Falling short on zzz’s is also a surefire way to put your waistline in jeopardy. That’s because sleep deprivation knocks your hunger hormones out of whack, leading to an increase in ghrelin, which stimulates appetite, and a decrease in leptin, which signals when you are satiated. What’s more, research has shown that when you aren’t well-rested, you’re also more likely to reach for junk food (hello Ben & Jerry’s!)—and it may even become harder for you to build muscle mass.
Real talk: It could take weeks or months to see the metabolic effects of exercise on the scale, and even then, building muscle, which is denser than body fat, could lead to weight gain. "Do what you like because it’s good for you," Dr. Seltzer says, noting the way exercise is awesome for your heart, mental health, and more—and that not all measure of progress can be seen on the scale.
Carbs aren’t evil -- but sugar might be. “The concept of carbohydrates has really gotten such a bad reputation, and we need to understand that there are complex carbohydrates and ancient grains that can really help us not only lose weight, but increase satiety so we stay full longer and want to eat less. It actually decreases the cholesterol and stabilizes the blood sugar, and all of these things are a really important part of a weight loss program,” said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, an American Heart Association volunteer medical expert. These “good” carbs include whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans; the refined carbs (including refined grains and starches like white bread, white rice, pasta and mashed potatoes) should be consumed in limited amounts. “They are high in simple sugars, and that’s what adds weight,” said Dr. Steinbaum.
High intensity interval training, or HIIT, is a type of training that involves short bursts of high-intensity intervals of exercise combined with lower-intensity intervals. One example is all-out sprinting for 30 seconds between 60-second jogging sessions. One workout would involve five to 10 of those high-intensity cycles. This type of workout is designed to burn large amounts of fat in a short period of time.
It takes more than a couple of leisurely jaunts on the treadmill to get into photoshoot-ready shape. Those who achieve the lean, muscular look of the men you see in M&F have done so by tackling tough workouts with zeal. By incorporating higher intensity protocols—such as Tabata and high-intensity interval training (HIIT)—you keep your workouts at a modest length and maximize muscle breakdown, which helps boost post-workout calorie burn. Tabata, which calls for eight 20-second cycles of work followed by 10 seconds of rest, allows you to exhaust all types of muscle fiber while elevating your metabolism.
While few would suggest you start hitting up the tanning beds for better health, getting some natural sunlight can help you get rid of those extra inches on your waist in a hurry. Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center found that vitamin D-deficient overweight women between 50 and 75 who upped their intake of the so-called sunshine vitamin shed more weight and body fat than those who didn’t. To practice safe sun, make sure you’re limiting yourself to 15 sunscreen-free minutes per day.
In a way, moderate-intensity physical activity is that "magic pill" a lot of people are looking for, because the health benefits go beyond keeping your waistline trim: Not only can it reduce your risk of cancer, stroke, diabetes and heart attacks, but studies have shown that physical activity can significantly improve the moods of patients with major depressive disorders.