Everyone is different. How quickly you burn calories when you are not physically active can be very different from other people based on your specific genes, biology, and past. While scientists know that there are 3,500 calories in one pound, simply eating 500 fewer calories every day for a week (or 3,500 fewer calories in a week) does not always end in losing exactly one pound.
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.
“Every morning I drink a cup of warm water with half a lemon squeezed into it, a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, and a dash of cayenne pepper,” says Michelle Keough. This helps her start her day off on a healthy note while getting her hydrated after a long night. This trick, combined with eating meals built around protein and veggies, helped her lose 20 pounds and keep it off.
At the heart of its flexible system: SmartPoints. SmartPoints derive primarily from number of calories; sugar and saturated fat drive the number up, protein brings it down. Getting a feel for the number of points that different foods typically “cost” in order to stay on your daily “budget” is a great way to cultivate healthy decision-making: A fried chicken wing is 7 points, while 3 oz. of chicken breast without the skin is 2 points. A sugar-laden Coca-Cola is 9 points, but so is a dinner-sized serving of Moroccan chicken rice and potatoes. Some foods are zero points: fruits and vegetables, skinless chicken and turkey breast, seafood, eggs, nonfat yogurt. Being encouraged to eat certain items in this way helps to restructure your mindset around food.
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.
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.
There is always a lot of controversy when it comes to evaluating diets. Many people are firmly in one camp or another over the "right" way to eat. Studies are often contradictory in their findings, and many critics charge that government recommendations are influenced by the food industry. We present the controversies and cross-opinions, when relevant, but we do not take sides; in our opinion the best diet is the one you feel best on and can stick with.
So what can we do with all this knowledge? Tempting as it is to get discouraged, we can actually find it encouraging. Biology is not destiny, after all. “Lifestyle choices are immensely powerful,” Peeke says. And on the heels of any tidal wave of new research is sure to come a trickle of weight-loss advice that can be more customized and more effective to help men and women with their weight-loss obstacles, no matter what they are.
When you eat foods that are low- or no-fat, other ingredients are added in so that the food tastes like its full-fat counterpart. Those extra ingredients don’t add in the nutrients that have been stripped away, however, so you end up craving more because, despite the fact that you just ate, your body is still lacking in the vital nutrients it needs. You end up eating more calories than you would have if you’d just eaten the full-fat product.
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.
The best low-cal diet plan isn't a diet so much as it is a method. CICO stands for "calories in, calories out" and is based on the mathematically sensible principle that as long as you're burning more calories than you're eating, you'll lose weight. All you need to get started is a way to track your calories—there are plenty of apps on the market although a pen and paper works great too—and a food scale to keep you honest about your portion sizes. (Also read this guide on how to safely cut calories to lose weight.) People love the simplicity and straightforwardness of the plan. And while it may not be the fastest way to lose weight, you're guaranteed to have success long term. (Just know that some weight-loss experts actually don't recommend calorie counting.)
How to naturally lose weight fast Being a healthy weight offers many health benefits, as well as a feeling of wellbeing. Fast weight loss is rarely easy, but it is possible to lose weight safely and efficiently by eating a healthful diet and adopting strategies that maximize the body’s potential to burn calories. Learn how to lose weight fast here. Read now
Eat polyunsaturated fats. While saturated fat leads to the body's retention of visceral fat, causing abdominal girth and excessive weight gain, studies have shown that a diet high in polyunsaturated fat helps promote the production of muscle mass instead of body fat. Polyunsaturated fats can also help reduce cholesterol levels in the body, lowering the risk of stroke and heart disease. Sources of polyunsaturated fats include:
Fiber works its weight loss magic in multiple ways. It helps you feel fuller, longer so eating fiber-rich foods is the dieting equivalent of working smarter, not harder. Plus, fiber takes a long time to digest, so fiber-rich foods don’t cause spikes in blood sugar that can send your insulin levels soaring. On the other hand, when you eat the so-called bad carbs (the refined or sugary ones that lack fiber), you may wind up with an insulin response that promotes fat storage. The takeaway: More fiber equals less fat storage.
Gabel, K., Hoddy, K. K., Haggerty, N., Song, J., Kroeger, C. M., Trepanowski, J. F., … Varady, K. A. (2018, June 15). Effects of 8-hour time restricted feeding on body weight and metabolic disease risk factors in obese adults: A pilot study. Nutrition and Healthy Aging, 4(4), 345–353. Retrieved from https://content.iospress.com/articles/nutrition-and-healthy-aging/nha170036
Women’s challenge with weight loss also comes down to nature. Nature wants to preserve a woman’s ability to bear children. When you’re in a calorie deficit, it can interfere with your fertility, so your body fights weight loss to prevent jeopardizing your reproductive capacity. So don’t cut more than 1,000 calories a day or eat fewer than 1,200 calories daily.
Satisfying your sweet tooth doesn't require a refined sugar-packed snack. The key is retraining your taste buds to recognize naturally sweet foods, like fruit. "To curb my hankering for treats, I eat mangoes," says Tamyala Ezell, who lost 105 pounds by making over her eating habits and working out three times a week. "They have a natural sweetness that does the trick. Plus, they're low in calories and high in fiber." Another example? "I top berries, nectarines, and cherries with homemade whipped cream, nuts, and dark chocolate," says Goetke.
Ease into running. You might get discouraged if you attempt a jog without building up that type of strength—and this could put a damper on your motivation. "I started walking, and before long, I was running," says Cipriana Cuevas, who lost 60 pounds and eventually completed a half marathon. "Getting lighter made running easier, and, in turn, more fun."
Plus, a 2015 study from the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that for those who have a hard time following a strict diet, simplifying the weight loss approach by just increasing fiber intake can still lead to weight loss. Women should aim for at least 25 grams of fiber per day (based on a 2,000-calorie) diet, according to the most recent U.S. Dietary Guidelines. Not sure where to start? Check out our step-by-step guide to increasing your fiber intake.
This drug is an injected variant of a satiety hormone called GLP-1. It slows down how quickly the stomach empties and tells the brain that you don’t need to eat yet – a great idea for losing weight. As a bonus this drug works fine while one is on the keto diet and it works even better with intermittent fasting – for a rapid weight loss with no hunger.
Although you do want to increase your walking over time, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be working your way up to a more intensive form of cardio like swimming or running. “Moving on to new exercises is not something someone should feel they have to do unless their goals change and a new exercise is needed to support those goals,” says Gagliardi. “Walking alone can be progressed by changing the distance, speed, terrain, and by adding intervals.”
This popular plan recently underwent a rebranding to create a more balanced program, changing its four-phase approach with the help of a science advisory board. The Atkins Diet is still low-carb, but you won't be chowing down on steak and eggs all the time to promote weight loss. Lean protein is still key, but there's more of a spotlight on fiber, fruit, vegetables, and healthy fats.
The authors wanted to compare low-fat vs. low-carb diets, but they also wanted to study genetic and physical makeups that purportedly (their word) could influence how effective each type of diet will be for people. Previous studies had suggested that a difference in a particular genetic sequence could mean that certain people will do better with a low-fat diet. Other studies had suggested that insulin sensitivity may mean that certain people will do better with a low-carb diet.
There’s a large spectrum of where people can fall on a vegetarian diet: For example, vegans consume no animal products, whereas ovo-lacto vegetarians eat both dairy and eggs. The eating style may help with weight loss, suggests a review published in August 2017 in Nutrients, but some vegans and vegetarians may become deficient in specific nutrients, such as calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12, according to an article published in December 2017 in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases. (23,24)
This content is strictly the opinion of Dr. Josh Axe and is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of medical advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Axe nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.
Then, there’s biochemistry. In women, ghrelin — the “I’m hungry” hormone — spikes after a workout, while leptin — which tells the brain ‘I’m full!’ — plummets, according to a 2009 study in the American Journal of Physiology — Regulatory, Integral and Comparable Physiology. Not so in men. So post-workout, women tend to eat more, which puts them at risk to gain weight. Men don’t experience this same hormonal fluctuation.
Why does this popular plan work? For one thing, it pushes wildly healthy staples to the forefront (think: nuts, vegetables, fruit, olive oil). For another, it's simply delicious, thanks to it's focus on fresh, simply prepared dishes like grilled fish with lemon and whole wheat pita with hummus. Science agrees: One meta-review of 16 studies, found the eating M.O. helped those on it lose an average of 8.5 pounds.
Think cooking healthy meals is difficult and time-consuming? Think again. Annie Allen, a postsurgical nurse in Tampa Bay, Florida, let her freezer do half the work for her—and now she's down 52 pounds and runs about 10 races a year. "Frozen vegetables are as nutritious as fresh ones, and in minutes you have half of your meal prepared," she says. These frozen meals are also surprisingly healthy if you don't have time to mix and match one of your own.
Bran muffins sound like a healthy breakfast option—with all that cholesterol-lowering oat bran, right? But the prepackaged ones found at the supermarket aren’t nearly as fresh or healthy as they claim, and they’re almost always oversized, packing in some 300 calories—about the same as a cream-filled doughnut! Many are also loaded with saturated fats butter and oil and contain upwards of 600 grams of sodium. Homemade is key when you’re trying to lose weight, so why not try making your own? While baking definitely does take more time than going to the store, you’ll reap the benefits of all your hard work spent in the kitchen.
"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."
Stress skyrockets your levels of cortisol, often called “the belly fat” hormone because it signals to the body to store fat around your waist. Add the daily stressors of living our modern lifestyle and you can see how cortisol can be constantly coursing through your veins. This perma-stress mode isn’t good for a lot of healthy reasons, your tummy being just one of them, so it’s important to take time every day to de-stress. Yoga, meditation, walking, journaling, doing a hands-on hobby, or playing a musical instrument are all great time-tested methods. (Hint: Know what isn’t? Watching television. The boob tube actually increases your levels of cortisol!)
Eat More Produce. Eating lots of low-calorie, high-volume fruits and vegetables crowds out other foods that are higher in fat and calories. Move the meat off the center of your plate and pile on the vegetables. Or try starting lunch or dinner with a vegetable salad or bowl of broth-based soup, suggests Barbara Rolls, PhD, author of The Volumetrics Eating Plan. The U.S. government's 2005 Dietary Guidelines suggest that adults get 7-13 cups of produce daily. Ward says that's not really so difficult: "Stock your kitchen with plenty of fruits and vegetables and at every meal and snack, include a few servings," she says. "Your diet will be enriched with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, fiber, and if you fill up on super-nutritious produce, you won't be reaching for the cookie jar."