Exercise more, lose weight, and eat better. Those are the top three New Year’s resolutions people make, according to one recent poll.
Opinions can often differ on what weight loss method works best. For instance, some say consuming a lot of smaller meals throughout the day will fuel your metabolism. Others, like registered dietitian Hélène Charlebois, argue more eating will equal more calories because people “have a hard time stopping at ‘small.'”
There is at least one thing most experts agree on, though: diets should be avoided if you want healthy and long-lasting change.
“You can do all these gimmicks and quick fixes and unhealthy ways to actually lose scale weight,” said Gidon Gabbay, a performance nutritionist with G Force Home Training in Toronto. “But if you want to lose body fat and keep that off, it’s mainly about metabolism.”
READ MORE: Why the numbers on your scale don’t matter
For dietitian Andrea Hardy of Ignite Nutrition, the “magic formula” involves: eating whole foods (the opposite of processed foods), exercise, having a good relationship with food, sleeping well and managing stress.
Here’s more on what the experts feel is essential if you want to shed those holiday pounds.
1. Sleep more, stress less
A lack of sleep can wreak havoc on your waistline, Gabbay warns.
Duncan compares people who think they can function well on five hours of sleep to “that drunk guy at the party who is slurring and insisting he’s OK to drive home.”
“Don’t be that guy.”
WATCH: Nutrition expert Vanessa Perrone talks about the connection between sleep and weight control
She and Gabbay add fatigue can put our bodies into a state of stress, which can contribute to belly fat.
“Stress is not good for anything, including fat storage,” Gabbay said.
Both encourage their clients to meditate, as well as exercise, to help reduce stress levels.
2. Watch your portion sizes
Duncan says a reasonable portion of carbs is the size of your fist — not the whole plate.
WATCH: Here’s what your portion sizes should look like
“Try to skip the grains at the supper meal but load up on veggies,” said Charlebois. “Even the ‘starchie’ veggies are great like squash, carrots, sweet potato, turnip, beets.”
Half your plate should always be veggies, she and other experts stress.
WATCH: The most nutritious fruits and vegetables
However, even healthy foods like avocado (which is considered to be a “good” fat) should be limited to a thumb-sized portion (or about one quarter of an avocado) in a single sitting.
A handful of nuts and seeds is also “plenty,” Charlebois says.
3. Pack in protein
Protein is often recommended by dietitians as it can make you feel fuller for longer. Fitness experts also love it for its ability to fuel muscles and help them recover.
Charlebois urges her clients to make sure they consume at least 20 grams of protein at all meals.
For breakfast, Charlebois says that could mean some Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or two eggs.
For lunch and supper, it could be as simple as eating a grilled chicken breast (the size of your palm) or adding some legumes (like chick peas) or white beans to soup or salad.
4. Drink more water, less alcohol
People have a tendency not to drink enough water during the winter months, Gabbay has noticed.
This can leave them feeling bloated with water weight, as their body clings to whatever water it can suck out of food because it’s feeling so dehydrated.
In addition to helping deliver nutrients throughout our body (including our muscles), research has shown the zero-calorie beverage can help satiate us before a meal.
“Lots of people confuse thirst for hunger,” said Hardy. “Having a glass of water can help to combat that hunger confusion.”
Gabbay recommends consuming at least three litres of water a day.
Alcohol, on the other hand, should be curbed if you want to lose weight.
“It’s definitely contributing to the size of your waist,” said Duncan.
“Alcohol is high in sugar, high in calories, it reduces the quality of your sleep and makes you less likely to exercise. It’s a perfect storm for weight gain.”
5. Get moving
A sedentary lifestyle slows down our metabolism, as our body realizes that no energy is needed.
Duncan suggests setting an alarm to go off every hour and taking a 10 minute walk “to keep the muscles awake and active.”
On top of that, Gabbay urges people to exercise at least three times a week for 30 to 45 minutes.
The workout should be a combination of cardio and weight (or resistance) training.
An easy routine he suggested that will give you big pay-offs is interval training. His cardio of choice is 10-20 second sprints, which work your whole body and burn a lot of calories. You could replace it with something equally strenuous like jump rope or swimming, though.
The one to two minutes of “recovery” can be spent building your muscles through exercises like squats, lunges, or planks.
WATCH: More on HIIT (high intensity interval training)
- Mountain climbers
- Squat jumps
- Walking lunges
- Push-ups in all different variations
- Planks (front and sides)
The more muscle you have, the more fat it’ll burn — even when you’re just sitting at your desk.
And who doesn’t want that?