The Right Way to Fight Fat Creep

It’s no secret that America has a problem with weight gain. But according to a new Reader’s Digest and Yahoo! Health poll, when it comes to losing weight, many Americans are going about it all wrong.

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Fat creep is catching up with all of us, but there are easy steps you can take to avoid it.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever looked in the mirror and noticed bumps and lumps that seemed to show up overnight—a muffin top rolling over your jeans, or back fat bulging out of your bra. More than 80 percent of women and 70 percent of men say they’ve gained weight in the last 10 years, and 17 percent of people blame it on sneaky fat creep, according to a new survey from Yahoo! Health and Reader’s Digest. Reader’s Digest just published The Digest Diet, a healthy-eating plan designed to help you release fat and slim down quickly and safely.

Related: What Is the Digest Diet? »

For most of us, fat creep is due to a series of little things: Small shifts away from self-care, which over time add up to a bigger you. Maybe it came from moving a little less (your commute turned from a walk into a car ride). Maybe it came from eating a little more (you began to eat dessert every night instead of once or twice a week). Or maybe it came from gaining a pound here and there during special occasions or vacations, then never quite taking them off.

Related: 13 Foods That Release Fat »

What’s more, it seems that America is becoming more accepting of fat creep. In perhaps a sign of these troubled economic times, 78 percent of survey respondents would rather gain an extra 10 pounds than take on an extra $10,000 in debt. And some are willing to gain even more: 46 percent said they’d gain 50 extra pounds instead of that $10,000 debt!

America’s Main Motivations for Beating Fat Creep

Some 70 percent of our survey respondents said getting or feeling healthy was their main motivation for losing weight, 54 percent said they wanted more energy, 30 percent wanted to feel younger, and 28 percent said their doctor recommended they shed pounds.

Social motivations loom large too: 54 percent of those surveyed said they wanted to lose weight to be more attractive and 41 percent said “seeing a really bad picture of myself” drove them to want to slim down.

Which is better? Well, there’s a subtle but distinct difference between wanting to lose weight and loathing the weight we have. Too many dieters think of their bodies as the enemy, and they wind up cycling through an endless loop of deprivation, success, and retreat as they fall back into the self-loathing habits and behaviors that got them into trouble in the first place.

What successful dieters—the people who lose weight and keep it off—have in common is that they love and respect their bodies, excess fat and all. They think of their bodies as sacred and worthy of respect, attention, and love. And research shows they are more successful at staying motivated and at losing weight long-term.

Related: 8 Habits of Successful ‘Losers’ »

Our Go-To Weight Loss Strategies May Be Backfiring

What’s the best way to lose weight? If you’re like many of our survey respondents, your favorite approaches may be sabotaging your efforts.

Survey says: 71 percent of adults say exercise is their best weight loss weapon.
Fact: Exercise alone leads to a modest reduction in weight loss—less than 3 percent! To be effective as a weight loss agent, exercise has to be paired with the right diet.

Related: Good, Better, Best At-Home Workouts »

Survey says: 22 percent say they rely on eating sugar-free or fat-free foods to lose weight.
Fact: These “fake foods” may be messing with your health. To keep their products moving off the shelves, food companies employ food scientists to create new, even tastier versions of foods by manipulating fat, sugar, and salt content. This magic formula makes appealing food even more appealing. And that makes us want to eat more and buy more. They also tend to provide plenty of calories, but not a lot of nutrition . . . leaving our bodies and our brains literally hungry for more.

Survey says: 22 percent say they avoid carbohydrates to slim down.
Fact: You’ve probably heard it before, but we’ll say it again: The right kinds of carbs—fiber-rich whole grains—are actually a smart weight loss agent. Fiber is one of the most filling nutrients around, so when you eat a lot of it, you’re less likely to keep on snacking. If you’re already eating plenty of whole wheat toast and brown rice, consider adding quinoa, a breakthrough fat releaser, to your grocery list. A 2011 study found that animals supplemented with an extract made from quinoa seeds showed less body fat, decreased body weight, and decreased food consumption.

Survey says: 56 percent say cardio workouts burn the most fat.
Fact: Continuous aerobic exercise isn’t nearly as effective at fighting fat creep as surprising your body with interval training or strength training. In one study, as little as three 11-minute strength-training sessions a week increased metabolism and the number of calories burned during sleep.

Related: 1-Minute Workouts for Instant Energy »

Buy The Digest Diet: Exclusive offer »

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest