Get a Handle on Fat Loss in 2017

Ten tips for a figure-flattering year.

January 31, 2017


Dwayne N. Jackson, Ph.D.; Kamal Patel, MPH; and Jill Schildhouse

Although you had the best intentions on New Year’s day, it’s far too easy to become de-motivated by the time your Valentine shows up at your door carrying a mouthwatering box of dark chocolates. The weather is bleak, swimsuit season is months away and empty carbs have become your BFF over the holidays. It’s only a few weeks into 2017, but you find yourself backsliding. Here are 10 ways to keep your fat-loss efforts on track.

Visualize the outcome you’re aiming for. 

Make it real by digging out a photo of yourself when you were at your best or clipping a picture out of your favorite magazine (Oxygen, no doubt!) and putting it up on your refrigerator as a daily reminder.

Use a journal to track your progress.

Do it old school with a pencil and notebook or use a fitness-tracking app — it doesn’t matter, as long as you write down your objectives, your action plan (workouts and menus) and note your advances or setbacks.

If you find that you’re seeing a lot of setbacks, re-evaluate your program.

Keep it realistic so that you don’t set yourself up for failure. Don’t aim for seven days in the gym. Instead, plan on three or four days. If you find time for physical activity on other days, consider it a bonus.  

Sleep well!

During deep sleep, the body releases an abundance of growth hormone, which repairs and builds lean mass while promoting fat loss. Sleep deprivation interferes with that and negatively impacts your figure. Recent evidence also illustrates that sleep quality impacts hormones associated with hunger and feelings of fullness, especially when dieting. So when you’re dieting, it’s especially important to maintain a normal sleep schedule of eight to 10 hours per night.

Consume an abundance of protein.

Some dietitians and physicians question the efficacy of eating ultrahigh amounts of protein while trying to lose fat. However, a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise tells us that serious athletes should consume at least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day in an effort to preserve lean mass while dieting and training. That means about 130 grams of protein for a 130-pound woman.

Don’t worry if you skip a meal.

Older research fueled the idea that eating four or more meals a day was associated with a lower risk of obesity than eating three or less. However, more recent research shows that adhering to a diet — eating fewer calories than you burn — seems to be the most important factor in successful weight loss in the long run. The number of meals you eat is a lot less crucial for fat loss. (Don’t skip breakfast, though. Studies suggest that those who take breakfast lightly are more likely to overeat later in the day. Carve out enough time in your morning for a substantial breakfast.)

Have fun with your fitness program.

Change things up once in a while and keep it interesting by trying a new activity. Easily accessible to fitness buffs with or without a gym membership, CrossFit is one of the best alternatives. Billing itself as an elite training system appropriate for everyone from police academy trainees to senior citizens, CrossFit offers a Workout of the Day, or WOD, that combines high-intensity activity with strength-training exercises involving kettlebells, dumbbells, medicine balls and carrying or pushing heavy objects. For lovers of dance, there’s Cardio Barre and Zumba. Climb a rope or a rock wall, try indoor rowing or go ice skating.

Take progress pictures every 10 days or so.

This is especially important after you’ve increased your reps or weights or added time to your cardio sessions. Gauging your progress by looking at the numbers on a scale doesn’t always reveal the truth. (Muscle and fat have different densities — fat occupies more space than muscle.)

Don’t think that it’s “all or nothing.”

It’s just not realistic to never eat out again or skip all happy hours in order to hit the gym. Avoid a total dietary blowout by allowing yourself a few small cheat meals a week. Don’t make any particular foods completely off-limits; rather, think about spending those calories wisely. (Indulge in a small piece of your mother’s chocolate cake if that’s what you really crave, but skip store-bought cookies.)

Keeping your metabolism elevated is imperative.

Drink about a gallon of cold water per day. This not only keeps you hydrated but also provides a decent kick to your metabolism in addition to what you get from exercise. Expect to burn about 200 extra calories per day if you drink a gallon of cold water daily, which seems a lot easier than doing more cardio! In addition, drinking a few cups of water before meals can fill you up and help you reduce your overall calorie consumption.