SURPRISING WAYS TO SHED UNWANTED POUNDS

 

If you have tried every fad diet but failed to reach your ideal weight, stop blaming yourself. No single diet can address all the complex factors that contribute to weight gain.

 

The key to weight loss is to identify some hidden triggers that can cause weight gain or keep you from losing weight, even when you don’t overeat.

 

SENSORY CUES

 

Have you ever claimed to gain weight just by looking at food? Well, you may be right. In a recent Yale University study, insulin levels skyrocketed in hungry individuals exposed to the sight, smell and even the mere mention of charcoal-broiled steaks. Participants’ bodies started converting glucose to fat even before they had taken their first bite. What to do: Don’t linger near buffet tables or dessert trays – especially if you are hungry.

 

LACK OF FIBER

 

Low-fiber diets typically provide a lot of fat and calories but few nutrients. Such diets also lack bulk, which means you need to eat more to feel full. High-fiber foods are filling, nutritionally dense and relatively low in fat and refined sugar. High-fiber foods also help stabilize blood glucose and insulin levels. What to do: Get AT LEAST 25 grams of fiber in your daily diet. Good sources include whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes.

 

INSUFFICIENT CALORIES

 

When you limit calories to 1,000 or fewer daily, your body starts to pilfer protein from lean body tissue, destroying the muscle mass necessary to burn fat and calories. You also begin to produce an overabundance of lipoprotein lipase, an enzyme that stores fat in your cells. You may drop pounds on a very low-calorie diet. But once you resume eating normally, your body will convert what it now perceives as excess calories into fat. What to do: Don’t eat fewer than 1,400 calories daily. Total calories should be divided among several meals and snacks.

 

DIET FOODS

 

You may assume that you can eat more if foods are labeled "low-fat" or "lite." Wrong. Despite the catchy labeling, these foods can be packed with sugar and calories. "Sugar-free" products may contain aspartame or saccharin – sweeter-than-sugar substitutes that can provoke a sweet tooth. What to do: Read ingredient and nutrition labels. Avoid foods that derive more than 20% of calories from fat.

 

SALT AND FLAVOR ENHANCERS

 

Scientists aren’t sure why salt triggers compulsive eating. It may trigger hormonal changes that amplify hunger, or we may eat more of the foods we find flavorful. In addition to salt, food manufacturers can choose from more than 2,000 flavor enhancers to make packaged snacks and meals irresistible. But many of these ingredients, such as MSG and ammonium carbonate, may cause you to not only eat more, but also to store more of what you do eat as fat. What to do: Avoid salt and foods with artificial flavor-boosters. Use lemon, herbs, balsamic vinegar and no-salt substitutes.

 

THIRST

 

People often confuse thirst for hunger. What’s more, we neglect to count the calories we drink. For example, most 12-uionce sodas contain 150 calories. What to do: Before surrendering to cravings, drink a glass of water – then reassess your hunger. When choosing beverages, stick to water or herbal tea.

 

CAFFEINE AND NICOTINE

 

Often trumpeted as appetite suppressants, caffeine and nicotine actually increase hunger and cravings in certain individuals. Both substances trigger our fight-or-flight response. This causes glucose to flood into the bloodstream, providing quick energy and temporarily suppressing appetites. But as blood glucose levels rise, so do insulin levels.

 

Result: Within one hour of consuming caffeine (even as little as one cup of coffee) or nicotine, glucose levels nosedive. This leaves you ravenous. Especially worrisome: Secondhand smoke, People exposed to smoke experience the same fluctuations in blood sugar, but unlike a smoker – won’t light up when they feel hunger.

 

What to do: Avoid caffeine for three months. Are you able to forgo that midmorning donut? Have you shed pounds? If so, caffeine is a trigger to be avoided. Nicotine should be eliminated – weight gain trigger or not. Talk to your doctor about quitting smoking – and avoid secondhand smoke whenever possible.

 

NOT ENOUGH SLEEP

 

Sleep-deprived people may increase their daily calorie consumption by as much as 15%, according to research conducted at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. What to do: Strive for eight hours of sleep a night.