4. Addition Can Be Better Than Subtraction
Though you do have to watch what you eat, obsessive or near-starvation diets don't work in the long run. Cutting too many calories breaks down the muscles you're working so hard to build up, Clayton says. You may shed a few pounds at first by skipping meals or eliminating entire food groups, but the second you return to a regular eating plan, your beaten-down body and slowed metabolism actually trigger excess weight gain.
Focus on what to add to your diet instead of what to take away. Piling more high-quality, nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts onto your plate provides your body with the fuel to tackle your workouts while also improving your overall health, Blakely says.
You'll feel fuller on fewer calories, and over time—about 6 months, to be precise—you'll actually rewire your brain to crave healthy foods instead of junk, according to a recent study in the journal Nutrition & Diabetes.
5. In the Recipe for Success, Fun Is an Essential Ingredient
Trainers have a rep for working you so hard you puke. Not only are such extreme efforts unnecessary for weight loss, they may be counterproductive both physiologically and psychologically.
If you actively dread your workouts, it's all too easy to make excuses to skip them, says Mike Robinson, of MZR Fitness in San Luis Obispo, CA, recognized as 2015 personal trainer of the year by the IDEA Health and Fitness Association.
Meanwhile, many pastimes that bring you joy—like gardening, hiking, or dancing—count as physical activity, too. Incorporating them into your plan means you'll actually look forward to exercise, getting you into a regular routine and melting fat with much less effort.
"Many people think exercise has to be very difficult and complicated to yield results," Clayton says. "They are pleasantly surprised to find out that it's balance and consistency that improves your body."
More from Prevention: 4 Foods That Burn Belly Fat
6. The Other 23 Hours of the Day Count, Too
Regardless of whether you're sweating with a trainer or on your own, a successful weight loss program requires an all-day approach to movement, Blakely says.
You might not think things like fidgeting during a meeting or tapping your toe along with the car radio could truly make a difference. A landmark study in the journal Science found otherwise, calculating that small tweaks in daily activity patterns could help heavy people torch an extra 350 calories per day.
The scientific term for this phenomenon is non—exercise activity thermogenesis—in other words, all the calories you burn just going about your day. So while you're probably sick of hearing about parking farther away from the grocery store and taking the stairs instead of the escalator, trainers know their most successful clients take this type of advice to heart.