13 Things Experts Won’t Tell You About Weight Loss

From surprising foods that release fat to why watching TV can be healthier than you think, we uncovered these shockingly simple weight loss secrets.

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You have to eat fat to beat fat

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While too much of the wrong fat (certain saturated fats in highly processed meats and trans fat found in some cookies and crackers) is bad for your health and waistline, a diet rich in the right fat—good unsaturated fats—can help both. (Check out these other 10 myths about fat that keep you from losing weight.) Good fats, like monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) in olive oil, nuts, and avocados have proven to be powerful reducers of belly fat. Other sources of good fat are the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs); found in fish and its oil, and in many nuts and seeds, PUFAs help release fat, too. A Dutch study found that consumption of PUFAs led to a higher resting metabolic rate (the calories used just to live), as well as a greater DIT, or diet-induced calorie burn.  PUFAs are also burned faster than saturated fats in the body. What’s more, fats help you feel full—they have 9 calories per gram compared to 4 for protein or carbs. So a small nibble of something yummy, like a handful of nuts or some peanut butter on whole wheat crackers, can help you feel full for hours. Find out how to tell if you need more "healthy" fats in your diet.

A daily dose of chocolate can trim your waistline

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If you’re like us, you welcome any new excuse to add more chocolate into your life. To release fat, here’s the trick: Go heavy on the cocoa and light on sugar. Cocoa contains more antioxidants than most foods and is good for so many things, including—when consumed in moderation—weight loss. In a June 2011 study from the Journal of Nutrition, researchers looked at the effect that antioxidants found in cocoa had on obese diabetic mice. Since a diabetic’s lifespan is, on average, seven years shorter, they were looking for any anti-aging promise that increasing dietary intake of this flavonoid might give. Their findings: The mice lived longer. The cocoa reduced degeneration of their aortic arteries, and it blunted fat deposition. Here's more about how even just smelling dark chocolate can make you less hungry. To add more cocoa into your diet, buy unsweetened cocoa and add it to shakes, coffee, and other recipes. Learn more about the health benefits of chocolate.

Dairy promotes weight loss

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Unfortunately some myths persist that dairy sabotages weight loss, but science proves this couldn’t be further from the truth. (Don't miss these other 15 weight-loss tips doctors wish you'd stop listening to.) Research shows that those who have deficiencies in calcium hold a greater fat mass and experience less control of their appetite. What’s more, studies have found that dairy sources of calcium—like yogurt, low- or nonfat cheese, and milk—are markedly more effective in accelerating fat loss than other sources. In one study out of the University of Tennessee, researchers showed that eating three servings of dairy daily significantly reduced body fat in obese subjects. If they restricted calories a bit while continuing with the same dairy servings, it accelerated fat and weight loss. Learn more about what happens when you stop eating dairy (including how it affects your weight.)

Losing weight early and fast is best

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Besides giving you a great psychological boost right out of the gate, losing weight quickly may also help you keep it off longer. To those of us who are used to hearing that slow and steady wins the race, this news is a little shocking and counterintuitive. In a 2010 University of Florida study, when researchers analyzed data on 262 middle-aged women who were struggling with obesity, they demonstrated that shedding weight fast lead to larger overall weight loss and longer-term success in keeping it off. Don't miss these other 12 diet secrets of people who have maintained their weight loss.

Exercise alone is not an effective weight loss tool

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I learned this lesson the hard way. From 1998 to 2006, I was the executive editor of Fitness magazine. Studying the fitness research and trying the trends were all part of my job. For years, I believed that I could eat anything I wanted because I was exercising so much. But the more I exercised, the hungrier I was. And the more I ate, the more I needed to exercise to maintain a healthy weight. Here’s what happened: I saw a steady increase in my body weight of a pound a year. (Learn more about why you'll lose more weight with diet than exercise.) Thinking you can eat whatever you want as long as you work it off later is actually a pretty dangerous mind-set, particularly if you look at the current research. Exercise alone leads to a very modest decrease in total body weight: less than 3 percent! In addition to working out (you'll still get these 14 health benefits of exercise!), stick with these 50 ways to lose weight without exercising to see real results.

Naturally thin people are always fidgeting

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Research shows that people who are naturally lean—you know the sort: They seem to eat all day, whatever they want, and never gain a pound or an inch—automatically, even subconsciously, find ways to move to make up for any extra calories they may be ingesting. (Here are 50 more daily habits of naturally think people that you can steal.) Believe it or not, spontaneous physical activity (SPA) like fidgeting, bending, brushing your hair, and doing dishes can burn 350 or more calories a day, according to Mayo Clinic research. Try adding these other 19 ways to burn 200 calories without even trying to your routine too.

Long cardio sessions aren't helping you burn fat

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Nod your head if you do the same workout over and over. You just hit that treadmill, elliptical, or jogging path and you put in your time. Unfortunately, this exercise strategy can actually backfire when it comes to weight loss and fat burning. Aerobic exercise demands that you increase your energy output. Because our body is always trying to stay in balance, this type of movement may actually act as a biological cue to make you eat more, which can sabotage weight-loss efforts. (Don't miss these other 17 tricks for getting over a weight-loss plateau.) Besides that, research shows that continuous aerobic exercise isn’t nearly as effective a weight-control strategy as surprising your body with aerobic interval training (short bursts of heart-pounding work, also known as HIIT, or high intensity interval training) or strength training (push-ups, squats, anything that builds muscle and power). Try a mix of these 15 workouts that burn the most calories to keep your body guessing.

TV time is OK—but make it a sitcom

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We’re not recommending you ditch your exercise routine and sit on your couch popping handfuls of chips. But TV isn’t the weight loss devil that many experts make it out to be, particularly if you use it to make you smile and laugh. (Don't miss these other 50 things your doctor wants you to know about losing weight.) Here’s why: Stress takes an enormous toll on your health (research shows it can increase belly fat and slow down weight loss), and laughing is the perfect stress-relieving, fat releasing antidote. What’s more, it’s a pretty potent calorie burner in its own right. When British researchers looked into the number of calories burned by intense laughing and compared it to the calorie burn of other daily activities (strength training, running, even vacuuming), they found that an hour of intense laughter can burn as many calories—up to 120—as a half hour hitting it hard at the gym! Check out these other 7 tricks for losing weight without diet or exercise.

The Real Reason You’re Craving Junk Food? You’re Thinking Too Hard!

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If you’re like many office workers, your desk job gives you a double fat increasing whammy: Not only are you sitting, inactive, at a desk for most of the day, but this type of mental, knowledge-based work actually makes it more difficult to control appetite and may make us eat more calories and fat. (Find out how much you should get up if you don't want sitting to ruin your health.) Research suggests that because brain neurons rely almost exclusively on glucose as fuel, intense mental work leads to unstable glucose levels. Since the work requires glucose for maximum brainpower—well, we naturally reach for more fuel. To outsmart this fat increaser, it’s important to fuel up on hunger-fighting foods high in filling fiber, protein and calcium. So the next time you feel that hunger pang, reach for a fat-free Greek yogurt or baby carrots with a tablespoon of peanut butter instead of a bag of chips. Or try eating more of these 6 foods that actually help you burn fat.

A daily glass of wine is an effective fat releaser

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So many people have asked me if it’s OK to have a drink when trying to lose weight. Good news: Many studies clearly show that a small glass of red wine a day is good for your health (Here's more about what happens when you drink wine every day). Now numerous animal studies are highlighting its great promise as a fat releaser. In one large study of more than 19,000 middle-aged women of normal weight, those who were light to moderate drinkers had less weight gain and less risk of becoming overweight than those who drank no alcohol.  And in another separate animal study done in 2006, the researchers found that resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant found in red wine, improved exercise endurance as well as protected against diet-induced obesity and insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes. Add a glass of wine to this list of 7 things skinny people do after work.

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