The busy holiday season is about to hit, and that means heading home to see family and friends, ugly Christmas sweaters, and endless supplies of not-so-healthy foods will be shoved in front of us.
And whether you pulled out your winter clothes only to realize that last year's cords are a just little tight, or you want to preemptively avoid that inevitable winter weight gain, you might have some extra fluffiness hanging around your midsection that you're itching to get rid of.
Don't worry, we hear you. And we've got you covered. Here are our six best tips for losing weight, fast. Whether you try one or all, these tricks will help you feel cleaner, healthier, and lighter this holiday season.
Don't overdo the cardio.
Whether you love it or hate it (and if you hate it, check this out), cardio exercise is necessary to maintain a healthy body. But that doesn't necessarily mean that it will help you lose weight.
Our bodies are smart and adaptable, so if you do the same workout every day, eventually you'll plateau. A daily three mile run at a slow and steady pace will actually burn muscle (not fat), decrease human growth hormone, and increase cortisol (the stress hormone that's responsible for that annoying belly fat). Plus, it's pretty boring to do the same thing every day.
Work out smarter, not harder. Try integrating high intensity interval training into your cardio workouts instead; HIIT workouts consist of a bout of hard work for a short interval, and then a short rest interval. This variety will increase the body's fat burning capabilities and keep things a little more interesting.
Start sleeping more.
Yes, to lose weight you should be a little lazier and sleep more. Should be no problem—right? Actually, for some reason, it can be really hard to switch off Netflix an hour earlier every night to get some much needed z's. The issue? When you're not getting enough down time, the body's circadian rhythms, which in turn affect hormonal balance, get really thrown off.
This causes the hormone leptin, which indicates to the brain when the stomach is full, to decrease by 15 percent—meaning you're going to eat about 15 percent more food when you're sleep deprived. Add in the fact that ghrelin, the hormone that signals to your brain that you're hungry and regulates appetite, increases by 15 percent, and any sort of diet goes out the window!
Fall asleep a little easier at night with the help of a melatonin supplement—melatonin is naturally produced by the body, but lack of sleep and exposure to too much light (ahem, like looking at your iPhone all day long) can deplete it in your system. Taking a supplement before bed will help you fall asleep more quickly, but won't leave you feeling drowsy.
Break up with sugar—in every form.
Excess sugar intake is the biggest cause of fat gain. Transformed by the liver into fat, you don't need to be guzzling granulated sugar by the spoonful to OD on the stuff—unfortunately, it's lurking in much of the food we eat and we don't even realize it. And it could be affecting your waistline in a big way.
Sugar is more than just the stuff you bake with—even alternative sweeteners that we think are healthier actually have the same effect on blood sugar and the white stuff does. Cutting all sugar from your diet can be tough—the stuff is pretty addicting and has the same effect on our brains as cocaine—but it will make a huge difference in losing weight.
Eat MORE fat.
Yep, really. The 1980's brainwashed us into believing that eating low-fat was the easiest way to lose weight; but in reality, slapping a "fat-free" label on foods usually meant they contained more sugar, more sodium, more artificial flavors, but no fewer calories. It's become clear in recent years that not only is saturated fat not a threat to heart health, but eating healthy fats keeps bodies more satiated and energized.
Want an easy way to kick start your metabolism in the morning and start burning fat from the moment you wake up? Try our easy fat-burning smoothie!
Get your gut health in check.
The gut is often touted as the second brain. And just like when our brains aren't performing optimally, our body suffers, when gut health isn't in tip-top shape, it can take a serious toll on overall health and metabolism.
Because the gut—what medical professionals call the stomach and small intestines—is responsible for breaking down food and absorbing nutrients, it's possible that weight gain can happen if the body can't absorb the nutrients it needs from food. Try supplementing your diet with a daily probiotic. Often people who start using probiotics notice that digestion improves, and a happy side effect is weight loss. Not into swallowing pills? Increase your daily dose of fermented foods, which contain bacteria that's beneficial to gut health too.
Think about just how much you sit all day long—some days pretty much consist of walking from one chair to the next. Not only does that equal more back and neck pain, but it also brings the body's metabolic rate to a slow roll.
Standing up for just three extra hours a day could help you lose eight pounds a year, while increasing the ability to focus, reducing the risk of diabetes, and even reducing the risk of cancer. And if even the White House is doing it, shouldn't you?
Make 75 percent of your plate green.
Next time you cook dinner, make sure half of your plate is piled high with green veggies. Why? These vegetables offer the body tons of nutrients in the form of antioxidants, fiber, and complex carbohydrates—and they're low in calories, so they'll fill you up.
An added bonus? A lot of us never plate our meals, instead opting to eat out of a few containers—a scoop of peanut butter here, a couple crackers there, and handful of cheese cubes a few minutes later—and without a visual representation of what we've eaten, we tend to underestimate our fullness and calories ingested. Plating your food can help with portion control and will automatically make you more conscious of what you eat.
Illustration by Karley Koenig