"Good Morning America" is teaming up with Reader's Digest on a special series, "13 Things Experts Won't Tell You." This month, Reader's Digest unveils the secrets to weight loss, as outlined in the new book, "The Digest Diet," a new, healthy-living plan that lists foods, exercises, and lifestyle tips that help you release fat fast.
1. You have to eat fat to beat fat.
While too much of the wrong fat (certain saturated fats in highly processed meats and trans fat found in some cookies and crackers) is bad for your health and waistline, a diet rich in the right fat -- good unsaturated fats -- can help both.
Good fats, like monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) in olive oil, nuts, and avocados have proven to be powerful reducers of belly fat. Other sources of good fat are the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs); found in fish and its oil, and in many nuts and seeds, PUFAs help release fat, too. A Dutch study found that consumption of PUFAs lead to a higher resting metabolic rate (the calories used just to live), as well as a greater DIT, or diet-induced calorie burn. PUFAs are also burned faster than saturated fats in the body.
What's more, fats help you feel full—they have 9 calories per gram compared to 4 for protein or carbs. So a small nibble of something yummy, like a handful of nuts or some peanut butter on whole wheat crackers, can help you feel full for hours.
2. A daily dose of chocolate can trim your waistline.
If you're like us, you welcome any new excuse to add more chocolate into your life. To release fat, here's the trick: Go heavy on the cocoa and light on sugar. Cocoa contains more antioxidants than most foods and is good for so many things, including -- when consumed in moderation -- weight loss.
In a June 2011 study from the Journal of Nutrition, researchers looked at the effect that antioxidants found in cocoa had on obese diabetic mice. (Since a diabetic's lifespan is, on average, seven years shorter, they were looking for any antiaging promise that increasing dietary intake of this flavonoid might give.) Their findings: The mice lived longer. The cocoa reduced degeneration of their aortic arteries, and it blunted fat deposition.
To add more cocoa into your diet, buy unsweetened cocoa and add it to shakes, coffee, and other recipes.
3. Dairy promotes weight loss.
Unfortunately some myths persist that dairy sabotages weight loss, but science proves this couldn't be further from the truth. Research shows that those who have deficiencies in calcium hold a greater fat mass and experience less control of their appetite. What's more, studies have found that dairy sources of calcium -- like yogurt, low- or nonfat cheese, and milk -- are markedly more effective in accelerating fat loss than other sources.
In one study out of the University of Tennessee, researchers showed that eating three servings of dairy daily significantly reduced body fat in obese subjects. If they restricted calories a bit while continuing with the same dairy servings, it accelerated fat and weight loss.
4. Losing weight early and fast is best.
Besides giving you a great psychological boost right out of the gate, losing weight quickly may also help you keep it off longer. To those of us who are used to hearing that slow and steady wins the race, this news is a little shocking and counterintuitive.
In a 2010 University of Florida study, when researchers analyzed data on 262 middle-aged women who were struggling with obesity, they demonstrated that shedding weight fast lead to larger overall weight loss and longer-term success in keeping it off.
5. Exercise alone is not an effective weight loss tool -- you have to pair it with the right diet.
Thinking you can eat whatever you want as long as you work it off later is actually a pretty dangerous mind-set, particularly if you look at the current research. Exercise alone leads to a very modest decrease in total body weight: less than 3 percent!
I learned this lesson the hard way. From 1998 to 2006, I was the executive editor of Fitness magazine. Studying the fitness research and trying the trends were all part of my job. For years, I believed that I could eat anything I wanted because I was exercising so much. But the more I exercised, the hungrier I was. And the more I ate, the more I needed to exercise to maintain a healthy weight. Here's what happened: I saw a steady increase in my body weight of a pound a year.