So what is it? We're all dying to know the secret to six-pack abs or the best fat-burning foods. And while the hot fitness trend, breakthrough supplement, or diet-trick lure are each full of big promises, they rarely provide us with the big breakthrough we expect. They also don't produce any significant, lasting change in our bodies. The truth is not as sexy as all that—but it can be simple. The key to losing fat is doing a few basic things—consistently.
It's true: More evidence is piling up that sleep is critical to your weight-loss regimen. Why? Because getting plenty of shut-eye keeps your stress hormones lower (which leads to steady blood-sugar levels and less cravings) and helps you to stay on track with your eating. Sleep also allows you to repair and rebuild—without it, your hard-earned sweat at the gym is less effective.
• Eat regularly and balance carb intake
Skimping on calories is finally (thank goodness!) falling out of favor. Eating the right foods at regular intervals keeps your metabolism humming along and your cravings and hunger at bay—key for staying on track. Avoid coming home ravenous only to scarf down a bag of pretzels—in fact, avoid becoming ravenous, period.
During the day, schedule eating breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon snack—such as an apple and a few nuts, a hard-boiled egg or two, turkey slices and some raw veggies, so that by dinnertime you're ready to eat, but not starving. Regular mealtimes and snacks keep your blood sugar level and you from the sugar and starchy carb cravings that sabotage eating a reasonable dinner.
• Create a well-rounded plate
Aim for: a 4-oz serving of protein (a lean meat, some fish for example); unlimited non-starchy veggies (green-leafies, cucumbers, bell peppers, asparagus, etc.); a controlled amount of starchy carbs (grains, legumes, or root veggies such as sweet potato) that leave you satisfied, not sleepy and craving more carbs; and finally, if you like, something to sate your sweet tooth (naturally) like a piece of fruit. (For more info see my book Ultimate You.)
• Strength train to build muscle mass
Muscle is the tissue that “burns” calories so we want more of it! And often, women get a bit nervous when it comes to lifting heavier weight. But ladies, you simply don’t have the testosterone to build big muscles. If you do feel bulky, it's because you've built up some muscle mass but haven't zapped the fat. Watch your starchy and sugary carb intake and keep up with your cardio. For women especially, fat loss is largely related to diet more so than more time on the treadmill.
Experiment with some weight-loss recipes!
Brooke Kalanick, N.D., LAc is a naturopathic doctor and a graduate of Bastyr University, and the co-author of Ultimate You: A 4-Phase Total Body Makeover for Women Who Want Maximum Results. Visit her at betterbydrbrooke.com.