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Exactly How To Use Cheat Days To Lose Weight

Check out these three winning strategies and let us help you treat yourself.

Related: Is Weight Loss Really 80 Percent Diet and 20 Percent Exercise?

The Mini Cheat

Best if: You’re constantly fighting cravings, says Krista Varady, Ph.D., an associate professor of nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Why it rocks: If your diet regularly leaves you fantasizing about all things salty-sweet, a daily splurge of 200 to 300 calories may help you stay on track better than white-knuckling it all week and then caving in a big way come cheat day. (Learn how bone broth can help you lose weight with Women’s Health’s Bone Broth Diet.)

The Cheat Meal

Best if: You feel deprived at social events.

Why it rocks: Got a bud’s birthday coming up? Having a once-a-week indulgence to work with allows a burger and fries to fit into your plan. “A weekly cheat meal is beneficial for those who like to bond over food during holidays and events and feel left out—and are therefore more likely to overeat eventually—if they don’t partake,” says Varady.

Check out the craziest things people have tried to lose weight.

Relatd: The 8 Best Bedtime Snacks for Weight Loss

The All-Out Cheat Day

Best if: You’re sick of logging cals.

Why it rocks: If tracking nutritional facts 24/7 becomes tiring, taking a full day off per week can keep you motivated and prevent you from ditching your plan out of frustration. But if cheat days turn into cheat weeks, one of the two strategies above might be the better move.

For more weight loss advice, check out the April 2017 issue of Women’s Health.

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Does Contrave actually help you lose weight? – KABC

Controlling cravings and suppressing hunger have been big challenges for people trying to lose weight. A prescription weight loss pill called Contrave claims it can help with both of those things.

But the experts at Consumer Reports warn that weight loss medication can come with some major health risks.

Contrave, which has been featured in commercials on TV, is the combination of two older drugs: the antidepressant bupropion and the addiction-treatment drug naltrexone.

Its ads state the drug works on the brain to reduce hunger and control cravings. The FDA approved Contrave is for obese people or people who are overweight with a body mass index of 27 or higher.

It’s also approved for those who suffer from serious conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or type 2 diabetes.

The commercial cites studies in which patients who took Contrave along with diet and exercise lost approximately two to four times more weight than those who did diet and exercise alone.

However, a Consumer Reports analysis of the three clinical trials used to gain FDA approval of the drug showed that while the drug works, the amount of additional weight loss was small and could pose serious health risks.

“Contrave can cause anxiety, insomnia and headaches. But also serious health problems such as liver damage, seizures, increased blood pressure and possible heart risks,” said Ginger Skinner, with Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports found that people who took Contrave up to 56 weeks lost only five to nine pounds more on average than those who took a placebo. Consumer Reports health experts said it’s best to lose weight the safer, proven way, by eating less and exercising.

If you’ve been unable to lose weight on your own, ask your doctor about intensive behavioral programs that have at least 12 sessions a year and multiple strategies to help you eat better and exercise more.

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How this man shed 374 pounds, more than half his body weight

When Sal Paradiso was a senior in high school, his father died of a heart attack at age 42. The teen, who had always been the heaviest student in his class, comforted himself with food and steadily gained weight.

By the time he was in his early 30s, he weighed about 700 pounds. As he struggled to stand in the shower, get out of bed or cook food without getting winded, he thought life shouldn’t be so difficult.

“I wasn’t getting any younger and I realized I had to make a drastic change or I would end up like my father,” Paradiso, 35, of Land O’ Lakes, Florida, told TODAY.

RELATED: 3 steps helped this woman lose more than half her body weight in 3 years

In February 2014, he visited a doctor for a consultation for weight-loss surgery. He was so heavy that the office scale couldn’t register his weight. The doctor and nutritionist put him on a strict low-carb, high-protein diet, noting he had to shed weight before surgery.

“As someone who was eating upwards of 10,000 calories a day prior to it, it has been a monumental change and it is what worked for me,” he said.

Sal Paradiso

RELATED: Combined, this couple lost 298 pounds in a year

While he dropped pounds right away, he wasn’t sure how much he lost initially because he didn’t know what his starting weight was. Then he started dropping seven or eight pounds a week. Because he weighed so much, exercise was difficult.

“Early on, I really couldn’t work out. When you are that big, it is hard to move around. Fortunately for me, my family has a swimming pool,” he said.

Paradiso swims laps — he must do low-impact exercise because his years of being extremely obese ruined his knees.

As he slimmed down, he added free weights to his routine and also started riding an exercise bike.

Over two years, he lost 254 pounds and underwent surgery in the summer of 2016, which helped him lose another 120 pounds.

In total, he lost 374 pounds. The tremendous weight loss means he has excess skin hanging from his 6-foot frame — about 65 to 80 pounds worth of it — and Paradiso is trying to raise money for skin removal procedures.

These surgeries can be expensive, according to Dr. Jeffrey Gusenoff, a plastic surgeon and co-director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s BodyChangers, a lifestyle and support program for people who are trying to lose weight or have lost weight. On average, each surgery costs between $4,000 to $6,000, plus extra costs for anesthesia and a hospital stay.

“(Insurance companies) often will cover the abdominal skin removal, but insurance companies often require that the patient proves medical necessity by having persistent rashes that require either prescription creams or oral antibiotics to treat rashes under the skin folds,” explained Gusenoff. “This extra skin must also hang low enough to block the genital region or thighs. Arms, thighs, breasts, buttocks and other areas are often not covered and are considered cosmetic.”

Paradiso’s excess skin causes him physical pain — it chafes and he gets sores and infections — and it makes him feel insecure at times.

“You are making all this progress,” he said. “But your shell resembles someone you no longer are.”

Sal Paradiso

RELATED: Weight-loss success: 7 steps this woman took to lose half her size

Yet, Paradiso wants others to feel inspired by his story.

“Change is possible. I speak as someone who was 700 pounds,” he said. “I’m a pretty happy guy and I am a lot happier today than I was three years ago.”

Here is his advice to others hoping to lose weight.

1. Get by with a little help from your friends.

Friends and family supported Paradiso as he worked to lose weight. Hearing encouraging words motivated him on days when it felt too hard.

Sal Paradiso

“My friends and family continue to push me every day,” he said. “If you can surround yourself with a decent enough support system … you can overcome 10 or 15 years of beating yourself to the ground by putting on so much weight.”

2. Set reasonable goals.

Paradiso wanted to weigh between 200 to 225 pounds, a loss of 475 to 500 pounds, and more than half his starting weight (though about 65-85 of it is skin, which cannot be lessened no matter how intense the dieting and exercise).

Thinking of losing so much weight seemed insurmountable.

“Looking at it in smaller pictures … it is possible to conquer the mountain,” he said.

3. Know what motivates you.

Looking at pictures of his father encouraged Paradiso when he struggled.

“He is a constant reminder of why I do this,” he said.


For more inspirational stories, check out our My Weight-Loss Journey page! And if you’d like to support Sal Paradiso in his efforts to raise money for skin removal surgeries, please visit his Go Fund Me page.

More Weight Loss videos

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How this man shed 374 pounds, more than half his body weight

When Sal Paradiso was a senior in high school, his father died of a heart attack at age 42. The teen, who had always been the heaviest student in his class, comforted himself with food and steadily gained weight.

By the time he was in his early 30s, he weighed about 700 pounds. As he struggled to stand in the shower, get out of bed or cook food without getting winded, he thought life shouldn’t be so difficult.

“I wasn’t getting any younger and I realized I had to make a drastic change or I would end up like my father,” Paradiso, 35, of Land O’ Lakes, Florida, told TODAY.

RELATED: 3 steps helped this woman lose more than half her body weight in 3 years

In February 2014, he visited a doctor for a consultation for weight-loss surgery. He was so heavy that the office scale couldn’t register his weight. The doctor and nutritionist put him on a strict low-carb, high-protein diet, noting he had to shed weight before surgery.

“As someone who was eating upwards of 10,000 calories a day prior to it, it has been a monumental change and it is what worked for me,” he said.

Sal Paradiso

RELATED: Combined, this couple lost 298 pounds in a year

While he dropped pounds right away, he wasn’t sure how much he lost initially because he didn’t know what his starting weight was. Then he started dropping seven or eight pounds a week. Because he weighed so much, exercise was difficult.

“Early on, I really couldn’t work out. When you are that big, it is hard to move around. Fortunately for me, my family has a swimming pool,” he said.

Paradiso swims laps — he must do low-impact exercise because his years of being extremely obese ruined his knees.

As he slimmed down, he added free weights to his routine and also started riding an exercise bike.

Over two years, he lost 254 pounds and underwent surgery in the summer of 2016, which helped him lose another 120 pounds.

In total, he lost 374 pounds. The tremendous weight loss means he has excess skin hanging from his 6-foot frame — about 65 to 80 pounds worth of it — and Paradiso is trying to raise money for skin removal procedures.

These surgeries can be expensive, according to Dr. Jeffrey Gusenoff, a plastic surgeon and co-director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s BodyChangers, a lifestyle and support program for people who are trying to lose weight or have lost weight. On average, each surgery costs between $4,000 to $6,000, plus extra costs for anesthesia and a hospital stay.

“(Insurance companies) often will cover the abdominal skin removal, but insurance companies often require that the patient proves medical necessity by having persistent rashes that require either prescription creams or oral antibiotics to treat rashes under the skin folds,” explained Gusenoff. “This extra skin must also hang low enough to block the genital region or thighs. Arms, thighs, breasts, buttocks and other areas are often not covered and are considered cosmetic.”

Paradiso’s excess skin causes him physical pain — it chafes and he gets sores and infections — and it makes him feel insecure at times.

“You are making all this progress,” he said. “But your shell resembles someone you no longer are.”

Sal Paradiso

RELATED: Weight-loss success: 7 steps this woman took to lose half her size

Yet, Paradiso wants others to feel inspired by his story.

“Change is possible. I speak as someone who was 700 pounds,” he said. “I’m a pretty happy guy and I am a lot happier today than I was three years ago.”

Here is his advice to others hoping to lose weight.

1. Get by with a little help from your friends.

Friends and family supported Paradiso as he worked to lose weight. Hearing encouraging words motivated him on days when it felt too hard.

Sal Paradiso

“My friends and family continue to push me every day,” he said. “If you can surround yourself with a decent enough support system … you can overcome 10 or 15 years of beating yourself to the ground by putting on so much weight.”

2. Set reasonable goals.

Paradiso wanted to weigh between 200 to 225 pounds, a loss of 475 to 500 pounds, and more than half his starting weight (though about 65-85 of it is skin, which cannot be lessened no matter how intense the dieting and exercise).

Thinking of losing so much weight seemed insurmountable.

“Looking at it in smaller pictures … it is possible to conquer the mountain,” he said.

3. Know what motivates you.

Looking at pictures of his father encouraged Paradiso when he struggled.

“He is a constant reminder of why I do this,” he said.


For more inspirational stories, check out our My Weight-Loss Journey page! And if you’d like to support Sal Paradiso in his efforts to raise money for skin removal surgeries, please visit his Go Fund Me page.

More Weight Loss videos

Does ‘false hope syndrome’ make it hard to lose weight? – The …

For years, whenever Vik Kapoor spoke before a crowd, his stomach swirled with anxiety, his heart raced and he concluded each lecture drenched in sweat.

“My fear of public speaking affected my self-confidence, which is why I made it my New Year’s resolution to tackle this problem,” says Kapoor, a life coach and adjunct professor at Howard University’s law school. “Initially, I tried to lessen my fear by looking for simple solutions. I vowed to wear black whenever I spoke in public to hide the sweat stains, and I scheduled a doctor’s appointment to see if a health issue was causing my anxiety. I also decided to become my own cheerleader by giving myself mini pep talks before each of my lectures.”

After coming up with these solutions, Kapoor felt better. But the next time he spoke in public, his planning failed. “As soon as I began my talk, my stomach churned and I started sweating. My mind went blank.”

Kapoor became so frustrated that he discarded his resolution.

Kapoor didn’t know it at the time, but he now realizes he was suffering from “false-hope syndrome,” a tendency to have unrealistic beliefs about what is required to change behavior.

University of Toronto professors Janet Polivy and C. Peter Herman coined the term in 2000 based on their research showing that people frequently underestimate the work needed to meet ­self-improvement goals. When hope meets reality, the commitment to change often collapses.

Several other social scientists believe that false-hope syndrome helps explain why people struggle to lose weight, quit smoking and exercise regularly.

About 25 percent of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions abandon them within a week, according to the statistics website StatisticsBrain.com, whether it’s to begin the Paleo diet, sign up for a daily yoga challenge or start a meditation practice. By February, most people have given up on their resolutions altogether.

Sasha Albani, a psychotherapist and marriage and family therapist in San Francisco, says the key to sticking with a resolution is to make sure that it aligns with one’s personal values.

“We are more likely to follow through on our goals when we make value-led decisions. For example, if we value the physical and mental health benefits of exercise, we’re more likely to succeed at beginning a new exercise program,” Albani says.

She says that our goals are harder to accomplish when our values clash. For example, let’s say that you want to stop drinking coffee and soda, but you really value how alert caffeine makes you feel. In this case, it’s going to be more difficult to change your behavior.

A theory of behavior change known as acceptance and commitment therapy, or ACT, may help some people stick with resolutions.

According to the American Psychological Association, ACT therapy may work particularly well when we want to change a bad habit but we are unclear about the barriers that could get in our way.

This psychological intervention can help increase cognitive flexibility by showing people how to identify their values and the steps that they need to take to change their behavior.

“ACT therapy breaks down goal-setting into three steps by using the guiding principles of values, commitment and willingness to change,” says Daniela Tempesta, a psychotherapist and life coach in San Francisco.

According to Tempesta, these are the psychological components that are necessary for achieving your new goals.

After several years of failing to keep his resolutions, Kapoor contacted an ACT psychotherapist. He quickly learned that while he valued speaking confidently, he didn’t value himself. When he had tried to give himself mini pep talks, he spoke to himself unkindly.

“I’d tell myself, ‘Anyone can do this, it’s easy, just pull it together.’ I realized that this was negative self-talk and not a pep talk at all,” Kapoor says.

With the help of his therapist, he learned how to apply ACT in a way that set him up for success.

“I realized that my fear of public speaking stemmed from a deep worry about not trusting myself. My anxiety was my body’s way of propelling into the fight-or-flight response. Once I identified this insight, I had to examine why I didn’t feel confident about my abilities,” Kapoor says.

For those who make resolutions, Tempesta suggests looking at the changes to be made and thinking about how they can be achieved. She recommends these ACT principles:

Examine barriers: If you’re vowing yet again to run a marathon or lose weight, ask yourself what stood in your way before. What will you do differently this time that might make success more likely? For example, if you began training for a marathon by running in the morning even though you’re really not a morning person, you might choose to train at a different time of day.

Clarify values: While resolutions often reflect someone’s values, they can compete with other values. For example, if you want to lose weight but eating is one way that you cope with stress, you may want to see whether there are other methods that will help you control stress. You might decide to adopt a pet or begin a weekly yoga class. Tempesta says that if you find a way to align your values (managing stress and eating healthier), you’re more likely to reach your goals.

Accept emotions: Once you have clarified your values, ask yourself what feelings might arise as you work toward your goal. For example, if you give up caffeine because it can make you anxious, will you then feel irritable, tired or depressed? Personal reflection can help you consider mechanisms for coping with these feelings.

Take action: Commit to making behavior changes based on your values. For example, if you value eating healthier but your colleagues often invite you out to lunch, think about how you will avoid ordering french fries instead of salad. You might take control by suggesting a restaurant with healthy offerings where you won’t be tempted to eat your favorite carbs.

If you stumble along the way, don’t give up, Tempesta says. Simply notice the thoughts and feelings that block your path and begin again. Remember that if you falter on your resolutions, you don’t need to wait until Jan. 1 comes around again to harness new hope.

Fraga is a psychologist based in San Francisco. She is not an ACT therapist.

Read more:

A little anxiety can be good for you, but too much can hurt your health

A doctor with bad knee runs into one-size-fits-all medicine, and it’s a problem.

5 Crazy New Ways to Lose Weight

Inspired by “popsicle panniculitis”—the temporary dimples kids get from sucking on popsicles—researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital created cryolipolysis, or CoolSculpting, in 2008.

During the first hourlong session (several may be needed, and the tab runs upwards of $750 every time you treat an area), the fat in a patient’s problem site is pressed between two cooling plates connected to a vacuum tube. Dermatologist Mathew Avram, M.D., a CoolSculpting advocate, says the freezing of cells stimulates apoptosis, or programmed cell death. After two to three months, says Dr. Avram, the body clears the affected fat cells out of the area. It’s unclear whether they relocate elsewhere in your body or come out when you go to the bathroom.

Dr. Avram cites studies that show that cryolipolysis can provide about a 22 percent reduction in fat-layer thickness. However, that’s only in the treatment area, like a love handle or your spare tire.

DOES IT WORK?

It’s not invasive surgery, and it’s FDA approved. Overall, though, the fat loss is “minor at best,” says Michael Roizen, M.D., chair of the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. “As far as getting rid of the fat that’s dangerous to your health, it does nothing.”

What’s more, Dr. Katz warns of the potential for infection. “Think of it as frostbite, but on purpose and internally,” he says. “Cellular debris like that undermines the inner barriers that prevent bacteria from getting into places they don’t belong.” Plus, your fat could return: UCLA researchers found that fat freezing could lead to something called “paradoxical adipose hyperplasia,” an increase in weight in the treated area, in a very small percentage of patients.

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