Diets won't help you conquer dimples in the long run, but a smarter day-in, day-out way of eating will. Put these slim-down tips to work for you today.
EAT MEALS AND SNACKS ON A SCHEDULE
"Sticking to a regular daily pattern trains your brain when to expect food and when not to, so you're less likely to nosh between meals,” says Susan B. Roberts, Ph.D., a professor of nutrition at Tufts University and co-author of The "I” Diet. "It's those unplanned snacks that tend to trip you up because they're often high-calorie or high-sugar foods,” she says.
NIX WHITE FLOUR FOODS
At least two studies have found that people who eat the most whole grains have less belly fat than those who eat fewer complex carbs (you can have cellulite around your middle too). With the variety of whole-grain products on store shelves today, it's easier than ever to snub the refined stuff. The higher fiber content in whole-wheat bread and pasta keeps you feeling full longer, so you won't have to contend with a rumbling belly.
MAKE FRIENDS WITH FAT
It may sound counterintuitive, but trust us: To lose fat, you have to get over your fat phobia. Healthy fats, like nuts, seeds, avocado, and olive oil, can actually help you lose weight (and cellulite). They provide flavor, texture, and a feeling of satisfaction, all things you need if you want to stick to a healthy eating plan. "Just use them as condiments, not the main attraction," says Delia Hammock, R.D., a nutritional consultant in New York City. Spread a tablespoon of mashed avocado onto a sandwich for lunch or toss a teaspoon of sunflower seeds with veggies at dinner.
"CHEAT" THE RIGHT WAY
The concept of a cheat day is a weight-loss staple, but it's also the Achilles' heel of many eating plans. A day of eating whatever you want can add up to thousands (yes, thousands) of extra calories. It can also make it harder to get back on track the next day, when your brain has a chocolate cake hangover. Instead of splurging for an entire day, Lisa Young, Ph.D., R.D., the author of The Portion Teller Plan, recommends limiting yourself to just one cheat meal each week. "Plan it, enjoy it, and as long as it happens just once a week you won't break the calorie bank."
FOCUS EACH MEAL ON ONE BOLD, HOT FLAVOR
Loading your plate with too many tastes or aromas may trigger the production of hunger inducing hormones that can make you overeat without realizing it. Instead, keep the flavor simple but make it stand out: Go for spices like crushed red pepper, paprika, and chili powder, all of which contain capsaicin, a compound that may increase satiety and help you eat less, according to recent research published in the International Journal of Obesity. Not into your food packing heat? Try flavorful spices, like cumin, turmeric, or coriander.
GO VEGGIE ONE DAY A WEEK A recent study in the International Journal of Obesity found that people who ate the most meat were about 27 percent more likely to be obese and 33 percent more likely to have abdominal obesity (dangerous fat that accumulates around the organs in your midsection and increases your risk of heart disease) than people who ate the least amount of meat. They also consumed about 700 more calories per day, on average.
FLEX YOUR WILLPOWER Practice makes perfect with healthy eating too. Try this "resistance exercise" from Judith S. Beck, Ph.D., the author of The Beck Diet Solution. "Every time you refrain from eating something you hadn't planned, you strengthen your ‘resistance muscle,' making it more likely that the next time you're tempted, you'll resist the urge," says Beck.
EAT AN APPETIZER Studies show that if you take the edge off hunger before lunch and dinner, you'll eat less. Choose from one of our 100-calorie appetizers, then eat your main meal in the following order: veggies first (which should take up about half your plate), then the protein, then the whole-grain carbohydrates. "Having veggies first satisfies your stomach and your brain," explains Young. "Fiber-packed veggies are filling, and your eyes see a big portion, so your brain thinks you're eating more too. By the time you get to the carbs—the danger zone for many people—you'll be ready to stop."