Our exploration of weight loss techniques has led us to some unexpected discoveries, such as the revelation that certain foods can help you burn fat and that watching television can be more beneficial than you might assume.
These straightforward yet startling revelations offer simple solutions to help you reach your weight loss goals.
1. You have to eat fat to beat fat
While too much of the wrong fat (certain saturated fats in highly processed meats and trans fat found in some cookies and crackers) is bad for your health and waistline, a diet rich in the right fat—good unsaturated fats—can help both. Good fats, like monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) in olive oil, nuts, and avocados have proven to be powerful reducers of belly fat. Other sources of good fat are the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs); found in fish and its oil, and in many nuts and seeds, PUFAs help release fat, too. A Dutch study found that consumption of PUFAs led to a higher resting metabolic rate (the calories used just to live), as well as a greater DIT, or diet-induced calorie burn. PUFAs are also burned faster than saturated fats in the body. What’s more, fats help you feel full—they have 9 calories per gram compared to 4 for protein or carbs. So a small nibble of something yummy, like a handful of nuts or some peanut butter on whole wheat crackers, can help you feel full for hours.
2. A daily dose of chocolate can trim your waistline
If you’re like us, you welcome any new excuse to add more chocolate into your life. To release fat, here’s the trick: Go heavy on the cocoa and light on sugar. Cocoa contains more antioxidants than most foods and is good for so many things, including—when consumed in moderation—weight loss. In a June 2011 study from the Journal of Nutrition, researchers looked at the effect that antioxidants found in cocoa had on obese diabetic mice. Since a diabetic’s lifespan is, on average, seven years shorter, they were looking for any anti-aging promise that increasing dietary intake of this flavonoid might give. Their findings: The mice lived longer. The cocoa reduced degeneration of their aortic arteries, and it blunted fat deposition. To add more cocoa into your diet, buy unsweetened cocoa and add it to shakes, coffee, and other recipes.
3. Dairy promotes weight loss
Unfortunately some myths persist that dairy sabotages weight loss, but science proves this couldn’t be further from the truth. Research shows that those who have deficiencies in calcium hold a greater fat mass and experience less control of their appetite. What’s more, studies have found that dairy sources of calcium—like yogurt, low- or nonfat cheese, and milk—are markedly more effective in accelerating fat loss than other sources. In one study out of the University of Tennessee, researchers showed that eating three servings of dairy daily significantly reduced body fat in obese subjects. If they restricted calories a bit while continuing with the same dairy servings, it accelerated fat and weight loss.
4. Losing weight early and fast is best
Besides giving you a great psychological boost right out of the gate, losing weight quickly may also help you keep it off longer. To those of us who are used to hearing that slow and steady wins the race, this news is a little shocking and counterintuitive. In a 2010 University of Florida study, when researchers analyzed data on 262 middle-aged women who were struggling with obesity, they demonstrated that shedding weight fast lead to larger overall weight loss and longer-term success in keeping it off.
5. Naturally thin people are always fidgeting
Research shows that people who are naturally lean—you know the sort: They seem to eat all day, whatever they want, and never gain a pound or an inch—automatically, even subconsciously, find ways to move to make up for any extra calories they may be ingesting. Believe it or not, spontaneous physical activity (SPA) like fidgeting, bending, brushing your hair, and doing dishes can burn 350 or more calories a day, according to Mayo Clinic research.
6. TV time is OK—but make it a sitcom
We’re not recommending you ditch your exercise routine and sit on your couch popping handfuls of chips. But TV isn’t the weight loss devil that many experts make it out to be, particularly if you use it to make you smile and laugh. Here’s why: Stress takes an enormous toll on your health (research shows it can increase belly fat and slow down weight loss), and laughing is the perfect stress-relieving, fat releasing antidote. What’s more, it’s a pretty potent calorie burner in its own right. When British researchers looked into the number of calories burned by intense laughing and compared it to the calorie burn of other daily activities (strength training, running, even vacuuming), they found that an hour of intense laughter can burn as many calories—up to 120—as a half hour hitting it hard at the gym!
7. A daily glass of wine is an effective fat releaser
So many people have asked me if it’s OK to have a drink when trying to lose weight. Good news: Many studies clearly show that a small glass of red wine a day is good for your health. Now numerous animal studies are highlighting its great promise as a fat releaser. In one large study of more than 19,000 middle-aged women of normal weight, those who were light to moderate drinkers had less weight gain and less risk of becoming overweight than those who drank no alcohol. And in another separate animal study done in 2006, the researchers found that resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant found in red wine, improved exercise endurance as well as protected against diet-induced obesity and insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes.