If keeping your girlish figure has becoming somewhat of a challenge over the years, there's a good reason. "The metabolism slows during your 30s, so you need to be a little more careful about the quality and quantity of food you eat," says Julie Upton, MS, RD, co-founder of . "At the same time, the 30s are typically the years when family and career demands are high, which means less hours for exercise and eating right." But don't toss out those skinny jeans just yet. Here are 30 proven wellness strategies that can help boost your metabolism, burn calories, and shed those extra where-did-they-come-from pounds.
While artificial sweeteners contain little—if any—calories, some evidence has found that it can actually increase hunger, ultimately leading to excess food intake. Also, a study published in the journal further concluded that the sugar substitute aspartame blocks a gut enzyme (intestinal alkaline phosphatase, commonly referred to as IAP) that can prevent obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome, making the use of this sweetener counterproductive.
Consuming one serving a day of foods from the dried seed members of the legume family–such as beans, peas, chickpeas or lentils—can lead to long-term weight loss, . After examining data from 21 clinical trials involving 940 adults, the authors—who had previously discovered that these high-protein, high-fiber foods increased the feeling of fullness by 31 percent—found that the men and women dropped about 1 pound over six weeks simply by adding a single serving of pulses to their eating regime.
After compiling the findings from 25 randomized human trials, state that eating probiotic foods, which include yogurt, sauerkraut, and miso soup, can lead to a decrease in body weight and BMI (body mass index)— with the greatest reduction in BMI occurring in overweight adults. Also, the medical researchers concluded that consuming more than one type of probiotic and taking probiotics for at least eight weeks resulted in increased weight loss.
, author of Slim Down Now, advises her clients to use their kitchen more often. "Even if that means simple, fast meals made with healthy shortcuts, like pre-cooked frozen whole grains, and canned wild salmon and pulses (beans, lentils, chickpeas), combined with fresh greens, avocado, nuts, and fresh fruit, cook at home," she states. One of her quick go-to recipes: Sauté veggies (like sliced mushrooms, bell pepper, onion, tomato) in low sodium veggie broth with ground turmeric, black pepper, and fresh basil. Add eggs to scramble, and serve with half an avocado and a side of fresh fruit.
A simple way to drop unwanted pounds—and to maintain a healthy weight—is to start the day with a high-protein breakfast, states Katherine Brooking, MS, RD, co-founder of . "Studies show this can help satisfy the appetite and reduce calorie intake for the rest of the day," she says. One option: An egg and veggie omelet. "Eggs can keep you fuller for longer, and research indicates they can help women lose weight more than eating a bagel breakfast of equal calories," she adds.
Going for too many hours without food can shift your metabolism into slow gear. "The solution is to follow the 'golden rule' of going no more than five waking hours without eating," states , culinary nutritionist, author of The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook. "For example, if lunch is at noon and dinner is at 7 p.m., enjoy a planned snack in between to help fuel your body and keep your metabolism revved-up." She adds that a 100-calorie pick can be ideal for women with lower-calorie needs. Newgent, a spokesperson for , suggests their bar. "It's portable, has 'built-in' portion management, and provides just 3 grams of sugar."
Short bursts of vigorous exercise in quick succession—as demonstrated in high-intensity interval training (HIIT)—can help shed the pounds, along with preventing, delaying, and managing type 2 diabetes. found that this time-efficient workout may bring about similar benefits to moderate-intensity aerobic exercise and could even be more effective.
Don't underestimate the power of the internet: that was comprised of 818 people who fell into the obese category (having a BMI over 30) found that those who were involved in an online support group lost nearly 3 pounds more than the average dieter over the course of 12 months. And 32 percent of the volunteers were able to maintain their weight loss during the year, as well.
Because it's not always about what you eat, but what's eating you. found that only one in ten people thought psychological well-being was the biggest obstacle in weight loss—a statistic that may point to the reason why millions of people struggle with overeating. Mental health specialists connected with this poll explain that seeking help in order to end the emotional attachment to food (whether indulging as a way to cope with sadness or stress or to celebrate a happy occasion) can break the yo-yo dieting cycle.
"Mindfulness isn't just a new age theory—its benefits are research backed, which include the ability to reduce inflammation (a known trigger of premature aging and disease), lower stress hormone levels, boost happiness, shrink belly fat, improve sleep, and curb appetite," states Sass. She practices mindful meditation with her clients to help them tap into their hunger and fullness signals. Free apps, such as Headspace, Calm, and Aura, can guide you through sessions. "Commit to just five minutes a day," adds Sass.
Meatless Monday, anyone? According to research published in the , adults who were shown to lose twice as much body weight than those who consumed a conventional low-calorie diet, resulting in an average loss of 6.2kg (almost 14 pounds) compared to 3.2kg (about 7 pounds). The vegetarian diet used in this study consisted of vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits and nuts, with animal products limited to a maximum of one portion of low-fat yogurt per day.
Brooking explains numerous people who struggle with their weight also eat mindlessly—and before you know it, a few extra nibbles here and there can add up to hundreds of extra calories each day. "Write everything you eat down in a notebook or use a mobile app to track food on-the-go, if you're tech-savvy," she suggests.
Even though consuming dried fruit isn't typically recommended on a weight loss plan, discovered that those who ate prunes each day dropped more pounds and more waist circumference compared to those who didn't add dried plums to their diet. The researchers reported that the prune eaters experienced greater weight loss during the last four weeks of the study and they experienced greater feelings of fullness after eight weeks.
Newgent explains that a Mediterranean approach to eating—which involves plenty of vegetables, legumes, wholes grains, fruits, and nuts, along with olive oil, some dairy and animal protein (mainly fish), and red wine—has been shown to lead to weight loss. "A study published in found that older adults who ate a Mediterranean diet, including high amounts of nuts and olive oil, lost more weight than participants following a low-fat diet," she says, "In other words, don't give up fat—just make it mainly plant-based fat!"
Upton credits Dr. Barbara Rolls, Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Penn State University, as being a pioneer in studying the role of high "water volume" foods on fullness and weight loss. One of her key findings: Broth-based soups, like miso and chicken noodle, can contribute to a feeling of fullness. "But heavy, cream-based soups, such as New England clam chowder, defeat the purpose," she states.
According to a study that calculated the behaviors of 3,300 overweight or obese adults published online in the journal , surrounding yourself with people who have similar body goals will increase your chances of weight loss success by 20 percent. The researchers attribute these results to the effects of "positive peer pressure."
When warmer weather arrives, you may want to crank up the AC! One group of researchers discovered that people who spent two hours a day for six weeks in a room where the temperature was set at 17 degrees Celsius (62.6 degrees F) showed a decrease in body fat. In another study mention in the journal , volunteers who were exposed to a temperature of 15 degree Celsius (59 degrees F) for six hours a day for ten days increased brown fat (the kind of fat that can burn calories).
Sounds like Popeye was onto something. A spinach extract containing green leaf membranes called thylakoids decreases hedonic hunger (a term reserved for extreme cravings of high-fattening, high-caloric foods) with up to 95 percent and increases weight loss by 43 percent, say . After sipping a green drink each morning for three months, the women whose beverage contained 5 grams of spinach extract lost more than three pounds compared to the volunteers who were given a placebo. Plus, the spinach group found it easier to stick to three meals a day and reported fewer cravings.
"Recent government data shows that the increase in the prevalence of obesity parallels the rise in the percentage of calories from carbohydrates—48.7 percent, up from 44 percent—which led researchers to conclude that for weight management, protein or fat should be substituted for surplus carbs," explains Sass. A few food swaps include trading traditional pasta for spaghetti squash or spiralized veggies, forgoing pretzels, crackers, or pita chips for veggies dipped in guacamole or hummus, and skipping baked goods to indulge in a piece (or two) of dark chocolate.
"If alcohol played a big role in your 20s, it's time to cut back—or stop—in your 30s," advises Brooking. "Passing on a nightly drink can help spark your weight loss because alcohol packs in a lot of calories. And keep in mind that alcohol also helps you lose your inhibitions—and makes your willpower wilt."
"While the responsibilities of work and parenthood can make getting 8 hours or more of sleep a challenge, research shows that adequate sleep plays a vital role in weight management," says Upton. She refers to one study which found that adults who reported less than seven hours of shut-eye a night were more likely to deal with weight gain and obesity—and the risk increased for every hour of lost sleep.
Sass explains that research from The North American Menopause Society shows that in post-menopausal women vitamin D supplementation can significantly increase muscle strength and reduce the loss of muscle mass. "So in addition to improving mobility and reducing injuries, maintaining more muscle mass means you'll burn more calories at rest, which reduces the risk of weight gain," she continues. In order to determine how much extra vitamin D your body requires, ask your primary care physician for a blood test.
"While water won't suddenly melt fat away, it has been shown to up calorie burning," says Sass. "One German study found that drinking two cups (16 ounces) of water upped calorie burning by 30 percent within 10 minutes, and the effect was sustained for more than an hour." She suggests aiming for 16 ounces four times a day.
Our eyes tend to be bigger than our stomach—and most of us can't eat as much as we did 15—even five—years ago. "To figure out the appropriate portions of your favorite foods, look at the nutrition facts panel on food labels and pay attention to what the recommended serving size is versus what you're actually eating," recommends Upton. "Also, for one week, weigh and measure all your food so that you get a better idea of what a healthy portion of food really is."
Then once you establish a proper portion size, update your dinnerware. "As you get older, your plates and bowls should get smaller," states Newgent. "Basically, the bigger the plate or bowl, the smaller your portions look." She adds that have found that people may pour about 30 percent more breakfast cereal into their bowl when bowl size is doubled. "And that means 30 percent more calories!" continues Newgent. "So if you want your portions to appear bigger and more satisfying, use smaller serveware."
Since whipping up nutritious dishes each day may not be realistic with a hectic schedule, relying on portion-controlled meals can be a viable option. In fact, concluded that 74 percent of volunteers who ate two prepared low-calorie entrees a day for three months lost about 8 percent of their initial weight compared to the dieters who were instructed to choose their own plan and dropped only 6 percent.
According to a survey of 347 obese people conducted by , the doctor-patient relationship can play a pivotal role in weight loss. Results from a questionnaire showed that the patients who viewed their primary care physician as a high-quality practitioner—someone who displays empathy and shows good communication skills, as well as being a trustworthy and supportive individual —lost nearly twice as many pounds compared to the patients who didn't give their doctor a favorable rating.
Because shirking your waistline shouldn't deplete your bank account. that was based on the weight loss results of nearly 75,000 volunteers found that 50 percent of those people shed a "clinically significant" number of pounds (defined as losing 5 percent or more of body weight) after signing up for the national, low-cost program Take Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS). Also, 62 percent of those who stayed with the program maintained this loss after seven years. You can join for a $32 annual fee plus nominal local chapter dues averaging about $5 per month.
Instead of concentrating on your ideal number on the scale, a health and wellness expert from the University of Alabama at Birmingham says the key to weight loss success is to take the journey one step at a time. She explains that becoming fixated on double-digit numbers can seem overwhelming and our emotions can deter us from thinking that achieving the end result is even possible. "Once those first one or two pounds are lost, you can celebrate," said Lauren Whitt, PhD . "Then the next mini-goal can become the focus." In other words, #babysteps.
Whether you're gradually shedding inches or if you're consistently losing one to two pounds each week, the good news is there is no better route for long-term weight loss. Research published in concluded that different types of healthy lifestyles work for different people. Therefore, "a slow and steady approach does not win the race, and the myth that rapid weight loss is associated with rapid weight regain is no more true than Aesop's fable," .