Marie Rose Yardis, 38, wishes she'd known from the start that there's no need to go as low as possible with calories. "I worked with a trainer that told me I had to increase calories to support my workouts," she says. "It felt impossible, but I did it and lost a good amount of weight as a result! We all see in the media that cutting calories equals a smaller body. But when you are combining your nutrition habits with tough training sessions, you can really do a disservice to your body by underfeeding it!" (More on that here: Exactly How to Cut Calories to Lose Weight Safely)
The best diets promote inclusivity over exclusivity and rely heavily on produce. Highly restrictive diets depend on immediate weight loss to motivate you — but some may backfire entirely and others may leave you fully missing out on nutrients and experiences. Think about what works best for you before trying any new approach to eating, and use that as your framework for building healthier eating habits that stick.
That sour cherry is pretty sweet when it comes to your health. The results of a study conducted at the University of Michigan found that rats given high-fat foods along with tart cherries ditched nine percent more body fat than those in a control group over just 12 weeks. Cherries are also a good source of antioxidant pigment resveratrol, which has been linked to reductions in belly fat, dementia risk, and lower rates of macular degeneration among the elderly.
I’m in favor of any program that promotes whole foods over hyper-processed fare, and this is one thing the popular diet plans can agree on. Overly processed foods have been linked to weight gain, perhaps because many unhealthy packaged foods (think: potato chips, ice cream, frozen pizza, cookies and the like) lack the fiber found in many whole foods, including vegetables. Fiber helps fill us up, and research suggests that by simply adding more fiber to your menu, you can lose weight nearly as well as a more complicated approach. Consistently choosing whole foods is one way to do this.
The efficacy of Nutrisystem boils down to portion control. A tiny tray of frozen tuna casserole doesn’t provide a lot of nutrients or satisfaction, but if that’s all you have for dinner, you’re keeping calorie count low. We entered in a couple Nutrisystem meals and found their point count to be mid-high, between 7 and 9. Ultimately, tiny amounts of not-wholesome foods doesn’t teach you to eat well.
Use a calorie-needs calculator like LIVESTRONG.COM’s MyPlate app to figure out your daily calorie needs, then subtract calories to create your energy deficit. With an app like MyPlate, you can factor in your weight-loss goal, and it will tell you the exact number of calories (as well has how much fat, protein and carbohydrates) you need to reach that goal.
Packaged meal programs: Many diet plans rely on meal-replacement bars, shakes, or other snack type foods. Still others rely on frozen entrees as a major part of your diet. Ask yourself if you are okay with a bulk of your diet relying on prepackaged snacks, shakes, or frozen meals, or if you prefer the flexibility of cooking your own meals or eating out frequently.
Eat Breakfast Every Day. One habit that's common to many people who have lost weight and kept it off is eating breakfast every day. "Many people think skipping breakfast is a great way to cut calories, but they usually end up eating more throughout the day, says Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, author of The Pocket Idiot's Guide to the New Food Pyramids. "Studies show people who eat breakfast have lower BMIs than breakfast-skippers and perform better, whether at school or in the boardroom." Try a bowl of whole-grain cereal topped with fruit and low-fat dairy for a quick and nutritious start to your day.
Consider a weight loss program’s overall approach to food. What will you be eating every day? Does the meal plan react poorly with your food allergies or intolerances? Does the program cater to your special dietary needs, for example, if you are vegan or diabetic? If most (or even some) of the foods are not enjoyable to you, within your budget or readily available, you're going to find that plan tough to stick with.
"About a year ago, I went to the doctor for my annual exam. I had just turned 30, and the number on the scale was the highest it had ever been, and my cholesterol was high," says Lauren Zarzour, 31. "I joined Weight Watchers and ClassPass. I'm now 30 pounds lighter and have developed a better understanding of nutrition and a passion for the gym. I've learned how much more you value food when every day isn't an indulgence, and how amazing it is to be strong. I wish I would have known how easy it could be, but I don't think it would have been easy if I hadn't had that epiphany." (Related: How to Rekindle Your Weight-Loss Motivation)
What the diet advocate says: ‘It essentially means scaling your carbohydrate intake up and down in accordance with your activity levels,’ explains performance nutritionist Liam Holmes (phnutrition.co.uk). He uses the principles of nutrient timing to get elite athletes and CrossFit enthusiasts to their leanest before competitions. ‘The body works harder when it doesn’t have carbs as fuel, so it learns to become a more efficient burner of the fuel once it is there.’
Probably. If you have overweight or obesity, your risk for many health problems is higher than that of women who are at a normal weight. Even a small amount of weight loss can lower your risk for or even prevent health problems like diabetes and heart disease. Calculate your body mass index (BMI) to see whether you’re at a healthy weight. If you have overweight or obesity, start by making small changes to your eating habits and getting more physical activity.
Cons: Eating this way perpetuates the outdated idea that dietary fat is the enemy of body fat. And it isn’t necessarily better than other diets: One study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared high-protein, normal protein, high-fat, and low-fat diets, and found no significant difference in fat loss among the groups at six months or two years (though all did result in some fat loss). What’s more, while the low-fat group was supposed to keep its intake of the macro at 20%, actual intake was closer to 26-28%, suggesting that sticking to a strict low-fat diet is rather difficult and potentially unrealistic for most.
Your parents weren’t kidding about how important veggies are for a healthy body. What they probably didn’t tell you, however, was that snacking on veggies is also one of the easiest ways to shed unwanted belly fat, too. According to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, opting for non-starchy veggies, like cauliflower, broccoli, and cucumber, as snacks helped overweight kids shed 17 percent of their visceral fat while improving their insulin sensitivity over a five-year period. Think snacking on veggies will leave you hungry? The 20 Most Filling Fruits and Veggies will have your belly satisfied in no time.
Many diet plans rely on meal-replacement shakes, bars or other snack type foods, while others rely on frozen entrees as a major part of your diet, like Medifast and Nutrisystem. Ask yourself if you want the bulk of your diet relying on prepackaged snacks, shakes or frozen meals, or if you prefer the flexibility of cooking your own meals or eating out frequently.
The South Beach Diet started as a book that was originally published in 2003, The South Beach Diet: The Delicious, Doctor-Designed, Foolproof Plan for Fast and Healthy Weight Loss (Est. $9). The book is still considered to be the best way to get information on the basic diet, but there are also many follow up books and cookbooks to supplement the original, as well as South Beach compliant recipes available around the Internet. The official South Beach Diet website is mostly fee-based.
Why it works: Burpees are a full-body workout that don’t require any equipment. You’re targeting multiple muscles as you work, which increases your overall energy expenditure. Plus, capping your workout with a HIIT sprint session will help you reap the benefits of an aerobic workout without having to go on a distance run. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Roussell recommends closely tracking your progress, so you don’t lose motivation. "If you track progress in a detailed way, you'll notice change happening. Measure data points like your chest, waist, arm size, and body-fat percentage with a tape measure—it’s possible that you can stay the same weight, but lose inches off your waist and other areas as your body tones and tightens,” he explains. “Don’t expect to lose two pounds per week every single week until you reach your goal."
Like a marathoner stretching before the big run, eating half a grapefruit before a meal can enhance your body’s fat-burning performance. A study published in the journal Metabolism found that this “warm-up” tactic can help whittle your middle—by up to an inch—in just six weeks! The scientists attribute the powerful effects to the grapefruits’ fat-zapping phytochemicals. The fruit can interact negatively with certain medications, so as long as you get the green-light from your M.D, plan to have half of a grapefruit before your morning meal and add a few segments your starter salads to reap the benefits.
WeightWatchers is one of the best known weight loss programs around. The reason it’s successful is that it’s often viewed as one of the easier programs to follow, helping you to change the way you think about and behave around food. Nothing is off limits, so you can still enjoy your favorite meals and snacks, even a drink of alcohol now and then, meaning...
Ranging from just-juice to just-tea cleanses, these typically short-term plans can be dangerous. “Detoxes and cleanses are usually low in calories, protein, and fiber, all nutrients that our bodies need to function,” says Alissa Rumsey, RD, who is in private practice in New York City. “These plans leave you feeling hungry and cranky, causing a rebound food binge once you stop the detox.”
Keeping a toothbrush handy can do more than polish up that smile (and counter the effects of all that belly-slimming garlic); brushing your teeth throughout the day can also help you ditch that belly fat fast. A study conducted a sample of over 14,000 participants found that brushing after every meal was linked to lower weight. That minty toothpaste flavor not only clashes with virtually every food, brushing may also trigger a Pavlovian response that tells your brain the kitchen’s closed.
What the diet advocate says: 'The classic keto diet was very strict and nowadays what’s become more popular even to use from a clinical scenario is called the Modified Keto diet which is more liberal in protein. And that’s generally what people are following for weight loss and energy. That would be roughly 65-70% fat, 20-30% protein with a very small carb amount 5-10%,’ says Dr Dominic D’agostino, professor of neuropharmacology at the University of South Florida.
If you like eating meat and want to lose weight, you might be tempted to try this recent extreme diet fad that proponents have made some pretty outrageous claims about. One: that eating nothing but meat can cure you of autoimmune diseases. The problem is that there’s no good research to support that notion, or any other health claim, for that matter. Indeed, omitting foods known to be good for you — fruits and veggies among them — can lead to a bunch of unwanted side effects, including constipation and potentially dangerous nutrient deficiencies. Still, since you’re cutting out so many food groups, there’s a decent chance you’ll lose weight, experts say. Regardless of any possible benefits you might see, this restrictive approach is definitely one you’ll want to ask your doc about before you even consider diving in.
Like protein, fiber slows the rate at which your body plows through carb calories so you feel full for longer and maintain steadier blood sugar levels, one reason why research consistently links fiber intake to weight loss. That means fibrous whole grain bread tends to be a better choice than white bread and also explains why fruits, which contain fiber and valuable vitamins in addition to sugar, beat straight-up candy every time.
Remember that in order to keep the pounds off and maintain your happy weight, you need to develop a healthy lifestyle. That means forming a routine and keeping up the habits so you can hang on to them for life. "I forced myself out of bed at 5:30 a.m. four to five times a week to run," says Erin Bowman who has kept off 69 pounds. "My first few were horrible. But I stuck with it, eventually trading my run-walk intervals for steady 45-minute jogs," she says.
The Volumetrics Diet (Est. $10), based upon the well-regarded book "The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet: Smart, Simple, Science-Based Strategies for Losing Weight and Keeping It Off" is a sensible, sustainable approach that draws rave reviews from experts and dieters. You swap high-density foods, which tend to have more calories, for lower-density foods like fruits, vegetables, soups and stews. This swap of foods with more bulk but fewer calories helps fill you up, thus eliminating one big problem with dieting: hunger. It's a top pick in most of our expert roundups, and its author, Barbara Rolls, is a leading researcher in the field of nutrition. Many other diets, most notably Jenny Craig (Est. $20 and up per month, plus food) (covered in our discussion of the best prepackaged diet plans) and Weight Watchers, have adopted, at least in part, the Volumetrics approach to meal planning to help keep hunger at bay.
If you feel like you're making smart moves to lose weight but the scale isn't moving the way you want, your diet may contain some sneaky foods that can lead to bloating, water retention (ahem, salt!), and a higher calorie intake. Veggies, fruits, seeds, nuts, fish, whole grains, and other smart choices loaded with fiber and protein will keep you fuller longer, all while working their nutrient-powered magic. When it comes to healthy eating and weight loss, these plant-based foods loved by registered dietitians have your back.
HCG, or Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, is a hormone produced during pregnancy by the placenta after implantation, and doctors sometimes prescribe it for fertility issues. But this hormone has also gained popularity as a weight-loss supplement — and using it as such can be dangerous. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns against purchasing over-the-counter hCG, as these supplement products are illegal. (34)
Part of slimming down involves a simple, sensible exercise and an easy-to-follow nutrition plan. This full week of meals will take the guesswork out of grocery shopping and prepping with nutritionist-approved breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas. If you have a higher activity level, check out these 1,300-, 1,400-, 1,500-, and 1,800-calorie meal plans as well.
If figuring out what to put into your body is too overwhelming, start with how much you're serving yourself. The easiest way to do this? Swap out your plates for smaller ones, like mother of two Jeanenne Darden did. With the help of this trick, she managed to lose an amazing 22 percent of her body weight, going from 187 pounds to 146 pounds. "I ate normally," she says. "I just ate less of everything." Pro tip: This trick is even easier with some cute portion-control dishware.
"When going out for fast food, I used to get the large-size value meal. Now, I satisfy a craving by ordering just one item: a small order of fries or a six-piece box of chicken nuggets. So far, I've shaved off 16 pounds in seven weeks, and I'm on track to being thinner than my high school self for my 10-year reunion later this year." —Miranda Jarrell, Birmingham, AL
First, eliminate or seriously cut back on the fake foods. When possible, choose real foods instead. Among weight loss tips, this one is absolutely essential. That means an apple instead of apple juice, orange slices instead of something orange-flavored. If you’re craving something, skip the no-fat version that will likely leave you wanting more, and instead measure out a serving instead so you can enjoy the food without going nuts.
Another frontrunner on the U.S. News and World Report 2016 list (it came in at number two in the weight loss category), the HMR Weight Management program is used in over 200 medical facilities around the U.S. Dieters embark on two phases, the first centered around HMR's products (meals, shakes, snacks) and the second transitioning towards a sustainable plan emphasizing fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
Don’t let extra hours lounging in bed stand between you and a flatter belly. While getting enough sleep can help boost your metabolic rate, sleeping in may undo any benefit you’d enjoy from catching a few extra winks. One study reveals that late sleepers who snoozed past 10:45 in the morning ate nearly 250 more calories over the course of the day, despite eating half as many fruits and vegetables as their early bird counterparts. Even worse, they chowed down on more salty, sugary, and trans fat-laden fast food than those who woke up earlier. If you happen to head out of the house early, you’re in for an additional metabolic boost; researchers at Northwestern University have found that people exposed to just a short period of early morning sunlight had lower BMIs than their late-waking counterparts.