Get off the couch (and into the park) To get the best results on this plan, Dr. Oz suggests engaging in 30 minutes of activity every day. It doesn't have to make you sweat, "but it does have to be enough exertion to make you breathy, " he says. Translation: You're able to say a few words to your walking pal about the newly sprouted tulips, but you don't want to dissect last night's episode of The Good Wife.
Thirty minutes can sound daunting, but not if you break them up. "I get up seven minutes early and do my stretching-and-calisthenics routine, " says Dr. Oz. "It's my replacement for coffee. That gives me confidence that I can control what I do; all day, I can brag to myself that I at least did some exercise."
While Dr. Oz is lucky to have a job that keeps him on his feet throughout the day, he says we can all increase our activity levels as long as goals are small and achievable. "Wear sneakers to work, and walk up the stairs or park farther away, " he suggests. "As long as you think of activity in 10- or 15-minute increments, you'll get there every day. In fact, when we look at people who are 'naturally' thin, it's the movement built into their daily lives that's the secret."
Make your exercise fun and varied, too. "On weekends, I do longer workouts, including running and weights. But I also play — maybe basketball or tennis, or horsing around with my kids, " says Dr. Oz.
Address your stress Whether exercise alone leads to weight loss may be debatable, but there's no question that it ups your fitness and tones your body. It's also one of the best stress-zappers out there — even better than shoe shopping. New research from the University of Maryland reports that working out doesn't just ease stress, but also seems to prevent it, emotionally buffering us from traffic jams yet to occur.
That matters because stress steals our energy and can make us gain weight. As we evolved, Dr. Oz believes, stress wasn't a reaction to a deadline or a scary Visa bill — it was connected to famine: "So when you have chronic stress, your body thinks it's thousands of years ago and you are on an arid plain in Africa. You eat anything you can get your hands on, and more than you want to." Worse, stress hormones then cause weight to be stored as abdominal fat, the type most linked to heart disease and other illnesses.
If that has you hyperventilating, Dr. Oz has a prescription: yoga. "You can do it by yourself, " he says. "You don't need equipment. And it gets you in the mindset for meditating, which is a great stress reliever."
You also need to reset your approach to weight loss. "When you realize that eating well isn't a sprint but a marathon, and that it's perfectly normal to make mistakes sometimes, you'll be far less anxious, " says Dr. Oz. "I like to compare it to using a GPS. When I make a mistake, my GPS doesn't say, 'How could you have missed that turn again?' It merely says, 'Recalculating.' " Every plan, he believes, needs to have room for nonjudgmental U-turns: "So you ate something, and now you regret it. Just hit Reset and start again."
Sleep! Lots of folks think they've got low energy, says Dr. Oz, when what they really need is more sleep. If you don't get enough, he warns — "and that means about seven and a half hours per night" — your body will crave carbohydrates, usually of the donut variety. The link between getting too little sleep and being overweight is well established, but happily, new research shows that it also works in reverse — a 2012 study from Johns Hopkins found that shedding about 15 pounds results in a 20% improvement in quality of sleep.
If you're sure you're getting enough sleep but still feel draggy, don't abandon your exercise, Dr. Oz says: "It should make you feel more alive."
So should the magnesium-rich foods on this plan. Getting too little of this mineral is a major cause of the blahs, says Dr. Oz. "It's required for building energy stores in cells, and it's involved in metabolism. And most of the population doesn't get enough." These meals, loaded with magnesium-rich greens, whole grains, and nuts, will give you that missing pep while filling you up and thinning you down.