Why are the last five pounds so hard to lose? "When you've got only a handful of pounds to go, you've really got to rev up your metabolism and, at the same time, lower your body's production of cortisol, the stress hormone, which promotes fat storage," says Los Angeles nutritionist Haylie Pomroy, who helps Jennifer Lopez stay movie and photo shoot ready. It's not as tricky as it sounds, but it does require diligence. So give yourself three to four weeks, follow these tips from our experts, and make "Go for the burn" your new motto.
By Wendy Schmid1. Eat Fat-Burning Foods
What you eat really counts when you've got just an inch or so to pinch. "Your metabolism is already working relatively well, so focus on fiber-rich foods that have a thermogenic effect, making your body expend more energy as it breaks them down," says Pomroy. According to Manhattan weight-control specialist Stephen Gullo, high-fiber foods also form a coating on the intestinal walls that prevents some of the absorption of calories from other foods. A final bonus: When you lose weight, fat exits through the bowel, and fiber aids that exit strategy. Make this your grocery list: dark leafy greens, asparagus, radishes, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, artichokes, zucchini, green beans, hearts of palm, mushrooms, quinoa, raw almonds, and low-sugar fruits like Asian pears, kiwi, and grapefruit. Supplement these fat burners with lean, organic proteins such as egg whites, chicken, turkey, bison, and
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2. Forget "Fat Free" and "Sugar Free"
You don't have to give up dairy, just the fat-free variety. "When you take the fat out of a dairy product, the natural milk sugar it contains gets into the bloodstream faster, sending your body into fat-storing mode," explains Pomroy. "Suddenly that fat-free Greek yogurt is fattening." Instead, choose organic, hormone-free two-percent dairy. Ditch the sugar-free stuff too. "The body can't process chemical sweeteners, so not only do they get stored in your fat, they impair your body's ability to release that fat for fuel," says Pomroy.
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3. Be Calorie Clever
"I tell my clients to treat calories like dollars and avoid paying retail," says Gullo. That means a get-more-for-your-money strategy of substitutions. Examples: Trade brown rice (around 200 calories per cup) for high-fiber GG Bran Crispbread (12 calories per piece), and rather than a tablespoon of olive oil (120 calories), mix just a teaspoon with balsamic vinegar and lemon juice for salad dressing. "You save calories without sacrificing taste, plus vinegar slows the emptying of the stomach, so you feel more satiated," he says. For the month, eliminate calorie-dense bananas, grapes, cherries, starchy squash, edamame, potatoes, and avocados.Read More: The Hottest Long Hairstyles to Try Now
4. Cut Caffeine and Alcohol Need motivation?
Consider how they affect your body's inner workings. "Caffeine stimulates the adrenals to produce cortisol, and alcohol both slows metabolism and is readily stored as fat," explains Pomroy. "So you're making your body less efficient at doing what you want it to do. If you're drinking more than two alcoholic beverages a week, you can drop two to three pounds in the first two weeks simply by cutting them out."
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5. Burn Calories While Drinking
To keep your system humming, down 12 to 16 glasses of water a day (dehydration hinders metabolic function) and drink decaf oolong tea, advises Gullo. "It's been shown to increase metabolism by 10 percent-even more than green tea," he says. Before bed, skip the tea and instead have a thermogenic brew made with the juice of one lemon, hot water, a tablespoon of chopped, potassium-rich parsley, and a pinch of cayenne. (Steep for 15 minutes.) "It increases calorie burning while you sleep and prevents water retention," Pomroy says. "My clients find the depuffing effect encouraging."6. Take These 5 Supplements
- PROBIOTICS These can help maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in your digestive tract; imbalances have been linked to weight gain. Try Klaire Labs Ther-Biotic Complete ($41; one cap daily).
- B-COMPLEX "B vitamins lower cortisol production and stimulate metabolism," says Pomroy. Try Living Beyond Organic B-Complex ($50; one half teaspoon with meals).
- CALCIUM "High-calcium diets lead to greater weight loss, particularly in the abdominal area," says Gullo. (Good news, since that's where pesky cortisol packs on the pounds.) Try Schiff Super Calcium 1200 ($7.65; two soft gels daily with a meal).
- VITAMIN D A deficiency can make it harder to lose weight. Try Jarrow Formulas Vitamin D3 1000 IU ($7.95; one soft gel twice daily with meals).
- OMEGAS Essential fatty acids help stabilize blood sugar and encourage fat metabolism, Pomroy says. Fans of her popular organic flax-oil blend swear it helps fight cellulite too. Try East West Essentials Optimal Fatty Acid Blend ($48; one capsule three times daily with meals). Want to swallow fewer pills? Consider SafSlim, a new liquid supplement said to target belly fat with omega-rich linoleic acid from safflower oil ($29.99; one tablespoon twice daily). "Studies suggest that linoleic acid may aid weight loss by helping with appetite control and metabolic efficiency," says Gullo.
Otherwise, you may not budge that extra pudge. Research shows that sleeping less than six hours a night not only prevents weight loss, it can lead to an elevated BMI (body mass index) and a higher risk of obesity. "When you get too little sleep, leptin, the satiety hormone, decreases and ghrelin, the hunger hormone, increases. People become hungrier and tend to overeat," says Eve Van Cauter, director of the University of Chicago Medical Center's sleep-research laboratory and a leading authority on the subject. Lack of shut-eye also raises cortisol, and, warns Van Cauter, these hormones can get out of whack if you sleep less for just two days. So wind down early for your best results.
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8. Double Up Your Workouts
It sounds difficult, but even the Victoria's Secret models cop to working out twice a day before the big holiday show. "You've got to split up your workouts to torch that last bit of fat," says celebrity trainer Bob Harper. Follow this program every other day; it doesn't even require a gym.
A.M.: "These compound body movements utilize multiple muscle groups and get your metabolism going," he says. Do the circuit three times.
1. Two minutes jumping rope.
2. Twenty sumo squats: With legs just wider than shoulder width and toes pointing slightly outward, slowly lower your body into a squat, keeping weight in your heels, and drop your butt just lower than 90 degrees (so fingers touch the floor) before slowly raising up.
3. Fifteen burpees: Stand upright, feet hip width apart. Drop down into pushup position, kicking your legs back and out. Do a pushup, then pull legs back under you as you push off the floor, and hop to a standing position.
4. Ten traditional pushups.
P.M.: "Pump up your calorie burn by doing cardio at the end of the day, when your body naturally wants to rest," says Harper. Get outside and run for 30 to 45 minutes. Or do run-walk intervals for the duration, running for four minutes and then walking for one.9. Try An Alternative Therapy
If you've hit your late 30s or 40s, when your metabolism can get sluggish, your body may need an extra nudge. "Acupuncture has been shown in studies to stimulate metabolism, lower cortisol, and improve thyroid function," says Los Angeles acupuncturist and antiaging specialist Mao Shing Ni. "One treatment a week can easily help you lose five pounds in a month, even if you're not strenuously dieting and exercising." How it works: During a 30-minute session, you lie down comfortably and close your eyes. Painless acupuncture needles are inserted into designated points (on the head, arms, hands, belly, and legs) that regulate metabolism, hormone production, digestion, elimination, and satiety. How's that for effortless weight loss?
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