TIME Exercise/Fitness

7 Reasons Why You’re Working Out and Still Not Losing Weight

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Diet and exercise don't tell the whole story

Do you eat well, exercise often, and still feel like you’re not losing that stubborn weight? Truth is, eating well and exercising often is a very relative and general statement. If we’re honest with ourselves, I’m sure we could admit that we’re all capable of trying a little harder in both areas.

Total-body wellness is a lifestyle. Fat loss happens when you ditch the scale, find an activity you enjoy, and start to see food as fuel instead of something to feed your emotions or occupy your time.

No matter who you are or what your background is, chances are one of these 7 reasons could be why you’re not shedding pounds.

HEALTH.COM: 11 Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Belly Fat

You’re eating wrong foods

If you’re not losing weight, the first place you should be looking is the kitchen. Some people focus all their energy on burning off calories that they don’t take the time to consider what they’re putting in as fuel. Diet is at least 80% of the battle. While the exact foods you should be eating depend heavily on your body type, metabolism, and other factors, a good rule of thumb is to stick to all natural, whole foods.

Eat most of your starchy carbohydrates (like potatoes, brown rice, grains) on days when you do strength training or more rigorous exercise. On your rest days or when you’re doing light cardio, try to stick to just protein and veggies and not a lot of those starchy foods. Avoid excess bread, sugar, and anything else that’s processed. Look for foods that have the fewest ingredients on the label—if you can’t pronounce it, it’s probably not something you want to be putting in your body.

You’re eating too much

If you’ve already cleaned up your diet big time and you’re still not losing weight, it may be that you’re simply eating too much. In order to shed pounds your body needs to run a calorie deficit, meaning you need to burn more than you consume. That being said, you shouldn’t have to deprive yourself either. Life is about balance. Don’t become consumed with counting calories or weighing yourself every day.

Eat whenever you’re hungry and eat slowly enough so you can stop just before you get full. Healthy snacking during the day will keep you from overeating during meals. I always carry a few Kind Bars in my bag, because they’re a great snack made with whole foods, and have nothing artificial. And don’t be afraid to give yourself ‘healthy’ cheats, like a few chocolate-covered strawberries or coconut chia seed pudding. The moment you start depriving yourself is when you start to feel like you’re missing out on something and you want to binge.

HEALTH.COM: 10 Mistakes That Make Cravings Worse

You’re doing too much cardio

Yes, cardio is a necessary part of your workout routine. It keeps your heart healthy, boosts your metabolism, and gives you a good sweat (you should break one daily). However, only doing cardio—or doing too much of it—can actually add to the problem. Longer cardio sessions like staying on the elliptical for 90 minutes or going for regular 10-mile runs can eat away at your lean muscle mass, which is essential for increasing your metabolism to burn more calories.

It causes the body to become more endurance-focused, storing energy as fat to ensure it has plenty of reserve fuel to keep you going for all those miles. Not to mention it dramatically increases your appetite, making you more susceptible to unnecessary snacking or overeating.

You’re not lifting weights

This one goes hand in hand with #3. I’m not saying you can’t or shouldn’t do cardio. If you love to run or bike for reasons other than losing weight, then by all means don’t stop. But if your primary goal is fat loss, there are other forms of exercise that give a much better bang for your buck. The best way to lose weight and build lean muscle by doing some form of strength training in addition to your cardio. The more muscle tone your body has, the more fat you’ll burn.

If you’re not ready to give up your cardio routine just yet, try adding some interval training by performing short bursts of all-out effort mixed into your regular session. These workouts are much more effective at promoting hormones that target stubborn fat. Then, start adding some resistance training to your routine. Body weight exercises like push-ups, squats, and lunges are a great place to start to help build up to lifting actual weights.

HEALTH.COM: 10 Exercise Cheats You’ve Got to Stop Doing

You’re not working hard enough

There’s no exact equation to working out and eating healthy—it’s a matter of trial and error, finding out what works specifically for your body. And more time spent in the gym doesn’t always equal a more fit person. Unless you’re an athlete, body builder, or a marathoner-in-training, the average person shouldn’t be working out more than an hour a day.

Your workouts should be intensity-dependent, not time dependent. Keep this fact in mind: the harder you work, the shorter your workout time may need to be. That’s why it’s so important to maximize your time spent in the gym or fitness class so you can achieve that coveted ‘afterburn’ effect which keeps your metabolism revved for 24-48 hours afterward.

You’re not taking time to recover

When you do achieve that afterburn and you’re really feeling your workout the next day, those are the days to focus on different muscle groups. Or, if you prefer to work out your whole body, establish a workout routine where you work your entire body one day and then take the next day to do light cardio, stretching, or complete rest.

Recovery and rest are often more important than the workout itself. It’s during those periods that your body does most of the actual fat burning. So give yourself that time to fully recover so you’re ready to work hard the following day. Most importantly, listen to your body. Push yourself, but also give it some love, too.

HEALTH.COM: 27 Mistakes Healthy People Make

Your body is under too much stress

Exercise is a stressor on your body. When you have a healthy balance of exercise-related stress and recovery time, your body is healthy and can lose its excess fat. However, not giving your body enough time to recover can also be a negative (see above) as you’ll start to produce an excessive amount of cortisol, a stress hormone. Cortisol is both normal and important when working out, it’s involved in processes that give your muscles the energy needed to get moving.

However, when your body is exposed to cortisol for longer periods of time, it starts to cause negative effects, like stubborn fat in areas you don’t want. Exercise isn’t the only stressor that can produce excess cortisol. A stressful personal or professional life can also make your body produce too much of this hormone. When you stop exercising, your body stops producing cortisol; however, it may not be quite as easy to turn off the mental stressors going on in your life. Make sure you’re keeping your mental and emotional health in check in addition to your physical health. You should strive for total-body wellness.

HEALTH.COM: 13 Ways to Relieve Stress Instantly

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

MONEY health

The Cheapest Way to Achieve Your Fitness Goals

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Before dropping a fat wad of cash on a gym membership, consider these alternatives.

This time of year, gyms try hard to woo those who made losing weight their number one New Year’s resolution with promotional deals and the promise of “A New You for the New Year!”

But don’t be too quick to sign a contract. Research shows that 67% of gym memberships go unused, and at an average of $58 a month, you could be burning more money than calories in 2015.

Here are a few inexpensive gym alternatives that can provide the guidance and motivation you need as you lunge your way towards your fitness goals:

Your Digital Personal Trainer

A few sessions with a personal trainer will keep you honest, but at a price.

While it may not be quite as personal, you can get similar encouragement through technology: There are tons of free apps out there to help you come up with workout routines, track your fitness goals and monitor your progress, says Sarah Krieger, registered dietician and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She suggested Johnson & Johnson’s Official 7 Minute Workout, which also made Men’s Fitness list of best fitness apps of 2014. “You can download it once and do it anywhere, even hotel rooms,” she says.

Men’s Fitness also liked apps like Six Pack Abs, CycleNav for bikers, and Strength Calc Natty Edition for weightlifters. Jessica Matthews, senior health and fitness expert for the American Council on Exercise, adds that calorie tracking apps like My Fitness Pal can also be great motivators, says Matthews. On that app, you can track your weight loss and body measurements, set goals for yourself, and get encouragement from friends who also use the tool.

Willing to spend a little bit of money? Wearables like FitBit ($60 to $250) and UP by Jawbone ($50 to $180) give you a more comprehensive analysis of your physical activity as well as monitoring your progress—which can really help you stick with a new regime, says Matthews.

Classes on Your Computer

Maybe you need a structured fitness program to keep you on track? You can replicate the experience of aerobics classes in your own home.

DVD series like P90X have become popular at-home workout options. However, such programs do typically require an initial investment of more than $100.

That’s cheaper than a gym, but you may be able to do even better on price: Subscription streaming services like DailyBurn, YogaGlo or SpiroFIT offer a variety of workout options for $5 to $18 a month.

Or there’s YouTube, which offers a lot of free exercise content.

Big names in the fitness world like Todd Durkin and Stacy McCarthy have their own channels, says Matthews, “and every major kind of fitness organization is putting out free content as well.”

Web-based services are especially convenient, because they offer expert instruction wherever and whenever you have time for a few lunges. “As long as you have power, you have access to any kind of exercise in video form right there in your living room,” Krieger says.

Equipment at a Discount

Who needs equipment? You have access to one of the greatest machines ever built—your body. Bodyweight exercises have actually been a trend in the fitness industry over the past few years, says Matthews.

Considered functional fitness, squats, lunges and pushups are great for beginners because they don’t require equipment and can be modified based on your fitness level, Matthews adds.

But if you know you’d be more likely to work out if you had a full free-weight set, or machinery like a treadmill or elliptical, buying used will save you some money, Krieger advises.

Much like unused gym memberships, nearly two thirds of Americans haven’t used their exercise equipment in six months or more. So at yard sales, resale stores, and sites like Craigslist and eBay, thrifty shoppers can find equipment that has been gathering dust in the neighbor’s basement for a discounted price. Looking at Craigslist in Philadelphia recently, there were many treadmill options available for $200 or less.

The one thing Krieger definitely recommends investing in? A good pair of shoes that you feel comfortable walking a mile in. That’s a good way to stay excited about getting up from your desk to burn a couple extra calories on your lunch break.

“We all are committed to our desk,” she says, “but if you really can walk the stairs in any building or pick the parking space way in the back of the lot, it really is better for your health.”

If you do decide to join a gym…

•Stay close to home. Remember that convenience is the key to a lasting change, so don’t opt for the nice big gym across town with the great promotion if it’s so far out of the way that you will never go to it.

•Read the fine print. Many gyms require you to sign a contract. Knowing the terms of your agreement, particularly the length of the contract, what is included in your payments and how to cancel your membership, is crucial.

•Shop around. Around the New Year, many gyms waive their initiation fee, says Matthews. And if they haven’t, it’s not too brazen to ask if they’d waive it just for you. With so many fitness options available at discounted prices this season, the gym might be willing to drop the fee if it means they win your business.

•Start with a free trial. Many gyms offer guest passes that allow you to get a feel for the facilities, plus help you determine if you will keep up your end of the I’m-going-to-the-gym-four-times-a-week resolution before you shell out the big bucks for a full membership.

 

More on resolutions:

TIME Diet/Nutrition

This Is the Most Popular Way to Lose Weight in North America

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Almost half of the world thinks they’re overweight, according to a new online survey of 30,000 people in 60 countries from the consumer research group Nielsen. And while the same amount of people are trying to lose weight, how we do it has changed drastically in the span of just a few years.

Researchers for the Nielsen Global Health & Wellness Survey found that when people in North America commit to changing their diet for weight loss, the most popular way to do it is now to add in more natural, fresh foods. About 60% of people in North America say that’s the diet tweak they’re doing—a major departure from the traditional notion of dieting-as-deprivation. And though it’s still a very popular method for weight loss, cutting fat is even falling out of favor. Among people in North America who are changing their diet, 59% say they’re curbing their fatty food intake, but that number was much higher—73%—in 2011.

The same amount, 59%, are cutting down on sugar and chocolate.

While North Americans are warming up to fat, they’re shunning carbs in increasing numbers. Low-carb, high-fat diets have gained traction among those trying to lose weight, jumping from 13% in 2011 to 23% now. The biggest low-carb fanatics in the world seem to live in Asia-Pacific, where 34% of people trying to lose weight say they follow the diet.

MORE: Here’s What Low-Carb Diets Do To Your Heart

Eating smaller portions is the strategy for 49% of North Americans, followed closely by eating fewer processed foods, at 46%. We’re number-one in that category: cutting back on processed foods happens more in North America than in any other region in the world.

Diet programs are at the bottom of how we change what’s on our plate. Only 9% of North Americans used Weight Watchers or other slimming programs, Nielsen reports.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

3 Breakfast Rules to Follow to Lose Weight

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Meals to keep you full 'til lunch

Now that the New Year is solidly here, many of us are resolving to eat better, move more, and lose weight. One of the best ways to do this—and make realistic and long-lasting lifestyles changes—is by eating a healthy breakfast every morning. Studies how that eating breakfast jump-starts your metabolism, so it’s an easy way to kick-start your efforts.

HEALTH.COM: The Best Foods to Eat for Breakfast

But when it comes to breakfasts, not all of them are created equal. In fact, some of them can actually derail your weight-loss efforts if you’re not careful. Instead follow these breakfast rules to help you slim down.

Eat right away

Studies have found that eating breakfast helps keep your metabolism revved, so be sure to eat within 30-60 minutes of waking to take advantage of your body’s full fat-burning potential. Eating first thing helps ensure that you don’t feel so starved later in the day that you end up making bad eating choices for lunch or dinner. But what if you’re not a breakfast person? If the thought of eating something that early in the morning turns your stomach, try sipping your breakfast with this Wake-Up Smoothie.

HEALTH.COM: 14 Ways to Boost Your Metabolism Instantly

Load up on protein

A breakfast high in protein—think eggs and Greek yogurt—can ward off hunger pangs, helping you eat less and ultimately lose weight. One study found that women who ate egg breakfasts lost twice as much weight as women who started their days with bagels. The protein in eggs increases satiety and decreases hunger, which helps you eat fewer calories throughout the day. High-protein options are also a great choice for feeling full and energized all day long since they digest more slowly than other breakfasts.

HEALTH.COM: 25 Ways to Cut 500 Calories a Day

Add a banana

Eating a breakfast that’s high in Resistant Starch (RS) can help you stay full and help you burn more calories since it prompts your body to use fat for energy. RS is found in foods like bananas and oats, so try this Banana Nut Oatmeal for a seriously satisfying and delicious breakfast!

HEALTH.COM: Fat-Burning Breakfast Recipe: Blueberry Oat Pancakes

Read Tina’s daily food and fitness blog, Carrots ‘N’ Cake.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Food & Drink

Restaurants Should Stop Calling Their Menu Items ‘Skinny’

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xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

I’d argue these restaurants are doing it right, with portion control and vegetable intake, but why label it "skinny"?

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If you’re thinking of shedding a few pounds this new year, you’ll be far from alone. In 2012, 22 percent of people were on a diet after the holiday season, and that is a number that stays stable throughout the years, according to NBP group, a marketing research firm.

Not wanting to lose out on a profitable consumer population, chain restaurants have been adding new items to their menu that cater to a calorie-conscious crowd, but when most people who start a diet end up gaining back their weight and more, and amid new studies that are finding it is more than possible to be fit and fat at the same time, is branding the healthy-option menu a “skinny menu” a good move? Will it push sales? More importantly, will it continue to perpetuate the idea that looks are more important than health?

The trend started with Starbucks when it introduced its Skinny Lattes, meaning nonfat milk, sugar-free syrup, and no whipped cream. The drinks are only 110 calories versus their 250-calorie not-skinny counterparts. But are they any healthier? Obesity researcher Zoe Harcombe argues no. She says many of the vitamins we need are fat soluble and by getting rid of all the fat in our diets, we are slowing or even halting the necessary absorption of nutrients. She adds that these so-called treats only make us feel hungrier, and points to the fact that while saturated fat intake has fallen 50 percent since the 1970s, obesity levels have risen 10 times over.

The skinny trend soon carried over to other well-enjoyed drinks, like mojitos, margaritas, and martinis. There are only 100 calories in one of Applebee’s Skinnybee margaritas, compared to 150 to 170 in a regular margarita, and up to 550 calories depending on the mix and flavorings you use. The reviews for it are drab: Serious Eats dubs it “diluted lime and aspartame.” And with research confirming that drinks mixed with diet colas and other sugar-free options get you drunker more quickly, are they actually any healthier for you?

Some restaurants have moved on from solely skinny drinks and are now offering skinny food items, most famously Pizza Hut’s Skinny Slice, made with one-third of the crust and less cheese. It weighs in at 210 calories versus the 290 of a regular slice. The pizza chain is using the skinny label for marketing purposes, as it already has a flailing Fit and Delicious Pizza option. If Skinny Slice does well, they’ll phase out Fit and Delicious.

Not to mention, Dominos has created a similar pizza line, only this one is marketed to schools looking to improve their menus to federal standards. Instead of Skinny Slice, they’re marketing it as Smart Slice. Probably because school administrators aren’t out to make their students super-slim model types, but are instead interested in healthy eating habits, which could be considered smart.

But it doesn’t stop at drinks and pizza. Restaurants are adding full menu selections under the skinny label. The Melting Pot has a posh “Skinny Dipping” menu which advertises three courses of fondue for under 700 calories. Included are salads and fairly small portions. Potbelly Sandwich Shop offers “Skinnys,” a line of sandwiches made with thinner bread and less meat and cheese, all under 400 calories. The Cheesecake Factory, now known for having the fattest dish in America, offers a Skinnylicious menu: mostly grilled, small burgers, salads, and drinks.

I’d argue these restaurants are doing it right, with portion control and vegetable intake some of the bigger healthy-eating issues in America, but why label it skinny? Because of the wordplay? Not likely.

More likely is that skinny sells better than healthy does. People want to look good more than they want to feel good. And restaurants are for-profit ventures under no obligation to overturn societal stereotypes. That’s where we have to come in.

Instead of glorifying the thin ideal we’ve all been ingesting through media message since we could turn on a television or open a magazine, we need to continue the fight to relabel health around medically sound advice. We need to reconstruct body image so that those looking to feel better, to improve fitness and to be healthier have a shot at doing so without being shamed for not being skinny.

We won’t be alone. Some restaurants are already taking the leap, like TGI Fridays with its simply named “Low-calorie menu.” It’s not as snazzy, for sure, but it says what it is with no innuendos and no subconscious judgment. Subway keeps a bit of its branding by labeling its healthy menu items “Fresh, Fit Choices.” As states continue to tighten their legislation around fast food restaurant fare, many now requiring calorie counters alongside the menu items, restaurants from McDonalds to Arby’s to Chili’s are introducing new foods with lower caloric intake with no labeling at all.

None of this is necessarily bad. Americans are getting a wider array of choices to fit their ever-changing lifestyles. But when you take a bite out of your Skinny Sandwich and wash it down with a Skinny Latte, just remember, none of that will magically make you skinny. It’s up to all of us to replace the idealization of skinny with healthy, of thin with fit. It’s up to us to know that beneath that Skinnygirl cocktail there is a person looking to make healthy choices for herself, regardless of the label.

Darlena Cunha is a freelance journalist. This article originally appeared on xoJane.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Exercise/Fitness

15 Things Nobody Tells You About Losing Weight

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All the weird, wonderful, and sometimes frustrating ways that dropping pounds changes your life

Losing weight does more than give you an excuse to buy new clothes. Dropping just 5 to 10% of your body weight can improve your overall health and reduce your risk for chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes. But shedding unwanted pounds can also have less-obvious effects, and not always for the better, says Adam Tsai, MD, a physician at Kaiser Permanente Colorado and a spokesperson for the Obesity Society. Here are the good things—and the bad—that you don’t normally hear about losing weight.

Your energy levels will skyrocket

A big energy boost is often the first thing people notice when they start dropping weight. Why? When you’re carrying around fewer pounds, you use less energy to simply go about your day, says Dr. Tsai. Weight loss also improves oxygen efficiency, so you won’t find yourself out of breath so easily when climbing stairs or hustling to catch the bus.

Your memory may improve

In a 2013 Swedish study, older women scored better on memory tests after six months of following a weight-loss plan. Brain scans showed more activity during the encoding process (when memories are formed) and less activity during memory retrieval, suggesting greater recall efficiency. “The altered brain activity after weight loss suggests that the brain becomes more active while storing new memories and therefore needs fewer brain resources to recollect stored information,” said study author Andreas Pettersson, MD, in a press release. Previous research has also linked obesity to poor memory, especially in pear-shaped women who carry extra pounds around their hips.

Your relationship will be tested

Losing weight can make you feel sexier, but your slimmed-down body—and that newfound confidence—won’t necessarily strengthen your bond with your spouse. In a 2013 study from North Carolina State University, researchers found that although dropping 60 pounds or more in two years or less usually improved couples’ relationships, occasionally a dieter’s partner felt jealous or threatened. Why? Your body transformation may force your significant other to consider his or her own health choices, says Gail Saltz, MD, Health‘s contributing psychology editor. Another problem: Your partner may worry about how your personality might change. “You feeling great, sexy, or confident could shift the balance of the relationship,” Dr. Saltz says. “They fear losing the identity of the more confident one or losing the upper hand.” Many of these challenges could apply to friendships, too.

HEALTH.COM: 16 Ways to Lose Weight Fast

Your risk of cancer will be lower

You know that smoking, sun exposure, and radiation can cause cancer, but obesity has been linked to several types of cancers as well, says Dr. Tsai. Being overweight causes inflammation that triggers cell changes within the body. Dangerous levels of inflammation can be lowered, however, by losing just 5% of your body weight, according to a 2012 study on post-menopausal women published in the journal Cancer Research. And a 2014 study published in Obesity Research found that morbidly obese men who underwent bariatric surgery reduced their cancer risk over the following years to roughly that of normal-weight people.

If you were depressed before, that may not change

Does being overweight make you depressed—or does being depressed lead to weight gain? It’s not always possible to tell what comes first, says Dr. Tsai. And while most people feel happier after they’ve lost weight, it’s not a cure-all. “For a smaller percentage of people, mood will not improve even after they lose 100 pounds,” he says. That may be because weight loss doesn’t address any underlying problems you may have, says Dr. Saltz.

Foods may taste different

Losing a lot of weight in a small amount of time may alter your taste buds. A recent Stanford University study revealed that after bariatric surgery, 87% of patients reported a change in their sense of taste. About half said food tasted sharper, while the other half said food tasted duller. The upshot: those who tasted food less intensely after surgery lost 20% more weight over three months than those who said foods tasted stronger. The study authors say more research is needed to determine why the change in taste occurs, but another recent study did have similar findings. The study, from Leicester Royal Infirmary in the United Kingdom, found that three quarters of weight loss surgery patients developed a dislike for certain foods after their operations, most often meat and dairy products.

HEALTH.COM: Best Superfoods for Weight Loss

Working out will be more fun

When you’re carrying around extra pounds, exercising can make your joints hurt and lungs burn more than someone who’s at a normal weight, says Dr. Tsai. Once you start to slim down, exercise will start to feel less like a chore and more like the fun, energizing experience that it should be. Plus, being lighter can also make you faster and stronger. Take running, for example: It’s generally believed that for every pound lost, an athlete can shave two seconds off the time it takes to run a mile.

Your bones may change

Ever heard that losing weight weakens your bones? While it’s true that weight loss is associated with bone loss, it’s only a big concern if you become underweight or follow an unhealthy diet, and the National Osteoporosis Foundation says that the benefits of weight loss usually outweigh the risks. Extra weight can make your bones stronger (they have to be, to carry the extra pounds) but it also damages joints. And new research suggests that visceral fat around the belly is particularly bad for bones, for both men and women. Losing weight can help, as well as reduce arthritis symptoms, according to a 2013 review published in the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

You’ll probably spend less on health care

Normal-weight people spend less money on medical bills and expenses than their overweight peers, according to a 2009 study published in the journal Health Affairs. Specifically, researchers found obese people spent $1,429 more—that’s 42% higher—than their normal-weight peers, most of which went toward prescription medications needed to manage chronic conditions. And a 2014 report on Michigan residents found that annual health care costs for people who were extremely obese were a whopping 90% higher than those of normal-weight individuals.

In related sad-but-true news, you might notice something else when you lose weight, as well: Doctors (whose bias against obese patients has been well documented) may treat you better, too.

HEALTH.COM: 10 Signs Your House Is Making You Fat

You may get a raise

It’s not just doctors who may treat you better after losing weight; your employer might, too. Studies have shown that obese people make less money than normal-weight workers, especially among women. In fact, a 2004 study published in Health Economics found that the average paycheck for an obese worker was about 2.5% lower than that of a thinner employee. Dropping down to a healthy weight may also get you more job offers, according to a 2014 British study.

You may be able to toss your meds

Maintaining a healthy weight can protect you against diabetes and heart disease—but what if you’re already overweight and suffering from these conditions? Good news: Slimming down can still help. “These conditions won’t necessarily go away, but you may be able to reduce your symptoms and the amount of medication you take,” says Dr. Tsai.

You may be able to take less blood pressure or cholesterol medication, for example, or learn to manage your type 2 diabetes without giving yourself daily injections. Studies also show that losing weight may allow you control chronic conditions like asthma and heartburn without (or with less) medication, as well. In related sad-but-true news, you might notice something else when you lose weight, as well: Doctors (whose bias against obese patients has been well documented) may treat you better, too.

Your skin may sag

One thing many people aren’t prepared for after a dramatic weight loss is the loose, sagging skin. It won’t go away overnight—or perhaps ever—and it may leave you feeling disappointed with your new body. Some opt for body contouring procedures like a facelift, breast lift, or tummy tuck, but any surgery carries risks, and in most cases insurance will not cover these cosmetic surgeries.

HEALTH.COM: 14 Fad Diets You Shouldn’t Try

You’ll catch more zzz’s

People who lost at least 5% of their body weight over a six-month period slept an average of 22 minutes longer than they had previously in a 2014 University of Pennsylvania study. And earlier in the year, Finnish researchers reported that modest weight loss significantly improved symptoms of sleep apnea.

“Losing weight usually means there’s less there to physically constrict your breathing and less soft tissue to block the upper airways,” says Dr. Tsai. Better sleep also helps your body burn fat more efficiently, so getting a good night’s sleep means you’ll be more likely to keep those pounds off.

You could boost your chances of having a baby

If you’ve been trying to get pregnant, losing a few pounds may help. A 2009 study published in Fertility and Sterility found that obesity in women is associated with infertility and polycystic ovary syndrome, and that the younger a woman is when she becomes obese, the harder it could be for her to get pregnant.

Slimming down can also help ensure that you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby, since a mom’s weight during (and even before) has been linked to all sorts of health outcomes for her kids.

HEALTH.COM: 10 Types of Hunger and How to Control Them

Your eye health will improve

Matthew McConaughey told interviewers that his rapid weight-loss in preparation for his role as an AIDS victim in Dallas Buyers Club caused him to start losing his eyesight. That may be the result of extreme calorie restriction or nutritional deficiencies—but for most people, weight loss can actually protect their vision from obesity-related conditions like type 2 diabetes.

A 2013 University of Georgia study, for example, found that higher body fat percentage was associated with lower levels of the antioxidants lutien and zeaxanthin in retinal tissue. “The results indicate that adiposity may affect the nutritional state of the retina,” the authors wrote. “Such links may be one of the reasons that obesity promotes age-related degenerative conditions.”

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

This Pill Can Trick the Body Into Losing Weight, Study Finds

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"It’s kind of like an imaginary meal”

We live in an age where, at any given time, we’re within reasonable range of a chocolate glazed donut. In the face of such temptation, who wouldn’t love to pop a pill to help undo the damage of giving in? Diet pills that are effective and safe have long been elusive, but a new trial on mice published in the journal Nature Medicine suggests a new kind of diet pill might someday have a place in our cabinets.

Here’s how the pill works. Once the pill hits the stomach, it triggers the gut to release a series of signals that normally follow after eating. “Our pill mimics that particular signal, but does it without any food coming in,” says senior author of the paper Ronald Evans, a biologist and director of the Gene Expression Laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. “It’s kind of like an imaginary meal.”

Interestingly, the drug doesn’t suppress appetite; the mice ate the same amount they always had, but still lost weight. That’s because the drug kickstarts metabolic activity in the tissues where fat is stored, since the body is trying to make room for new fat to come in. You get the benefits of tissue activation, activation of blood circulation, and all the prep your body exerts to prepare for an influx of calories. But those calories never come. The drug doesn’t get absorbed, and it’s eliminated.

The team tried this on mice with fatty liver disease, diabetes or obesity. In all three of those situations, popping the pill led to improved liver function, reduced inflammation, more fat burning, weight loss and lower glucose levels, Evans says. “We’re hopeful in patients that this will translate in a similar way,” he says.

“It sounds crazy, but the new idea is it’s possible to develop drugs that just work in the intestine and pass through that have major systemic or body-wide effects, and it’s possible to do this in a very safe way,” Evans says. We’re still a few years away from trying this in humans, he says, but it’s definitely something to keep watching. “I think there’s a significant advance here that will have an important place in treatment of metabolic disease.”

TIME Dieting

DASH Diet Named Best Diet of the Year

Diet eschews gimmicks for straightforward healthy eating

The well-balanced DASH Diet was named the best overall diet for the fifth straight year by U.S. News & World Report. The DASH Diet focuses on a healthy mixture of whole grains and vegetables and is more focused on improving nutrition and heart health than losing weight (through strict adherence should still help dieters shed some pounds). While a lot of gimmicky diets have come and gone, the rules of the DASH diet are pretty intuitive: eat from the healthy food groups, avoid red meat and sweets, and cut back on salt.

For dieters more speciifcally focused on weight loss, U.S. News & World Report selected Weight Watchers as the best diet. IT was also picked as the easiest diet to follow. Meanwhile, the DASH diet received accolades as the best diet for people with diabetes and the best diet for healthy eating.

[U.S. News & World Report]

TIME Exercise/Fitness

Fitbit Launches Two New Fitness Trackers

Fitbit Surge Fitbit

Fitbit launches new tricked-out trackers with a watch and GPS

Fitbit officially launched the sale of two new fitness and activity trackers, Charge HR and Surge, on Tuesday. Both wrist trackers feature caller ID and sleep monitoring as well as visible stats and a watch on its display.

The company originally announced its new devices in October, but now they’re available for purchase, Fitbit said at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). “With Fitbit Charge HR and Fitbit Surge, features like heart rate tracking are made simpler by being continuous and automatic so the technology works no matter what you’re doing,” said James Park, CEO and cofounder of Fitbit, in a statement.

Charge HR Fitbit

Fitbit Charge HR costs $149.95 and uses continuous heart rate readings to provide wearers with day-long stats on their fitness. The Surge is $249.95 and takes tracking a step further with GPS, text message notifications and music control.

The fitness tracker market is crowded, and it’s estimated that 42 million wearable fitness and health devices shipped in 2014. That puts a lot of pressure on companies to come up with the latest and greatest technology to cram into a durable vehicle the size of a large bracelet. Early products were equivalent to glorified pedometers (which, by the way, you can buy for under $10). Now, they’re much fancier—though not necessarily much more accurate. A 2014 study from Iowa State University looked at the most popular trackers and found that they were an average of 10-15% off at calculating calorie burn from activity. The Fitbit series, however, was fairly close in accuracy to the kind scientists use in research.

The new Fitbit trackers can now be shipped everywhere in the U.S., and globally in the near future.

Read next: These Are the Most Ingenious Gadgets From CES 2015

TIME Diet/Nutrition

4 People Who Might Be Making You Fat

table of food
Getty Images

Meet your food frenemies

Beware: Food frenemies are everywhere. In fact, research shows that if you eat with another person, you’ll down 33% more on average. Here’s how to enjoy the company, without the calories.

Your partner

Because of what scientists call your “shared environment,” your chance of becoming obese is 37% greater if your significant other is heavy. “There has to be teamwork,” says Cynthia Sass, RD, Health‘s contributing nutrition editor. “That might mean putting food in separate his-and-hers cabinets.” When dining with the brood, leave family-size platters in the kitchen and let everyone help themselves. You can control your own portions and avoid temptation in the form of second helpings.

HEALTH.COM: 12 Ways Your Relationship Can Hurt Your Health

Your kids

One study found that moms consumed almost 400 calories more a day than women without children. Be prepared: If it’s after-school-snack time, have your own healthy treat ready (maybe a handful of almonds with Greek yogurt). At mealtime, divide and conquer: Put your chicken breast over steamed vegetables, theirs over cheesy pasta. Everyone eats well!

HEALTH.COM: 11 Foods That Make You Hungrier

Your BFF

Check this out: Your chance of becoming obese increases by 57% if one of your close friends is heavy, according to research. If you’re going out for a quick bite, tell your bud that you plan to order something healthy—or offer to split an entrée and add a salad. A study at Arizona State University showed that most friends are “monkey see, monkey do.” In other words, if you take the lead, your pal is likely to follow suit.

HEALTH.COM: 11 People Who Could Wreck Your Diet

Your co-workers

Those out-of-office lunch trips can be great for camaraderie but deadly for your diet. According to a study from Georgia State University, if you dine with a group of seven or more people, you will eat a staggering 96% more. Your best weapon is strategic planning. “Scan the menu ahead of time,” recommends Rachel Beller, RD, author of Eat to Lose, Eat to Win.

“When the waiter comes over to the table, say, ‘I want a simple piece of grilled salmon, with sauce on the side, and a double order of vegetables, in light oil or steamed.’ If I’m in the mood for a real flavor punch—let’s say I’m at an Italian restaurant—I’ll ask for a small side of marinara sauce, which I pour over my veggies. You had better believe that everyone else at the table will be eating off my plate!”

HEALTH.COM: 3 Tricks to Curb Mindless Eating

This article originally appeared on Health.com

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