Instead, we've evaluated expert reviews, most notably those published annually at U.S. News and World Report. That publication consults medical professionals who, in turn, consult clinical studies as well as utilizing their own experience and expertise to make their recommendations. We then work our way down to dieter opinions posted on survey sites -- to identify the most nutritionally sound and sustainable weight loss programs. That includes diets, meal-delivery plans, diet books and free, online resources that will help you lose weight and keep it off over the long-term.
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.
Much has been made of the recently published results of the DIETFITS (Diet Intervention Examining the Factors Interacting with Treatment Success) study. Most of the headlines emphasized the fact that the two diets involved — low-fat and low-carb — ended up having the same results across almost all end points studied, from weight loss to lowering blood sugar and cholesterol.
Dairy products contain varying amounts of lactose (milk sugar), which slows down weight loss. What’s more, part of the protein in milk generates a significant insulin response, which can have the same effect. Consequently, cutting back on dairy products may accelerate weight loss. This applies especially to dairy products typically lacking in fat, such as regular milk and various yogurts, but be careful with full-fat dairy such as cream and cheese all the same. And don’t forget whey protein powder, which is pure milk protein.
First, as women near midlife, their ratio of fat to body weight increases rapidly. Second, many women see that new fat mostly around their bellies. This is “visceral fat” and it can change the entire shape of your midsection. Visceral fat cells are like miniature endocrine organs that are especially active, setting off inflammation and increasing insulin resistance. Third, visceral fat gets a huge boost from lifestyle issues like depression and stress, poor sleep, smoking (proven to increase belly fat ), irritability, and drinking fructose-sweetened beverages (leads to more visceral fat and decreases insulin sensitivity).
Verreijen, A. M., Engberink, M. F., Memelink, R. G., van der Plas, S. E., Visser, M., & Weijs, P. J. M. (2017, February 6). Effect of a high protein diet and/or resistance exercise on the preservation of fat free mass during weight loss in overweight and obese older adults: A randomized controlled trial. Nutrition Journal, 16(1), 10. Retrieved from https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12937-017-0229-6
Weight Watchers, The Mayo Clinic Diet, and especially Noom provide a lot of behavior-based support to integrate these good habits. These include learning portions, logging food, and both giving and receiving external support. Nutrisystem doesn’t ask for any behavior changes save for subsisting almost entirely off their pre-packaged, pre-portioned meals.
The most important thing you need to do is to program yourself mentally. Don't use a scale to measure your progress. If you work out with weights, you may gain a few pounds while losing inches around the waist. Instead, use that pair of jeans that you want to fit into again, or a pair that fits you now. You'll see a slight change every few weeks, and that should give you confidence.
Women usually need fewer calories than men, especially as they age. That's because women naturally have less muscle, more body fat, and are usually smaller than men. On average, adult women need between 1,600 and 2,400 calories a day. As you age, you need to take in fewer calories to maintain the same weight. You can also keep your weight healthy by increasing how much physical activity you get.
And some emotional eaters, in an effort to feel better, are prone to reach for foods that will ignite the reward center of the brain, which tend to be the sugary, fatty, salty, hyper-palatable foods that can lead to weight gain, says Pamela Peeke, author of the “The Hunger Fix: The Three-Stage Detox and Recovery Plan for Overeating and Food Addiction.”
It’s true that a caloric deficit—burning more calories per day than you take in—is a requisite of weight loss. But creating a deficit doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t) involve deprivation. That goes for calories, carbs, sugar, fat, or any other commonly demonized nutrient. “No one food is responsible for your weight,” Langer says, explaining that a good vs. bad mentality sets people up for disordered eating and exercise habits. In fact, caloric deprivation increases how the brain responds to food, setting you up for binge-eating down the line, according to research from the Oregon Research Institute.
1 Reference for 5%: Blackburn G. (1995). Effect of degree of weight loss on health benefits. Obesity Research 3: 211S-216S. Reference for 10%: NIH, NHLBI Obesity Education Initiative. Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation, and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults. Available online: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/obesity/ob_gdlns.pdf Cdc-pdf[PDF-1.25MB]External
Almonds, peanuts, walnuts, pistachios — at GH, we're nuts about nuts! People who snack on nuts may have lower abdominal fat than those who munch on carb-based treats, according to a 2015 study in the Journal of the American Heart Association. Nuts are rich in monounsaturated fats, a heart-healthy (and more satisfying) pick than their grain-based counterparts.
Eating too little can be extremely dangerous for your body. According to Medical News Today, having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of under 18.5 can lead to malnutrition, osteoporosis, developmental problems, a weakened immune system, anemia, and chronic fatigue. Healthline reports that the average woman needs about 2000 calories per day to maintain her weight and about 1500 calories to lose one pound of weight per week, though you should consult with your healthcare provider to see what's best for you.
You have to sign up, and they come at a cost -- some higher than others depending upon the program -- but commercial diet programs offer a lot of tools for the dieter. These may include in-person and online support, smartphone and tablet apps, journaling and record-keeping programs specific to the diet, pre-calculated calorie counts, guides for eating out and plenty of proven recipes for any cooking skill level. They also provide the most support, both in person and online.
Similarly, just because snacks like blue chips don’t look like the greasy potato chips you know to avoid, don’t assume they’re a healthier option. “Yes, blue corn contains the antioxidant anthocyanin,” explains certified culinary nutritionist Trudy Stone. “However, much of the good stuff gets baked away during the process of creating the chips that very little nutritional value is left—leaving them not much healthier than your typical tortilla chip.”
Fennel, peppermint, and ginger have all been shown in research studies to have calming effects on the belly. They work by enhancing digestive enzymes so your food gets moved through your system faster. And faster-moving food means a flatter tummy. In addition, peppermint reduces cramping and gas, ginger helps with nausea and inflammation, and fennel is a diuretic to help you stop retaining water.
“There are many diet plans on the market today that promote good health,” says Emily Kyle, RDN, who is in private practice in Rochester, New York. “The key is finding one that does not cause you stress or agony.” Ask yourself questions such as: Would the diet guidelines make you happy? Anxious? Stressed? Are you able to follow them long term? “Factors such as enjoyment, flexibility, and longevity should be strongly considered,” adds Kyle.
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.
“Going public with my weight loss goals helped me lose 91 pounds. I joined the 61 Day Health Challenge, a program sponsored by my employer, the Detroit Medical Center. Suddenly, I was accountable to all of my colleagues, not just myself. And the amount of support I was shown was enough motivation to propel me into a new world of healthy eating and healthy living.” —Mo Minard, 43, MSN, RN, EMT-P, Director of Emergency Services for Detroit Medical Center
“Most people who have been lean their whole lives have a much better understanding of proper portion size than people who are overweight,” says Deborah Riebe, Ph.D., a professor in the department of kinesiology at the University of Rhode Island. “If they go out to eat, they’re much more likely to ask for a doggie bag right away or to leave food on their plate rather than cleaning it up.”
Forget old low-carb diet plans that focused on processed protein bars and shakes. This year, the keto diet got high marks for low carb. Keto, short for "ketogenic," is all about training the body to burn fat for fuel. How? By eating fat—and lots of it. Most keto diets recommend getting at least 70 percent of your daily calories from fat and the rest from protein. The goal is to eat as few carbohydrates as possible. Proponents say it helps them drop weight fast with little or no hunger in addition to perks like more energy and mental clarity. (Interested? Here's everything you need to know about the keto diet.)
Diet plans can be a great resource for people looking to lose weight or streamline their nutrition. When choosing one program over the other, think about the individual foods allowed on the diet—if you must source some ingredients yourself, does this fit into your budget? Do the meals satisfy your preferred tastes, and do they incorporate alternatives for food allergies or sensitivities?
A 2018 study among more than 600 adults who were tracked for a year concluded that while there are different paths to weight loss, the advice to limit added sugars and refined grains, add more veggies to your plate, and eat more whole foods — in other words, focusing on the quality of your diet — is the way to go. People who followed this advice lost weight without worrying about calories.
Packaged meal programs: Many diet plans rely on meal-replacement bars, shakes, or other snack type foods. Still others rely on frozen entrees as a major part of your diet. Ask yourself if you are okay with a 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.
Regardless of how it happens, the direct benefits of weight loss are numerous. Even relatively modest amounts of weight loss can result in positive health benefits. According to a review study by D.J. Goldstein at Indiana University School of Medicine, even if you only lose less than 10% of your body weight, you can see a substantial improvement in markers associated with chronic disease (6).
Stop treating your kitchen like an all-night diner and you’ll stop seeing those unwanted pounds piling onto your frame, too. The results of a study published in Cell Metabolism found that mice who only had access to food during an eight-hour period stayed slim over the course of the study, while those who ate the same number of calories over a 16-hour period gained significantly more weight, particularly around their middle. When you’re finished with dinner at night, shut the fridge and don’t look back until morning — your belly will thank you. When you do head back to the kitchen in the A.M., make sure the 40 Things Healthy Cooks Always Have in Their Kitchen are there waiting for you.
Write down everything you eat this week. People who keep food diaries, according to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, lose an average of 6 pounds (2.75 kg) more than people who don't keep a record of everything that they eat. So force yourself to write down the good, the bad and the ugly. Keep these tips in mind:
Sometimes, you might need an external motivator—like a race or a competition—to keep you on track. After a slow start to her slimdown, Maribel Contreras decided to sign up for a 12-week body transformation contest at her gym. She swapped out her fast-food trips for healthy homemade meals and revved up her workouts, which ultimately helped her win the competition. She now maintains a 77-pounds-lighter frame.
As with many foods, there are healthy versions and ones that make promises they can’t deliver. Some bars that promise “pure protein” have the same nutritional value as a candy bar, so it’s important to research before purchasing. Rather than just counting calories, check out the actual ingredients; is it made up of real food? Skip protein bars for weight loss that include soy in favor of ones that use proteins that include leucine, valine and isoleucine. The protein, plus the fiber and fat, will be what plays a key role in keeping you full throughout the day.
“Under normal conditions, humans absorb only about 80% of the nutrients from the food they eat,” says A. Roberto Frisancho, Ph.D., a weight-loss researcher at the University of Michigan. But, he says, when the body is deprived of nourishment, it becomes a super-efficient machine, pulling what nutrients it can from whatever food is consumed. Start eating again normally and your body may not catch up; instead it will continue to store food as fat.
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?
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.
Many women fall short in their protein intake, according to Precision Nutrition, but getting enough protein can actually help you shed pounds. Protein takes more energy to digest than carbs or fats, so including more of it in your diet actually boosts your metabolism. And protein also provides nutritional support for your workouts, so you can build sleek, lean muscle tissue to get a toned appearance.
Chronic migraines were what first inspired Amanda Tagge to start exercising. “I was hoping to find some relief from my headaches and working out did help but I realized that if I really wanted to feel better I needed to revamp my health habits overall and lose weight,” she says. The more she changed, the better her headaches got and she lost 70 pounds in the process which helped her feel even better. Focusing on all the ways her health was improving kept her going even when the scale wasn’t moving.
Since we can’t spot reduce fat, the only way to ever get those flat abs is to burn body fat overall. For this reason, HIIT workouts, exercises that work multiple muscle groups simultaneously (like push ups, squat thrusters etc.), and weight lifting are going to be the most effective fitness strategies for bringing out your six pack because they are the most metabolic. Hours of cardio and tons of crunches are not the way forward here.
“Once you decide on the method that you’re going use to lose weight, put the blinders on every well-meaning friend or family member who thinks it’s not a good idea. For me, it was raw juicing. Along with a healthy diet, it helped me lose 48 pounds and keep it off for over a year.” —Jennifer Devlin Waller, 48, founder and CEO of Celtic Complexion Luxury Artisan Skincare
If your favorite foods fall into the list of forbidden fruit, you’re even more likely to fall off the wagon. Giancoli gives the example of diets that cut out coffee: “It’s ridiculous. There’s a lot of research that coffee is fine. Coffee’s been redeemed.” The Mayo Clinic goes even further, saying: “Caffeine may slightly boost weight loss or prevent weight gain.”
Diet.com is lauded far and wide for their individualistic approach to dieting. As most legitimate weight-loss plans for women will testify, a cookie-cutter diet is rarely successful as every body type, lifestyle, and individual is different. Diet.com embraces those differences and tailors its healthy weight-loss plans to fit your specific needs. Here’s how it works:
“Exercise should not be used to purge calories,” Albers says. “Instead, to boost your mood to keep you motivated.” The thing is, exercise is great for you and can make you feel awesome. And feeling good about yourself seems to be actually useful in weight-loss efforts. Plus, some research has shown that changes in exercise behavior can lead to changes in eating behavior. “In part, it is neurochemical. Movement and exercise you enjoy boosts your serotonin and dopamine levels, which makes you feel good all the way around,” Albers says.
Chronic stress may increase levels of stress hormones such as cortisol in your body. This can cause increased hunger and result in weight gain. If you’re looking to lose weight, you should review possible ways to decrease or better handle excessive stress in your life. Although this often demands substantial changes, even altering small things – such as posture – may immediately affect your stress hormone levels, and perhaps your weight.