So you’ve gained some weight in a short amount of time, and you’re worried about the long-term impact on your health if you don’t get back down to your normal weight. Luckily, your quick weight gain is different than pounds that have slowly piled on over the years. When you gain weight over time, your body establishes something called homeostasis, or a metabolic set point. In everyday language, that means your body settles in at a higher number on the scale and alters your metabolism to keep you there. So when you cut calories to try and drop pounds, your metabolism slows the heck down and fights you every step of the way.
But the weight you’ve gained during a short period of time is more a consequence of circumstances than long-term habits or metabolic shifts, like eating holiday cookies just because they’re around, says Julie Stefanski, a licensed dietician in Morrisville, North Carolina, and spokesperson for the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. But none of these behaviors are so deeply entrenched than they are hard to change. You just need to know where to start.
Use these seven weight loss strategies to get yourself back on track — fast.
1. Focus on the Now
“Getting back on the bandwagon can be tough — especially after a few months of letting yourself go,” acknowledges Spiewak. “But don’t put it off, because the longer you delay, the less motivation you’ll have.” Start by think about what you can eat right now to get your diet back on track. “Look at each day as a new opportunity to do your best in terms of your health, exercise, and nutrition,” she says.
2. Start With Soup
Filling your belly with a broth-based soup before the main course can take the edge off so you don’t dive headfirst into a calorie-laden steak. (Some weight loss experts also suggest drinking a tall glass of water before a meal.) What you don’t want: beer, wine, or your usual cocktail. With its high calorie content and inhibition-loosening powers, alcohol is not your friend when you’re trying to lose weight, says Spiewak.
3. Get a Slow Cooker
The big advantage here: You’ll be cooking with less fat while making life easier. Basically, you can toss all the ingredients into the pot and leave them while you go about your day. “Look up one or two slow cooker or Instapot meals for this coming week,” says Stefanski. “Purchase all the ingredients you need and choose a day that you’ll prepare that recipe. Getting a few well-balanced meals in your rotation can help even out less-healthy meals or snacks.”
4. Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Cliché but true: If you don’t see it, you’re less likely to eat it. “If you’re tempted by certain foods and eating when you’re not physically hungry, move that food out of sight,” says Stefanski. “If you’re wired to finish the entire family size bag of chips if it’s in your lap, help yourself out and sit down with a smaller portion rather than the whole bag or container.”
5. Rise and ’Cise
The early bird catches the worm — and also reaps greater metabolic gains from exercise, according to a recent study in the journal Cell Metabolism. Researchers found that people who exercised first thing in the morning burned more fat and sugar than those who worked out at night. If you’re really not functional in the morning or you’re on kid patrol and a workout isn’t possible, make a point of choosing a time of day when you’ll break a sweat — and stick to it. “Schedule your workout on your calendar as an appointment,” says Stefanski. “When we try to fit in exercise haphazardly, it often doesn’t make it on the schedule at all.”
6. Join the 500 Club
A pound of your flesh is equal to 3,500 calories, meaning every time you reach a deficit of 3,500 calories in your diet compared to what you usually eat, you’ll drop a pound. If a pound a week sounds good, you’re looking to shave 500 calories a day from your meals (500 x 7 = 3,500). To bump that weight loss up to two pounds a week, add exercise: Burning 500 additional calories daily by working out, along with shaving 500 calories through diet, gets your total up to a 1,000 calorie deficit per day.
7. Quick Calorie-Incinerating Workouts
So how do you burn 500 calories as fast as possible? Here’s the breakdown:
- 30 minutes: Run (1-minute sprint, 1-minute jog; repeat)
- 40 minutes: Jump rope
- 45 minutes: Strength training (bodyweight exercises including pushups, sit-ups, burpees and planks. Do not stop between moves)
- 50 minutes: Cross-country skiing (if you happen to live in snowy climes)
- 55 minutes: Racquetball/tennis (you don’t need a court or a partner, just a wall in the house you can whack a ball against)
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