Many women think they've permanently lowered their body's calorie-burning ability from years of yo-yo dieting. The truth: Cutting calories affects your metabolism only in the short term. An often-cited study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association tracked overweight women who had dieted off and on for 18 years. They found that the metabolism dip experienced after severe calorie restriction is only temporary. Once women go back to eating enough to maintain a healthy body weight, their calorie-burning ability usually returns to normal. For maximum weight loss, cut excess calories without eliminating too many, and forestall small dips in metabolism throughout the day with these eat-smart tips:
1. Don't under or overestimate your calorie needs. Check out the Calorie Calculator to calculate the perfect daily energy budget for you.
2. Do eat every 3 to 5 hours. Your body needs regular fuel, and balanced meals spaced no more than 5 hours apart keep your metabolism running smoothly. You don't need a full meal—a 150- to 200-calorie snack will do.
3. Don't "save up" for one big splurge. Your body uses calories over the course of the day and will store a onetime surplus as fat. Prepare for treats by eating regularly but having slightly lighter than normal meals.