People Who Lost a Combined 6,818 Lbs. Struggle with Excess Skin on My 600-Lb. Life: Skin Tight

Losing hundreds of pounds is tough enough, but for many people it comes with the added complication of excess skin. That challenge is the focus of My 600-Lb. Life: Skin Tight, which starts its third season on March 7.

This season features 29 people who have lost a whopping total of 6,818 lbs. But instead of celebrating their accomplishment, many are frustrated with the loose layer of skin covering their bodies.

“My skin makes me look like a circus freak,” says one woman in this exclusive clip from the new season.

“It looks like I’ve melted,” adds a man.

“This extra skin is a punishment worse than death,” says another woman.

“I lost 320 lbs., but I’m still reminded of being the fat girl,” adds a third.

With the help of Dr. Younan Nowzaradan and other plastic surgeons, those 29 people will get skin removal surgery and, hopefully, will finally feel comfortable in their bodies.

“I’m one step closer to being able to live a real life,” says one woman.

My 600-Lb. Life: Skin Tight premieres March 7 at 10/9c on TLC.

Source: Health bests

Demi Lovato Says She Quit Dieting: 'I Gained a Little Weight but I'm Happier'

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Despite what the titles of her hit singles “Confident” and “Sorry Not Sorry” might indicate, Demi Lovato struggles with body positivity like so many of her Lovatics fan base.

“It’s a daily battle. Some days I feel great and some days I don’t feel great. And sometimes it’s periods of times,” the singer, 25, tells PEOPLE. “I stopped dieting and have gained a little weight so it’s been a struggle but at the same time, I’m happier because I’m not restricting myself from certain foods and I’m no longer food shaming myself.”

Lovato, who recently launched her third capsule collaboration with Kate Hudson‘s activewear company Fabletics, told fans and social media followers in January via Twitter that she has “given up dieting and in exchange has “given up the chronic stress” of food shaming herself.

“I think that’s something in our society we get caught up in diet culture. Every commercial on TV is either about a weight loss pill or piece of fitness equipment or it’s all food-based,” says Lovato, who credits Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which she has been practicing for two years, as her go-to workout and source of empowerment.

RELATED: Demi Lovato’s Swimsuit Selfies Have Helped Her Take the Power Away from Her Online Haters

“As someone recovering from a food disorder, it’s something that I want to put out there that you don’t have to diet in order to be happy. I don’t think I’ve heard that message out there in the public and of course, it’s important to be healthy and everything in moderation is fine,” Lovato shares.

Her tweet about no longer dieting was specifically timed, according to the Tell Me You Love Me hitmaker.

“I wanted to put that message out there for other people especially with the new year coming in because it’s very triggering for people that are in recovery because everything is about weight loss,” Lovato explains.

Adding, “Because new year’s resolutions are about going to the gym and it’s really important that there’s somebody out there to speak up and say, ‘Hey your weight doesn’t define your self-worth and it definitely doesn’t define your beauty inside and out.’ ”

RELATED GALLERY: From Bikinis to Bedhead: See All of Demi Lovato’s Sexiest Social Media Snaps

After candidly discussing her eating disorder in her YouTube documentary, Simply Complicated, the Grammy nominee reveals a positive update on her recovery.

“I think every day I work towards a better version of myself. It’s recovery so I don’t think it’s something that there’s a cure or anything like that,” Lovato says. “I work towards a better life. And I’m definitely in a great place.”

RELATED: Demi Lovato Is Offering Free Mental Health Counseling to Fans on Tour: ‘I’m Here For Them’

Honest about body positivity and the own struggles with her eating disorder, Lovato is now embracing her curves with bikini and one-piece-clad selfies on social media.

“I think posting sexy pictures are so empowering and liberating,” she says about never hesitating to share sultry photos.

“Anytime you can put yourself out there the more empowering I feel. Also it doesn’t hurt when you look good and you have a good bathing suit on and then a cute guy likes your picture. Doesn’t hurt,” she shares.

Source: Health bests

Common Chemicals in Nonstick Pans and Food Wrappers Could Hurt Your Health–and Your Waistline. Here's How to Avoid Them

A common class of chemicals that’s been linked to cancer, fertility problems, and thyroid dysfunction has now been tied to another major health issue: According to a new study in PLOS Medicine, women who have high levels of perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in their blood tend to gain back more unwanted weight after dieting.

The new study included both men and women who’d been enrolled in a two-year clinical trial and who lost weight by following a heart-healthy diet. But when researchers factored in the levels of PFAS in participants’ blood at the start of the study, they found that people with high levels tended to gain more of that weight back after initially losing it.

The association was found almost exclusively in women, and the researchers say that PFAS’ effects on estrogen in the body may be one reason why. But the study also found that people with high PFAS concentrations had lower resting metabolic rates; in other words, their metabolism was slower and they burned fewer calories doing daily activities.

RELATED: Best Superfoods for Weight Loss

The researchers concluded that PFAS may play a role in body weight regulation, and therefore in the country’s current obesity epidemic. “We all know it’s feasible to lose weight through diet or physical activity; however the challenging part is that almost no one can maintain that weight loss,” says senior study Qi Sun, assistant professor in the department of nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Now we’ve shown that PFAS level may actually determine how much weight people regain.”

But what exactly are these chemicals, and why are they in our bodies to begin with? Here’s what you need to know, and how you can reduce your exposure.

Ditch fast food and microwave popcorn

PFAS chemicals have water- and oil-repellant properties, which makes them valuable to the fast-food industry and for packaged foods like microwave popcorn. In a 2017 study published in Environmental Science & Technology Letters, researchers found that about half of the 400 food wrappers and containers they analyzed contained fluorine, an indicator of PFAS.

Previous studies have found that PFAS have the potential to leach into food—and that once PFAS enter the body, they stay there for years. That’s reason enough to avoid exposure whenever possible, says Laurel Schaider, PhD, an environmental chemist at the Silent Spring Institute and lead author of the food-wrapper study.

“I think we all already have some reasons to reduce how much fast food we consume, and this may be another one,” Schaider told Health in 2017. “If you’re going to eat it, you could try to get the food out of the wrapper as quickly as possible—that might help a little bit.”

RELATED: Another Reason to Never Eat Fast Food Again (That Has Nothing to Do With Fat)

Think twice about stain- or water-resistant products

Another common use for PFAS is making clothing, carpets, upholstery, and other textiles stain- or water-resistant. (Think of advertisements where spilled wine on a sofa beads up and wipes right off.) And while some older PFAS have been phased out of textile production because of associated health and environmental risks, some newer ones have taken their place, says Tom Brutton, PhD, a fellow and PFAS researcher at the Green Science Policy Institute—and their health effects are not yet known.

To be safe, Brutton recommends avoiding stain-, water-, soil-, or grease-repellant products whenever they’re not necessary. And when they are—in the case of a raincoat, for example—look for gear labeled PFAS-free or fluoro-free. “You’re starting to be able to find rain jackets and outdoor gear without these chemicals,” he says, “and I think there will be many more options in as little as two or three years.”

If you already own fabrics with PFAS, don’t panic. “The harm that’s going to happen to one person from the exposure of wearing a raincoat or sitting on a stain-resistant carpet is probably quite minimal,” says Brutton. “What we’re really concerned about are the chemicals released when these products are manufactured and also when they’re disposed of and end up in a landfill." If consumers can make smarter choices so there are fewer of these products in circulation, he says, it will be better for our health, and for the environment as a whole.

RELATED: 13 Worst Jobs For Your Lungs

Don’t buy another nonstick pan

The same advice goes for nonstick cookware: If you already own pots and pans with these chemicals, you don’t have to stop using them or throw them away—at least not until they’re scratched or damaged. But don’t buy a new set either. “The exposure to you from your use of that pan isn’t going to be so huge that it represents a significant health threat,” says Brutton. “But when it’s time to buy a new one, perhaps look for one that doesn’t contain PFAS.” Many experts recommend stainless steel, ceramic, or cast-iron cookware, or you can look for brands that advertise being PFAS-free.

RELATED: 6 Reasons You Need a Cast-Iron Skillet in Your Kitchen

Be smart about seafood

Because they’re so prevalent in the environment, PFAS can also accumulate in the tissue of animals that humans then consume for food. The chemicals have been found in contaminated seafood, for example, and Brutton says that buying organic won’t necessarily reduce your exposure.

What will help, however, is choosing fish that are lower on the food chain. You may already be doing that if you’re concerned about mercury and other heavy metals in seafood, says Brutton. Following those same rules will also help you avoid PFAS. “Instead of buying swordfish, for example, choose salmon,” he says.

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Check on your water supply

PFAS released during industrial and manufacturing processes can also accumulate in water supplies, especially near industrial sites, wastewater treatment plants, and military fire-training areas. A 2016 study found that drinking water supplies for at least 6 million Americans may exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s health advisory limit for lifetime exposure to certain PFAS from drinking water.

Unfortunately, there may not be an easy way to know if your community’s drinking water is contaminated with PFAS, since the EPA does not currently require municipalities to notify residents about these chemicals. But if you’re concerned, it’s worth asking your local supplier.

“In a lot of cases when water utilities find that their levels are high, they’ve taken action and installed filters and alerted consumers, although there’s no guarantee,” Brutton says. Consumers who are concerned about contaminant levels can also install activated carbon filters in their homes. “These products do a fairly good job at removing a lot of these chemicals from drinking water,” he adds.

Source: Health bests

The Number One Thing You Need to Do to Lose Weight Forever, According to Experts

Want to lose a little—or a lot—of weight? Forget the get-slim-quick gimmicks and magic bullets and follow the advice of these weight loss pros instead. We asked four experts in different fields to explain their research into what really works when it comes to losing the weight and keeping it off. Their full-proof strategies will help anyone win at losing.

RELATED: 25 Surprising Ways to Lose Weight

Go to bed

No, you’re not dreaming! Getting your Zz’s is proving to be one of the most important behaviors to achieve—and maintain—a healthy weight. Studies show that adults who report sleeping less than five to six hours per night gain more weight over time, have bigger waistlines, and are more likely to be obese compared to those who get sufficient sleep, says Andrea Spaeth, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of kinesiology and health at Rutgers University.

The reason: When you skimp on shut-eye, your hunger hormones get thrown out of whack, which can drive you to eat more calories, often in the form of sugary or fatty foods. It’s much easier to stick to healthy eating habits when you give your body the sleep it requires. If you snooze, you lose!

Since one in three adults are getting insufficient sleep, Spaeth recommends planning your sleep schedule a week at a time in order to ensure at least seven hours of slumber each night. She also suggests creating a healthy sleep environment by limiting light and setting the temperature to around 67 degrees, as well as establishing a nighttime ritual that includes powering down electronic devices and engaging in more relaxing activities instead.

RELATED: 34 Sleep Hacks for Your Most Restful Night Ever

Eat early

When obesity researcher Courtney Peterson, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, wanted to shed 30 extra pounds and keep it off, she used time-restricted eating, one of her areas of research. Time-restricted feeding involves eating in a defined time period (say eight to 10 hours per day), followed by an extended fast of 14 to 16 hours. According to Peterson, research shows that time-restricted feeding reduces appetite, increases fat burn, and aids weight loss.

Eating during a more defined timeframe helps guarantee that you get the majority of your calories earlier in the day. In one study of 420 dieters, those who ate most of their calories before 3:00 p.m. lost more weight (22 pounds) compared to participants who ate most of their calories later in the day (17 pounds), despite both groups following the same 1,400-calorie diet and sticking with an exercise program. To start a time-restricted eating plan, try dining within a 10-hour window, say 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Then, fast overnight. If you want to get more aggressive, switch to an eight-hour eating window.

RELATED: The 50 Best Weight Loss Foods of All Time

Step on the scale

Your bathroom scale may be the best tool to help you lose weight and keep it off, explains Dori Steinberg, PhD, RD, associate director at Duke Global Health Science Center. After completing a series of studies, her research team discovered that overweight and obese adults who stepped on the scale each day lost an average of 13.5 pounds, with some volunteers dropping up to 20. Those who weighed themselves less frequently lost an average of 7 pounds.

“Contrary to popular belief, our research didn’t reveal any downsides of daily weigh-ins, like feeling depressed or displaying signs of disordered eating,” Steinberg says. Weighing yourself daily provides immediate feedback about your typical behaviors, she adds, which explains why it has been shown to motivate individuals to adopt healthier habits, such as eating fewer sweets and getting enough exercise. In other words, it provides additional accountability to help you stay on track.

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Commit to a new lifestyle

Weight loss experts often say: Don’t diet, change your lifestyle. Making the commitment to change your life for the long haul is the key when it comes to lasting weight loss, explains Lisa Zucker, MS, RD, who worked with weight loss clients for nearly a decade at the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center at the University of Colorado.

When people come to the understanding that their behaviors have to change forever, great things can happen. But if the resolve to stick with it isn’t there, weight loss will be only temporary. Participants in the National Weight Control Registry–a collection of more than 10,000 successful dieters who lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off–are noted for their resolve compared to less successful dieters. These folks haven’t gone back to where they were, no matter what barriers they faced. Analysis of their results shows that even when these dieters faced challenges and slipped, they quickly got back on track with their healthier habits.

To get new healthy habits to stick–forever–make your goals specific and concrete, focus on the positive behaviors you’re going to start rather than the negative ones you want to stop, and enlist close friends and family members to help support you and keep you accountable along the way.

Source: Health bests

Make the Diagnosis: Strange Rash Surfaces

(MedPage Today) — Case Findings: A 20-year-old man went to the doctor complaining of a fever. He had been hiking recently with friends and had gotten a significant number of insect bites, which he had been scratching non-stop – particularly one on his hand, which had become quite red. An erythematous rash in a linear configuration had spread up his arm. Upon exam, the doctor noted regional lymphadenopathy.

Can you diagnose the patient?
Source: Dermatology

This Woman Chose Gastric Bypass and Lost 178 Lbs.: 'I Wanted to Be Healthy but I Needed Help'

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Kathleen Golding’s weight loss struggle started when she was very young.

“I remember being in the fourth grade and having to get a note from my pediatrician granting me permission to start Weight Watchers,” Golding, now 26, tells PEOPLE.

At 21, she found herself wrestling with depression and anxiety turned to food as a “coping mechanism.” By her 22nd birthday she had gained 100 lbs.

“I was stuck in a constant cycle of daily binging,” says the New Bern, North Carolina resident, whose highest weight was 331 lbs. “I was eating fast food for every meal and enormous quantities each time.”

By August 2015, she was ready to start the process of getting gastric bypass surgery. “The morning [I decided to do it] I turned down an offer from friends to go to an amusement park because I knew couldn’t fit in the ride seats, and the following Monday I had a doctor’s appointment scheduled to discuss diabetes medications,” she recalls.

Golding had also been laughed at by strangers earlier that day. “They had pointed to my legs and I knew why — I had stopped shaving my legs because it was difficult to reach my calves, and that was funny to them.”

In preparation for the surgery, which she underwent in June 2016, Golding lost 20 lbs. Afterwards, the weight quickly started to “melt off,” she says. “I felt this incredible sense of confidence that I had totally forgotten about. Even after losing only 30 lbs., I felt amazing, both about my appearance and the way my body was able to move.”

Since losing a total of 178 lbs., Golding maintains a weight of 150 to 155 lbs. — and remains proud of her decision to seek medical help. “For some reason, weight loss surgery is seen as ‘cheating’ or being weak, but for me, I found strength in being able to say ‘I can’t do this on my own. I want to be healthy, but I need help.’ ”

She continued:  “For a long time, I felt completely hopeless. I felt trapped in my body, and no matter what I did to try and lose the weight, I failed. I went into this surgery with the mentality that this would work for me, and I looked at it as me finally taking back control of my life.”

Now the fast-food-free Golding — who recently got married — says she “loves salads and colorful dishes.” She also has been “hitting the gym hard.”

Another source of strength comes from social media. Golding, a photographer and operations manager, has been candid about sharing her story through photos and videos.

“Between Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, I probably receive about 25 to 50 messages a day from random strangers struggling with their weight and looking for diet and fitness tips, or from people who have been on the fence about bariatric surgery,” says Golding. “I’ve inspired them to take the next steps and move forward with the surgery.”

As for how she’s feeling these days, Golding says she is finally at peace with her body. “I have some loose skin and it definitely has its imperfections, but I worked hard for this body,” she says. “I spent so much time hating it but I’ve realized that this is the only body I’ve got and I’m going to take care of it.”

Source: Health bests

Jen Widerstrom Shows Off Her 17-Day Keto Diet Transformation After 'A Very Chaotic Six Months'

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Jen Widerstrom followed an intensive ketogenic diet for the last 17 days, and she’s ready to share her ab-filled results.

The former Biggest Loser trainer strictly followed her diet for her mental health, after dealing with “a huge amount of stress” over the last six months. She announced on Jan. 18 that she was going to try out the keto diet after feeling out of shape.

“I’ve had a very chaotic six months and for the first time I visually see how that chaos is reflected in my eating habits and mental health,” Widerstrom, 35, wrote at the time. “With a huge amount of stress alongside many things to be thankful for, I have been drinking a lot, eating fast food, and to be honest been mentally checked out. To see the distention and my gut is the physical evidence that I’ve clearly been avoiding handling what I’ve been feeling.”

Seventeen days later, Widerstrom is in a better headspace after committing fully to the diet.

“My greatest takeaway: I have the power to do something about the way I feel and I also get to decide how to move through what happens to me,” she wrote on Instagram. “I do not have to be a victim but I do get to choose how I cope with my stress. It’s up to me on whether I check out or not — and through this experience I’ve chosen to participate everyday of my life going forward.”

And as far as how the diet itself went, Widerstrom said that she was impressed by how quickly she saw results, that she had no cravings and what she could and couldn’t eat was very clear. But Widerstrom says she couldn’t stick to the keto diet all the time, because starch, one of the banned foods, an essential part of her diet.

“My body NEEDS starch so I choose not to live in ketogenesis,” she said.

What Widerstrom wants her followers to really learn from her though, is that anyone can make a change to their lifestyle and take control of their health.

“YOU HAVE THE SAME POWER,” she said.

Source: Health bests

Eating Fruit Can Actually Help You Lose Weight. A Nutritionist Explains

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Here's some good news if you love berries, pears, and apples: Ditching fruit isn’t necessary to lose weight. It’s also not smart. Yes, fruit contains carbs and naturally-occurring sugar. But there are important reasons to make fruit a daily staple in your diet, even when you're working to slim down. The key is to eat it strategically. Doing so can actually help you shed pounds.

Natural substances in fruit—including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and prebiotics—are incredibly good for you, not just in terms of protecting against chronic diseases, but also for managing your weight. Even if you eat plenty of veggies, nixing fruit means missing out on the unique antioxidants they provide.

In research, fruit has actually been tied to weight loss, not weight gain. One study found that overweight and obese adults who ate more fruit experienced greater weight loss than those who didn't. Another study, which followed more than 130,000 adults over 24 years, found that consuming fruit was associated with improved weight loss over time.

This link may be because fruit can help boost satiety, satisfy a sweet craving, and decrease your desire to dig into goodies like candy or baked goods. Fruits also tend to replace higher-calorie treats, whereas veggies tend to be add-ons. In other words, you’re much more likely to choose an apple rather than a piece of broccoli in place of a cookie; and that swap can help you limit total calories and avoid added sugar, the real culprit when it comes to weight gain.

RELATED: Here’s What to Eat for Lunch If You’re Trying to Slim Down, According to a Nutritionist

As for sugar, even the strictest guidelines from groups like the American Heart Association and World Health Organization don't lump the sugar from fresh, whole fruit in with added sugar, the refined type used to sweeten foods (think almond milk, or the spoonful you add to your morning coffee).

That's because the naturally-occurring sugar in fruit is much less concentrated, and bundled with water and a number of key nutrients. For example, one whole orange provides about 17 grams of carb, about 12 of which are natural sugar. But it also supplies fluid, 12% of your daily fiber needs, and nearly 100% the recommended amount of vitamin C, along with B vitamins, potassium, and substances like hesperidin, which has been shown to help lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and inflammation.

Compare that to one tablespoon of table sugar, which contains 16 grams of carbs and no nutrients. Essentially, whole, fresh fruit and added sugar don’t belong in the same category.

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Of course, that doesn’t mean you can eat unlimited amounts of fruit. Fruit does contain carbohydrates, and the job of carbs is to fuel the activity of your cells. When you eat more carbs than you can burn after a meal or snack, even from fruit, the unneeded surplus can either feed existing fat, or plump up fat cells.

For this reason your total carb intake, including fruit, should correspond to your fuel demands, which are based on your height, ideal weight, sex, age, and physical activity level. Most of my women clients can afford to eat two servings of fruit per day (more if they are taller or more active), with one serving being one cup, or one piece about the size of a baseball.

Since the carbs in fruit help fuel activity, when you eat fruit matters too. Downing a huge bowl of grapes late at night while you’re watching TV or surfing the web (when your fuel requirement is low) doesn’t make a lot of sense. Instead, build fruit into the meals and snacks you consume before your more active hours of the day. For many of my clients that may mean eating a small banana 20 or 30 minutes before a workout, or eating berries with breakfast before heading to work—and pairing an apple with almond butter in the afternoon to help power through the rest of the day.

RELATED: Best Superfoods for Weight Loss

As far as the type of fruit you choose, try to get a good variety to expose your body to the broadest spectrum of nutrients and antioxidants. In my opinion no fruit is off limits if you’re thoughtful about the amount and timing. For example, while watermelon is a high glycemic-index fruit, enjoying it when it’s in season is smart, since one cup of cubes contains less than 50 calories, and it provides vitamin C, potassium, and antioxidants tied to anti-inflammation, protection against heart disease, and improved exercise endurance and recovery.

Bottom line: fruit is incredibly nutritious and not inherently fattening. Its impact on your weight depends on when you consume it, and how much you eat. Banishing fruit completely can backfire for weight loss, and negatively impact your overall wellness. Instead, strike the right balance to reap all the benefits of fruit and still achieve your slim-down goals.

Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets.

Source: Health bests

Trying to Lose Weight? Your Partner May Reap the Benefits, Too

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Committing to a weight-loss program can have an unexpected benefit: Your significant other may shed some extra pounds, too, even if they aren’t trying. That’s what researchers found in a new study on the so-called weight-loss ripple effect, published today in the journal Obesity.

The study, which was sponsored by Weight Watchers, tracked the progress of 130 married or cohabitating couples for six months. In all of the couples, one partner had a desire to lose weight, and both partners agreed to weigh-ins after three and six months. Half of the partners followed Weight Watchers, while the others received a four-page handout with healthy-eating and exercise tips, and were told to try to lose weight on their own.

The researchers wanted to see if one approach would work better than the other. As it turns out, they were both effective, and everyone involved lost weight. After three months, those in the Weight Watchers group had lost more weight (about 7.4 pounds versus 4.3 pounds), but by the end of the trial, both groups had lost about 14 pounds.

But the partners who didn’t participate — most of whom were men — lost weight, too. On average, people whose partners joined Weight Watchers lost about 3.3 pounds in the first three months, and about 4.9 pounds over the full six-month study. Those whose partners were given a self-guided weight-loss approach had lost about 2.1 pounds at the three-month check-in, and 4.2 pounds at six months. Because of the study’s margin of error, the difference between the two groups was not statistically significant.

Lead author Amy Gorin, PhD, a professor of psychological sciences at the University of Connecticut, said in a press release that when one person changes their behavior, it’s not unusual for the people around them to change, as well. When one partner starts counting calories, weighing themselves regularly, or making healthier food choices, for example, their partners might emulate them.

Four or five pounds may not seem like a lot. But by the end of the study, about a third of the “untreated” partners in the study had lost more than 3% of their initial body weight, which the experts say has measurable health benefits.

Partners also tended to lose weight at similar rates: If one member of a couple lost weight at a steady pace, his or her partner did too, and the same goes for people who lost weight slowly.

“This data suggests that weight loss can spread within couples, and that widely available lifestyle programs have weight loss effects beyond the treated individual,” the authors wrote in their paper. They also suggest that programs like Weight Watchers could help more people by actively involving spouses and partners in the weight loss process.

Gorin says she and her colleagues next hope to look at whether the weight-loss ripple effect could go even further, to other family members who share a household, or to close friends or coworkers.

Source: Health bests

How This Dad Lost Nearly 100 Lbs.—and Gained a Six-Pack

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Jeremiah Peterson decided to get serious about weight loss when a family hiking excursion last summer proved to be too taxing for his then 290-lb. frame.

“I remember being bent over heaving just trying to catch my breath,” the Missoula, Montana-resident tells PEOPLE. “When I looked up, I saw my wife and three kids [10, 8 and 7] easily hiking, talking and laughing with each other — without me. It was a hard-hitting moment.”

He continued: “I felt sadness and shame in that moment thinking how I had let myself get to this, but so much deeper than that. If I continued to live like this, I would not live.”

When he returned home, Peterson, 39, began researching weight loss options and found a video advertising a transformation challenge. “[It] sealed the deal for me. I signed up knowing I was going to give this challenge every single thing I had,” he says.

Prior to losing weight, “a typical day for me was to not eat all day and then get home from work, drink a few beers and eat a big dinner,” says the antique store owner. “Putting my body into starvation mode and then overeating made my body blow up like a balloon, quite literally. I had constant bloating, heartburn and awful stomach issues.”

After finding out he was gluten intolerant, Peterson switched over to a keto-based diet consisting of healthy fats, lean protein and green vegetables. The new nutrition plan and twice-daily hour-long hikes “made the weight start to pour off.”

He also started weight lifting six days a week, focusing on a different body part each day.

Peterson ended up dropping 82 lbs. during the 150-day transformation contest, called the 1st Phorm Transphormation Challenge — and he won the $50,000 grand prize.

Now 198 lbs., Peterson continues to document his journey on Instagram and inspire others.

“I have so much more energy and I feel like I am always in a great mood. I feel like I have become the dad and husband that I really wanted to be,” says Peterson.  “I feel like I have drive and ambition like I have never had before in my life — and I’m almost 40!”

Source: Health bests

6 Foods That May Be Sabotaging Your Weight Loss Goals—And What to Eat Instead

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If you’ve ever tried to shed excess pounds, you know that losing weight can be a complicated (and frustrating) process. Not all foods—or calories, for that matter—are created equal, and just as some foods can expedite your weight loss journey, others can derail it quickly.

Here, three health experts explain which types of foods fall into the latter category—and what you should eat instead.

Foods with emulsifiers

Why they are harmful: Many processed foods, like ice cream, mayonnaise, margarine, chocolate, bakery products, and sausages, contain emulsifiers, which are chemicals that help blend together ingredients that would not naturally mix well together (e.g. oil and water), explains NYC-based registered nurse Rebecca Lee. Emulsifiers also make food look appealing, keep it fresh, and prevent molding. That may all sound harmless, but a study on mice found that consumption of these chemicals may do a number on your body by altering gut bacteria, triggering inflammation and increasing the risk of obesity and heart disease.

Check labels carefully to see if the food you’re consuming contains emulsifiers. Common emulsifiers include: lecithins, mono- and di-glycerides, polyglycerol ester, sorbitan ester, PG ester, and sugar ester.

What to eat instead: Where possible, opt for unprocessed foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, farm fresh eggs, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

Foods with MSG

Why they are harmful: Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a highly addictive flavor-enhancer commonly used in fast food (like Chick-fil-A and Kentucky Fried Chicken), Chinese takeout, ramen noodles, canned foods, processed meats, and numerous other prepackaged foods, explains Lee.

Regular consumption of MSG-laden foods is linked to weight gain, as well as many other health issues. A study of 750 Chinese men and women found that those who used the most MSG in their cooking were nearly three times more likely to be overweight than those who didn’t use any, she explains. Even scarier, the increase in obesity risk was independent of physical activity and total calories consumed.

Other MSG-linked conditions include fibromyalgia, fatty liver and liver toxicity, high blood sugars, asthma, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, neurological brain disorders, digestive disorders, and metabolic syndrome, says Lee.

MSG can be disguised by more than 40 different names, explains Lee. Key terms that may denote its presence: glutamate, anything “hydrolyzed”, yeast extract, gelatin, soy protein, soy or whey protein, soy sauce, anything "…protein", and calcium or sodium caseinate. MSG is hard to avoid because the FDA requires it to be listed on the label only if it’s used as a main ingredient, and not if it’s used only as a processing agent, which is a very common practice, explains Lee.

What to eat instead: Seek out foods that are minimally processed and seasoned with simple spices. Even better, flavor your meals with chile peppers for an extra metabolic boost. (Numerous studies suggest that capsaicin, the compound in chile peppers that gives them their heat, also raises metabolism).

RELATED: 5 Foods to Rev Up Your Metabolism

Artificial sweeteners

Why they are harmful: Many people use zero-calorie sugar substitutes as a weight-loss tool, but these sweeteners may actually have the opposite effect, says Lee. In a mice study, those who were fed artificial sweeteners saccharin, sucralose or aspartame developed glucose intolerance, a metabolic condition associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes. “The artificial sweeteners altered the animals’ gut microbiomes towards a balance of bacteria associated with metabolic diseases,” says Lee. What’s more, in a follow-up study on 7 human volunteers, 4 became glucose intolerant after consuming the maximum recommended dose of saccharin for just one week.

What to eat instead: Consuming too much regular added sugar isn’t good for you either, so satisfy your sweet cravings the natural way with whole fruits, cinnamon, nut butters, or sweet potatoes.

RELATED: What’s Better? Sugar-Free, No Added Sugar or Unsweetened

Refined carbs

Why they are harmful: Eating a diet high in refined carbs (think: pasta, bread, sweets) will cause a surge in blood sugar, which will trigger your pancreas to produce insulin to help clear the sugar from your blood, explains New Jersey-based registered dietitian Jeanette Kimszal. That translates into your body digesting and absorbing food more rapidly, which can cause energy crashes later on and damage your metabolism in the long term.

What to eat instead: Reach for complex carbohydrates consisting of whole grains and vegetables, like quinoa or spaghetti squash. “They contain fiber, which will slow digestion and keep your metabolism in check,” explains Kimszal. “Look for whole grain products that have at least 3 grams of fiber per serving and do not contain the words ‘enriched’ on the package.”

Low-fat products

Why they are harmful: Most of us tend to assume that foods labeled ‘low-fat’ are good for weight loss, which in theory makes sense, given the fact that gram for gram, fat has twice as many calories as proteins and carbs. But in a study published in the journal Appetite, researchers analyzed nutrition information for nearly 6,000 foods in Canada and found that, overall, products with low-fat claims were not significantly lower in calories than their full-fat equivalents. What’s more, “low-fat foods may even lead people to consume extra calories,” says Lee. A separate study investigating the effects of different fats on satiety found that participants were less hungry two hours after eating regular muffins compared to fat-free muffins.

What to eat instead: Instead of avoiding fat, rev up your metabolism by consuming good-for-you fats, like the omega-3’s found in salmon, tuna, mackerel and other cold water fish.

Soda

Why it is harmful: “Because it contains high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), soda can cause metabolic syndrome, which is a group of conditions (increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around waist) that occur together, increasing your risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes,” says Tanya Zuckerbrot, NYC-based registered dietitian, author of The F-Factor Diet and creator of F-Factor. Fructose, when consumed in the same quantities as other sugar, has more damaging effects on the metabolism, she adds. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that HFCS may lead to obesity because of its negative effects on the metabolism.

What to drink instead: Get your fizzy fill with Kombucha, a carbonated, fermented tea that’s loaded with probiotics, recommends Zuckerbot. Probiotics have been shown to help regulate digestion, weight and metabolism.

Source: Health bests

The Mindful Eating Hack That Helped Me Stop Obsessing About Food

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One of the main battles in overcoming overeating is to stop thinking of some foods as "good" and others as "bad." Food is nourishment and hunger is a healthy, involuntary sensation just like feeling cold or tired, the thinking goes.

But like so many people with a history of dieting, I’ve struggled with knowing when I'm truly hungry, and I've had a hard time not judging myself harshly if I pass up a so-called "good" or healthy food in favor of something I've categorized as "bad," like an indulgent dessert. That puts me in a cycle of disordered eating, one I've dealt with for much of my adult life.

RELATED: 5 Crazy Delicious Super Bowl Snacks for Everyone Doing Whole30

To finally address my overeating issues, I began seeing New York City psychotherapist Alexis Conason. Over two years in private and group therapy, I learned about mindful eating, which she describes as "eating what you want when you want it." Sounds so simple, but for most people, this is pretty revolutionary. We spend so much time depriving and judging ourselves, and one of the ironies of this is that even if you don’t struggle with your weight, food judgments are a constant yet ever-changing part of our culture.

Gluten, salt, animal products, sugar, carbs—we are barraged by conflicting information that flip-flops through the years. But by far the most painful to live with are the judgments we place on ourselves. Denying yourself food that your body is craving will never help you maintain a healthy weight long-term. In fact, it will almost always set you up for disordered eating, as I've learned the hard way.

Dr. Conason helped me understand why. “When we believe that our food will be restricted, we have a 'now or never' mentality, thinking this is our one opportunity to eat this food, so we should eat as much as we can in this moment because we’ll never allow ourselves to have it again,” she says. One of the many issues with this is that we will eat it again…and probably again after that. We hate ourselves not only for eating it, but for failing.

RELATED: Best Superfoods for Weight Loss

Her advice to break this cycle? She recommends stocking your kitchen with as much "bad" or unhealthy food as you want—actually more than you think that you could eat at any one time—and then making sure to always keep your stash of it replenished. “When we truly believe that food won’t be restricted, the food usually loses its emotional power. Over time, we don’t feel compelled to eat all the cartons of ice cream in our freezer in one sitting because we trust that there will always ice cream in our freezer, and we can have more when we want it.”

When she suggested this to me, I thought it was bananas. The logic behind it made sense, but I didn’t trust myself remotely. If I had every “bad” food in the house at once, I would never leave, I thought. I told my husband about it though, and he thought I should try it out—and one night came home from the market with six boxes of brownie mix. 

RELATED: Here's What to Snack on if You're Trying to Slim Down, According to a Nutritionist

I remember my nervous laughter that turned into a cackle when I saw those boxes of brownie mix. I have tried many things to gain control over my eating, but this had to be the craziest. Then after I stopped laughing and thought about it, I suddenly felt liberated. I think this applies to anyone, whether they’ve struggled with their weight or not: Just imagine for a minute how it would feel to be able to eat anything you wanted, as much of it, whenever you wanted. It’s an almost unthinkable circumstance for most people.

This sense of freedom turned out to be life-changing. Okay, I tore through the first few boxes in a matter of days, making and eating batches of delicious brownies. But after the second box, the idea of eating brownies somehow truly became less exciting, less seductive. I realized how I was imprisoning myself with this idea of what I could and could not eat; how making some foods off-limits gave them a power over me. The worst part was that after years of this pattern of behavior, I was still fat. It was all a waste of energy.

Conason warns that allowing yourself to have whatever you want and managing to resist consuming it all immediately is not something that happens overnight. “It’s a process—you may eat through your whole stock of ice cream the first night. This isn’t indication that you have failed or further evidence that you can’t be trusted around ice cream. It is just part of the process of recovering from diet culture," she explains.

"If we stick with it, eventually one day—maybe the following day, maybe a week from then, maybe a month from then, but at some point, we realize that we don’t want any more ice cream right now, and we can have more later and the food loses its power,” she adds. 

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It took about six months for this to happen to me, to accept that I could eat whatever I wanted and not give in to the compulsion to consume everything in one sitting. This freedom from a cycle of binging and depriving myself helped lead me to a light bulb moment: I came to realize that just because I can eat whatever I want doesn’t mean I should

The key to this is not that I should or shouldn’t eat something because of calories or watching my weight. I “should” or “shouldn’t” from a self-care perspective. Taking away the power foods had over me helped me realize that I don’t feel well after I binge eat unhealthy foods—physically or mentally. If I don't like the way I feel after consuming them, I shouldn't eat them.

RELATED: 16 Ways to Lose Weight Fast

With this in mind, I'm now choosing my well-being over a momentary sugar rush. To be clear, sometimes I still choose the sugar high. I’m still deep in my process, as Dr. Conason calls it. But after years of viewing certain beloved foods as forbidden, I’ve been able to indulge when I want, without thinking about it obsessively beforehand or regretting it after.

Cutting myself off from foods I wanted never made me skinny—it only made me miserable. Proving to myself that I can eat whatever I want has helped me take the power back and make genuine, mindful decisions that make me feel healthy both physically and mentally.

Source: Health bests

How This Woman Lost 142 Lbs.—and Why She Shared the Journey On Social Media

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This article originally appeared on People.com.

Before making the choice to have vertical gastric sleeve surgery, Jessica Adkins looked to social media.

“I searched weight loss hashtags, most specifically weight loss surgery hashtags, and I was so inspired,” says Adkins, who underwent the procedure in 2016 and has since been documenting her journey on YouTube and Instagram.

But it wasn’t just the impressive transformation photos that made an impact — it was other users’ comments. “Everyone was so positive and supportive and I knew this was a community I wanted to be a part of. I also wanted to be able to help others the way hashtags helped me,” she says.

 

Starting at 285 lbs., Adkins recorded her very first meeting with her bariatric doctor, kicking off her official weight loss journey. She decided to continue posting candid videos about her triumphs and struggles, and soon incorporated food product reviews as well. (She now follows a keto diet).

“A weight loss journey is about more than just the weight coming off. It’s a big mental struggle as well,” says the administrative assistant, who hit her goal weight of 150 lbs. on her 30th birthday: July 7, 2017. “I feel if I only talked about the positive parts of this, I would be doing my viewers a disservice…the biggest compliment I get is when others tell me that watching my videos helped them be more prepared for things they have encountered.”

Adkins has come a long way. She went from consuming fast food three times a day, five or six days a week, to eating a low-carb/low-sugar diet. “They say alcoholics can tell you the very day of their last drink. I can tell you the last time I had a piece of bread: August 5, 2016,” she says. “I no longer eat bread, rice, or pasta of any kind.”

She is also committed to staying active by attending fitness classes at her local gym and walking 3 to 5 miles a day.

And the Pikeville, Kentucky resident has a message for those also considering weight loss surgery. “It is not the easy way out,” she explains. “You had surgery on your stomach, not on your mind. You still might want the things you had before, so you really have to get willpower.”

Now at 143 lbs., Adkins hopes to get down to 135 lbs. with continued hard work and the support of her social media community.

That’s why her advice is to join a group online.  “Having people you can talk to, people who will encourage you, means more than you realize,” she says. “Losing weight is hard — it helps to be able to talk to others going through the same stuff.”

 

Source: Health bests

Here’s What to Snack on If You’re Trying to Slim Down, According to a Nutritionist

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Tired of eating almonds and Greek yogurt (over and over and over)? I hear you. When you're trying to shed pounds, it's easy to fall into a healthy snack rut. But luckily, there are plenty of other options to choose from. Below are five easy ideas that satisfy all the criteria for a slimming snack. Each one is packed with nutrients to boost your energy and mood; filling enough to tide you over till your next meal; and low-cal enough to support your weight-loss goals. There's something for every type of craving—from salty to crunchy, and yes, even chocolate.

Savory egg salad with chopped veggies

Chop one hard-boiled pasture-raised egg. Mix with one cup of finely chopped vegetables, like kale, cucumber, tomato, and red onion. Toss mixture with a quarter cup of hummus to coat thoroughly and evenly.

RELATED: What to Eat for Dinner If You're Trying to Lose Weight, According to a Nutritionist

Spiced-up almond butter spread on celery

Stir one quarter cup of shredded zucchini, one quarter teaspoon fresh grated ginger, one eighth teaspoon ground cinnamon, and a teaspoon of pure maple syrup into two tablespoons of almond butter. Fill four fresh celery stalks with the mixture and crunch away.

Oven-roasted chickpeas

Toss a half cup of canned (drained, rinsed) chickpeas with a half tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and one sixteenth teaspoon each sea salt and black pepper. Roast on a baking sheet in a preheated 350°F oven for 15 minutes.

Salmon-stuffed avocado

Whisk together a teaspoon of Dijon, half teaspoon of Italian seasoning, and a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Mix dressing with half a can of wild Alaskan salmon. Fill half an avocado with salmon mixture, and enjoy with a spoon.

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Dark chocolate and berries

Pair a half cup of fresh or frozen, thawed raspberries, blueberries or strawberries with one or two squares of 70% dark chocolate. Sweet tooth, satisfied.

Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and a consultant for the New York Yankees and Brooklyn Nets.

Source: Health bests