"Your specific [weight loss] program may differ from someone else’s based on climate, geography, heredity, the quality of the food you’re buying, the volume in which you’re eating that food, and so much more. A lot people take advice that doesn’t honor themselves. What works for me is not going to work for you. It’s just not. So really, it’s [about] having an honest look at who you are, what your tendencies and triggers are, and how you can build a program that revolves around that.”
The color of your plate may seem like the last thing you'd need to consider when it comes to losing weight, but it can play a surprisingly big role in how much you eat, according to a 2012 Cornell University study. Researchers discovered that when the food and plate color have low color contrast (like pasta with red sauce on a red plate), diners served themselves 22% more from a buffet than when there was a higher color contrast (like pasta with red sauce on a white plate).
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A single serving of beer, wine, or spirits clocks in at about 125 calories, and it's obvious that those calories can add up if you overindulge. Thing is, it doesn't end there. Ever notice that during a night of drinking, a plate of chicken wings or nachos suddenly appears in front of you? A recent study published in Obesity helps explain why. Researchers found that alcohol makes women's brains more sensitive to the smell of food, leading them to eat more. 

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The sad truth is that conventional ideas – eat less, run more – do not work long term. Counting calories, exercising for hours every day and trying to ignore your hunger? That’s needless suffering and it wastes your time and precious willpower. It’s weight loss for masochists. Eventually almost everyone gives up. That’s why we have an obesity epidemic. Fortunately there’s a better way.


You're probably eating more sugar than you realize. The average person takes in 22 teaspoons of sugar a day—more than three times the amount suggested by the American Heart Association. The white stuff is added to foods that don't even taste sweet, such as breads, condiments, and sauces. Read food labels carefully: ingredients are listed in the order of how much is in the food, so if sugar is near the top, put it back on the shelf.
Early-morning exercise stokes your metabolism and helps you burn more calories for the rest of the day. In fact, if you can get in 45 minutes, then Appalachian State University research shows you could experience a metabolic spike that torches an additional 190 calories over the rest of the day. Try a circuit of the basics like jumping jacks, squats, and push-ups. And for mornings you really don't have any time, try this 2-minute fat-burner.

If you want to reach a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day as suggested by the study, you need to track your food intake, especially at the beginning of your program. Otherwise, you'll never know if you are reaching your target on a regular basis. And consistency is key when you're trying to slim down. So how do you count calories? Some dieters use a smartphone app, but others use a paper journal to plan meals and to record calorie intake. Use the method that works best for you. Eventually, you may be able to ditch the numbers and use a more simple approach, like portion control. But keeping track of calories at the beginning of your program is likely to be helpful.


Scrolling through your social media one last time may be most people’s pre-bed ritual, but it can seriously mess with your sleep cycle. The light from your screen can suppress melatonin, the hormone that controls sleep. And getting plenty of shut-eye is important for your waistline; a study published in the journal Sleep found that people who didn’t get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep a night were more at risk for weight gain. Try to put your phone away 20 minutes before your bedtime to avoid the light distraction.


Capsaicin, the compound in chili peppers that makes them hot, may speed up your metabolism, according to a study in Physiology & Behavior. Researchers say capsaicin activates your sympathetic nervous system, and that the effect on metabolism can last for more than 4 hours after eating. For recipe ideas, check out this beginner's guide to herbs and spices.
Yes, you can pump iron without bulking up, and no, you will not look awkward. Lifting weights stokes your metabolism for a few days after your workout—meaning you continue burning calories long after you leave the weight room. One study found that strength training 30 to 40 minutes twice a week for 4 months, could increase an average woman's resting metabolism by 100 calories a day.
Most likely, though, you've just hit a plateau, which is a fancy way of saying your body has adjusted to your lower calorie intake. To bust out of it, you need to change your workout by exercising longer or more intensely. "Cutting calories could also work, but it's not advisable to consume fewer than 1,500 calories a day because it's extremely difficult to fulfill all your nutrient needs," Sass says.
To prep his patients for success, Dr. Seltzer tells them to plan around a large evening meal by eating a lighter breakfast and lunch—NBD since most people who eat a meal before bed tend to wake up feeling relatively full, he says. Research suggests balanced bedtime meals may also promote steady next-day blood sugar levels, which also helps with appetite regulation.
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.
Instead of piling everything on one plate, bring food to the table in individual courses. For the first two courses, bring out soup or veggies such as a green salad or the most filling fruits and vegetables. By the time you get to the more calorie-dense foods, like meat and dessert, you’ll be eating less or may already be full. Nothing wrong with leftovers!
Even if you do meet your goal, it's nearly impossible to keep off the weight over the long term: "The amount of restriction required [to maintain that number] will make you so hungry that you’ll eat everything in sight—it’s survival instinct," Dr. Seltzer says. And since calorie restriction gradually slows your metabolism, your body will be less prepared to burn the foods you binge on, he adds. That could mean gaining more pounds than you lost in the first place.

Choose Liquid Calories Wisely. Sweetened drinks pile on the calories, but don't reduce hunger like solid foods do. Satisfy your thirst with water, sparkling water with citrus, skim or low-fat milk, or small portions of 100% fruit juice. Try a glass of nutritious and low-calorie vegetable juice to hold you over if you get hungry between meals. Be careful of alcohol calories, which add up quickly. If you tend to drink a glass or two of wine or a cocktail on most days, limiting alcohol to the weekends can be a huge calorie saver.
One of the easiest ways to burn some extra calories is to get up from your chair at work; standing burns 50 more calories per hour than sitting, according to a British study. If you are lucky enough to have a standing desk, make sure you utilize it. If not, you can easily make your own by stacking books or boxes on your desk and standing up to work. At the very least, make sure you’re taking a break every hour to stand up and stretch, and possibly go for a walk around the office. Every bit of movement counts!
Make sure that everything you're eating is whole — as in nothing processed or packaged. Since salt is a preservative, these are the foods that are highest in sodium — something to keep in mind when planning your meals. Plan on making sure that all items you choose are fresh. That means filling up on fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean protein.

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)
The study began with 609 relatively healthy overweight and obese people, and 481 completed the whole year. For the first month, everyone did what they usually did. Then, for the next eight weeks, the low-fat group reduced their total fat intake to 20 grams per day, and the low-carb group reduced their total carbohydrate intake to 20 grams per day. These are incredibly restricted amounts, considering that there are 26 grams of carbs in the yogurt drink I’m enjoying as I write this, and 21 grams of fat in my half of the dark chocolate bar my husband and I split for dessert last night.
The MIND—a mix of DASH and the Mediterranean diet—is supposed to help protect the brain and prevent Alzheimer’s disease, though much more research is needed to determine whether it really helps curb brain decline. People are encouraged to eat from 10 brain-healthy food groups: green leafy vegetables, all other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil and wine. They are also told to avoid foods from five food groups: red meats, butter and stick margarine, cheese, sweets and fried or fast food.
Think of each almond as a natural weight-loss pill. A study of overweight and obese adults found that, combined with a calorie-restricted diet, consuming a little more than a quarter cup of the nuts can decrease weight more effectively than a snack comprised of complex carbohydrates and safflower oil—after just two weeks! (And after 24 weeks, those who ate the nuts experienced a 62% greater reduction in weight and BMI!) For optimal results, eat your daily serving before you hit the gym. A study printed in The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that almonds, rich in the amino acid L-arginine, can actually help you burn more fat and carbs during workouts. Fill up, but don’t fill out: Use these Eat This, Not That!-recommended 10 Daily Habits That Blast Belly Fat.
Fiber expands in your stomach and also takes time to digest, both of which help keep you feeling full for longer. Good sources include whole grains, veggies, and whole fruit (not juiced). Healthy fats like olive and nut oils—in moderation—improve flavor, give you energy, and help your body use certain nutrients. Alexandra Shipper added healthy fats, such as avocado, to protein sources like eggs and fish on her way to dropping 55 pounds.
If you dislike cooking, abhor making food choices, or simply want low-calorie options shipped to your door, Nutrisystem might slot into your life. But it can get expensive, and food selection and flavor are hit-or-miss. Mostly miss. “It’s enough substance to call it a meal, but the texture of every ingredient was lacking,” our tester reported without enthusiasm.
Protein is naturally filling and takes longer to digest than simple carbohydrates. When people drank a whey protein drink, they lost about 4 pounds more and about an inch more from their waists over 6 months and felt less hungry than people given a carbohydrate shake instead. Other research in mice, found that when mice were given extra whey protein they gained less weight and body fat and more lean muscle, even when calories were the same. Whey protein is found naturally in yogurt and other dairy.
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.
There are many ways to do intermittent fasting — ranging from fasting for a number of hours each day up to an entire 24-hour fasting period one or two times a week. “If you're trying to kick a habit like eating late into the night, then stopping eating earlier in the evening and fasting overnight could be beneficial for you,” says Hultin. “There are many types of intermittent fasting, so ensuring you pick one that works for you and your lifestyle is important.”
The sad truth is that conventional ideas – eat less, run more – do not work long term. Counting calories, exercising for hours every day and trying to ignore your hunger? That’s needless suffering and it wastes your time and precious willpower. It’s weight loss for masochists. Eventually almost everyone gives up. That’s why we have an obesity epidemic. Fortunately there’s a better way.
Loads of research demonstrates people who log everything they eat — especially those who log while they're eating — are more likely to lose weight and keep it off for the long-haul. Start tracking on an app like MyFitnessPal when the pounds start sneaking up on you. It'll help you stay accountable for what you've eaten. Plus, you can easily identify some other areas of your daily eats that could use a little improvement when it's written out in front of you.

If you can keep up motivation and accountability without the assistance of an app or a like-minded community, the book should give you all necessary tools. While we weren’t floored by Mayo’s online offerings, the app does have one cool feature (if you can get it to work): Enable your camera to eyeball the correct size of any food item in comparison to a virtual baseball, hockey puck, set of dice.
You know the kind, says Jillian: "Everyone's like: 'Give up carbs!' 'Give up fat!' 'Wait, no, now I'm taking pills!' None of them are manageable long-term—and they wreak havoc with your metabolism! Because you're either starving yourself or you're cutting out a major food group. Then you go back into weight-gain mode, but it's even worse, because your body has adjusted to all that crazy fad crap."
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.
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