Giancoli also recommends finding a diet that fits in with how you really live. She notes that if you enjoy going out to eat but try to commit to a diet that forbids you from ever going to a restaurant, you’re just going to cheat. “It’s not sustainable… You’re most likely going to have a healthier meal if you’re going to cook yourself, but you’re depriving yourself of that social interaction if you never go out.” To put it another way: Your eating practices shouldn’t isolate you or keep you from having fun.
"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
To start off, aim to do ab work 3 or 4 times a week on non-consecutive days with at least 24 hours of rest in between sessions, says Gagliardi. During those sessions, you can start with simpler moves like crunches, bicycle crunches, and planks. Even though you may only be directly targeting your abs 3 or 4 times a week, you should still be activating your core (aka, tightening your ab muscles) in every workout you do, says Gagliardi.
Companies who offer diet plans should also include interactive and tracking tools for helping clients keep track of their progress. This enables clients to monitor their daily progress and assess the overall success of the diet plan. Tracking tools help clients monitor activities, exercises and calorie intake. Some tools also have reporting features that come with graphs to help individuals get a more detailed look. Some companies also have mobile apps that can monitor your progress and even sync with other fitness tracking devices.
Rather than a long and low-intensity cardio workout, try the HIIT method of cardio: intense, fast-paced intervals that leave you completely exhausted after only a 20- to 30-minute session. This form of cardio training increases the afterburn effect, allowing your body to continue burning calories long after your workout is over. You can rotate between 30 seconds of your favorite exercises, with rest in between, as long as they work different muscle groups—such as squats, push-ups and kettlebell swings.
A similar program, TOPS (Est. $32 per year, plus $5 chapter dues), pairs a wealth of educational material with group meetings in your community, also called "chapters." TOPS, which stands for Take Off Pounds Sensibly, uses The Food Exchange System, which users say is easy to understand and follow. It has categories of foods with similar serving sizes and caloric loads, and it's easy to swap one food for another. You can even purchase exchange cards that give you food options within categories at a glance, as well as a variety of other accessories, such as food prep tools scaled to accurate portion sizes.
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.
The good news is that if you're struggling with your size, reducing your calorie intake and increasing your activity level have been clinically shown to help you lose weight. The bad news is that there are no shortcuts and no short-term fixes. Fad diets, herbal supplements, "fat-burning" pills, and highly restrictive diets don't work for long, if at all, and some may cause more harm than good.