“Anytime you’re stressed, you probably go for food,” Dr. Seltzer says. (Have we met?!) That’s because cortisol, the stress hormone, stokes your appetite for sugary, fatty foods. No wonder it’s associated with higher body weight, according to a 2007 Obesity study that quantified chronic stress exposure by looking at cortisol concentrations in more than 2,000 adults’ hair.
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I love this study because it examined a realistic lifestyle change rather than just a fad diet. Both groups, after all, were labeled as healthy diets, and they were, because study investigators encouraged eating high-quality, nutritious whole foods, unlimited vegetables, and avoiding flours, sugars, bad fats, and processed foods. Everyone was encouraged to be physically active at a level most Americans are not. And — this is a big one — everyone had access to basic behavioral counseling aimed at reducing emotional eating.
Diet fads are a dime a dozen and there’s always a hot new one around the corner with promises of trim waistlines and a cure for whatever ails you. Yet the reality is that there are so many diet plans out there because, well, most of them don’t work. Some offer quick fixes and dramatic weight loss, sure, but often lack sustainability — or worse, might come with health risks.
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How it works: The IIFYM diet lets you eat anything you want and you’ll lose weight as long as you meet your prescribed daily set of macronutrients (carbs, proteins and fats). Calculate your personal macros by figuring out your total daily expenditure, then how many calories you should eat per day to lose weight. From there, you’ll divide the calories into the percentage of calories that should come from fat (20 percent), protein (40 percent) and carbohydrates (40 percent).
If you’ve been eating fast food for years, get real about your approach: You’re probably not going to stick to an organic, gluten-free, paleo overhaul for very long. “You want to change as little as possible to create calorie deficit,” says Dr. Seltzer, who insists the best way to support sustainable weight loss is to incorporate small changes into existing habits. So instead of giving up your daily BLT bagels in favor of an egg-white wrap, try ordering your sandwich on a lighter English muffin. Or say you eat a snack bar every afternoon: Swap your 300-calorie bar for a 150-calorie alternative. “Your brain will feel the same way about it, so you won’t feel deprived,” he says.
Americans are snacking more than ever, so making smart snacking choices are key to achieving your weight loss goals. Aim for snacks that satisfy by choosing foods that provide a mix of protein and fiber, stabilizing blood sugar levels and keeping hunger at bay. An apple and almond butter, a plain yogurt with berries, or high-fiber crispbread crackers and hummus can all be smart snacking options. For example, two Wasa Flax Seed crispbread crackers combined with two tablespoons of hummus provide 4 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber for staying power. For an added boost, add a few teaspoons of hot sauce. Research shows spicy foods may help speed up metabolism and curb appetite.
So, in the midst of this unexpected positivity, I got an email from Pamela Peeke, M.D. She wanted to have a call and give me some advice. In a very unlike-me move, I did not get to the email. I'm very good about responding to email, which has to be one of the lamest brags of all time, but in a world full of ghosting, I'm proud of my prompt replies. But I messed up, and a week and a half later, I got another email. Dr. Peeke wanted to make sure I got her message.