“Instead of using a heavy salad dressing, try a drizzle of thick balsamic glaze along with a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice” Taub-Dix says. “By cutting the fat in your diet, you can not only save calories, but you can also leave room for healthier fats like avocado or nuts, which are toppings you can actually chew and enjoy with greater satisfaction.”
Pros: Technically a subtype of low-carb diet, the keto diet is unique: By depriving your body of carbohydrates, you not only force your body to become fat-adapted, but also, if you keep protein low as well, elevate your levels of ketone bodies, which is basically a sign your body is running on fat. The keto diet puts you in a unique metabolic state called ketosis wherein your brain burns ketones instead of glucose—and, in doing so, supposedly leads to clearer thinking. Physically, eating such a high amount of fat significantly increases your body’s ability to burn body fat, according to the study analysis. Research also shows keto athletes have a higher VO2 max, and are able to lose fat without losing strength or power.
Pros: The most consistently beneficial of all diets here, study after study shows that upping your protein intake can help significantly reduce body fat and build lean muscle. For example: Guys who ran sprint intervals, did resistance training, and ate a diet of 2.4g of protein per kg of bodyweight per day (roughly 1g per lb of bodyweight) gained 1.2kg of lean muscle and lost almost 5kg of fat in just four weeks, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. If you cut calories but eat high protein, the macro can help prevent your metabolism from plummeting and help keep hunger at bay, since protein is so satiating. The study analysis also confirmed that eating a ton of protein stuff doesn’t cause you to gain weight or harm any internal systems, despite myths.
Here’s the full shopping list for exactly what to buy, and check to make sure you have a few pantry staples on hand. Morris recommends starting on a weekend, so you can make a big pot of veggie soup, and give your body a chance to adjust before diving into a busy week. Her plan cuts carbs for the first couple of days, before slowly reintroducing whole grains. And if you want to mix it up, there are lots more options for healthy snacks, just make sure to get a serving of fruit or vegetables, along with protein.
The HMR Program uses meal replacements – think low-calorie shakes, meals, nutrition bars and hot cereal – in phases, coaching from experts, physical activity and an emphasis on fruits and vegetables to help dieters shed pounds fast. While last year the diet shared the No. 1 ranking in this category with the Biggest Loser diet, this year it has the top spot to itself. "This diet makes it easy to lose weight fast and would likely be effective for someone who wants to lose weight for a specific event," one expert said. "However, as far as long-term healthy-habit-forming, this diet falls short" in part because dieters don't learn to make their own healthy food choices.
For strength training, working with a trainer for a session or two can be helpful to acquaint yourself with dumbbells and the types of exercises you can do, but you don’t even need to use extra weight. One of my favorite weight loss tips for women is to add bodyweight exercises like push-ups and lunges to your workouts; they’re super effective and you can do them anywhere. Pilates and more vigorous yoga classes are a great option, too.
Obviously, it’s still possible to lose weight on any diet – just eat fewer calories than you burn, right? The problem with this simplistic advice is that it ignores the elephant in the room: Hunger. Most people don’t like to “just eat less”, i.e. being hungry forever. That’s dieting for masochists. Sooner or later, a normal person will give up and eat, hence the prevalence of “yo-yo dieting”.
It's not just what you eat that can make you pack on pounds—it's also how much. Before dropping 102 pounds, DeGennaro did not have a grip on proper serving sizes. "Sitting down to dinner with my husband and three kids, I'd scarf down mounds of pasta and endless rolls," she says. "Adjusting to smaller portions was tricky at first; I'd round out meals with extra veggies to keep from getting hungry."
"I've worked out regularly for over three years now and for the first two and a half years, my weight didn't move," says Tara Bird, 38. "It wasn't until I consistently started tracking everything that I ate that I saw the scale start to go down. I figured out what my maintenance calories were and created a deficit of 300 to 400 calories. Progress has been slow, but I've lost 23 pounds in the last year. Ideally, I would like to lose another 15 pounds, but I'm happy with my progress. Slow and steady!"
DASH stands for "dietary approach to stop hypertension" and was created by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as a way to help reverse national trends of obesity and heart disease. Scientists combed through decades of research to come up with an expert-backed list of diet tips, along with a prescription for exercise. And it worked: The DASH diet has topped nearly every diet list for nearly a decade. Doctors particularly recommend it for people looking to lower high blood pressure, reverse diabetes, and lower their risk of heart disease. (Here's the basic list of DASH diet-approved foods.)
If you want to shrink your gut, get enough protein in your diet. In this case, about 25 percent of calories. Why? For starters, protein makes you feel full and helps you build muscle (which increases metabolism, thereby making it easier to lose weight). Just as important, high-protein diets have been shown to be the best way of attacking belly fat. In one study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, Danish researchers put 65 people on either a 12 percent protein diet or a 25 percent protein diet. The low-protein dieters lost an average of 11 pounds, which isn't bad. But the high-protein subjects lost an average of 20 pounds--including twice as much abdominal fat as the low-protein group.
As with many foods, there are healthy versions and ones that make promises they can’t deliver. Some bars that promise “pure protein” have the same nutritional value as a candy bar, so it’s important to research before purchasing. Rather than just counting calories, check out the actual ingredients; is it made up of real food? Skip protein bars for weight loss that include soy in favor of ones that use proteins that include leucine, valine and isoleucine. The protein, plus the fiber and fat, will be what plays a key role in keeping you full throughout the day.
Losing weight is no small feat—it often requires a complete lifestyle overhaul, and with so much information out there, it can be tough to know what strategy might work for you. And to top it all off, all the weight loss myths that just will not die threaten to throw you off track. That's why it's helpful to know what has worked for real people—in their own words. Here, we've gathered advice from 28 women who have lost between 26 and 174 pounds—and kept that weight off for good.
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.
"Crash diets (dramatically cutting down how much you eat) might help you to lose a few pounds at first, but they’re hard to sustain and won’t help you keep the weight off. It might seem like a quick and easy option, but eating too few calories can actually do more harm than good. If your calorie intake dips too low, your body could go into starvation mode. This will slow down your metabolism, making it harder for your body to lose weight. Make sensible, healthy changes to your lifestyle that you can stick to and avoid the fad diets."