Slim for Life: Strategies to Lose Fat and Keep It Off

Use fat to burn fat.

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.

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.

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.

  • DENISE CREW

    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.

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