One motivating factor in reaching a weight-loss goal is to think about the skinny jeans, strapless dresses, and bathing suits you'll be able to wear once you hit your ideal body weight. Until that happens, use your current wardrobe to stay on track. Check out these closet weight-loss tools.
First things first: lifting heavier weights will not turn you into the Incredible Hulk. In fact, lifting a heavier set of dumbbells can actually lead to a smaller, stronger you. Sound like just what you're after? Here are two important reasons to ditch the two-pounders and grab heavier weights.
- You'll lose weight faster: Who doesn't want to drop pounds the most efficient way possible? Healthy chef and trainer Katy Clark recommends this test: "Whatever weight you're bearing — if you're doing five pounds, if you're doing 10 pounds — if you're not tired by [rep] number 10, then you need to go a little bit heavier. If you are consistently doing that, you're going to see changes in your strength and in your muscle mass." More muscle mass equals more metabolism, so maximize your body's fat-burning potential by challenging your muscles with heavier weights.
- You can reshape your body: Cardio may help you shed excess pounds, but it's the weights that will help you sculpt the strong, toned look you're going for. "You’re not going to change the shape of your body [with cardio], you’re just going to be exactly like you are but you’ll be a smaller version," says trainer Tia Falcone, who helped Miss America lose over 50 pounds. "All your flaws will be the same, everything will just be smaller." She recommends doing four weight-training routines a week to sculpt and reshape your problem areas.
Of course, if you're not used to a weight-training routine, start small and work your way up to heavier weights; starting too heavy can lead to injuries that can sideline all your weight-loss efforts. Here's a chart of common dumbbell sizes for beginners to help you get started; in general, aim for a weight that will fatigue your muscles in eight to 12 reps.
You don't have to resign yourself to gaining weight over the holidays — and you don't have to feel deprived either! If you implement one of these weight-loss tips over the next few months, you'll be able to keep up a healthy weight without any unnecessary struggle.
Eat Carbs in the A.M.
Many people ask The Biggest Loser trainer Bob Harper if they should be cutting carbs entirely when trying to lose weight. You'll be glad to know that he completely disagrees, since "your body needs carbs for fuel." His advice? Front-load your carbohydrates: the largest meal (higher in carbohydrates) of the day should be breakfast, and the rest of your meals should be "trending smaller as the day goes on." The hope is when you eat carbs earlier in the day, "you'll know you'll have time to burn them off" with exercise later on.
Vegan Before Dinner
When you cut out dairy and meat from the majority of your meals, you're naturally reducing the calorie and fat counts without having to overanalyze every ingredient. That's why Mark Bittman's vegan-before-dinner, "Flexitarian" diet works! If you eat balanced, vegan meals with tons of veggies, fruits, and grains for breakfast and lunch, after 6 p.m., you can enjoy your favorite recipes — in moderation, of course. This plan also leaves you some wiggle room when fun holiday plans roll around. If you're eating clean all day and getting in a workout, there's no reason you can't enjoy a special meal at night.
The 80/20 Rule
For the space to go out socially and enjoy a special meal (or a cocktail!) with friends over the holidays, follow the 80/20 rule. The breakdown is simple: 80 percent of the time you focus on eating clean, good-for-you foods, and 20 percent of the time, you have the freedom to indulge as you please. If you eat three square meals a day, three of those meals every week are your 20 percent cheat meals — plenty of room for a special holiday brunch or the classic Thanksgiving dinner!
What's your strategy to make sure you keep off weight during the holidays?
Making your own snacks and meals is a surefire way to help you keep track of calories and maintain your weight. Since eyeballing your servings can be iffy, keep yourself honest and prevent overeating with these portion-control products.
Geneva Alexander started with goal: to lose 50 pounds in time for her best friend's wedding. A year and a half later, the 27-year-old night-shift nurse has lost over double her original goal. Read on to find out how Geneva balances life and odd work hours and still managed to lose the weight and keep it off.
POPSUGAR Fitness: What made you decide to start?
Geneva: My weight-loss journey began when my best friend asked me to be her maid of honor. I didn't want to stand up in front of a room full of people and make a speech as the fat friend. Her wedding provided a tangible deadline to lose a significant amount of weight. My goal was to drop 50 pounds before her wedding.
PS: What is your favorite way to work out?
GA: I love HIIT workouts for cardio. I like how the change of pace keeps cardio interesting and not just a boring jog on the treadmill. I also love weight lifting. I work with a personal trainer twice a week and work on powerlifting moves like deadlifts, back squats, and bench press. I just hit a personal record on my deadlift of 300 pounds. I love feeling feminine and strong.
PS: What's your weekly exercise schedule?
GA: I typically work out six times per week. I am lucky enough to belong to a small family-owned gym that runs metabolic classes that are in a HIIT style. I take those group exercise classes typically four times per week. My other two workout days, I work with my personal trainer doing strength and weight lifting exercises. We typically do a lower-body day early in the week, and our second workout will be upper body.
PS: How do you keep workouts exciting?
GA: I like to keep things changing monthly. I also will pick a new fitness goal every few months, whether it is to increase the amount of weight I lift, or decreasing my mile time. I also promised myself to complete one big fitness challenge every year. This year, I trained for and ran my first half marathon.
First things first: we aren't suggesting you diet on Thanksgiving. Enjoy yourself and the rewards of a meal that takes hours to prepare. But when you consider how easy it is eat your way well over the 2,000-calorie mark on dinner alone, it doesn't hurt to make a few small changes in your cooking. And we're not talking changes that involve dry, skinless turkey breast or a dessert the size of a thimble. These six changes will shave hundreds of calories off your Thanksgiving meal without skimping on taste.
1. Be One With Brine
No need for a fat-laden butter rub to impart flavor and moistness! Instead opt to brine or smoke your bird. If you're short on time, try this easy herb-roasted solution that uses heart-healthy olive oil.
2. Choose Spuds Wisely
Forget russets! Make your mashers with yukon gold and yellow finn potatoes instead. These smaller varieties are naturally creamy and sweet, and their skins taste like butter. This means you can cut down on the amount of butter and cream you would normally add, and keeping the skins ups fiber content. Or you can skip white potatoes altogether using this recipe for a savory sweet potato mash — talk about antioxidant overload!
3. Say No to Marshmallow Fluff
You can still get all the nostalgia of a sweet potato casserole minus the sugar and fat. Skip the sugary marshmallow topping, and put the focus on sweet and savory spices, like ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon like you'll find in this recipe for a sweet potato-pecan casserole. A touch of brown sugar or maple syrup is all it takes to bring out the veggie's natural sweetness.
4. Do You Really Need Cream of Mushroom?
We get it, green bean casserole with condensed soup is a Thanksgiving staple, but our guess is that your family will be OK if you skip it this year. Instead of veggies drowning in cream, butter, and cheese, opt for simpler recipes that highlight the natural flavors of the produce. If you're thinking "how boring!," there are a lot of side dishes that are both tasty and creative. We're huge fans of this fresh green bean casserole and also balsamic brussels sprouts.
5. It's All Gravy, Baby!
You gotta have gravy on the table; mashed potatoes and turkey just wouldn't be the same. But your gravy doesn't have to be dripping in saturated fat. One of the easiest ways to make gravy healthier is by skimming off the fat: pour pan juices into a container and place in the freezer. Once the fat has risen to the top, skim it off and discard. What's left is the perfect base for gravy! Instead of adding loads of cream or butter to your gravy recipe, use chicken stock and herbs. You'll find that you're still left with a rich sauce that will make any turkey proud.
6. Less Is More
It's good to have options, but a Thanksgiving spread doesn't have to rival an all-you-can-eat Vegas buffet. Carbs are always a calorie-dense option and fill you up fast; skip the bread basket, and just focus on the stuffing and mashed potatoes. Instead of offering five pies, ice cream, and cake, choose one or two desserts to serve. All the veggies you serve don't have to be rich dishes — it's amazing how welcome a fresh salad is on Thanksgiving. Focus on the staples, and you'll find that everyone will still walk away satisfied and full. No one — including yourself — will miss what's not there!
While I'm a firm believer in having a morning snack, not everyone has the time to stop for a banana and almonds break. If a morning snack isn't an option for you, fill up on a breakfast that's high in protein to satisfy your hunger and keep your energy going strong until lunch. Here are some breakfast ideas that contain at least 20 grams of protein and are all under 350 calories.
Cheese and Veggie Omelet
Total protein: 21.7 grams
Total calories: 270
Continue reading for more high-protein breakfast ideas.
Exercise is essential when it comes to dropping pounds. So if you're eager to lose the weight, then here are three everyday changes that will help increase your calorie burn.
Moving workouts to early mornings may mean exercising before the sun rises, but here's the big payoff: morning exercisers burn more calories. Research shows that people who exercise in the a.m. work harder and for longer periods of time, which may be because they're more alert, energetic, and don't feel as rushed as afternoon or evening exercisers. Getting into a regular morning routine also means you're more likely to stick with it, which will help even more on your weight-loss journey.
When it comes to cardio, running will help you lose more weight than walking since it burns more calories, but if you increase your speed just a little, then you'll burn even more. And don't stick to a consistent pace the entire workout. Adding sprinting intervals is an effective way to increase your calorie burn and has also been proven to reduce belly fat. Also be sure to swing those arms as you move, and you'll burn 15 percent more calories.
Strength Train in the Ladies' Room
Muscle burns more calories than fat does, so the more muscle mass you have, the better it is for weight loss. Don't just hit the weight room at the gym. Include strength training moves throughout your day, such as push-ups on the bathroom counter and two minutes of squats while you brush your teeth. You can also work your body by carrying a basket instead of pushing a cart, using the stairs whenever possible, and sitting on an exercise ball instead of a chair.
A strict vegan diet may be out of the question, but what if you were just vegan until dinner? After New York Times food writer Mark Bittman ended up at the doctor with a pre-diabetes, he did just that. In order to shed some unhealthy pounds and restore his health, he adopted his Flexitarian diet, outlined in his bestseller VB6 ($26).
Mark eats balanced, vegan meals with tons of veggies, fruits, and grains for breakfast and lunch, and only after 6 p.m. does he eat the foods he "simply couldn't give up forever." Instead of feeling deprived or restricted, he has the opportunity to eat his favorite recipes that contain meat, dairy, or eggs — in moderation, of course! Once Mark committed to the Flexitarian plan, his unwanted weight came off quickly, and he was no longer at risk for diabetes.
When you cut out dairy and meat from the majority of your meals, you're naturally reducing the calorie and fat counts without having to overanalyze every ingredient. But don't make the vegan weight-gain mistakes eating a ton of carbs, skipping out on protein, or eating french-fried vegetables — even if it has a vegan label attached, junk is always junk! Instead, focus on eating clean, unprocessed vegan foods, with plenty of fiber and protein, that satisfy the body for longer and provide the essential nutrients we all need.
If you're in need of some recipe inspiration, try Mark Bittman's spicy sweet potato salad or these other vegan lunches you can take to work. Afraid of the committment? Try out a full-day of vegan meals with this high-protein vegan meal plan that outlines everything for you.
Could you go vegan until dinner? Have you before? Tell us in the comments!
After years of yo-yo dieting, Ashley German was tired of feeling like her weight was something she couldn't control. But it took a trip to the emergency room and a number on the hospital scale for her to decide to make a change. Now, she's lost 115 pounds, enjoys creating healthy recipes, and doesn't count calories. "My entire life has changed for the better, and I cannot imagine where I would be today had I not made up my mind to get healthy," she tells us. Read on to find out how Ashley changed her habits and dropped over 100 pounds!
POPSUGAR Fitness: What made you decide to start?
Ashley German: My entire life, I have struggled with not only my weight, but being in denial. I never wanted to believe that I was "one of those girls," the obese one, but I was. I would lose a little bit of weight, and then gain it all back plus some, over and over. It was an endless ride I desperately wanted help getting off of. I could never be happy in my skin or happy about the way I looked. This impacted everything about me, my attitude, the way I dressed and carried myself, the friends I had, the opportunities I didn’t take, etc.
During one of my low-weight periods when I was a bit happier with the way I looked, I met a guy (now my amazing husband) and started our relationship! The happier I got, the more the weight continued to pack on. I knew my weight was out of control, but once again, it’s like being on this never-ending ride with absolutely no off switch.
I played naïve and I played the victim. “Oh, I carry my weight well” or “I just have bad genetics” were common thoughts that were completely fabricated to make myself feel better. It wasn’t until an accidental fall down some stairs, a hurt ankle, and a trip to the ER that I realized I needed to get my weight truly under control! At the emergency room, I hopped on the scale (which terrified me) as a nurse requested. It wasn’t until I saw him hold up his hand and sign 2-5-5 to the other nurse that I realized what I weighed. I can’t even express how devastating it was to realize I had let myself go to that point. Everything else in my life was under control, I was dating an awesome guy, I was about to graduate college, and here I was over 100 pounds overweight.
PS: What's your favorite way to work out?
AG: I’ve tried just about every type of workout! I love CrossFit, but after moving I am no longer a member of a CrossFit gym. My husband and I use our backyard, weights, cones, and other objects to do our own version of CrossFit a few times a week! Keeping things interesting is important!
PS: What's your weekly exercise schedule?
AG: Now that I’ve shed 115 pounds, my weekly exercise schedule has changed a bit. I try to work out five days a week even though it used to be seven. I try to make it to the gym on the days that I can; if schedules prevent that, we do CrossFit, go running, take the dog on the walk, go on bike rides, etc. Whatever we can do to get even minimal exercise in is crucial to stay dedicated. A crappy workout is better than no workout in my opinion.
PS: How do you keep workouts exciting?
AG: My key to keeping workouts exciting is trying new things and doing different activities. One day I may run, the next hike, the next lift weights. I also love working out with people! I like working out with my husband or if I have family or friends in town I will suggest something active.