 24 percent—mostly in the orbitofrontal cortex, the area of the brain related to drive and acquisition. So a constant barrage of pizza-delivery ads on TV could test your limits. And don’t get us started on the Food Network.
Weight-Loss Success Strategy #3
Pray the Fat Away
Christian men who report feeling greater intimacy with God through prayer are more likely to be physically active than other men, according to research from Cornell University. “Studies have shown that those who have more social support move more, and being closer to God may give men that support,” says lead researcher Karen Kim.
Another possible reason: “General religion in the United States encompasses theological teachings about the body as a temple, which may also lead to the consumption of a healthier diet and increased physical activity,” she adds. Amen to that.
Weight-Loss Success Strategy #4
Beware Tastebud Betrayal
“Hunger increases healthy men’s taste sensitivity to sweet and salty substances,” says researcher Yuriy Zverev, of the University of Malawi. This means vending-machine snacks (which come in two flavors: sweet or salty—coincidence?) will taste even better when you’re hungry.
You could trust that you’d savor the flavor by eating only a small amount. (Right.) Or you could sidestep this land mine altogether. “Eat offensively,” says Katherine Tallmadge, M.A., R.D., a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. “Eat regularly during the day to stave off cravings and the bingeing that can result.”
Weight-Loss Success Strategy #5
Snack on Almonds
Seventy per day, to be exact. That’s the number that people in a City of Hope National Medical Center experiment ate daily for 6 months, in conjunction with a reduced-calorie diet, to drop 18 percent of their body weight.
Study author Michelle Wien partially credits the satiety factor. “Almonds are a nutrient-dense food that provides healthful monounsaturated fat, protein, and fiber, which together contribute to feeling full,” she says.
Go for whole almonds in their unsalted, raw, or dry-roasted state. Fifteen to 20 will do the trick for a quick snack. Try 50 as a meal replacement.
Weight-Loss Success Strategy #6
Grab the Day
Long summer days can help you lose weight. “The best time to start a diet is in May, because the days are very long, which makes your energy levels go up and your food cravings go down,” says Judith Wurtman, Ph.D., a nutrition researcher at MIT. “You’ll eat less and exercise more.” So if you get home and it’s still light, go for that run.
Conversely, resolution-crazed January is the worst time to diet—the short days knock your serotonin levels out of whack, causing cravings. An Apollo Health goLite P1 lamp can help your body adjust to the dark days of winter.
Weight-Loss Success Strategy #7
Pour a Bowl of Cereal for Lunch
A study from Purdue University shows that eating cereal in place of meals helps you lose weight. Participants consumed an average of 640 fewer total daily calories and lost roughly 4 pounds during the 2-week intervention.
According to study author Richard Mattes, M.P.H., Ph.D., R.D., the approach teaches portion control with a convenient, easy-to-use food. Stick to filling, high-fiber cereals, like All-Bran or Fiber One, and eat them with low-fat milk.
Weight-Loss Success Strategy #8
Go Under the Needle
When Polish researchers examined acupuncture as a diet aid, they found that people who got needled lost 10 more pounds and ticked 2 additional points off their BMIs compared with those who merely cut calories.
Marie Cargill, a licensed acupuncturist in the Boston area, explains that pressure points on the body—mostly on the ear—work as a switchboard to the brain, triggering electrical pulses that suppress appetite. “The ear system is very effective for addiction treatment,” she says.
Weight-Loss Success Strategy #9
Eat a Cow’s Worth
Of dairy, that is. Reports of the benefits just keep coming.
Recently, a University of Tennessee study found that people who ate a daily 1,200 milligrams (mg) of calcium from dairy lost an average of 24 pounds, or 11 percent of their total body weight. “When you don’t have enough calcium in your diet, you’re more efficient at making fat and less efficient at breaking down fat, causing a bigger, fatter fat cell,” says lead researcher Michael Zemel, Ph.D.
Get the just-right amount by taking in two 8-ounce glasses of low-fat milk (699 mg), a cup of low-fat yogurt (338 mg), and an ounce and a half of cheese (287 mg).
Weight-Loss Success Strategy #10
Gamble on Yourself
Take a cue from the poker craze and wager against a buddy to see who can shed the most pounds. “Men do really well when they make weight loss a competitive game,” says New York City nutritionist Joy Bauer, M.S., R.D., author of Cooking with Joy. “Have a 6-month and a 1-year check-in—none of that 2-week garbage.”
Or try it in teams, as on NBC’s The Biggest Loser, and you’ll double the incentive—you’ll want to win the bet and avoid letting down your team. “Healthy competition can bring out the absolute best in people,” says the show’s red-team trainer, Jillian Michaels, owner of SkySport and Spa in Beverly Hills.
She recommends that the team take on a swimming relay or a 5-K run. “That way, it’s not a scenario like ‘Who can lift the most?'” she says. “Losing weight is ultimately about better health. For $100, somebody might do a pulldown that’s way too heavy and end up tearing a rotator cuff.” It’d be a shame if, after you’d lost all that weight, you still couldn’t button your pants.