You’ve done everything to lose a little bit of weight (including that weird tea cleanse your BFF swore by) — but the scale is stubbornly stalled. Well, according to Christy Harrison, R.D., a registered dietician in Brooklyn, N.Y., there’s one thing you probably haven’t tried (and it’s the one thing that actually works): If you want to drop 10 pounds — drop the idea that you need to lose 10 pounds.
“It’s never okay to put a number on a weight loss goal,” Harrison says. “The next time you think, ‘I’d just feel better if I lost 10 pounds,’ ask yourself where that thought’s coming from. If we lived in a culture that told you your body is beautiful exactly as it is, would you still think that? If the answer is, ‘Yes, I’d love to be able to chase after my kids or feel less sluggish,’ OK then, let’s focus on that objective.”
And the biggest problem? It sets you up for failure. You’re forever chasing a number, not a lifestyle.
First weight loss rumor — debunked! Now here are some other common traps you’ve probably fallen into while trying to shed a few pounds, and better ways to approach getting healthy without spending your entire day in the gym and sacrificing your personality at the altar of weight loss. And, for the most part, these don’t involve exercising — or starving yourself.
Don’t: Try Another Fad Diet
Do: Embrace The Anti-Diet
Trendy meal plans may sound like the magical answer to get into your skinny jeans — swallow a pill, swig some juice, eat some kale. But come on, they also sound like complete bullshit. “Diets just don’t work — they’re not sustainable,” Harrison says. “Not only that, but the pressure we put our bodies under — either by restricting food intake, over-exercising or a combination of both — ups your chances for so many negative health consequences.” One of the biggest? Weight gain! And all of that carb watching and calorie counting is majorly stressing you out! In turn, that causes your body to start releasing cortisol, a stress hormone that’s been linked to increased weight.
Don’t: Avoid Meat In Order to “Detox”
Do: Pack In the Protein
“Protein requires 25 percent more energy to digest than carbs, so it’s possible to cut your calorie intake without eating less food,” says California-based personal trainer Jamie Sullivan. Your body has to work harder to digest a salmon filet than it does a bowl of pasta, meaning you can get away with a few extra bites of that perfectly cooked fish while the noodles could do a number on your waistline. Eating protein also causes your body to release a hormone called leptin, which makes you feel fuller so you eat less later. Bookmark some healthy protein recipes and get cooking. To that end…
Don’t: Obsess Over Food Rules
Do: Get Smart About Nutrition
Crying tears of sugar because you ate a donut that isn’t on your approved list of foods isn’t going to do you any good. You ate a donut. Cool. Move on. Here’s why: Remember when you were a kid and your mom banned soda from your life forever and it only led to serious root beer binges when you got to your friend’s house? Those same rules are in play here. Get label-crazed and you’ll lose your mind — not excess weight. And cutting yourself off from all of your favorite things will only lead to overdoing it on the sugary, salty foods.
Instead, Harrison says you should look at foods as a way of self-care — eat what makes you feel good and forget about it as a means of slimming down (although a solid side effect of healthy eating: weight loss). Does that mean a free-for-all on the candy bowl? No. But it’s a rule your body will naturally adapt to, not something you have to force on it. A bowl of almonds made you feel amazing in the mid-afternoon sales meeting, but those red gummies, not so much. Next time, you’ll likely reach for the almonds.
Here are a few other key food rules to follow: Fresh is best. Try to eat a lean protein at every meal, like grass-fed beef or free-range chicken, and make sure half of your plate is veggies.
Don’t: Consume Nothing But Liquids
Do: Increase Your H20 Intake
Here’s your permission to dump that electric-green juice craze down the drain. A better plan is to sip water throughout the day. Research shows it actually helps you cut down on calories. Often, thirst is confused for hunger.
And try salt water, while you’re at it. When it comes to H20, salt is not the enemy. “Water needs electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and chloride to be best absorbed,” says Jenny Westerkamp, an R.D. in Chicago, which explains why they’re added to popular sports drinks. She recommends adding a pinch of Celtic sea salt or real salt (unrefined and unbleached) to your water before chugging. “The electrolytes in the salt will push water into the cells where they need to be, rather than letting the water get flushed out, causing you to go to the bathroom every other minute.” You’ll notice a spike in energy after staying hydrated, too, and you’ll be less likely to give in to cravings which are even harder to avoid when you’re running on empty.
Don’t: Skimp On Sleep
Do: Clock In At Least 7 Hours
How’s this for get-fit advice: Get some rest. Seriously, though. When you’re exhausted, you’re more likely to make bad food choices and give into cravings for sugar and fried foods. Also, research shows that those who sleep less may be more likely to be overweight.
Don’t: Obsessively Weigh Yourself
Do: Avoid the Scale (If the Number Stresses You Out)
Research shows it can backfire when weight loss is your goal. If you get too wrapped up in the number of pounds you still have to shed, you can get discouraged and be tempted to give up altogether. Just focus on having healthier behaviors — use your clothes or weekly selfies as a guide if you need one — and the weight loss will follow.
Don’t: Exercise for Insane Amounts of Time
Do: Rethink What “Exercise” Really Means
I know I said these tips were about shedding pounds without working out, but being active is important, so here’s radical idea: Change the way you think about exercise by choosing to do something you enjoy. “It doesn’t have to be in a gym,” Harrison says. “It could be a dance class or going for a run around your neighborhood.” And it might even be worth it to get into tree pose when you’ve only got a few minutes. A study published in the journal PLOS ONE found that just 10 minutes of exercise has huge health benefits. In fact, even just one minute of intense activity is beneficial. But remember: that doesn’t mean slogging crazy hours on the treadmill. You don’t have to totally give up your whole life to drop those final pounds.