Losing weight is hard. Losing weight and then keeping it off is even harder. Case in point: 74% of adults in the United States are overweight or obese, and weight loss is a $20 billion industry. All that said, if you're trying to slim down, there's no reason to lose hope. Plenty of studies show that lasting weight loss is not a myth. Work some of the 57 research-backed food, exercise, and lifestyle tips that follow into your routine, and watch the pounds start to come off.
Ranging from just-juice to just-tea cleanses, these typically short-term plans can be dangerous. “Detoxes and cleanses are usually low in calories, protein, and fiber, all nutrients that our bodies need to function,” says Alissa Rumsey, RD, who is in private practice in New York City. “These plans leave you feeling hungry and cranky, causing a rebound food binge once you stop the detox.”
Similar to the CICO diet, the Body Reset has gained popularity via social media, and there isn’t any definitive research that suggests the approach is safe and effective. Celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak created the plan, which is essentially a three-phase liquid diet comprised of smoothies and moderate exercise. While U.S. News notes you may lose weight on the diet, it may be tough to stick with, and isn’t safe for people with diabetes and heart disease. (38)
Sugar contains calories but nothing else, and "empty calories" are the last thing you want on a diet, says Stephanie Karpinske, MBA, M.S., R.D. Sugar is also digested quickly so you're hungry soon after you eat it. It raises insulin levels, which promotes fat storage. Plus, it can be addictive because it raises levels of serotonin -- the feel-good chemical in the brain that helps us relax during times of stress. That's one reason why weaning yourself off sugar is so difficult.
Forgive yourself. So you were going to have one cracker with spray cheese on it and the next thing you know the can's pumping air and the box is empty? Drink some water, brush your teeth, and move on. Everyone who's ever tried to lose weight has found it challenging. When you slip up, the best idea is to get right back on track and don't look back.
“A lot of people think the foundation of a paleo diet is high-fat meat, but I suggest that it’s vegetables,” says Hultin. The concept is to eat only foods — including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, fruits, and vegetables — that would have been available to our Paleolithic ancestors. This means grains, dairy, legumes, added sugar, and salt are all no-no’s.
This popular diet program is fairly restrictive — and for the first 30 days, dieters must cut out grains, legumes, most dairy, added sugar, and alcohol without any slip-ups, according to the Whole30 website. (29) The aim is to “reset” your body and to adopt dietary habits resulting in weight loss. Cutting out added sugar and alcohol has merit, but all the restrictions prove challenging and could lead to nutrient deficiencies and disordered eating.
Nearly 30% of U.S. adults say they're trying to go gluten free—but unless you've been diagnosed with celiac disease, there's really no need. In fact, cutting all gluten foods (such as wheat, barley, and rye) from your diet won't necessarily help you lose weight. Gluten-free junk foods are everywhere, and a gluten-free cookie or slice of pizza is just as bad for you as the regular kind.
If you’ve been eating fast food for years, get real about your approach: You’re probably not going to stick to an organic, gluten-free, paleo overhaul for very long. "You want to change as little as possible to create calorie deficit," says Dr. Seltzer, who insists the best way to support sustainable weight loss is to incorporate small changes into existing habits. So instead of giving up your daily BLT bagels in favor of an egg-white wrap, try ordering your sandwich on a lighter English muffin. Or say you eat a snack bar every afternoon: Swap your 300-calorie bar for a 150-calorie alternative. "Your brain will feel the same way about it, so you won’t feel deprived," he says.
Consider a diet's overall approach to food. What will you be eating every day? Is there much variety, or will you be eating the same foods frequently? If most (or even some) of the foods on a plan aren't enjoyable, within your budget, or readily available, you're going to find a particular plan hard to stick with. Ask yourself: realistically, could you eat the foods on this plan more or less for the rest of your life?
“Intermittent fasting can be really challenging if you have an ever-changing schedule,” adds Hultin. “If you're traveling and crossing time zones, it could be very difficult to follow. It might be best for people with more stability in their lives.” Intermittent fasting isn’t safe for people with type 2 diabetes, children, pregnant or lactating women, or anyone with a history of an eating disorder.
Over the last three months I’ve lost 22 pounds simply by upping my exercise and reducing bad calories. I’m 68 years old, always in good shape, but added sedentary pounds as I aged. (6 feet tall, 212 pounds before — 190 pounds now) I’ve generally restricted my diet to about 1200 calories a day — 200 – 300 for breakfast, 200 for lunch, and about 700 or less for the rest of the day. I try to vary the foods, do as much exercise as I can (biking, swimming, walking, weights). I drink as much non-caloric liquid as I can and I try to find food that fills me up — vegetables, fruits, mostly. I eat some cheese and a good hamburger occasionally, although I avoid most meat. I still work full time. I realize the discipline necessary, but it’s not that hard to do. I rely on a good scale and moderate my diet each day to keep a constant weight. My blood pressure has dropped from 130/80 to 117/72 and heart rate is resting 58. I’m lucky that my chronic diseases are not yet serious (osteoarthritis and borderline cholesterol, although I dont take statins because of reactions). I’m not a diet fadder, but using common sense goes a long way. Eat smart and work out. MM
One of the biggest differentiating factors of Weight Watchers is their famous claim that you can eat whatever you want. A points-based system allows members to select which indulgences they want to spend their calories on, and that’s also one of the secrets to its success. When people feel that they aren’t being restricted, psychologically, it is easier for them to follow a diet plan. This is part of what you’ll get from a Weight Watchers membership:
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.
The Biggest Loser program has come under attack with recent revelations that its amazing, as-seen-on-TV results are both pharmaceutically assisted and likely to reverse. Living proof that the medical community’s understanding of weight loss is still evolving: The diet still stands in third place on US News’ & World Report’s list for Best Fast Weight Loss.
Try to include an exact portion size of each food and beverage. Serving size matters! And remember, keeping an accurate food journal means writing down everything that you consume, including samples and tastes while you are cooking. We often eat without being truly conscious of it. Your new food diary is the best way to get a true idea of your food intake.
All meals are important, but breakfast is what helps you start your day on the right track. The best, heartiest breakfasts are ones that will fill you up, keep you satisfied, and stave off cravings later in the day. Aim to eat anywhere between 400 and 500 calories for your morning meal, and make sure you're including a source of lean protein plus filling fat (e.g., eggs, beans, unsweetened Greek yogurt, nuts, or nut butters) and fiber (veggies, fruit, or 100% whole grains). Starting your day with a blood sugar-stabilizing blend of nutrients will help you slim down without sacrifice.
U.S. News enlisted the help of a panel of food and health experts to rank 40 diets on a variety of measures, like how easy it is to follow, the diet’s ability to help a person lose weight in the short and long term, safety and more. The company then converted the expert’s rankings into scores that allowed them to determine the top diets. Beyond best overall diet, the experts also ranked the best diets for weight loss, healthy eating and more.
Like a marathoner stretching before the big run, eating half a grapefruit before a meal can enhance your body’s fat-burning performance. A study published in the journal Metabolism found that this “warm-up” tactic can help whittle your middle—by up to an inch—in just six weeks! The scientists attribute the powerful effects to the grapefruits’ fat-zapping phytochemicals. The fruit can interact negatively with certain medications, so as long as you get the green-light from your M.D, plan to have half of a grapefruit before your morning meal and add a few segments your starter salads to reap the benefits.
You know all those high-calorie, sugar-laden recipe videos that litter your Facebook newsfeed? Fast-paced hands arranging layers of cookie dough, peanut butter cups, and chocolate brownie batter that come together to make a mouthwatering, decadent dessert that’s also ridiculously fattening. “The internet and social media sites are basically making you fat,” Lisa Hayim, MS, RD, and founder of The WellNecessities, told us for our article on The 30 Worst Flat Belly Mistakes Women Make. “If it isn’t 25 ways to eat tater tots then it’s [another] national [something] day. The internet has made it basically impossible to stay away from cravings and indulgences. These are not excuses to eat unhealthy food.” Next time you see one of these videos, scroll quickly past. Or better yet, unfollow the page completely, and follow Eat This, Not That! on Facebook for healthier videos and more slimming tips.