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We ask top holistic health experts for their tips to boost your metabolism and burn fat faster.

Go herbal

“Herbs can help with weight loss- some may decrease appetite and reduce cravings, while others boost energy expenditure by mobilising fats and increasing metabolism,” says naturopath Shannon McNeill. “Two medicinal herbs that may help are cayenne and cinnamon. Cayenne is a stimulant, its name coming from the Greek word meaning ‘to bite’ and referring to its hot, biting taste; it promotes circulation and boosts metabolism to increase burning of fat in the body. Cinnamon has a beneficial effect on insulin by helping to maintain stable blood sugar levels: when your blood sugar is constantly spiking, you are more likely to gain weight or have difficulty losing extra weight.

Ignore the calorie count

“People get distracted by the recommended 'fat burning zone' on a cardio machine and slow down,” says personal trainer Tanya Lewis. “It is actually intermittent exercise at much higher intensities that burns more energy overall and boosts subsequent metabolic rate and fat burning capacity over the rest of the day. The figure for total calories burned on a machine is often an over-inflated value for the average female user; when people watch the calorie count too closely they stop prematurely when they believe they have accounted for that extra glass of wine!”

Make small changes

“Dietitians hate the word ‘diet’,” says consultant dietitian Joel Feren. “We say that the key to weight loss is to make small dietary and lifestyle changes that are sustainable over time, so you maximise your chances of achieving significant long-term change. For example, switching from a daily full cream latte to a skinny one means you’ll cut out close to two kilograms of dietary fat over the course of a year. Slow and steady wins the race: it’s the small tweaks, not heavy restrictions, that result in permanent beneficial change.”

Go shopping

“Buy a portion plate – but remember to treat yourself,” says Amanda Clark, author of Portion Perfection. “And buy single serves of less healthy foods – the evidence is that the bigger the package, the more we eat.”

Build new habits

“Successful long term weight loss isn’t about dieting, losing weight, and then going back to your old habits,” says dietitian Dr Kate Marsh. “The only way to lose weight permanently is to build new eating and exercise habits you can stick to in the long term. Research shows that it takes 21 days to form a new habit, so persevere with your new habit and it'll soon become a way of life.”

Know your appetite

“Know when you are hungry and when you are satisfied,” adds Marsh. “Aim to eat only when you are hungry - but not starving - and to stop when you are satisfied but not overfull. Most of us eat for all sorts of reasons other than hunger, including boredom, stress or just because food is available. Non-hungry eating will always be a barrier to managing weight.”

Keep it balanced

“Enjoy a variety of nutritious foods - fresh fruit, vegetables and wholegrain products - and limit foods with excess fats and sugars,” says dietitian Vicki Ma. “Listen to your body. Don’t deprive yourself of any foods, as this will only lead to overeating. Don’t be afraid to indulge a little! You should eat what you love, and love what you eat.”

Rev it up

“Interval training is a great way to boost fat loss, while cutting down on hours spent exercising,” says nutritionist Dr Rebecca Harwin. “Create a repetitive cycle. Research shows eight seconds at a sprint, followed by 12 seconds at relative rest (still exercising but at a comfortable pace), then repeated consistently for 15 minute sessions, performed three times per week, significantly boosted insulin sensitivity and increased fat lost. Think: cycling, rowing, elliptical training, even walking. And be mindful – being more aware of what and how much you eat will help you feel more satisfied with smaller portions.”

Do more squats

“Squats are great for building strong, shapely leg muscles,” says personal trainer Lisa Newman-Morris. “The quadriceps muscles (‘quads’) in the legs are the largest in the body and therefore the biggest fat burners. Muscle is the body’s metabolic tissue, which means it burns energy just to do its job every day. The more muscle you build, the more energy you burn all day, every day. By working specifically on those legs, you’ll chew through more calories, too. Try doing squats while you're waiting for the kettle to boil - a little effort made without you even noticing you're working out!”

Meet our experts
Shannon McNeill, senior naturopath, Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat, www.gwinganna.com
Tanya Lewis, personal trainer and director of Life Personal Trainers, www.lifept.com.au
Joel Feren, consultant dietitian
Amanda Clark, accredited practising dietitian, author of Portion Perfection, www.greatideas.net.au
Dr Kate Marsh, advanced accredited practising dietitian, and credentialed diabetes educator
Vicki Ma, accredited practising dietitian, Melbourne Eat for Wellness
Dr Rebecca Harwin, chiropractor, nutritionist, author and clinician, www.conqueryourpcosnaturally.com
Lisa Newman-Morris, personal trainer at Step into Life Chelsea, www.stepintolife.com