Whom would you rather take financial advice from: a money coach or a self-made billionaire? Whose take on love and happiness is most appealing: a friend who’s built a close, successful family, or a marriage counselor who specializes in other people’s dysfunctional relationships? When it comes to getting it done, we trust the people who’ve gotten it done. That’s why, when Eat This, Not That! went in search of the most authoritative ideas on how to lose weight and stay lean, we sought out people who actually do it—people like Maria Menounos, Padma Lakshmi, and Insanity trainer Shaun T., who stay lean all year round, through the fat-trap holidays and the cold, comfort-food-craving nights.
And we discovered exactly the kind of outside-the-box secrets and strategies you won’t hear from nutrition gurus and weight-loss doctors. Here are the rule-breaking tricks that work for skinny people. Why not join their ranks?
They Never Buy Bottled Spices
What all those TV chefs say is true: You should try to refresh your spice cabinet as often as possible—at least once a year. Over time, spices’ essential oils fade, and with them goes the flavor you’re looking (and paying) for. So what’s a savvy cook to do, pay $6 for a bottle of star anise you’re only going to use twice a year? Absolutely not. Instead, shop at stores like Whole Foods and ethnic markets where you can buy all your spices from bulk containers that allow you to choose the amount. Fifteen grams of fat-blasting cardamom or cumin or coriander will cost you about a quarter of what a normal supermarket charges for a small bottle and will last you the better part of a year. Plus, high turnover ensures you’re getting potent spices—not something that’s been sitting on a shelf since Reagan left office.
They Choose The Right Cut
This is consistently one of the most expensive cuts of beef, but all you’re buying is a little bit of tenderness. In fact, tenderloin isn’t a particularly flavorful steak. So why does it cost so much? Because there aren’t many tenderloin steaks on a cow, and because demand from diners looking for beef that cuts like butter tends to be high. Switch to skirt or flank steak instead. They’re both lean cuts that pack far more rich, deep, beefy flavor. Marinate for at least 4 hours in a 50/50 solution of balsamic vinegar and soy and you’ll have a steak you can cut with a spoon. Most importantly, it will cost you about half of what you would pay for that tenderloin. Remember this next time you’re at the steakhouse, too.
They Don’t Need Fancy Crackers
Old-school as they are, Triscuit is a cracker as a cracker should be: whole wheat with a touch of oil and salt. That gives you all the fiber and flavor you need to satisfy a snack craving. For more substantial hunger pangs, try dipping them in peanut butter or guacamole.
They Don’t Just Count Calories
Calories fuel our bodies, right? Actually, they don’t. A calorie is simply a unit of measure for heat; in the early 19th century, it was used to explain the theory of heat conservation and steam engines. The term entered the food world around 1890, when the USDA appropriated it for a report on nutrition, and its definition evolved. The calorie we now see cited on nutrition labels is the amount of heat required to raise 1 kilogram of water by 1°C. Here’s the problem: Your body isn’t a steam engine. Instead of heat, it runs on chemical energy, fueled by the oxidation of carbohydrates, fats, and protein that occurs in your cells’ mitochondria. “You could say mitochondria are like small power plants,” says Maciej Buchowski, PhD, a research professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “Instead of one central plant, you have several billion, so it’s more efficient.” Your move: Track carbohydrates, fats, and protein—not just calories—when you’re evaluating foods.