It doesn't matter if you're a half-marathon runner or a couch potato looking for a lifestyle change -- most of us have told ourselves something similar from time to time as we catch a glimpse of our reflection in the bathroom mirror: I could stand to lose a few pounds.
We are notorious for giving our bodies a tough time, from thicker thighs and jiggly arms to persistent muffin tops and early signs of cellulite. And while there's nothing wrong with these imperfections (a healthy body image is a necessity for a healthy body), an effort to lead a healthier life in general can include necessary weight loss -- when it's conducted in a positive way.
That positivity doesn't always come so easily when we're constantly stressing over the proper diet method to choose, or which fitness facts are actually fiction, so take a deep breath and stop overthinking it. It's no longer all up to you to work through the most confusing aspects of successful weight loss.
Here are seven weight loss tips that may seem counterintuitive but deliver real results.
Surround yourself with food.
Good food, that is. Paving the path to a healthier diet doesn't have to mean barren refrigerator shelves -- in fact, it should be quite the opposite. Stock your kitchen with fresh (and frozen) fruits and vegetables, healthy fat sources, and go-to protein powerhouses like eggs and nuts to not only inspire new healthy cooking but prevent problems when snack cravings arrive. Some of your best healthy living inspiration can come from the kitchen, so take advantage of this culinary space!
And eat more of it.
Instead of worrying about how many times a day you're eating or how many calories are in each snack bar option, use that well-stocked kitchen to make smart meals and snacks that leave you feeling full and that portion control doesn't have to be such an impossible issue. Opting for something more substantial with protein and fat rather than simple carbohydrates will satisfy your appetite and decrease the likelihood of overindulgence later.
Lift more weight.
If you really want to get trimmed and toned, don't be afraid to ditch those 5-pound dumbbells for some heavier lifting. A recent Harvard University study showed that weight training is particularly effective at targeting belly fat. Previous studies have also shown that while cardiovascular exercise burns both fat and muscle in one's weight loss efforts, strength exercises burn fat while building muscle -- the best of both worlds. Not to mention more muscle means a faster metabolism, putting the calories you are consuming each day to good use.
But don't try to "burn it all off" in the gym.
While it is important to integrate sweat sessions into your weight loss plan and ethusiasm is always appreciated, pushing your body through too many extended workouts each week can actually set you back more than set you up for success. Research has found that some people have a strong food reward response after exercising, leading them to overcompensate the amount they burned with their subsequent meals. The body needs to be refueled post-workout -- for every 10 calories burned, we crave a minimum of three to make up for the loss -- and those requests increase with the intensity of a given workout.
Just say "no" to deprivation.
Denying your body the caloric energy it needs is never the right answer when it comes to weight loss. When you consume less than 1,200 calories in a given day -- which is also known as crash dieting -- the body truly suffers. It naturally slows the metabolism to conserve energy, making it tougher to lose weight and even tougher to keep it off in the future when the word "diet" may not apply to your lifestyle. The lack of incoming calories also signals a lack of new, essential nutrition, which can cause another slew of health problems entirely.
Instead, give the 80/20 rule a try.
Eat when you feel hungry, remember to drink water first to make sure you're not actually dehydrated, and focus on filling 80 percent of your diet with healthy food options. Shedding pounds doesn't have to mean putting off meal time for the sake of minimizing consumption or abandoning your favorite chocolate treat -- in fact, those strategies are much more likely to lead to binging on unhealthy foods when cravings strike, wreaking havoc on the progress you've already made. With 80 percent of your calories coming from balanced nutritional choices, the remaining 20 percent can be given to splurges like brunch, happy hour or dessert, guilt-free.
Stop thinking about it!
At the end of the day, a mere number on a scale should not determine your happiness or approval with your body. Focus on how you feel: Is your typical exercise routine feeling easier? Does your middle now look leaner when you catch your reflection in the mirror again? Do you have to go shopping because you dropped an extra pants size? These positive aspects of your weight loss experience matter far more when it comes to not just your self-esteem but your self-induced stress levels.