6 Foods That May Be Sabotaging Your Weight Loss Goals—And What to Eat Instead

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If you’ve ever tried to shed excess pounds, you know that losing weight can be a complicated (and frustrating) process. Not all foods—or calories, for that matter—are created equal, and just as some foods can expedite your weight loss journey, others can derail it quickly.

Here, three health experts explain which types of foods fall into the latter category—and what you should eat instead.

Foods with emulsifiers

Why they are harmful: Many processed foods, like ice cream, mayonnaise, margarine, chocolate, bakery products, and sausages, contain emulsifiers, which are chemicals that help blend together ingredients that would not naturally mix well together (e.g. oil and water), explains NYC-based registered nurse Rebecca Lee. Emulsifiers also make food look appealing, keep it fresh, and prevent molding. That may all sound harmless, but a study on mice found that consumption of these chemicals may do a number on your body by altering gut bacteria, triggering inflammation and increasing the risk of obesity and heart disease.

Check labels carefully to see if the food you’re consuming contains emulsifiers. Common emulsifiers include: lecithins, mono- and di-glycerides, polyglycerol ester, sorbitan ester, PG ester, and sugar ester.

What to eat instead: Where possible, opt for unprocessed foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, farm fresh eggs, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

Foods with MSG

Why they are harmful: Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a highly addictive flavor-enhancer commonly used in fast food (like Chick-fil-A and Kentucky Fried Chicken), Chinese takeout, ramen noodles, canned foods, processed meats, and numerous other prepackaged foods, explains Lee.

Regular consumption of MSG-laden foods is linked to weight gain, as well as many other health issues. A study of 750 Chinese men and women found that those who used the most MSG in their cooking were nearly three times more likely to be overweight than those who didn’t use any, she explains. Even scarier, the increase in obesity risk was independent of physical activity and total calories consumed.

Other MSG-linked conditions include fibromyalgia, fatty liver and liver toxicity, high blood sugars, asthma, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, neurological brain disorders, digestive disorders, and metabolic syndrome, says Lee.

MSG can be disguised by more than 40 different names, explains Lee. Key terms that may denote its presence: glutamate, anything “hydrolyzed”, yeast extract, gelatin, soy protein, soy or whey protein, soy sauce, anything "…protein", and calcium or sodium caseinate. MSG is hard to avoid because the FDA requires it to be listed on the label only if it’s used as a main ingredient, and not if it’s used only as a processing agent, which is a very common practice, explains Lee.

What to eat instead: Seek out foods that are minimally processed and seasoned with simple spices. Even better, flavor your meals with chile peppers for an extra metabolic boost. (Numerous studies suggest that capsaicin, the compound in chile peppers that gives them their heat, also raises metabolism).

RELATED: 5 Foods to Rev Up Your Metabolism

Artificial sweeteners

Why they are harmful: Many people use zero-calorie sugar substitutes as a weight-loss tool, but these sweeteners may actually have the opposite effect, says Lee. In a mice study, those who were fed artificial sweeteners saccharin, sucralose or aspartame developed glucose intolerance, a metabolic condition associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes. “The artificial sweeteners altered the animals’ gut microbiomes towards a balance of bacteria associated with metabolic diseases,” says Lee. What’s more, in a follow-up study on 7 human volunteers, 4 became glucose intolerant after consuming the maximum recommended dose of saccharin for just one week.

What to eat instead: Consuming too much regular added sugar isn’t good for you either, so satisfy your sweet cravings the natural way with whole fruits, cinnamon, nut butters, or sweet potatoes.

RELATED: What’s Better? Sugar-Free, No Added Sugar or Unsweetened

Refined carbs

Why they are harmful: Eating a diet high in refined carbs (think: pasta, bread, sweets) will cause a surge in blood sugar, which will trigger your pancreas to produce insulin to help clear the sugar from your blood, explains New Jersey-based registered dietitian Jeanette Kimszal. That translates into your body digesting and absorbing food more rapidly, which can cause energy crashes later on and damage your metabolism in the long term.

What to eat instead: Reach for complex carbohydrates consisting of whole grains and vegetables, like quinoa or spaghetti squash. “They contain fiber, which will slow digestion and keep your metabolism in check,” explains Kimszal. “Look for whole grain products that have at least 3 grams of fiber per serving and do not contain the words ‘enriched’ on the package.”

Low-fat products

Why they are harmful: Most of us tend to assume that foods labeled ‘low-fat’ are good for weight loss, which in theory makes sense, given the fact that gram for gram, fat has twice as many calories as proteins and carbs. But in a study published in the journal Appetite, researchers analyzed nutrition information for nearly 6,000 foods in Canada and found that, overall, products with low-fat claims were not significantly lower in calories than their full-fat equivalents. What’s more, “low-fat foods may even lead people to consume extra calories,” says Lee. A separate study investigating the effects of different fats on satiety found that participants were less hungry two hours after eating regular muffins compared to fat-free muffins.

What to eat instead: Instead of avoiding fat, rev up your metabolism by consuming good-for-you fats, like the omega-3’s found in salmon, tuna, mackerel and other cold water fish.

Soda

Why it is harmful: “Because it contains high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), soda can cause metabolic syndrome, which is a group of conditions (increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around waist) that occur together, increasing your risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes,” says Tanya Zuckerbrot, NYC-based registered dietitian, author of The F-Factor Diet and creator of F-Factor. Fructose, when consumed in the same quantities as other sugar, has more damaging effects on the metabolism, she adds. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that HFCS may lead to obesity because of its negative effects on the metabolism.

What to drink instead: Get your fizzy fill with Kombucha, a carbonated, fermented tea that’s loaded with probiotics, recommends Zuckerbot. Probiotics have been shown to help regulate digestion, weight and metabolism.

Source: http://www.health.com

The Mindful Eating Hack That Helped Me Stop Obsessing About Food

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One of the main battles in overcoming overeating is to stop thinking of some foods as "good" and others as "bad." Food is nourishment and hunger is a healthy, involuntary sensation just like feeling cold or tired, the thinking goes.

But like so many people with a history of dieting, I’ve struggled with knowing when I'm truly hungry, and I've had a hard time not judging myself harshly if I pass up a so-called "good" or healthy food in favor of something I've categorized as "bad," like an indulgent dessert. That puts me in a cycle of disordered eating, one I've dealt with for much of my adult life.

RELATED: 5 Crazy Delicious Super Bowl Snacks for Everyone Doing Whole30

To finally address my overeating issues, I began seeing New York City psychotherapist Alexis Conason. Over two years in private and group therapy, I learned about mindful eating, which she describes as "eating what you want when you want it." Sounds so simple, but for most people, this is pretty revolutionary. We spend so much time depriving and judging ourselves, and one of the ironies of this is that even if you don’t struggle with your weight, food judgments are a constant yet ever-changing part of our culture.

Gluten, salt, animal products, sugar, carbs—we are barraged by conflicting information that flip-flops through the years. But by far the most painful to live with are the judgments we place on ourselves. Denying yourself food that your body is craving will never help you maintain a healthy weight long-term. In fact, it will almost always set you up for disordered eating, as I've learned the hard way.

Dr. Conason helped me understand why. “When we believe that our food will be restricted, we have a 'now or never' mentality, thinking this is our one opportunity to eat this food, so we should eat as much as we can in this moment because we’ll never allow ourselves to have it again,” she says. One of the many issues with this is that we will eat it again…and probably again after that. We hate ourselves not only for eating it, but for failing.

RELATED: Best Superfoods for Weight Loss

Her advice to break this cycle? She recommends stocking your kitchen with as much "bad" or unhealthy food as you want—actually more than you think that you could eat at any one time—and then making sure to always keep your stash of it replenished. “When we truly believe that food won’t be restricted, the food usually loses its emotional power. Over time, we don’t feel compelled to eat all the cartons of ice cream in our freezer in one sitting because we trust that there will always ice cream in our freezer, and we can have more when we want it.”

When she suggested this to me, I thought it was bananas. The logic behind it made sense, but I didn’t trust myself remotely. If I had every “bad” food in the house at once, I would never leave, I thought. I told my husband about it though, and he thought I should try it out—and one night came home from the market with six boxes of brownie mix. 

RELATED: Here's What to Snack on if You're Trying to Slim Down, According to a Nutritionist

I remember my nervous laughter that turned into a cackle when I saw those boxes of brownie mix. I have tried many things to gain control over my eating, but this had to be the craziest. Then after I stopped laughing and thought about it, I suddenly felt liberated. I think this applies to anyone, whether they’ve struggled with their weight or not: Just imagine for a minute how it would feel to be able to eat anything you wanted, as much of it, whenever you wanted. It’s an almost unthinkable circumstance for most people.

This sense of freedom turned out to be life-changing. Okay, I tore through the first few boxes in a matter of days, making and eating batches of delicious brownies. But after the second box, the idea of eating brownies somehow truly became less exciting, less seductive. I realized how I was imprisoning myself with this idea of what I could and could not eat; how making some foods off-limits gave them a power over me. The worst part was that after years of this pattern of behavior, I was still fat. It was all a waste of energy.

Conason warns that allowing yourself to have whatever you want and managing to resist consuming it all immediately is not something that happens overnight. “It’s a process—you may eat through your whole stock of ice cream the first night. This isn’t indication that you have failed or further evidence that you can’t be trusted around ice cream. It is just part of the process of recovering from diet culture," she explains.

"If we stick with it, eventually one day—maybe the following day, maybe a week from then, maybe a month from then, but at some point, we realize that we don’t want any more ice cream right now, and we can have more later and the food loses its power,” she adds. 

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It took about six months for this to happen to me, to accept that I could eat whatever I wanted and not give in to the compulsion to consume everything in one sitting. This freedom from a cycle of binging and depriving myself helped lead me to a light bulb moment: I came to realize that just because I can eat whatever I want doesn’t mean I should

The key to this is not that I should or shouldn’t eat something because of calories or watching my weight. I “should” or “shouldn’t” from a self-care perspective. Taking away the power foods had over me helped me realize that I don’t feel well after I binge eat unhealthy foods—physically or mentally. If I don't like the way I feel after consuming them, I shouldn't eat them.

RELATED: 16 Ways to Lose Weight Fast

With this in mind, I'm now choosing my well-being over a momentary sugar rush. To be clear, sometimes I still choose the sugar high. I’m still deep in my process, as Dr. Conason calls it. But after years of viewing certain beloved foods as forbidden, I’ve been able to indulge when I want, without thinking about it obsessively beforehand or regretting it after.

Cutting myself off from foods I wanted never made me skinny—it only made me miserable. Proving to myself that I can eat whatever I want has helped me take the power back and make genuine, mindful decisions that make me feel healthy both physically and mentally.

Source: http://www.health.com

How This Woman Lost 142 Lbs.—and Why She Shared the Journey On Social Media

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This article originally appeared on People.com.

Before making the choice to have vertical gastric sleeve surgery, Jessica Adkins looked to social media.

“I searched weight loss hashtags, most specifically weight loss surgery hashtags, and I was so inspired,” says Adkins, who underwent the procedure in 2016 and has since been documenting her journey on YouTube and Instagram.

But it wasn’t just the impressive transformation photos that made an impact — it was other users’ comments. “Everyone was so positive and supportive and I knew this was a community I wanted to be a part of. I also wanted to be able to help others the way hashtags helped me,” she says.

 

Starting at 285 lbs., Adkins recorded her very first meeting with her bariatric doctor, kicking off her official weight loss journey. She decided to continue posting candid videos about her triumphs and struggles, and soon incorporated food product reviews as well. (She now follows a keto diet).

“A weight loss journey is about more than just the weight coming off. It’s a big mental struggle as well,” says the administrative assistant, who hit her goal weight of 150 lbs. on her 30th birthday: July 7, 2017. “I feel if I only talked about the positive parts of this, I would be doing my viewers a disservice…the biggest compliment I get is when others tell me that watching my videos helped them be more prepared for things they have encountered.”

Adkins has come a long way. She went from consuming fast food three times a day, five or six days a week, to eating a low-carb/low-sugar diet. “They say alcoholics can tell you the very day of their last drink. I can tell you the last time I had a piece of bread: August 5, 2016,” she says. “I no longer eat bread, rice, or pasta of any kind.”

She is also committed to staying active by attending fitness classes at her local gym and walking 3 to 5 miles a day.

And the Pikeville, Kentucky resident has a message for those also considering weight loss surgery. “It is not the easy way out,” she explains. “You had surgery on your stomach, not on your mind. You still might want the things you had before, so you really have to get willpower.”

Now at 143 lbs., Adkins hopes to get down to 135 lbs. with continued hard work and the support of her social media community.

That’s why her advice is to join a group online.  “Having people you can talk to, people who will encourage you, means more than you realize,” she says. “Losing weight is hard — it helps to be able to talk to others going through the same stuff.”

 

Source: http://www.health.com

Here’s What to Snack on If You’re Trying to Slim Down, According to a Nutritionist

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Tired of eating almonds and Greek yogurt (over and over and over)? I hear you. When you're trying to shed pounds, it's easy to fall into a healthy snack rut. But luckily, there are plenty of other options to choose from. Below are five easy ideas that satisfy all the criteria for a slimming snack. Each one is packed with nutrients to boost your energy and mood; filling enough to tide you over till your next meal; and low-cal enough to support your weight-loss goals. There's something for every type of craving—from salty to crunchy, and yes, even chocolate.

Savory egg salad with chopped veggies

Chop one hard-boiled pasture-raised egg. Mix with one cup of finely chopped vegetables, like kale, cucumber, tomato, and red onion. Toss mixture with a quarter cup of hummus to coat thoroughly and evenly.

RELATED: What to Eat for Dinner If You're Trying to Lose Weight, According to a Nutritionist

Spiced-up almond butter spread on celery

Stir one quarter cup of shredded zucchini, one quarter teaspoon fresh grated ginger, one eighth teaspoon ground cinnamon, and a teaspoon of pure maple syrup into two tablespoons of almond butter. Fill four fresh celery stalks with the mixture and crunch away.

Oven-roasted chickpeas

Toss a half cup of canned (drained, rinsed) chickpeas with a half tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and one sixteenth teaspoon each sea salt and black pepper. Roast on a baking sheet in a preheated 350°F oven for 15 minutes.

Salmon-stuffed avocado

Whisk together a teaspoon of Dijon, half teaspoon of Italian seasoning, and a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Mix dressing with half a can of wild Alaskan salmon. Fill half an avocado with salmon mixture, and enjoy with a spoon.

Sign up for our 30-Day No Takeout Challenge with Giada de Laurentiis!

Dark chocolate and berries

Pair a half cup of fresh or frozen, thawed raspberries, blueberries or strawberries with one or two squares of 70% dark chocolate. Sweet tooth, satisfied.

Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets.

Source: http://www.health.com

How to Lose Weight Without Actually Eating Less

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When it comes to losing weight, the most important rule of thumb is to consume fewer calories than you’re taking in each day. But cutting calories doesn’t have to mean eating less food. In fact, simply focusing on healthier food choices may be a more sustainable weight-loss strategy than trying to reduce portion sizes, a new Penn State University study suggests.

The findings come from a small new clinical trial, published in the journal Appetite, which compared food consumption among 39 women who’d taken part in a previous, year-long weight-loss study and 63 women who were not part of the earlier study. All of the women came to the study lab once a week for four weeks to eat a meal, with varying portions of seven different foods served each week.

RELATED: What to Eat for Dinner if You're Trying to Lose Weight, According to a Nutritionist

The women in the first group, as part of the previous study, had been counseled on various strategies for weight loss, including measuring out portion sizes, calculating calorie density of different foods, and making overall healthier choices. Because the training focused heavily on portion control, the researchers expected the women who’d participated in those training sessions to eat less food overall.

That didn’t happen, though. Women in both groups fell victim to the “portion size effect,” what researchers call the tendency to eat more when larger portions of food are presented. (For example, when meal size increased by 75%, the average amount consumed went up 27%.) Overall, there was no significant difference in total amount of food consumed, by weight, between those who’d received training and those who had not.

But there was one difference. “When we dug into their food choices, we found that the trained participants were selecting to eat more of the lower calorie-dense foods—like salad, for example—and less of higher calorie-dense foods, such as the garlic bread,” says first author Faris Zuraikat, a graduate student in the department of nutritional sciences. In other words, even though they ate the same total volume of food, they consumed fewer calories.

RELATED: 17 Snacks Packed With Protein

The study did not measure the women’s weights, and since it only involved four meals over four weeks, the difference in calories likely would not have had any real weight-loss impact. But Zuraikat believes that making healthier choices over time could be an effective way to reduce calories and shed pounds.

That's not terribly surprising, says Zuraikat, but it's a good reminder that the ideal diet is not one of deprivation. And even though the women were trained in portion control, he adds, it seems to be the general healthy-eating advice that stuck with them—and it’s what they ultimately put into practice. “It may just be easier to judge which foods are higher or lower in calorie density, versus trying to judge an appropriate portion size,” he says.

Zuraikat says it may be helpful to encourage people to focus on a food's nutritional quality. “When you’re selecting lower calorie-dense foods, you can eat more of them,” he says. The payoff, he adds, is that you'll be more likely to feel full and satisfied.

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Even though the women in the study underwent special training, Zuraikat says there are a few basic rules that anyone can follow if they want to make more low-calorie choices. For starters, foods with a high water content—like fruits and vegetables—tend to have a lower calorie density than foods with less water. He also recommends checking out the Volumetrics Diet, designed by his study co-author Barbara Rolls, PhD, and based on the concept of low calorie-density foods.

“We don’t want people to think they have to eat salad all the time,” Zuraikat says. “But there are ways to incorporate water-rich ingredients into every meal, so you can keep the same level of palatability and enjoy the same amount of food while still focusing on your weight-loss or weight-maintenance goals.”

Source: http://www.health.com

The 6 Simple Changes That Helped Me Shed 87 Lb. After Giving Birth

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Tabatha James, 43, 5'8", from Alpharetta, Georgia
Before: 230 lb., size 14
After: 143 lb., size 8
Total lost: 87 lb., 6 sizes

Confession: I’ve had digestion issues forever. Even when I was active in college, I had stomachaches and felt bloated all the time. Then I gained 70 pounds while pregnant in 2011, which didn’t help. I was eating for two (and then some) and craving foods I’d never even liked before, like fried chicken strips and mashed potatoes. Two months after giving birth—and still in a fast-food frenzy—I blacked out in a parking lot. The doctor told me I’d collapsed from dehydration, exhaustion, and sleep deprivation. It was clear to me that my weight wasn’t helping either. I needed a lifestyle change, and fast.

But first, exercise 

After my incident, it was six weeks before I could begin to exercise. When I got the OK in June of 2012, I went full throttle. Five days a week, at 5:30 a.m., I did at-home workouts I created with help from my husband. It took time, but the cardio, weights, and bodyweight moves helped me drop pounds. Replacing fried food with grilled options and tracking my calories were also key. By the next February, I was down to about 150 pounds, from a high of 230.

Hooked on veggies 

While I was thrilled with my new frame, I still didn’t feel 100 percent. My stomach bothered me, and I would break out in rashes. Then one night I watched the documentary Vegucated, which highlights animal treatment. Stunned by the cruelty, I ditched animal products. I didn’t make the change for my health, but going vegan did transform my body: My digestion and rashes improved, I shed five more pounds, my clothes fit better, and I felt more energized, too. It’s been almost two years since I went vegan, and I know I’ll never look back. Those fried chicken strips have nothing on the new me!

Get toned like Tabatha 

This veggie lover got strong thanks to these healthy strategies.

1. Repeat your eats: I try to eat the same meals almost every day: green smoothies and veggie burrito bowls. This way, I’m never scrambling to come up with something to eat—or resorting to fast food.

2. Get app happy: I’m obsessed with the quick and effective routines on the 7-Minute Workout app. Plus, it sends you reminders to wake up and work out, so you never have an excuse to miss a sweat session.

3. Re-create classics: My blog, The Sensible Vegan, is my passion project. It allows me to "vegucate" others and share my recipes, like tuna-less salad, peanut butter-chocolate energy bars, and "buttermilk" biscuits.

4. Snack smart: Eating every three hours helped keep me satisfied when I was trying to lose weight. And since I never felt deprived, I was less likely to overeat.

Source: http://www.health.com