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Forget every carb-cutting, craving-canceling trick you know. We combed through the latest diet research (opens in new tab) for the skinny on skinny.
1. OLD RULE: CUT CARBS
Why you should break it: Low-carb diets reigned during the Atkins craze, but in the long run, people can't maintain them. According to a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, dieters who ate carbs in moderation lost about five pounds more than carb-avoiders.
New rule: Eat five servings of grains daily, especially whole ones (oatmeal, brown rice), says Dr. Marion Vetter, medical director at the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and lead author of the study. "Carbs provide great energy and fiber," she says. Besides, "avoiding them isn't realistic." But you knew that.
2. OLD RULE: AVOID EGG YOLKS
Why you should break it: In a study at the U.K.'s University of Surrey, dieters who ate two eggs daily for 12 weeks lost the same amount of weight and cut cholesterol by the same amount as those who didn't. "The cholesterol in eggs is small compared with grams of saturated fat in processed meats," says Bruce Griffin, lead author of the study and professor of nutritional metabolism.
New rule: Egg yolks have protein, calcium, and iron. Eat them as part of a balanced diet, and avoid processed foods like salami, the real cholesterol culprits.
3. OLD RULE: GRAZE THROUGHOUT THE DAY
Why you should break it: Studies in the '90s found that snacking all day curbed appetite. But a new Canadian study in the British Journal of Nutrition found no weight loss difference between women who did and didn't snack.
New rule: Eat as many meals as you want, says Eric Doucet, study author and associate professor in the School of Human Kinetics at the University of Ottawa. But tally your calories. (Ask a doctor, but a woman should generally consume about 1,200 a day in order to slim down.) It's "energy in versus energy out," Doucet says.
4. OLD RULE: NO MIDNIGHT SNACKS
Why you should break it: A recent study in the International Journal of Obesity concluded that subjects didn't gain weight because of when they ate, but what. Metabolism chugs along regardless of time: Eat a healthy dinner at 10 p.m., and you won't scarf Doritos in front of CSI.
New rule: Eat late if you like, but don't exceed your calorie count. Can't close the fridge door? Experiment with different-sized meals, says Susan Roberts, study author and professor of nutrition and of psychiatry at Tufts University. Eating at a certain time isn't important, and there's no rule about how long to wait between meals. But getting too hungry leads to overeating, so "pace calories in a way that works for you."
5. OLD RULE: RETURN TO PROHIBITION
Why you should break it: Alcohol is calorie-packed, but a study from the Archives of Internal Medicine found that women who drank moderately gained less weight than women who never drank. Alcohol slows digestive enzymes and inhibits the breakdown of nutrients, so your body doesn't absorb as much food as it would otherwise, says Dr. Lu Wang, instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School and the study's lead author.
New rule: Like alcohol? Have either two 5-ounce glasses of red or white wine, two bottles of beer, or 3 ounces of hard liquor daily, Wang says. "Alcohol can help you maintain a normal weight." Cheers!
6. OLD RULE: DON'T CAVE TO CRAVINGS
Why you should break it: A study by St. George's University of London shows that if you abstain from treats, you'll overindulge eventually, and University of Toronto researchers found that depriving people of specific foods led to binges.
New rule: Satisfy cravings in moderation, says Janet Polivy, author of the second study and psychology professor at the University of Toronto. "Eat small portions of the things you like. Decide how much you'll eat — say, two chocolate squares." Shelve the rest, then dig in.
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