Unfortunately, leaning out takes more than the magic potion of willpower, luck, and genetics — it also requires some trial and error and a whole lot of consistency. These science-based tips offer some concrete action items to help point you in the right direction and set you on a course toward accelerated fat loss.
DON’T TRUST THE PROCESS(ED)
A study published in Cell Metabolism revealed that those eating an ultra-processed diet consumed an average of 500 more calories per day and gained 2 pounds in just 14 days, while those eating a diet of unprocessed foods lost 2 pounds. Those on the ultra-processed diet also ate much faster, a habit that can lead to overeating because your gastrointestinal tract doesn’t have enough time to tell your brain when you’re full.
“Packaged, ultra-processed, high-calorie, low-nutrient foods contribute to weight gain and make it harder to lean out,” says Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RDN. This might sound obvious, but even the most dedicated clean eaters succumb to the wiles of the cookie aisle now and again.
Prevent an accident by shopping the perimeter of the grocery store. This is where you’ll find whole-food options like vegetables, fruits, protein, and dairy, while the packaged, processed items are found mostly in the center aisles. If you do happen to wander into the middle, look high or low on the shelves for better-packaged options: Eye-level shelf space costs more to purchase, and a big-box manufacturer that creates lower-quality foods has deeper pockets than a mom-and-pop company that makes more wholesome items.
Do certain foods make you feel bloated, headachy, or fatigued? You might have a food intolerance. “With a food intolerance or sensitivity, your body is identifying food as foreign and spends time and effort ‘attacking’ it,” says Maggie Berghoff, MSN, FNP-C, functional medicine nurse practitioner. “When your body is focused on attacking these foods, it’s spending energy [doing that] rather than using it to build lean muscle and burn fat.” Besides squelching your fat-loss efforts, food intolerance can lead to inflammation, swelling, rashes, and headaches.
More than 20 percent of the population suffers from food intolerance or allergy, and many of those don’t even know it. “The annoying part is that food intolerance can be anything, really,” Berghoff says. “For you, it might be olives, for me, it could be lemons or corn.” In other words, sugar, gluten, and nuts aren’t the only dodgy items to be aware of. If you suspect a food doesn’t agree with you, eliminate it for a few weeks and see how you feel. If you add it back in and your symptoms return, you might be allergic or intolerant.
NO MORE MIDNIGHT SNACKS
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