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.
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.

Additionally, many women have to face one lifestyle change before getting to another, such as overhauling eating habits before taking on exercise. For example, Michelle DeGennaro got a handle on her diet and soon after found that she was more inclined to exercise. "Feeling lighter on my feet was thrilling, and it gave me the confidence to start walking every day," she says. And as Blanca Valdez noticed, "Eating right made my energy soar, which I channeled into exercise." She has kept off 78 pounds.
Being healthy is really about being at a weight that is right for you. The best way to find out if you are at a healthy weight or if you need to lose or gain weight is to talk to a doctor or dietitian, who can compare your weight with healthy norms to help you set realistic goals. If it turns out that you can benefit from weight loss, then you can follow a few of the simple suggestions listed below to get started.

When Johns Hopkins researchers compared the effects on the heart of losing weight through a low-carbohydrate diet versus a low-fat diet for six months—each containing the same amount of calories—those on a low-carb diet lost an average of 10 pounds more than those on a low-fat diet—28.9 pounds versus 18.7 pounds. An extra benefit of the low-carb diet is that it produced a higher quality of weight loss, Stewart says. With weight loss, fat is reduced, but there is also often a loss of lean tissue (muscle), which is not desirable. On both diets, there was a loss of about 2 to 3 pounds of good lean tissue along with the fat, which means that the fat loss percentage was much higher on the low-carb diet.


The main advantage of the low-carb diet is that it causes you to want to eat less. Even without counting calories most overweight people eat far fewer calories on low carb. Sugar and starch may increase your hunger, while avoiding them may decrease your appetite to an adequate level. If your body wants to have an appropriate number of calories you don’t need to bother counting them. Thus: Calories count, but you don’t need to count them.

Make sure to program your cardio exercise in with your weight training the right way, though — a 2017 study found that performing cardio and weight training workouts on alternate days was far more effective for burning belly fat than stacking the workouts on top of each other in the same session. Put the two together, and watch that unhealthy midsection shrink.
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.
Counseling and community: In-person group meetings typically meet at a community center or business on regular basis. Participants might engage in a group discussion, breakaway groups or one-on-one sessions with other members or program counselors. Some weight loss programs rely on internet-based forums and communities or mobile applications for meal planning, counseling, group interaction and support.
As the weight-loss process varies from person to person, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to dieting. The efficacy of any weight-loss program is dependent upon your commitment to the plan and how well it fits into your lifestyle. This is why it’s important to consider your weight-loss goals and lifestyle parameters before launching into a weight-loss program.
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As funny as it sounds, sleep deprivation may make you fat — and not just because you're susceptible to cases of the late-night munchies (although there's that too). There's tons of research that demonstrates getting less than the desired amount — about 7 hours — of sleep per night can slow down your metabolism. Plus, when you're awake for longer, you're naturally more likely to nosh. So don't skimp on your ZZZs, and you'll be rewarded with an extra edge when it comes to shedding pounds quickly.

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.)


Carbohydrates are considered to be the body's main source of energy and are quickly utilized by the brain and muscles. Carbs come in two forms: simple & complex. Processed and refined sugars are simple carbs, which are digested and absorbed quickly. Complex carbs pack in more nutrients and are digested more slowly, which helps stabilize blood sugar levels.
For even more impressive effects on body composition: aim for exercise forms which elicit a positive hormonal response. This means lifting really heavy things (strength training), or interval training. Such exercise increases levels of the sex hormone testosterone (primarily in men) as well as growth hormone. Not only do greater levels of these hormones increase your muscle mass, but they also decrease your visceral fat (belly fat) in the long term.
Sure, there's your one friend who swears by the Taco Cleanse. And that other friend who ate nothing but broccoli soup for a month and dropped 20 pounds, found the love of her life, and got promoted at work. But before you start blending 80 stalks of broccoli into a cup or crunching your way through a crate of tacos, check out which diets are backed by science. Because don't you want to try one that will do the trick for you?
Belly fat is is different from fat elsewhere in your body. The extra weight some people carry around their waists, arms, and love handles isn’t the same — that’s subcutaneous fat, which sits beneath the skin and is relatively harmless, according to Harvard Medical School. The stuff in your belly, visceral fat, lodges deeper down, around your abdominal organs. It's metabolically active tissue that actually functions like a separate organ, releasing substances into the rest of your body that, in excess, can increase your risk of disease.

You know that recording what you consume is a good way to keep your weight in check, but Brittany Hicks, who dropped 110 pounds in college, didn't only write down what she ate—she also wrote down why she was eating it. "I realized I'd been using food to cope with stress," she says. "Just noticing that helped me do it less." Make sure you're not making these food journal mistakes so you can reap the rewards of eating and jotting, too.


Ultimately, you need to pick a healthy eating plan you can stick to, Stewart says. The benefit of a low-carb approach is that it simply involves learning better food choices—no calorie-counting is necessary. In general, a low-carb way of eating shifts your intake away from problem foods—those high in carbs and sugar and without much fiber, like bread, bagels and sodas—and toward high-fiber or high-protein choices, like vegetables, beans and healthy meats.
Instead of subjecting yourself to another endless workout, crank up the intensity and you’ll see results faster than you ever thought possible. The results of a study conducted at McMaster University in Ontario reveal that adult male study subjects who exercised intensely for a single minute had equivalent respiratory and metabolic changes to those who worked out at a slower pace for close to an hour, so if you want to burn through that belly fat, say so long to slow and steady.

While you may be tempted to eat as few calories as possible to lose weight more quickly, as mentioned above, it’s important that you don’t cut more than 1,000 calories from your daily diet or eat fewer than 1,200 calories a day — even if that means your energy deficit is smaller than 1,000 calories. Eat too little and you’ll slow down your metabolism and put yourself on track to regain the weight — often with a few extra pounds.
But the information that researchers are unearthing about the differences in the way that men and women lose weight inspires hope that the next generation of weight-loss advice will be more tailored and effective than the generic tips that have gotten Americans no closer to sliding into their dream jeans. (More than a quarter of Americans are obese, according to a May Gallup poll, a number that has been ticking upward for years). Although experts have long insisted that losing weight is simply a matter of burning more calories than you consume, they now say that it’s much more complicated than that.
Many people struggle with weight loss issues. Losing belly fat in particular is about more than just aesthetics: visceral fat, the kind of fat that tends to settle around the midsection, can cause an increase in your body's production of stress hormones that can affect your body's insulin production. As a result, excess belly fat can lead to serious complications like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.[1] There is no way to target belly fat, but diet and exercise will eventually burn off belly fat. Knowing how to take the first step can help you feel better and get you on the road to a healthier, more active lifestyle.

That’s because it theoretically causes a mild ketosis (yep, the basis of the keto diet), which is a fat-burning state that should make you feel less hungry. The key in being successful with a low-carb diet (especially if you’re used to a more high-carb lifestyle) is to compensate for those lost carbs with protein-rich foods, says Dr. Cheskin. That way, your volume of food stays the same, but you’re doing it healthfully rather than in a way that exacerbates your weight gain.
The amount you move around and how often you do it will change during your life, but you may not notice it happening. Did you used to play sports, dance a lot, take long walks with your dog, or run around every day after your kids? If you’re not doing any of those things now, or exercising at all, your body won’t burn calories or use energy in the same way and your weight will change.
Regardless of where you stand, the fact is that the Paleo way of eating is becoming increasingly popular, as are "nutritional reset" programs based upon Paleo, such as the Primal Blueprint 21-day Challenge hosted by Marks Daily Apple, or the Whole30 program, popularized by the New York Times bestseller, It Starts with Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways (Est. $15).
The plan promotes long-lasting, sustainable changes, and undoubtedly a bounty of research backs this up. In fact, one December 2013 study in the American Journal of Medicine shows that people following Weight Watchers were close to nine times more likely to lose 10 percent of their body weight, compared to people following a self-help diet plan. (20)
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.
“[These tools’] potential benefit is awareness,” Fear says. “Knowledge can be power, but these things can be counterproductive when they simply create alarm without any clear course of action to take. Seeing your weight rise doesn't necessarily provide you with any action steps you can take. It's just upsetting, like a fire alarm going off with no exit routes identified.” Langer notes that “in people who have a history of or are at risk for an eating disorder or compulsiveness, tracking anything should be off limits.”
Figure out how many calories you should eat each day to lose weight. Losing weight isn't all about weight. The more aware you are of the calories in the food you eat, the more easily you'll be able to eat the right amount of food and do the right amount of exercise to drop a couple of pounds. Take your food journal and look up each item individually. Keep a running tally and add up your calorie total for the day.
While it will help, it’s not going to eliminate your sleep deprivation. That apart, doing this will throw off your natural sleep-wake cycle so it could end up doing more harm than good. Not only can the right food aid sleep, it works the other way too — better sleep promotes weight loss. Lack of sleep, however, has been found to stimulate production of hunger hormone ghrelin, which makes us overeat.
“It can take 12 minutes or longer for the signal that you’ve started to eat to make its way to your brain,” says Mark S. Gold, M.D., of the McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Florida. Quick tips: Sip some water between every bite of food you eat, or at least eat more meals with friends or family members. You’ll be more likely to talk and therefore to eat more slowly.
You can’t skimp on sleep. Losing weight for good calls for a total lifestyle change -- and that includes getting more Zs. Missing the recommended seven to nine hours of shut-eye has been linked repeatedly with increased obesity rates. “When you don’t sleep enough, it certainly affects your brain,” explained Dr. Arad. “What we’ve learned is that people who don’t sleep well are making poor choices — eating more unhealthy diets, and they are obviously more fatigued, so they become less physically active.” In fact, people who sleep six hours or fewer per night on average consume about 300 extra calories the following day.
Not much of a coffee drinker? Tea is also a natural diuretic, and types of herbal tea such as dandelion or fennel root can also lend a hand. In fact: When a recent study compared the metabolic effect of green tea (in extract) with that of a placebo, researchers found that the green-tea drinkers burned about 70 additional calories in a 24-hour period.
Known as the carb-hating diet, the South Beach diet is a weight-loss food plan centered around low-carbohydrate meals. It’s important to note that the South Beach Diet doesn’t forbid carbohydrates, unlike many fad diets out there, instead, this healthy weight-loss system understands the intrinsic benefits of healthy carbs and builds them into your meal plans to maximize those strengths for optimal health and weight loss.
The Paleo Diet (Free) is not intended to be a weight loss diet, per se, but rather a way of eating that is meant to be permanent. In many Paleo protocols, there is a strong emphasis on grass-fed or organic foods, which can be pricey and may not be readily available to some, but other programs recommend that you just purchase the highest quality of food you can afford. Exercise is strongly encouraged. You don't count calories; you just eat until you're satiated.

Here’s a shocker: When a group of U.K. researchers told 30 women to avoid chocolate, then packed them into a room filled with the stuff; the women were much more likely to sneak a bite than individuals who hadn’t been given the order. Blame the allure of the forbidden: The more you tell yourself you can’t eat something you love, the more you’re going to want it.
"If your diet consists of lots of sports drinks, sugar-sweetened drinks like fizzy pop and flavoured waters, or sugary foods like chocolate and cakes, it will make losing weight harder. While whole fruits and vegetables are undoubtedly good for you, they can also sometimes cause weight gain if you eat too much, as they have high levels of natural sugars in them. Low-fat food options might have high amounts of added sugar in there too, so make sure to check the food label.
Carbohydrates are considered to be the body's main source of energy and are quickly utilized by the brain and muscles. Carbs come in two forms: simple & complex. Processed and refined sugars are simple carbs, which are digested and absorbed quickly. Complex carbs pack in more nutrients and are digested more slowly, which helps stabilize blood sugar levels.

Because men are larger than women on average and have more muscle to support, men can usually eat more calories while still losing weight, compared to women. Portion control may be especially important for women. In one study, women who ate smaller portions of food (and less food overall) had lower BMIs than women who limited or avoided a certain type of food.2 This approach seems to work better for women than men.3
Yes. We just told you to go hard to burn off unwanted belly fat—but like we mentioned, don’t overdo it. Going hard all the time stresses your body and leaves you chronically inflamed, which can backfire by contributing to belly-fat storage. Cap the intensity to a couple times a week and take the rest of your weekly rides at a controlled, comfortable pace.
“I learned how to cook from scratch and experiment with flavors. The biggest change my husband Mark and I made was planning our meals for the week on Sundays. We also rely on food optimizing—using vegetables to bulk up our meals but still keep them low-calorie. It helped me lose 52 pounds and 8 dress sizes, while Mark lost 110 pounds.” —Amanda Gibbon, 46
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.
On the physiological side of things, it’s important to realize that the vast majority of your daily caloric burn comes down to just basic functions like breathing and keeping your heart beating, Moore says. Called your basal metabolic rate (BMR), your muscle does play a role in setting it, but extra muscle isn’t going to turn you into a supercharged calorie-torching machine. And even though exercise does burn calories, that total is often significantly less than what we expect and would need to create a large daily caloric deficit, he says.
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)
A diet plan is one step towards achieving a healthy lifestyle. Fitness and health guidelines give information on how exercise and living an active lifestyle could complement the benefits of eating healthy. Be sure to check important guides such as eating out, lifestyle tips, portion control guides, clinical research and exercise tips to achieve the maximum benefits of enrolling in a diet program.
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!)
The plan promotes long-lasting, sustainable changes, and undoubtedly a bounty of research backs this up. In fact, one December 2013 study in the American Journal of Medicine shows that people following Weight Watchers were close to nine times more likely to lose 10 percent of their body weight, compared to people following a self-help diet plan. (20)

We all get by with a little help from our friends, and this is especially true of people who have lost weight and kept it off. In one study among women who went through a 12-week weight loss program, 74 percent of them maintained their loss or lost more in the three years after the program ended. Those who reported having a support system around eating well were more likely to keep the weight off. (Support around exercise didn’t seem to matter.) Another study found that the type of support you receive matters, too. Your friend who’s cheering you on isn’t likely to be as helpful as your friend who will pass on the fries when you’re trying to eat well. When you’re going out to eat, join friends who will support your healthy eating goals and go to a museum or movie with those who are less likely to be in it with you. Your pals who are in the trenches with you are more likely to hold you accountable, and that’s going to help you in the long run.
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.

Getting a little more protein in your diet may be the way to go when you're trying to lose weight, according to a 2011 study published in The Journals of Gerontology. This study found that women over 50 lost more weight with a higher protein intake than with a higher carb intake eating the same number of calories. The researchers concluded that the improved weight loss was due to the preservation of lean body mass in the higher protein group. It's important to note, however, that the 2011 study increased protein intake using a whey protein supplement. Examples of weight-loss programs that are higher in protein include Weight Watchers, with 26 percent of calories from protein; the Atkins Diet, with 29 percent of calories from protein; and the South Beach Diet, with 30 percent of calories from protein.

Both men and women are prone to an all-or-nothing approach to weight loss (for example, after a binge, figuring, “Well, I blew it. I might as well go all out!”). But Sass says she sees more women take extreme measures to get back on track, with tactics such as juice cleanses, skipping meals or extreme dieting — not the most sustainable methods. “Most but not all men tend to just try to get back on track with the original plan, or build in a little more exercise,” she says. That is, they take a more balanced approach to getting back on track, just trying to regroup and get back on the diet, or build in a little more exercise.
Try not to eat when you feel upset or bored — find something else to do instead (a walk around the block or a trip to the gym are good alternatives). Many people find it's helpful to keep a diary of what they eat and when and what they are feeling. When you have to write it down, you might think twice before eating cookies. Reviewing the diary later can also help them identify the emotions they have when they overeat.

The Mayo Clinic Diet is designed to help you lose up to 6 to 10 pounds (2.7 to 4.5 kilograms) during the initial two-week phase. After that, you transition into the second phase, where you continue to lose 1 to 2 pounds (0.5 to 1 kilogram) a week until you reach your goal weight. By continuing the lifelong habits that you've learned, you can then maintain your goal weight for the rest of your life.


So how does this work? A quick run-through: The first tip was to eat low carb. This is because a low-carb diet lowers your levels of the fat-storing hormone insulin, allowing your fat deposits to shrink and release their stored energy. This tends to cause you to want to consume fewer calories than you expend – without hunger – and lose weight. Several of the tips mentioned above are about fine-tuning your diet to better this effect.
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