One of the biggest mistakes women make when trying to figure out how to lose belly fat: too many crunches, too little cardio. No matter how toned your abs are, your belly won't look flat until you get rid of the layer of fat on top of them, says Jessica Smith, a certified personal trainer and star of fitness DVDs. For that, you need to rev your calorie burn. Interval training, in which you alternate high-intensity bursts of activity with easier bouts, has been shown to zap more belly fat than steady-paced moderate workouts.
Yasmine Farazian, a professor at an art and design college, can thank Rania Batayneh, M.P.H., author of The One One One Diet, for the easy rule of thumb that helped her shed 50 pounds: At each meal, she made sure to eat one carbohydrate, one protein, and one fat. Finally, Yasmine had the template for making a healthy, well-balanced meal that she needed. "I would have the bun, beef patty, and avocado," she says. "And if I wanted fries, I'd ask for lettuce instead of the bread."
To drop serious lbs, you need the one-two punch of aerobic exercise plus strength training. Resistance helps build and preserve metabolism-boosting lean muscle while burning fat and is especially key when you hit a plateau. Amanda Green lost 15 pounds in two months doing hour-long cardio DVDs, but it wasn't until she started running outside and lifting weights three times a week that she was able to ditch the last 15 of her 30-pound goal.
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."
The meals shown here are "templates" that you can vary any number of ways to please your tastebuds and avoid eating the same old thing every day. Follow them and you'll get between 2,400 and 2,800 calories per day. That should provide plenty of calories for all but the most severely obese, while allowing most guys to lose fat around their middles at a steady pace. (Don't worry about hitting the numbers on the nose every time. If you exceed your fat quota during lunch, for instance, just cut back a little during dinner.)
Lastly, consider how the diet plan can be incorporated into your lifestyle and whether it’s sustainable for you over the long-term. Most weight loss fails because of the dieter’s inability to maintain their commitment. Price, time requirements for meal planning and preparation, satisfaction and flexibility with your lifestyle are therefore essential to your success, no matter which diet plan you choose.
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.
When you have the option to choose between dried fruit and fresh fruit, always opt for the fresh variety. “Dried fruits have a lot of calories and added sugar for very little volume,” says Summer Yule, MS, RDN. “For instance, one cup of raisins (not packed) contains 434 calories and 86 grams of added sugar. By comparison, a cup of grapes contains only 62 calories and 15 grams of sugar. This means that you could eat 7 cups of grapes for the same amount of calories as 1 cup of unpacked raisins.”
You can blame biology for your sweet tooth. We’re hardwired to have a preference for sweets, and this drive is universal and begins early on, according to research on the subject. Sugar makes food taste good, so food companies add it to everything from breads to soups to salad dressings to cereals, yogurts and more. This adds up to way too much sugar!
Trim Portions. If you did nothing else but reduce your portions by 10%-20%, you would lose weight. Most of the portions served both in restaurants and at home are bigger than you need. Pull out the measuring cups to get a handle on your usual portion sizes, and work on paring them down. Get instant portion control by using small bowls, plates, and cups, says Brian Wansink, PhD, author of Mindless Eating. You won't feel deprived because the food will look plentiful on dainty dishware.