Slim for Life: 6 Strategies to Lose Fat for Good

Jeff Harris/Fitness MagazineJeff Harris/Fitness MagazineBy Richard Laliberte

Trying yet again to lose those last 10 pounds? We hear you. In fact, 50 percent of women say that within six months they gain back any weight they've managed to ditch. And more than a quarter have dieted so many times they've lost track of the number. Well, get ready to stop the endless yo-yoing: Science has finally come up with simple, groundbreaking solutions for lasting weight loss. We checked in with the top experts in the field and scoured the latest research to bring you the skinny on everything you need to reach your slim-down goals and stay there.

Related: More Science-Proven Ways to Keep the Weight Off

#1: Make your fat burn fat.
Seriously: Your flab can help you shed pounds. How? Just as there's more than one kind of fat in food, there's more than one type in your body. White fat is the bad stuff you want to zap. But a second kind, brown fat, actually torches calories. "Up to 80 percent of adults have brown fat deposits in their bodies," says Aaron M. Cypess, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of medicine at the Joslin Diabetes Center and Harvard Medical School. This good fat is powerful because it's packed with mitochondria, the parts of cells that generate heat. When activated, as little as two ounces of brown fat can gobble up as much as 20 percent of your body's calories.

Exercise is one of the best ways to get your brown fat in gear. In a study, scientists at Harvard's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute discovered that working out releases a hormone called irisin, which converts white fat to brown. Exercise for a half hour at least five days a week to turn up the burn.

#2: Pop some vitamin D.
Taking this vitamin daily may help you drop pounds. A study at the University of Minnesota found that people who started a weight-loss program with higher levels of D lost more than those who weren't getting enough of the nutrient. Other research suggested that vitamin D appears to boost the effectiveness of leptin, a hormone that signals the brain that you're full. Because it's difficult to get D from food, Shalamar Sibley, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at the university, says you may need to take a vitamin D3 supplement. Many experts now recommend 1,000 international units every day.

Related: 10 Healthy Foods Packed with Vitamin D

#3: Get in the mood to lose.

You don't really want dessert, but your friends are having some, and they're urging you to join them. So you give in and order a piece of tiramisu. Sorry to say it, but you've just committed sociotropy, aka people pleasing, a behavior that can make you gain weight. In a recent study, women and men who regularly experienced negative emotions like guilt, anxiety, and anger, and were impulsive and disorganized, tended to be heavier than those who were more even-keeled. "Women score slightly higher than men on people-pleasing measures," says Julie Exline, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at Case Western Reserve University. That may be because guys are raised to be assertive while women are socialized to value relationships and "basically to be nicer," Exline explains. In other words, we're inclined to go along with what the rest of the group wants to do, which includes digging into the tiramisu after dinner. If you feel pressured to pig out, "tell your friends politely but firmly that you're fine with what you have and that you're not hungry for more right now," Exline advises. Hold your ground and your pals will get the message.

#4: Revoke your license to splurge.

Talk about a catch-22: Doing something healthy, like eating a low-cal meal, can make you less likely to exercise and more likely to gorge yourself with food later on. This is because of a phenomenon scientists call licensing, which happens when we feel that we've earned the right to be self-indulgent. Most people have a tendency to want to balance things out, says Kathleen Vohs, PhD, an associate professor of marketing at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. So when we do one thing that's good for our health, which often requires exerting plenty of discipline and self-control, we like to follow it up with something that lets us indulge ourselves.

So how do you lose your license to overeat? Being alert to the fact that good choices can trigger bad behavior is a smart start. Next time you're tempted, think of an instance in the past when you failed to resist; recent research found that you'll want to improve on your previous performance.

#5: Chew on this.

Most of us eat quickly, chewing each bite just a few times, which means we consume more food than we realize. Slow down and you'll slim down: In a recent study, people who chewed each bite 40 times ate almost 12 percent less than those who chewed just 15 times. When we chew longer, our bodies produce less ghrelin, a hormone that boosts appetite, and more of the peptide hormones that are believed to curb hunger. "Chewing seems to stimulate the gut to make appetite-suppressing peptide hormones," Dr. Cypess explains. Plus, the more you chew, the more thoroughly you break down food, which may release nutrients into your blood faster and give your brain time to register that you're full. From now on, focus on eating slowly at every meal. Put down your fork between bites and work your way up to 40 chews per mouthful of food.

Related: Make Over Your Inner Monologue: 5 Expert Tips to Stop Overeating

#6: Pudge-proof your cells.

Sitting around can make you flabby. No surprise there, but despite what you may think, the culprit is not just a lack of exercise. In fact, the physical act of sitting or lying down may actually speed up your body's production of fat. When we lounge on a sofa or in a chair, we exert forces on our cells that cause them to become stretched out and to generate flab, researchers say. Glued to your desk every day for eight hours or more? You need to take action, says Richard Atkinson, MD, a clinical professor of pathology at Virginia Commonwealth University. Get up and walk around for five minutes at least once an hour. Take a stroll around the office. Go talk to a coworker rather than sending her an e-mail. Pace back and forth while talking on the phone. "Just standing -- even if you're not moving -- uses significantly more muscles than sitting down," Dr. Atkinson says. At home, when you're watching TV, get up and jog in place or do jumping jacks during commercials. These short bursts of exercise can help you burn 148 calories an hour and keep your cells slim, not flabby.

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