Men's Health: Why Are You Still Fat?

You diet. You exercise. So, why is your gut still hanging over your belt?

You're Starving Slashing too many calories, particularly protein calories, pushes the body to conserve calories rather than burn them. It also forces your body to break down muscle tissue to fuel its vital operations. But that muscle is the key to your metabolism, or the speed at which you burn calories. More muscle means a faster metabolism and less body fat.

Solution: You do need to cut calories to lose weight. But you need to make sure you're eating at least 1,600 to 1,800 calories each day to keep your metabolism from shutting down.

And never cut protein during a diet. If you're a sedentary 200-pounder, you need about 75 grams of protein (about two chicken breasts) a day for muscle preservation. If you're lifting weights, aim for twice that much. Doing aerobics? Pick a number in between.

You Inhale Food

If you were a rat, you'd chow down for about 15 minutes, feel full, and stop eating. But you aren't. You probably eat so fast that your stomach hardly has time to alert your brain that you are full.

Solution: Try this drill during your next meal. On every bite, chew, swallow, put down your fork, and take a sip of water. See how long it takes you to eat. Now, during subsequent meals, take just as long to eat, only without the drill.

Another meal-prolonging trick for men with regular dinner partners: Turn off the TV, put down the Daily Racing Form, and actually have a conversation.

You're Too Refined

Most processed breads and cereals contain little fiber, the calorie-free component of plant foods that fills you up, not out. Plus, foods rich in fiber help control blood glucose and insulin levels.

Solution: I never thought I'd say this, but it may be a good idea to cut back on potatoes in any form. Experts say potatoes raise blood-glucose concentration quickly, as do snack chips, white bread, low-fiber breakfast cereals, and breakfast bars. Whole-grain cereals, nuts, and beans are blame-free, if not calorie-free.

You're Eyes Are Wide Open

Sleep deprivation decreases the odds of shedding blubber and keeping it off. Researchers found that healthy men who snoozed only four or seven hours a night for six nights in a row had higher glucose and insulin levels in their blood. This is a terrible state of metabolism for a man who's trying to lose weight, because surplus insulin boosts body-fat storage.

Solution:Hit the sack for eight hours every night. Establish a regular bedtime and waking hour. Pick the time you have to wake up on most days, and make sure you're in bed at least eight hours before.

You Think Fitness Trumps Fatness

Exercise alone won't make you thin. A recent study of military personnel who increased their exercise during a three-year period found that they gained weight despite their extra efforts. Why? Food, most likely. They simply ate more than they burned off.

Solution: The last thing you want to hear is that size matters. But controlling portion size is absolutely essential to weight loss. And the best way to control portion size is to limit how often you eat out.

According to the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, a single restaurant meal often could feed an entire family. A pasta dish at an Italian restaurant might include eight 1-cup servings. Which brings us to our next point.

You Lack Basic Food-Preparation Skills

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