By Jenna Birch
It doesn't take long to realize that no matter how long you've kept those pesky five pounds off, all it takes is a small swing of the scale or uncharacteristically rough day at the gym to fall off the weight-loss wagon. Bounce back fast and get on track again with these quick fixes.
You overdid it on the salt and feel big-time bloated.
Biologically speaking, salt attracts water in the body, so you hold onto that extra weight instead of eliminating it -- which is why you can't zip your skinny jeans after a salt splurge at the ballpark. To counteract the problem, NYC-based dietitian Jaclyn London, RD, says you should take two steps to keep bloat at bay:
Keep it fresh. Since salt is a preservative, everything that's packaged or processed will be high in sodium, and you don't want your meals the next day to be either. "Plan on making sure that all items you choose are fresh," saysLondon. "That means filling up on fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, and lean protein." If you're really in a bind for a snack, make sure that packaged bites are low in sodium at 140mg or less. London says to also choose foods high in potassium, which is a nutritional counter-balance for sodium. "Foods that are rich in potassium include leafy greens, most 'orange' foods -- oranges, sweet potatoes, carrots, melon -- as well as bananas, tomatoes, and cruciferous veggies like cauliflower."
Keep hydrated. You should drink water all day long, but kick start your morning with coffee or tea. "Caffeine is both a natural diuretic and an excellent source of antioxidants, which protect your cells from damage," London says. Tea works, too. London suggests herbal teas like dandelion or fennel root for the best bloat defense. Also keep in mind that a lot of your hydration throughout the day should come from fruits and veggies. "Reach for cucumbers, tomatoes, watermelon, asparagus, grapes, celery, artichokes, pineapple, cranberries -- all of which contain natural diuretic properties that will also help you stay full due to their higher-fiber, high-water content," London says.
The only vegetables you ate on vacation were in your martini glass.
A recent study by Cornell researchers published in the journal Obesity Facts proved that the occasional calorie splurge won't derail your whole diet. Splurged a little longer than you'd like to admit? Try London's four-step fix for getting back on track immediately:
Eat small, frequent meals. "Resist the urge to skip meals to cut calories," she says.
Pump up the fiber. "This means lean protein and fiber at breakfast and for snacks, while making lunches and dinners that are 50 percent veggies."
Ditch "white" foods. "No refined carbs or white sugars, which will leave you craving more," London says. "The first word on the ingredient list when shopping for a grain-based product like bread and cereals should be 'whole.'"
Cut out calorie-containing beverages completely. "This one is probably the most important coming off of a vacation," London says. "If you consider that you probably indulged in daiquiris, pina coladas or margaritas, which can rake in 500 calories a pop, you're easiest fix is to choose zero-calorie beverages like water, tea, coffee, flavored seltzers."
Related: The 7 Worst Health Habits
You drank like a fish last night.
There's good news and bad news when you wake up with a hangover. The bad news is that there's no cure all for that hit-by-a-bus feeling, which is why you've never heard of one. The good news is that you can help your body rebuild its stores of vitamins and minerals after a long night out where you depleted them. As a base guideline, small, frequent meals that are low in fat and high in protein and fiber will stabilize your blood sugar. In addition, London says to add to your diet during detox:
Coconut water. Potassium-rich coconut water can help nix the excess sodium you probably took in last night. "The added benefit is that choosing brands that are labeled as '100% raw natural coconut water,' with this as the only ingredient, can eliminate potential for added sugars, which can be irritants to your GI tract," London says.
Tomatoes, oranges and bananas. London suggests you rehydrate with high-water, potassium-rich foods, which beat bloat and restore your fluid-electrolyte balance. Choose fruits with high water content, but avoid juices that are high in sugar.
Eggs. The cysteine in eggs assists the body's breakdown of acetaldehyde, which spikes as alcohol levels do, London explains. "By converting acetaldehyde into water and carbon dioxide, cysteine serves as our body's own eliminator of this toxic compound."
Whole grains. The B-vitamins in whole grains assist your body's metabolic processes, but better yet, whole grains are short-term hangover companion for their role in stabilizing blood sugar.
Did the gym move? Because you haven't been there in months.
You've been slammed at the office and haven't seen the inside of the gym since its rumored remodel. The biggest challenge is avoiding the temptation to put off exercise a little longer because you've already put it off this long. Instead, dive back in slowly and steadily. Fitness expert Joan Pagano, a certified trainer in New York City and author of Strength Training Exercises for Women says consistency is more important than intensity in the initial days. Follow this method as you rev up your fitnessroutine.
Make it habitual. "Find time in each day to do some kind of exercise, whether it's accumulating 30 minutes of cardio in doses like 10 or 15 minutes of walking or stair-climbing during the course of your day, or going to the gym for a half-hour continuous workout," Pagano says. Whatever you decide to do, make sure it's manageable for your lifestyle.
Strength-train with bodyweight first. Building muscle to burn more fat is important, but if you haven't hit the weights in a while, start slow to avoid strain and soreness. "Start with bodyweight exercises like squats and push-ups every other day," Pagano says. "When starting to lift weights again, use lighter weights and higher repetitions to gradually condition the connective tissue and strengthen the muscles."
Build endurance with circuits and intervals. "An efficient way of training is to incorporate cardio intervals in between resistance training exercises in a circuit," Pagano says. "You can do a bodyweight or weight-lifting exercise, then 20 to 25 jumping jacks or one to two minutes of jump rope, then another resistance exercise." Begin with one circuit of 8 or 10 exercises you like, and as you become better conditioned, run through the circuit once or twice more.
Track your progress. Keep a log of your activity to stay motivated on the days you just don't feel like lacing up. By seeing your progress and consistency, you'll be more motivated to stick with it.
Related: 8 Easy Steps to Eat Better
#@%&! You gained a few pounds and have no idea why.
Any scale movement in the wrong direction can be frustrating, but try not to freak. "There are 3500 calories in one pound, so if the scale went up five pounds over the course of a day is not likely true body-fat accumulation," says NYC-based nutrition dietitian Lisa Moskovitz, RD. But let's say you have gained a few pounds of true weight over the course of the month. To identify the culprit, run down a list of changes that may have made an impact. Here are the five most common, according to Moskovitz:
Dining out more. What might seem healthy at a restaurant could be high in calories. "Restaurants want you to come back, so they make the food taste extra good by adding more salt, oil, and butter than you would if you made it yourself," Moskovitz says. If you can't eat in, you don't truly know what's in each dish unless you ask. So, do!
Eating more salads. Salad is not always the healthiest option. "Tempting add-ins such as cheese, dried fruit, nuts and topping it off with creamy salad dressings can pack in more calories than a bacon cheeseburger," says Moskovitz. Always ask for dressing on the side and never use the whole pitcher. Limit yourself to one or two fats like olives, nuts, oil, avocado or cheese. And skip the creamy dressings altogether!
Drinking your dinner. Moskovitz commonly sees clients try to skip dinner entirely when out drinking with friends in an attempt to save calories. Not only is this unhealthy from a nutrition standpoint, it's also a reason for expanding waistlines. "The average 1.5-ounce shot of any spirit packs in up to 100 calories. Add that to the many other alcoholic drinks consumed throughout the night, and you could be exceeding well over 1,000 calories," she says. Even once a week can lead to a couple extra pounds by the end of the month.
Overloading on "diet" products. Not such a good decision, actually. Sugar-free, fat-free, or anything-free products can be deceiving. "If you are eating something that you know is low-calorie, often times you give yourself that pass to eat just a little extra," Moskovitz says. Also, you may feel less satisfied with the "diet" versions of your favorite foods, so you may eat more and gain weight over the long-term. It's better to eat one great serving instead of five mediocre servings.
Skipping meals. It's tempting if you're trying to lose weight, but it's also counter-effective. "Not only is skipping meals dangerous and unhealthy but it can lead to overeating later in the day, or the next day," Moskovitz says. "Instead of going all morning without a bite to eat, pack something small and light if you don't have time or don't feel hungry." Just an apple with almonds, or even plain yogurt is enough to banish hunger and rev metabolism.
Can't. Quit. Carbs. (Sugar, too!)
If cravings have taken you captive, you're likely not taking the best care of yourself. Moskovitz says the sources of cravings are both physical and emotional, with excess stress, hormone fluctuations, and poor dietary habits being the major culprits. "Your body requires a certain amount of calories and nutrients to function," Moskovitz says. "If you're skipping meals, eating at inconsistent times every day, or avoiding major macronutrients such as carbs or protein, cravings will likely grow stronger as your body demands it. Eventually you might find yourself staring at the bottom of a carton of ice cream or feeling out of control around certain foods."
If your cravings have kicked into high gear, and you don't want to overindulge and regret it later, Moskovitz recommends this plan of action to make sure you're taking smart precautions and noshing right:
Don't wait too long between meals. Or else your willpower will crash and burn. "Eat every four or five hours to keep blood sugars and appetite in control," says Moskovitz.
Keep things balanced. "Include a balance of lean protein, high-fiber carbs, and healthy fats," she says. Leave out something major, and your body will start demanding (a lot of) it.
Hydrate first. Next time you want chocolate so bad, have a tall glass of water first. You may find your body is confused about its needs. "Dehydration can be confused with hunger," Moskovitz says.
Stay active. Not just physically, but by doing things you love -- whether it's getting a manicure or going to the gym. Sounds silly, right? But pampering yourself works twofold: You're not sitting around allowing your body to crave. And by getting rest, exercising, and staying active, you manage your stress level and your cravings.
Just have that bite of cake already. "Allow yourself to indulge on occasion," says Moskovitz. When you deprive yourself, you intensify your craving, and you binge later on.
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