Rounding out the top three for best weight loss programs on the U.S. News and World Report 2016 rankings, the Biggest Loser meal plan uses a pyramid system with fruits and veggies setting the foundation. Simple tenets back the plan: for example, being mindful of portion control, keeping a food diary, and exercising regularly. So, yes, work will be involved, but the plan is sustainable in the long-term and a likely way to shed pounds.
“The alkaline diet often has a focus on eating lots of fresh produce and unprocessed foods, which could be a good thing,” says Hultin. “However, keep in mind that this is not an evidence-based therapeutic diet. When people take it too far — for instance, drinking baking soda — or become too restrictive or obsessive over food choices, it can definitely turn negative.”
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.
If the diet is a quick fix rather than one that promotes lasting lifestyle changes, this could pose a problem. In particular, extreme diets that promise big weight loss up front aren’t always sustainable — and you may end up overeating or even binge eating if you feel deprived. “Consider if the diet’s habits are ones you can continue throughout your lifetime, not just 21 or 30 days,” says Angie Asche, RD, a sports dietitian in Lincoln, Nebraska.
There is some scientific legitimacy to today’s lower-carb diets: Large amounts of simple carbohydrates from white flour and added sugar can wreak havoc on your blood sugar and lead to weight gain. While avoiding sugar, white rice, and white flour, however, you should eat plenty of whole-grain breads and brown rice. One Harvard study of 74,000 women found that those who ate more than two daily servings of whole grains were 49 percent less likely to be overweight than those who ate the white stuff. Eating whole grains is not only one of many great ways to lose weight; it can also make you smarter.
Try upping your fiber intake—it may work just as well as following a strict diet. In an American Heart Association study, one group was instructed to follow a diet with strict nutrient goals and limits on calories, sugar, and saturated fat, while the other group was given one goal: consume 30 grams of fiber a day. At the end of the 3-month study, both groups lost weight and improved their heart health, showing that losing weight may be as easy as filling up on more fiber.
HCG, or Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, is a hormone produced during pregnancy by the placenta after implantation, and doctors sometimes prescribe it for fertility issues. But this hormone has also gained popularity as a weight-loss supplement — and using it as such can be dangerous. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns against purchasing over-the-counter hCG, as these supplement products are illegal. (34)
Your body needs a certain amount of essential vitamins and minerals to function properly. What happens when you don’t get enough of them? What happens when you eat too little food, or when the food you eat isn’t sufficiently nutritious? Perhaps our bodies catch on and reply by increasing hunger levels. After all – if we eat more, we increase the chances of consuming enough of whatever nutrient we are lacking.
Preferred tastes: Think about whether the foods on a given diet are things that you generally enjoy. If you hate eating your greens, you might not like a diet filled with salads; but if you have a sweet tooth, a diet that substitutes milkshakes for meals might be more up your alley. Ask yourself whether you will enjoy the foods on a given diet, or if it will feel like a “diet” food that you won’t be able to stick with long-term.
You’re more likely to eat more—and eat more high-fat, high-calorie foods—when you eat out than when you eat at home. Restaurants today serve such large portions that many have switched to larger plates and tables to accommodate them. You’ll gasp when you see just how bad the unhealthiest restaurant meals in America are. Don’t miss these 9 ways your kitchen setup can help you lose weight.
Accessibility to foods: Some diet plans ship foods straight to your door, while others require you to shop for very particular ingredients. There are also a range of price points, with some diets costing substantially more than others. Consider whether the food allowed on a particular diet will fit into your budget and be relatively easy to find at grocery stores.
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.
When you make purchases with a credit card, you only realize how much money you're spending in a conceptual sense—you don't actually see the cash coming out of your wallet. According to a study in the Journal of Consumer Research, that may lead you to buy more unhealthy, calorie-dense foods despite the extra cost (both money-wise and diet-wise). Researchers believe credit cards make it easier to make impulse buys.
This could be because the body increases insulin secretion in anticipation that sugar will appear in the blood. When this doesn’t happen, blood sugar drops and hunger increases. Whether this chain of events regularly takes place is somewhat unclear. Something odd happened when I tested Pepsi Max though, and there are well-designed studies showing increased insulin when using artificial sweeteners.
Fearing all fat is a thing of the past. Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) actually help you lose weight, not gain it. When researchers asked women to switch to a 1,600-calorie diet high in MUFAs, they lost a third of their belly fat in just 4 weeks. Sprinkle a handful of nuts on your salad, drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil over steamed veggies, or mash a quarter of an avocado onto your breakfast toast.
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!
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."
Avoid fad diets. It's never a good idea to trade meals for shakes or to give up a food group in the hope that you'll lose weight — we all need a variety of foods to get the nutrients we need to stay healthy. Avoid diet pills (even the over-the-counter or herbal variety). They can be dangerous to your health; besides, there's no evidence that they help keep weight off over the long term.
Don't banish certain foods. Don't tell yourself you'll never again eat your absolutely favorite peanut butter chocolate ice cream. Making all treats forbidden is sure to make you want them even more. The key to long-term success is making healthy choices most of the time. If you want a piece of cake at a party, go for it! But munch on the carrots rather than the chips to balance it out.
Just because Fluffy is on a diet doesn’t mean you can’t reward her with a few treats now and then. We love Twin Critters’ low-calorie cat treats because they’re made only with 100% pure whitefish, nothing else. They’re incredibly low in fat and calories, which is great when you want to treat a cat with weight issues. They’re also high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which promotes a healthy skin coat.
Before you eat, have a big glass of water. Being even just slightly dehydrated makes you prone to sugar cravings, especially if you've been exercising. Better yet, add some ice: A German study found that drinking about 16 ounces of cold water increased metabolic rate by 30% for an hour. If you're still hungry after sipping some water, then go ahead and eat.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AKA the top nutrition authority in America) released a revised paper this year saying that both vegetarian and vegan diets are best for people's health as well as the environment. If you're not ready to make a complete shift to meatless and cheese-less, consider "part-time" vegan and vegetarian plans, where you eat mostly plant-based at breakfast and lunch or on weekdays, and then eat fish, meat, dairy, and eggs only during designated times.