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.
The fad military diet consists of low-calorie, odd food pairings such as bun-less hot dogs with banana, carrots, and broccoli. “Any diet like the military diet that severely limits the amount of calories you consume or eliminates one or more entire food groups puts any individual at risk for nutrient deficiencies,” says Kyle. “This can be more harmful than holding onto those 10 extra lb you’re trying to lose.” (32)
That doesn’t mean you need to ditch the scale, though. Studies continue to point to the fact that monitoring your weight can be an effective strategy for losing weight and discouraging weight gain (another healthy pursuit) provided it doesn’t cause any emotional distress. Just don’t get married to a number on the scale or get caught up in a set number of pounds you’d like to lose. Instead, settle on how you’d like to feel. Maybe you’d like to be more energetic or perhaps you’d like to manage your health without the need for medications. You can accomplish these goals without losing much weight.
Make lunch at home and bring it to work. That way, you know of every single ingredient that's going into your meal. Not to mention it'll save you the cost of buying a lunch. Cleveland Clinic recommends making sure one half of your plate is filled with leafy greens, one quarter is lean meat, and the other quarter is whole grains like brown rice or barley.
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.
And that raises the most important point: Thinking about exercise as a way to work off food or simply allow you to eat sets up a host of unhealthy and unhelpful thought patterns and habits around food and exercise. For instance, one 2013 research review found that, not only did people generally overestimate how many calories exercise burned—when they did work out, they ramped up their food intake. And if you overeat following exercise, any caloric deficit created during your workout can become a wash. And related: thinking of food as a reward and exercise as a punishment is likely to sabotage your weight loss efforts anyway.
“My dad is like a food-pushing wizard, he’s always pulling stuff out of his pockets or showing up with delicious food,” says Mary Mock. While the family tradition of surprise sweets was fun, when it came time to lose weight, she knew she had to put a stop to all that temptation. “At first, he seemed hurt when I kept saying no but when I explained it was for my health, he got on board. Sometimes I still have to remind him though!” she says.
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."
Carbs aren’t evil -- but sugar might be. “The concept of carbohydrates has really gotten such a bad reputation, and we need to understand that there are complex carbohydrates and ancient grains that can really help us not only lose weight, but increase satiety so we stay full longer and want to eat less. It actually decreases the cholesterol and stabilizes the blood sugar, and all of these things are a really important part of a weight loss program,” said Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, an American Heart Association volunteer medical expert. These “good” carbs include whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans; the refined carbs (including refined grains and starches like white bread, white rice, pasta and mashed potatoes) should be consumed in limited amounts. “They are high in simple sugars, and that’s what adds weight,” said Dr. Steinbaum.
Lose fat with high-intensity interval training (HIIT). If you're trying to lose weight fast, HIIT training can super-charge your metabolism for upwards of 24 hours after exercising. This means your body will continue burning calories long after you've ended your workout. HIIT burns more calories in less time than steady-state cardio. In one study, researchers looked at two groups, one running for 30 to 60 minutes three times per week, the other doing four to six 30-second treadmill sprints, resting for four to six minutes between each sprint. After six weeks, it was found that the group doing HIIT training lost more weight.
Physical activity helps burn abdominal fat. “One of the biggest benefits of exercise is that you get a lot of bang for your buck on body composition,” Stewart says. Exercise seems to work off belly fat in particular because it reduces circulating levels of insulin—which would otherwise signal the body to hang on to fat—and causes the liver to use up fatty acids, especially those nearby visceral fat deposits, he says.
After a cancer diagnosis sent her normally healthy lifestyle off-course, flight attendant Tracey Z. Dickson was heavier than she had ever been. When she was declared cancer-free, she hopped back on the treadmill and got her diet in order—and went from 158 pounds to 117. One of her diet secrets? "Instead of dessert, I'll have a baked sweet potato sprinkled with cinnamon," she says. "It tastes like I'm eating sweet potato pie, but for a ton less calories." For more healthy ideas on how to get your sugar fix, check out these desserts with 150 calories (or less).
That’s because women tend to store more temporary fat in their bellies. “The fat stores are gained and lost,” says Lawrence Cheskin, MD, chair of the department of nutrition and food studies at George Mason University and director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center. “By and large, belly fat comes off easier in the sense that it comes off first. That’s where a good amount of the fat is lost from.”
“Don’t bring home foods you don’t want to snack on. If others in the house like treats, buy ones you dislike to avoid temptation. And keep your healthier foods—including veggies and high-protein snacks—front and center in the pantry, fridge, and freezer. When it came to losing 100 pounds, this is one of the things that helped me the most.” —Jamie Gold, 56, certified kitchen designer and author of New Bathroom Idea Book
In reality, a never-ending list of factors—including (yes) food and exercise, but also sleep, stress management, hormone health, self-esteem, past weights, and those pesky genetics—influence weight loss as well as the weight your body naturally gravitates toward at a given time in your life, Abby Langer, R.D., a Toronto-based dietitian and nutrition counselor, tells SELF. Of course, maintaining a caloric deficit drives weight loss, but so much more goes into a successful weight-loss effort than the math of calories in and calories out.
Little treats keep you from feeling deprived, so every day, allow yourself a bit of something you love (aim for 150 calories each). This kind of moderation is the difference between a "diet" and a lifestyle you can stick with forever. For salon owner Caitlin Gallagher, who lost 125 pounds, that meant replacing her nightly bowl of ice cream with a square of chocolate; social worker Brittany Hicks, who lost 100 pounds, started baking mini versions of her favorite pies.
In a new study, Stanford University researchers put more than 600 overweight adults on either a healthy low-fat or low-carb diet. It turns out, participants had similar levels of weight loss success on each plan. Researchers looked for clues (such as insulin levels and gene patterns) to see if there are any factors that might make someone more successful on either diet, but after combing through the data, they were not able to make any connections. Since it may take years before scientists discover individual traits that could lead to more success on one plan compared to another, for now, we can learn a lot — and lose a lot! — by recognizing the dieting advice that all experts agree on.
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."