If exercise feels like a chore, then you won't want to do it—and you may wind up eating more as a result. In a 2014 Cornell University study, researchers led volunteers on a brisk walk, telling half the group that it was for exercise and the other half of the group that it was a scenic stroll. After the walk, the "exercise" group ate 35% more chocolate than the "scenic stroll" group.
Of carbs and protein, that is. Carbs certainly aren’t the enemy; you can totally enjoy carbs and still lose weight. The trick is to choose something complex (like brown rice, quinoa, or whole grain bread) or something refined (like white rice, white pasta, and white bread), and pair it with a protein. So if you’re having crackers for a snack, make sure you also eat some almonds or a stick of string cheese. “I always incorporate a protein and carbohydrate at every meal,” Jim White, RD, ACSM Health, and owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios told us in our 30 No-Diet Diet Tricks article. “It can curb your appetite and it slows down the glycemic index of some of your higher sugar foods.”
"Take into account your average weight loss over time and don't let weighing in make you crazy," says Anne M. Fletcher, M.S., R.D., L.D. "You need to create a deficit of 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound, which doesn't happen on a day-to-day basis." Find what works for you, because daily weighing can be misleading. For instance, if you eat Chinese food, which tends to be high in sodium, your weight might jump the next day because your body retains water when you eat a lot of salt.
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.
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.
The plan promotes long-lasting, sustainable changes, and undoubtedly a bounty of research backs this up. In fact, one December 2013 study in the American Journal of Medicine shows that people following Weight Watchers were close to nine times more likely to lose 10 percent of their body weight, compared to people following a self-help diet plan. (20)
Type of support: Every person has different needs when it comes to what motivates them to succeed. Think about how you have met other important goals, quit bad habits, or motivated yourself to change in the past. Would you be more likely to succeed using social media; in-person meetings with strangers or acquaintances; or expert counseling using text messaging, phone calls or email?
If you follow food trends, you might think you have to fall in love with cauliflower and kale to reap all the rewards that veggies offer, but that isn’t the case. Be it broccoli, sweet potatoes, carrots, red peppers, cabbage, spinach, or any other vegetable, the idea is to eat a variety of them and find plenty of ways to enjoy their goodness. So if you just can’t stomach steamed Brussels sprouts, try them roasted, or give sautéed Brussels sprouts a try. If raw zucchini isn’t your thing, see if you like it spiralized into noodles or grilled on a grill pan.
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.
“My dad is like a food-pushing wizard, he’s always pulling stuff out of his pockets or showing up with delicious food,” says Mary Mock. While the family tradition of surprise sweets was fun, when it came time to lose weight, she knew she had to put a stop to all that temptation. “At first, he seemed hurt when I kept saying no but when I explained it was for my health, he got on board. Sometimes I still have to remind him though!” she says.
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.”
If counting calories helped you lose the first time, get out your food diary and calculator. "The more you can make your diet strategy second nature, the better your chances of maintaining your weight loss for life," Bell Wilson says. In a recent study published in Nursing Science Quarterly, women who were most successful at weight maintenance closely monitored their food choices, exercised regularly, and had a strong support network. For instance, participants who had used a weight loss group to lose pounds kept attending meetings, serving as mentors to other attendees even after they'd reached their goals.
It's no surprise that Dr. Dean Ornish's program is such a powerful tool for weight loss, considering its easy adaptability as a lasting lifestyle. The diet is mostly plant-based, keeps sodium intake in moderation, and limits coffee to a cup a day (two cups decaf) — so if you're looking to lose weight while keeping your java flow, you may want to consider another plan.