Craig Robinson Lost 50 Lbs. By Going Vegan and Cutting Out Alcohol: 'It Was Much Easier Than I Thought'

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This article originally appeared on People.com.

Craig Robinson is feeling better than ever.

The star of the new series Ghosted talked about his slimmer physique on Harry Connick Jr.’s talk show, Harry.

“I lost a bunch of weight, I lost about 50 lbs.,” Robinson, 45, says.

The former The Office actor says his weight loss started as an experiment.

“I haven’t been drinking,” Robinson explains. “Since January I just put down the alcohol, I was going to detox. I had heard, I don’t know how true it is, but I heard you can regenerate your liver in six months. I was like let me see if I can go six months and I just haven’t gone back.”

And his alcohol detox inspired other healthy habits.

“[I’m] working out and I’ve been trying this vegan lifestyle too. It’s amazing,” Robinson says. “There are so many great vegan restaurant and dishes. It’s much easier than I thought it would be.”

Still, he does miss one dairy-filled dish.

“Mac and cheese,” Robinson says without hesitation.

On Ghosted, Robinson plays a skeptic mall cop who gets roped into investigating unexplained paranormal activities with a true believer, played by Adam Scott.

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These Real Women Showed Their Excess Skin to Make an Important Point About Weight Loss

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Stories about people who shed lots of weight after adopting a healthier lifestyle are super inspirational, especially if a photo shows a person looking healthy and happy at her goal weight. But often something important is glossed over: that dropping major pounds tends to leave a dieter with loose skin.

Some successful dieters choose to have the skin removed surgically. Others live with it and make a point about it on social media—it's a very real part of their journey, after all. Here are six women who got real on Instagram about their excess skin and how they struggle to deal with it.

After shedding 185 pounds in 15 months, Jessica Weber was left with excess skin around her midsection. “I was always prepared for it, but it is still such a struggle to deal with daily,” Weber told People. “I’ve seen some people lose weight and have it not be such a problem, but I wasn’t that lucky.”

Weber regularly shares bits of her new, healthier lifestyle on Instagram, along with motivational messages. "I'm still learning to love my new body and ths journey that i Am on!" she admits in one post, which shows her bearing her stomach in a bikini.

When you think of a bodybuilder, ripped muscles and a perfectly taut stomach come to mind. Jana Roller is a bodybuilder who fits part of this stereotype, with one exception—she chooses to show off her excess skin from weight loss when she wears her competition bikini. 

Meeting a major weight-loss goal offers much to celebrate, and Jordaan Spark didn't let her loose skin stop her from doing just that, posting this snap of her boyfriend picking her up in a pool. The 24-year-old told People she doesn't want to "sugarcoat" weight loss, which is why she opted to post the photo.

After losing over 100 pounds, Rachel Graham shared a photo of her excess skin. While she said it sometimes makes her self-conscious, she wouldn't change her weight-loss journey for the world, since it's made her happier and healthier. "I'd be lying if I said my loose skin wasn't an insecurity of mine.. But I refuse to let it consume me," wrote Graham.

Hitting the beach in a swimsuit can provoke anxiety no matter what you weigh. But Jacqueline Adan went for it, bearing her excess skin from a 350-pound weight loss. When onlookers reacted critically to Adan's body, she strutted her stuff and then posted this on Instagram. "I am not going to let what other people think of me stop me from living my life,” she wrote. “They do not know me. They do not know how I have worked my ass off to lose 350 pounds. They do not know how I am recovering from major surgeries. They have no right to sit and point and laugh at me.”

Simone Anderson shed 194 pounds and documented the whole process on her Instagram page. Now, the lifestyle blogger shares everything from her cute outfits to her workouts to her incredible before-and-after photos, which remind her followers of her inspiring journey. In an interview with People, Anderson shared her thoughts on the excess skin: “I needed to show that yes, I do have loose skin, and it’s actually a side effect of something I am proud of. Obviously, I can’t wait for it to be gone, but it’s not something I’m ashamed of or embarrassed of.”

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This Is the Crazy Amount of Money You Can Save by Losing Weight

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If you’re overweight or obese, losing a few pounds may save you some serious cash. A new study has shown that weight loss at any age resulted in significant financial perks, with people around age 50 saving the most—an average of $36,278(!) over the course of their lifetimes.

The new research, published in Obesity, is the first to take into account not only the medical costs associated with obesity and its related diseases, but also losses in productivity at work that could be attributed to weight. This helps paint a more complete picture of the real price tag of extra pounds, according to the authors.

“People often think of obesity as an insurance issue, and they know that expensive health care problems are associated with it,” says lead author says Bruce Y. Lee, MD, executive director of the Global Obesity Prevention Center at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “But they rarely think about the full magnitude of its societal and workplace costs.”

To find these numbers, Dr. Lee and his colleagues developed a computer model to represent the U.S. adult population, and estimated lifetime health effects for people who were obese, overweight, or healthy weight at ages 20 through 80. The model simulated the health status of these three groups year by year, and tracked medical costs (to the insurer or health-care facility), productivity losses, and sick time they would likely sustain as a result of their weight.

RELATED: 57 Ways to Lose Weight Forever, According to Science

They found that, at every age between 20 and 80, going from one weight category to another resulted in significant cost differences. A 20-year-old who goes from obese to overweight, for example, would save an average of $17,655 over his or her lifetime. If that same person went from obese to a healthy weight, those savings would grow to about $28,020.

Middle-age adults had even more to gain: The model suggested that an obese 40-year-old could save between $18,000 and $32,000 over their lifetime by losing enough to be simply overweight or a healthy weight. Cost savings peaked at age 50, with an average total savings of more than $36,000.

The cost gap between being obese versus overweight narrowed as people aged, so that people between 50 and 80 benefited much more from moving to the healthy weight category, rather than simply moving from obese to overweight. “This emphasizes the importance of weight loss as people get older,” the study authors wrote in their paper, “for both individuals with obesity and individuals with overweight.”

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Dr. Lee says it was a bit surprising that these cost savings remained significant throughout every decade of a person’s life. “Someone might think that if they’re 80 years old and they’ve lived their entire life without losing weight, then maybe it’s not worth trying at that point,” he says. “Our study suggests that if you really want to focus on reducing costs, then it is actually still important.”

Dr. Lee points out that the productivity losses in the study were based on median wage—and that if a person makes a higher-than-average salary, they’re likely to lose even more because of obesity-related problems. “You’re essentially forfeiting potential salary, you’re going to the hospital and the doctor’s office, you’re getting too sick to work, or your life is getting cut short,” he says.

Dr. Lee hopes the research helps employers realize the importance of prioritizing their workers’ health and wellbeing. He also hopes it serves as an incentive for people who know they need to lose weight but haven’t been motivated to do so for their health alone. “Everyone is interested in trying to save money and maximize what they can do with their salary,” he says, “and this study suggests one way they can do that.”

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This Woman Dropped 175 Lbs. and Gained Confidence Along the Way: 'I'm a Completely Different Person'

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This article originally appeared on People.com.

After being overweight for her entire life, Jessica Beniquez had some bad habits to break to lose 175 lbs.

“I was a very picky eater. I didn’t stick a vegetable in my mouth. I ate fast food every day, and would pretty much only eat chicken nuggets, pasta and fries,” the 21-year-old tells PEOPLE. And her lifestyle had turned sedentary, despite having played sports in high school. “I laid in bed watching series after series on Netflix. All I did was eat, go to work and watch my shows.”

At over 320 lbs., her weight took a toll on her body. “I didn’t feel comfortable,” says the Spring Hill, Florida resident. “Getting out of bed was hard. I felt miserable. I knew I needed to lose weight because I had high blood pressure, but it took me over a year to realize how dangerous that is — and to do something about it.”

At the end of February 2016, Beniquez finally committed to her health.

“I was about to start a whole other series on Netflix, and I was like, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore.’ I didn’t want to sit in bed and do nothing. I felt so lazy. I didn’t even hang out with my friends.”

She added: “At the moment I [decided] to do it, I ordered Herbalife shakes that day. If I didn’t, I honestly don’t think I’d be where I am right now. I got the shakes and never looked back.”

Beniquez was “strict” about sticking to her new diet.  “I was consuming about 1200-1500 calories per day,” she says. After three months of having two shakes a day and one meal with some snacks in between, and an additional five months of consuming one shake a day and two meals with snacks, she eventually “quit the [Herbalife] shakes all together” in October 2016.

Her go-to foods included lunch meats, carrots and hummus, yogurt, cottage cheese and grilled chicken salads. And two months ago, she started drinking a different kind of protein shake, adding fruit, oatmeal or a flaxseed, for breakfast.  “I opened my tastebuds up to new things,” she says.

From the beginning of her weight loss journey, Beniquez also became active.

“The day after I ordered the shakes I was walking. I walked a mile and a half to two miles a night,” she then joined a gym a month later, which was not an easy thing for her to do.

“I procrastinated because I was nervous what to do in the gym. I didn’t want people to look at me. It’s embarrassing when you’re young and really big. Walking through a gym, you see a lot of fit people and I was super intimated by that,” says Beniquez, who started by working with a trainer and doing exercises she saw on YouTube. “But once I got the gym membership I exercised every single day for an hour, then eventually it turned into an hour and a half, and now I’m at two hours maybe more.”

And she got plenty of support along the way. “People would come up to me at the gym and say, ‘Wow, congratulations — you’ve come such a long way,’ ” says Beniquez, who now works at the front desk at the gym and hopes to become a certified trainer.

Documenting her journey on social media was also a big help. “It kept me accountable when people would be like, ‘You can do it,’ ” says Beniquez who boasts 186,000 followers on Instagram and hopes to inspire others. “I wanted to show them that I could do it, and they can, too.”

It took 19 months to get down to 145 lbs., and Beniquez hopes to lose a little more weight and eventually have skin removal surgery. For now, though, she couldn’t be happier with her new lifestyle.

“I never expected to be where I am today. I was shy, but now I have so much more confidence, I have so much more energy,” says Beniquez. “Before it took me 20 minutes to walk a mile and now I can run 5 miles in under 50 minutes…It’s crazy the things I can do now that I couldn’t do before.”

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I Eat the Same Healthy Breakfast and Lunch Every Day—and Maybe You Should Too

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I’ll never be someone who loves to cook. All of my cookware comes from Goodwill, and I find the prospect of creating meals in the kitchen more annoying than exciting. Because of this, I’ve attempted to simplify my meal-planning as much as possible. For a while, that meant a lot of packaged foods—like entire meals of tortilla chips and salsa.

Over the past two months however, I’ve developed a routine that is healthy, easy, and delicious. I consume the same exact thing for breakfast and lunch every day. Yes, I can almost see all the foodies weeping at that statement. But let me explain what I eat, and why it works.

RELATED: 35 Quick and Easy Fat-Burning Recipes

Breakfast is a cup of black coffee and a bowl of Kashi Go Lean cereal with soy milk. For lunch, I eat one piece of whole wheat toast with avocado, hemp seed hearts, and tomato slices, topped with a fried egg. Sometimes on the weekends I switch up my lunch for something else, particularly if I’m eating out of over a friend's house. But for the most part, this is what you'll find me fueling up on twice a day.

I’m a freelance writer who works from home. As a freelancer, if I’m not working, then I’m not making money. My time is precious, and since I dislike cooking, having a go-to meal saves me time that I can dedicate to working. I always know how much time I need to spend cooking, eating, and cleaning up every day.

RELATED: 12 Foods You Need to Stop Buying

This means I can plan my days a little easier. It also means I don’t have to worry about scrounging up a meal each day I work from home. There’s no time wasted or temptation to procrastinate by making a more time-intensive dish.

Eating the same thing during the workday also means that I can control my budget and my nutrition. When I do my grocery shopping, I know that I need eggs, soy milk, cereal, avocados, tomatoes, bread, and hemp seeds. I can account for that in my spending and keep myself on budget. By keeping these foods on hand, I also cut down on the temptation to eat out. I know I can whip up a healthy and delicious meal quickly, and I save the cash I might otherwise spend on eating out. 

I'm someone who can easily overeat or spend time snacking; I tend to be a grazer. But my meal routine lets me meet my caloric and nutritional needs while keeping me satiated until dinner. I know that I’m getting protein from the cereal and eggs, vitamin C and K from the tomato, omega-3’s from the hemp seeds, and fiber from the whole wheat bread. No matter what I eat for dinner, I’ve introduced these vitamins and nutrients into my diet through breakfast and lunch.

It's not just what I eat every day that helps me stay healthy—having a set time to sit down for a food break keeps my metabolism steady. I eat breakfast around 9 a.m. each day; lunch happens four hours later. By the time 1 p.m. rolls around,  I’m genuinely hungry for lunch, which in turn keeps me full until I eat dinner between 6-8 p.m.

RELATED: 20 Reasons Your Stomach Hurts

However, I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist. So I asked someone with a health background if it was okay to eat the same two meals every day, and why this meal-planning has worked so well for me.

Stacey Mattinson, a registered dietitian in Austin, Texas, told me that the basis of my meal plan is fine, but variety never hurts. “Nutritionally speaking, we always recommend variety,” says Mattinson. "Different foods offer different nutrition profiles. Leafy greens offer vitamin K while red or orange foods are high in beta-carotene.”

She clarified further. “Is it wrong or hurtful to eat the same thing? No, I wouldn’t say that it’s detrimental, particularly because you’re eating a different dinner and have some variety on the weekends. If you have a different source of protein for dinner—like beans or tofu—keeping the base of your breakfast and lunch the same is not a problem. You can certainly increase your nutritional quality with variety, but there’s no problem with keeping the base the same.”

She recommended adding a few different types of fruit to my breakfast for variety, or switching the vegetables I put on my toast at lunch for an extra nutritional punch. I'm open to the idea of switching in other vegetables like spinach to my egg and toast, or having a banana with my cereal. But since I don't feel the itch to change things up, I'm sticking to what works, for now.

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This Rare but Deadly Complication of Liposuction Almost Killed a Woman. Here's What Doctors Want You to Know

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Liposuction is big business: A recent study found that it was 2016’s second most popular type of plastic surgery in the United States (after breast augmentation), with an average cost per procedure of $3,200. Overall, about 235,000 fat-sucking operations were performed last year.

And while the procedure is generally safe, a new article in BMJ Case Reports highlights a complication that nearly cost one 45-year-old woman her life. The paper details doctors’ experience diagnosing and treating a patient who developed a rare but serious condition called fat embolization syndrome shortly after a routine nip and tuck.

RELATED: 5 Questions to Ask Before You Have Cosmetic Surgery

Fat embolization occurs when globules of fat break free from surrounding tissue and travel through the body, becoming lodged in blood vessels or the lungs and blocking the flow of blood or oxygen. It’s common after bone fractures or major trauma, but it has also been documented—at least two other times in medical literature—after liposuction.

Unfortunately, the doctors wrote in their report, the condition is “notoriously difficult to diagnose,” and many plastic surgeons don’t know that they should be on the lookout for symptoms.

In their paper, the doctors recall the case of an obese British woman who had undergone lower leg and knee liposuction two days earlier at a local hospital. “The surgery had been planned to remove some of the bulk of her lower legs to help her mobilize and subsequently begin the weight loss process,” they wrote.

The procedure itself was uneventful, and about 10 liters of fat were removed from the woman’s lower body. About 36 hours after the operation, however, the woman became drowsy and confused, and doctors noticed her heart rate was unusually high.

RELATED: 5-Minute Fat Burners

The woman’s condition worsened, and she was transferred to the intensive care unit, where doctors determined she had dangerously low oxygen levels in her body. After further tests, doctors realized that her symptoms were caused by fat embolization.

Once a diagnosis was made, the woman was treated with oxygen and drugs to help restore her oxygen levels, heart rate, and breathing to normal. She recovered fully and was released from the hospital after two weeks. But if not for her doctors’ quick thinking, things could have been much worse.

Fat embolization is not only hard to recognize, say the report’s authors, but there is no standardized set of criteria to help physicians make an official diagnosis. Although liposuction is not usually considered a high-risk procedure, people who are morbidly obese, who have fluid retention, or who have large volumes of fat removed are more likely to suffer from complications, they say.

RELATED: 11 Celebrities Get Real About Plastic Surgery

Anyone considering liposuction or any other type of cosmetic surgery should talk with their doctor about the potential benefits and risks; it’s also important to interview surgeons carefully and choose one who’s certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Make sure he or she operates in an accredited hospital or medical facility. Don’t fall for non-licensed “pros” who tout cosmetic surgery on social media.

If you do choose to go under the knife, following your surgeon’s post-op instructions can help reduce your risk of dangerous complications. But as with any medical procedure, always speak up if something doesn’t feel right.

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This Woman Hit the Beach with Loose Skin After Losing 350 Pounds. Here's Her Message to the Haters

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Blogger Jacqueline Adan used to weigh 500 pounds. She avoided bathing suits at all costs and wouldn’t dream of wearing one in public without a cover-up. So when she dropped 350 pounds by exercising and eating clean, she finally felt ready to step into a swimsuit again.

The only problem? Obnoxious onlookers who snickered at her loose skin, a common side effect of dramatic weight loss.

“I was nervous to take my cover up off and to walk into the pool or walk on the beach,” Adan wrote in the caption of a photo she posted on Instagram this week. In the picture, she's wearing nothing but a wetsuit and a big smile while vacationing in Mexico. Even after undergoing skin removal surgeries, Adan still has excess skin on her body.

In the photo, Adan looks elated. But "I still felt like that same 500 pound girl,” she continued in her post. “Then it happened. A couple sitting by the pool started laughing and pointing at me and making fun of me as soon as I took my cover up off.”

The body positive icon, who has 47K Instagram followers, could have let their obnoxious reaction ruin her day. Instead, she took a deep breath, smiled, and made her way into the pool.

RELATED: Here's How 15 Real Women Lost 150+ Pounds

“That was a huge moment for me,” she wrote. “I had changed. I was not the same girl anymore.” While she confessed that the teasing bothered her, the experience showed her how far she’d come not only physically but also emotionally.

“I am not going to let what other people think of me stop me from living my life,” she vowed in her post. “They do not know me. They do not know how I have worked my ass off to lose 350 pounds. They do not know how I am recovering from major surgeries. They have no right to sit and point and laugh at me.”

So Adan unapologetically rocked her wetsuit and went on enjoying her vacation. “What matters is how you react to it,” she said. “How you feel about yourself. Loving yourself just the way you are is hard. Others might not like that. That's ok. I hope you love yourself. Love your body. I hope you keep doing you and just keep smiling!”

Source: Health bests

Chrissy Metz Wishes People Would Stop Asking If She's Getting Weight-Loss Surgery: 'I'm Good'

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This article originally appeared on People.com.

Dear Dr. Google: Chrissy Metz does not need your opinion on her weight.

The This Is Us star says that the one question she wishes people would stop asking her is if she’s going to get weight loss surgery.

“Some people do feel like they’re my doctors, and they have tried to diagnose me on the internets,” Metz tells Today. “So that’s … that’s weird. Cause like, I’m good. I’m good, boo. But thanks. But I’m good [laughs].”

Metz, who plays Kate Pearson, a woman struggling with her size, on the hit show, recently explained that she is contractually obligated to lose weight for the role, but she doesn’t have a goal she has to hit.

And Metz is happier with her body than Pearson. The actress says her favorite body part is her calves.“People are like, ‘Enough. Don’t do anymore calf raises.’ But I don’t!” she says. “But I’ve come to love them and realize, like, they carry my body around. And I could probably kick some ass.”

Metz’s confident attitude extends to clothing, and she says her style heroes “are anyone who wears what they want to wear, when they want to wear it, to where they want to wear it to.”

Metz also talked to Today about her favorite emoji (all of the hearts) and her favorite purchase of late (Josie Maran's Argan Oil).

“You can use it for your legs and all your skin parts,” she explains. “And it’s delicious.”

Source: Health bests

Part-Time Dieting Might Be the Trick to Losing Weight Successfully

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One of the first rules of dieting is that to lose weight, you have to burn off more calories than you take in. But cut back on calorie intake too much or for too long, and the body responds by going into energy-conservation mode—slowing down the rate at which those calories burn, which can counteract those good intentions.

Now, Australian researchers say they may have a way to make dieting more efficient and to keep the body’s metabolism humming along at its normal clip—which means more pounds lost (and kept off) in the long run. The secret, they say, is taking a break from dieting every few weeks.

RELATED: Counting Macros: How to Calculate the IIFYM Diet for Weight Loss

In their new study, published in the International Journal for Obesity, researchers from the University of Tasmania found that obese men who dieted continuously for 16 weeks lost less weight overall—20 pounds versus 31—than those whose diets followed a 2-weeks-on/2-weeks-off cycle for 30 weeks. The continuous dieters also lost less body fat than those in the intermittent group.

The intermittent dieters kept more of their weight off for the long-term, too. Six months after their diets had ended, the on-and-off group had maintained the most total weight loss since the start of the study—about 24 pounds versus only about 7.

So why did the on-again, off-again diet work so much better? The researchers think it has to do with something called adaptive thermogenesis—a process by which a person’s resting metabolism decreases when calorie intake is slashed. It’s a survival mechanism that’s helped humans stay alive during lean times (it’s sometimes called the “famine reaction”). But when an overweight person tries to lose weight, it can also work against them.

By limiting periods of calorie restriction to two weeks at a time, the authors believe they kept the famine reaction at bay—which allowed the study participants to burn more calories during those dieting periods.

RELATED: Best Snacks for Weight Loss

To conduct the study, the researchers provided meals during the study period. Overall, each group was assigned to 16 weeks of dieting, during which the men reduced their daily weight-maintenance calorie requirements by 33%. (On average, participants ate about 900 to 1,000 fewer calories per day during diet weeks.)

But while men in the continuous diet group stuck with their plan for 16 weeks straight, those in the intermittent group cycled on and off their diet every two weeks. During their off weeks, they ate their full caloric requirement—the number of calories required for weight to stay the same day-to-day, based on resting metabolic rate and self-reported physical activity levels.

Because of that, weight loss (or gain) during those off weeks was minimal. “Therefore, the greater weight loss in the [intermittent] group can be attributed to a higher rate of weight loss during the 8 x 2-week [energy-restriction] blocks, and not simply continual eight loss over a longer (30-week) intervention period,” the authors wrote in their paper.

Before you try the two-weeks on, two-weeks off diet strategy, though, know this: The authors were quick to point out that strict calorie-counting was also important during the non-diet weeks. Participants didn’t just eat whatever they wanted; they ate only what they needed to maintain a stable weight.

And that may be why the back-and-forth approach worked so well in this study, the authors say. In real life, taking a break from dieting could lead to an abnormally large appetite and overeating, “which may compromise weight loss,” they wrote.

They also point out that intermittent-fasting diets—programs that alternate no-holds-barred eating with several days very little or no food at all—don’t seem to work any better than continuous, steady dieting. “As such, incorporating periods of controlled energy balance, not simply variations in energy intake, may be necessary to realize the beneficial effects” of on-again, off-again dieting, they wrote.

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The study was small (32 participants completed it), and it could not determine whether two weeks on, two weeks off is an optimal pattern—just that it worked better than continuous calorie-cutting. And because the study only included men, it's unclear whether the same would be true for women. More studies are needed, the authors say, to see if this plan would still be effective outside of a tightly controlled lab setting.

Still, the authors concluded, their findings provide preliminary support for an on-and-off calorie restriction, and suggest that it may be a “superior alternative” to continuous diet plans.

Source: Health bests

Can a Meal Kit Service Help You Lose Weight? Here's What a Nutritionist Really Thinks

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There are more than 100 meal kit options on the market, including Blue Apron, Green Chef, HelloFresh, and Plated, just to name a few. Some of my clients who are looking to shed pounds have asked a key question—can a meal plan help me lose weight?

The reality is that these kits are generally designed to make it easier to cook at home, not slim down. You order the meals online, and the recipes and the correct amount of each ingredient are delivered to your door.

Meal kits aren't standardized, can vary widely, and do not guarantee weight loss. But they may help. Here’s my take on the trend. 

RELATED: 16 Ways to Lose Weight Fast

Ingredients are important

When it comes to losing weight­, ingredient quality, macronutrient balance, and portions are all key, and that’s where meal kits may fall short. A lot of kits include recipes calling for refined carbs, like white pasta or noodles, white rice, and white-flour pizza crust, bread, burger buns, and tortillas. And in some recipes, a surplus of refined carbs is combined with a heavy sauce, and scant amount of vegetables and protein—not the ideal meal balance for shrinking your shape.   

Portion sizes can be a problem

Another snag I’ve run into with my clients is portion control. Many kits include recipes that serve a minimum of two people. The people I counsel have sometimes made the entire recipe, with the intention of bringing the second portion to work the next day, only to wind up eating both portions in a single sitting.   

You need the time to cook

Meal kits also require the time needed for cooking. Yes, the recipe is picked out, and you don’t need to shop for the ingredients, but will you actually make it? I’ve had clients forgo kits in favor of something faster (and less healthy) because they were either too tired or too busy to prepare the meal. If this sounds like you, meal kits probably aren’t your best bet.       

You need to choose the right meal plan

But, is there a work-around if you really like the idea of having ingredients delivered to your door and you’re looking to slim down? Sure. First, review all of your options and choose a service with the best selection of recipes for your goal. Aim for dishes that include larger portions of veggies, a lean protein source (seafood, poultry, lentils, or beans), and a smaller portion of healthy carbs, such as a whole grain, like brown rice or quinoa, or a starchy vegetable such as fingerling potatoes.

You can alter the recipe to fit your needs

And remember, there’s no rule that you have to use all of the ingredients. For example, if a salmon burger recipe includes a bun, you can ditch it, wrap your burger in a romaine lettuce leaf, and add a healthier starch instead, like a small baked yam. Or, make half of the rice portion in a kit and mix in a generous portion of shredded zucchini or chopped spinach.    

RELATED: 57 Ways to Lose Weight Forever, According to Science

Cooking at home does offer you more control over what you eat and how it’s prepared, and that’s an important strategy for sustainable weight loss. If meal kits offer you a cooking shortcut, just remember that you have the option of tweaking them. And about that second portion. If you have a tough time not dipping in, try this tip. Before you even plate your meal or begin eating, place the second half in a sealable container and stash it inside your lunch sack in the fridge. The more steps you have to go through to get to it the less likely you are to eat it. Bonus: you save money by actually getting two meals out of the deal, and you can put that savings towards a non-food treat, like a massage.

Bottom line: meal kits can be a helpful tool, but they aren’t a complete weight loss solution. To see real and lasting results you have to find ways to make them work for you.    

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

The Healthiest Way to Do Intermittent Fasting, According to a Nutritionist

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You've probably been hearing some buzz about intermittent fasting–the weight loss method that alternates fasting days and non-fasting days–especially since there's been more and more research on its potential to help people slim down.

For example, in a new study published in JAMA, researchers divided obese men and women into two groups: One followed a traditional calorie-restricted eating plan, and the other group practiced intermittent fasting. After one year, the participants in both groups experienced similar results in terms of total weight loss, blood pressure, heart rate, triglycerides, fasting blood sugar and insulin levels, insulin resistance, and markers for inflammation.

The researchers noted, however, that the participants in the intermittent fasting group had a higher dropout rate (38% compared to 29%), which suggests that the eating plan may be less sustainable over time. In my practice I find that the approach isn't for everyone. That said, if you’re interested in trying it—or you’ve already started—here are six strategies I recommend to maximize your results, and help you stick it out.

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Make every calorie count

There isn't one standard protocol for intermittent fasting. But many plans limit total calories to just 500 on fasting days—which is why it's important to make food quality a priority, and squeeze the most nutrition possible out of your meals and snacks. That means nixing processed foods, and focusing on fresh, healthy fare. Yes, you can technically afford to eat a 100-calorie snack pack of mini-chocolate chips cookies. But spending those same 100 calories on veggies and an organic egg delivers a broad spectrum of nutrients your body needs for energy, immunity, and digestive health. Bottom line: A calorie isn’t just a calorie, and quality is king.

Don’t fast on active days

It’s crucial to make sure you’re giving your body enough food to fuel upcoming activities. So if you’re going to fast Mondays and Wednesdays, don’t put more demands on your body with an intense spin class, or other serious workout. Make fasting days your rest days. Or at the very most, plan to do some stretching or light yoga.

In other words, timing matters. Think of your body like a car: You need to fill the gas tank before you go for a long drive, not the next day. The difference between a car and your body, however, is a car with no fuel will stop, while you can push your under-nourished body to keep moving. But slogging through workouts will only wear your body out, and up your risk of injury.

RELATED: What to Eat Before and After Every Kind of Workout

Focus on satiating foods

Certain foods tend to keep us feeling full longer than others. Generally, satiating nutrients include protein, good fat, and fiber. Think pulses (the umbrella term for beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas), eggs, poultry and seafood, nuts and seeds, avocado, and extra virgin olive oil.

Be sure to eat these foods on fasting days. Yes, a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil packs 120 calories out of your 500. But using it to sauté or dress veggies will significantly boost how full you feel after a meal–and prevent lingering, gnawing hunger.

Up your volume

Larger portions don’t always mean more calories. It depends on what you’re eating. For example, three cups of popped popcorn (about the size of three baseballs) counts as a serving of whole grain; but it’s a much larger volume than a half cup of brown rice, which also counts as one serving of whole grain. Bonus: You can eat the popcorn one piece at a time, which makes it seem like even more food.

Raw veggies are another way to fill up your plate without blowing your calorie budget. One medium zucchini provides just 35 calories. And when shredded with a box grater, it becomes a generously sized “bed” for a serving of protein. Other veggies with low calorie counts per serving–which is one cup, or about the size of a tennis ball–include red bell peppers (45 calories), grape tomatoes and broccoli (30), spinach (7), and white button mushrooms (5).

Start to compare the calorie content of foods within the same group that differ in portion size. For example, a dozen steamed or boiled shrimp contains about the same number of calories as a single egg–with significantly more volume and more protein.

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Use herbs and spices generously

Natural seasonings offer several advantages on fasting days. They’re virtually calorie-free, but make meals and snacks more flavorful, aromatic, and visually appealing. They’ve also been shown to boost satiety, and rev up metabolism. Plus they’re chock full of antioxidants and help reduce inflammation in the body, which is tied to healthy metabolism and chronic disease prevention.

Simply adding roasted garlic, fresh basil, and a light drizzle of balsamic vinegar can transform a vine-ripened tomato. Rosemary compliments nearly any oven-roasted veggie. And a combo of lime juice, lime zest, and cilantro can jazz up anything from avocado to cauliflower.

If you aren’t super familiar with using culinary herbs, there are tons of online resources you can check out for guidance. But I also recommend experimenting on your own—I bet you’ll you have fun discovering some new favorite combinations.

Be mindful

On fasting days make a conscious effort to slow your eating pace. One tool that may help is to listen to a guided meditation once a day, even for just five minutes. Short daily meditations help improve mindfulness and slow your pace overall, including during meals and snacks. Eating slower, taking smaller bites, and removing mealtime distractions (including the TV and phone) have all been shown to boost satiety, and naturally curb calorie intake. This strategy is especially effective for helping you stick to your healthy regime—whether it's intermittent fasting or another balanced plan.

Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and consultant for the New York Yankees. See her full bio here.

Source: Health bests

 Forget Your BMI and Focus on This Measurement Instead

When it comes to determining whether a person is overweight, body mass index (BMI) is the most widely used measure out there. But doctors admit that BMI—a ratio of weight to height—is far from perfect. Now, a new study suggests there may be a better way to estimate the risks of health problems associated with excess weight.

The new research, published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that waist-to-hip ratio was a better predictor of whether people would die over the course of the study, compared to BMI. This isn’t the first study to reach this conclusion, but it's one of the largest to-date.

Researchers from Loughborough University in the U.K. and the University of Sydney in Australia looked at data from 42,702 men and women living in England and Scotland over a 10-year period. Specifically, they wanted to know if people who carried extra weight around their middles were at increased risks of health problems, compared to those who were technically overweight but carried their extra pounds elsewhere.

Over the course of the study, 5,355 of the participants died. After controlling for factors such as age, gender, smoking status, and physical activity, the researchers found that people who had normal BMIs but who also had “central obesity”—defined as a high waist-to-hip ratio—had a 22% increased risk of death from all causes, compared to people with normal BMIs and healthier waist-to-hip ratios.

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Obese people with central obesity were also at higher risk of death compared to normal-weight and normal-waist individuals.

On the other hand, people who were technically overweight or obese based on their BMIs—but who did not have central obesity—were less likely to die than people with normal BMIs but high waist-to-hip ratios.

Surprisingly, overweight people with central obesity did not have an increased risk of death from all causes, compared to people with a normal weight and smaller waistlines. These findings are counterintuitive, say the authors, but they’re similar to those of previous research: A 2015 study found that people with normal BMIs but central obesity had the worst long-term survival rates, even when compared with overweight and obese people who also had central obesity.

Explaining these “paradoxical findings” is challenging, the authors say. One possibility is that overweight and obese people are more likely to also have extra fat stored around their legs and hips, which has been linked to healthier metabolism.

RELATED: 11 Reasons Why You're Not Losing Belly Fat

The authors also say that limitations in their research—like the fact that BMI and waist measurements were only collected once, rather than several times over the course of the study—may have skewed the results.

But they point out that all participants with central obesity, in every BMI group, were at increased risk of dying specifically from cardiovascular disease. This may imply that the health risks of excess belly fat are specifically related to heart problems, the authors say, more so than other major causes of death.

People with a BMI between 18.5 and 25 are considered normal weight; between 25 and 30 is considered overweight, while 30 and higher is obese. Central obesity is defined as a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.85 or higher for women and 0.9 or higher for men. (Here’s how you can calculate both.)

RELATED: 15 Best Foods for a Flat Belly

Lead author Emmanuel Stamatakis, PhD, associate professor of public health at the University of Sydney, says that while BMI has its flaws, it does provide some useful information—especially for tracking general trends in large groups of people over time.

“Instead of ditching BMI and replacing it with waist-to-hip ratio, which is relatively easy to measure and is consistently associated with cardiovascular health and mortality risk, we should be thinking about adding waist and hip measurements into routine medical examinations and in health studies,” Stamatakis told Health via email.

But Stamatakis says that, on an individual basis, waist measurement might be more important for overall health. “If I had to choose between making sure my BMI or my waist-to-hip ratio are OK, I would go for the latter,” he says.

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BMI can be affected by many things, he says, including the amount of lean muscle mass a person has. (That’s why super-fit people, especially men, can register as overweight based on BMI alone.)

A high waist-to-hip ratio, on the other hand, most likely means high amounts of abdominal fat—which has been definitively linked to serious health risks.

“People with larger waistlines may want to start thinking and, if needed, seek help to alter their lifestyle to reduce that belly fat,” says Stamatakis. “Increasing physical activity, improving diet, and cutting down on alcohol consumption can work miracles if sustained in the long term, and all have a myriad other co-benefits in terms of health and wellbeing.”

Source: Health bests