This is the time of year when many people discover that there is more pressure between their shirt buttons and the buttonholes than there used to be. Many others realize that a frequently worn belt is a bit too snug when fastened in its usual hole. Yet the scale shows that not much weight was gained during the holidays.
That's because the scale is misleading when it comes to the increased girth that results from stored fat. As you probably know, fat weighs a lot less than muscle. Thus, a scale can't be used to accurately tell how much new fat may have recently been stored on your body from excess calories. The fit of your clothing is a much more accurate guide. A scale may reveal that you've gained only two or three pounds, but your waistline, chest, butt and thighs may have each increased.
The time to tackle this issue is right now. That's because newly stored fat is easier to lose than fat which has been stored for a while. The body gets accustomed to fat that's been hanging around and is reluctant to give it up, which is one reason why it's so difficult to lose those love handles. But if your new, wider girth only started around Halloween or Thanksgiving, it will melt off quickly.
And no, you don't have to start a frantic regimen of working out to lose fat. Because it's newly stored, you can lose it while living your normal life – but only if you restrict the amount of food you eat at mealtimes. The explanation is simple. You start 'wearing' fat when you take in more calories than you burn up. If you've become used to sitting down and eating big meals the past few months, you may have increased your appetite level, which is why you may be taking in more calories than you burn. The step to stopping that is to trick your appetite so you won't be quite as hungry when you sit down at the dinner (or breakfast or lunch) table.
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It can be as simple as drinking a glass of warm water just before mealtime. But according to a study quoted by the website healthline.com, people who ate a semi-solid snack such as an apple 15 or 20 minutes before a meal " ... reported less hunger, a lower desire to eat and a greater sensation of fullness than those fed a liquid snack. Solids require more chewing, which can grant more time for the fullness signal to reach the brain. Scientists also believe the extra chewing time allows solids to stay in contact with the taste buds for longer, which can also promote feelings of fullness."
The 'fullness signal' mentioned by healthline.com is an actual fact. Sadly, the signal for the feeling of being full lags behind the time of actually eating the food in front of you, which is why eating slowly is a good idea. It allows that sensation of having a full stomach to catch up to what you've already eaten. If you ever feel 'stuffed' after a meal, it's usually because you ate too fast, not allowing enough time for the fullness signal to reach your brain and stop your appetite for more food.
One last tip to losing stored fat: don't ever eat a high-carb snack before bedtime. Remember, your normal metabolism is always burning calories. If you don't take in extra calories before going to sleep, your metabolism will have to dip into the calories stored as fat and burn them for fuel, rather than the calories from the snack you ate before hitting the sack.
Wina Sturgeon is the editor of the online magazine Adventure Sports Weekly , which offers the latest training, diet and athletic information.