Giancoli also recommends finding a diet that fits in with how you really live. She notes that if you enjoy going out to eat but try to commit to a diet that forbids you from ever going to a restaurant, you’re just going to cheat. “It’s not sustainable… You’re most likely going to have a healthier meal if you’re going to cook yourself, but you’re depriving yourself of that social interaction if you never go out.” To put it another way: Your eating practices shouldn’t isolate you or keep you from having fun.
Given that all participants in the study were overweight and “healthy”, what was not studied, and could have been very useful, was what was the impact of the two diets on participants’ blood sugars (HbA1c), insulin levels, and on some measure of inflammation. It is possible that there could have been little difference in weight loss between the two diets but big differences in the impact on risk factors related to diabetes.
Just because you worked out this morning doesn’t give you an excuse to park your car closer to your office or to take the elevator instead of the stairs. French researchers discovered that when obese teens exercised, they compensated by decreasing their activity later in the day. Similarly, another study in older adults revealed that exercising failed to increase overall daily calorie burn because participants were sedentary the rest of the day.
“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.
Weight loss and weight maintenance are top concerns for most of us, but there are so many rumors and fads out there that it's hard to keep track of what really works. We've sorted through the claims by talking to registered dietitians and doctors and reading the most recent studies to give you trustworthy answers to 15 top weight loss questions, including:
Another way to trim carbs and calories and lose weight fast is by making your sandwich open-faced. Opting for one slice of bread instead of two will save you 70-90 calories, and leaves you more room to pile it high with healthy toppings like lettuce, tomato, sprouts, and avocado. Still hungry? Pair your sandwich with a side of baby carrots or bell pepper strips. The water and fiber in the veggies will fill you up and help with your weight-loss efforts.
Listen up: Skipping meals will not make you lose weight faster. If a hectic day makes a sit-down meal impossible, stash an energy bar or a piece of fruit in your car or tote, keep snacks in your office desk drawer, and make a point of getting up to grab a nosh — anything that will keep you from going hungry! Going long periods of time without food does double-duty harm on our healthy eating efforts by both slowing down your metabolism, and priming you for another binge later in the day. (Think: You've skipped breakfast and lunch, so you're ready to takedown a whole turkey by dinner!) Make it your mission to eat three meals and two snacks every day, and don't wait longer than three to four hours without eating. Set a "snack alarm" on your phone if needed.
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.
Like protein, fiber slows the rate at which your body plows through carb calories so you feel full for longer and maintain steadier blood sugar levels, one reason why research consistently links fiber intake to weight loss. That means fibrous whole grain bread tends to be a better choice than white bread and also explains why fruits, which contain fiber and valuable vitamins in addition to sugar, beat straight-up candy every time.
Do you mindlessly sprinkle salt on your food without even tasting it first? Stop it! Seriously. Extra sodium can lead to water weight gain and bloating, which will make your pants fit tighter (and the number on the scale tick up). Be sure to read your labels, too; sodium is typically lurking in in processed foods, even “healthy” ones like frozen dinners and canned soups.
A 2012 study also showed that people on a low-carb diet burned 300 more calories a day – while resting! According to one of the Harvard professors behind the study this advantage “would equal the number of calories typically burned in an hour of moderate-intensity physical activity”. Imagine that: an entire bonus hour of exercise every day, without actually exercising. A later, even larger and more carefully conducted study confirmed the effect, with different groups of people on low-carb diets burning an average of between 200 and almost 500 extra calories per day.
The best diet for losing weight is Weight Watchers, according to the experts who rated the diets below for U.S. News. Volumetrics came in second, and Jenny Craig and the vegan diet were third on this overall weight loss ranking list, which takes into account short-term and long-term weight loss scores. Some other diets performed as well or better in our rankings for enabling fast weight loss, but long-term weight loss is more important for your health.
Basically, the effect of exercise on our weight is vastly overrated. That’s why it’s only number 15 on this list. There are other things you need to take care of first. It’s not a good idea to eat bad food, drink sugar water (so-called “sports drinks”) or be on medications which force you to exercise for hours daily just to compensate. Metaphorically that’s like digging a hole, into which you put your ladder, on which you stand and paint the basement-level windows of your house.
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?
“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.
No, seriously. This annoying social media habit could end up helping you eat less. An analysis of attentive eating studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that if people recall their last meal as being filling and satisfying, they tend to eat less during their next meal. So snap your delicious-looking food, and scroll back through your feed before you eat next.
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."
We know that shedding unwanted pounds used to mean giving up your favorite foods, logging hours at the gym, and being hungry (and hangry) all the time. Fortunately, dropping a dress size (or two) doesn’t have to be that complicated or torturous. Sure, losing any significant amount of weight requires lifestyle changes and some hard work, but it all boils down to simple choices.
If you want to lose weight, you’d better avoid special “low-carb” products that are full of carbs. This should be obvious, but creative marketers are doing all they can to fool you (and get your money). They will tell you that you can eat cookies, pasta, ice cream, bread and plenty of chocolate on a low-carb diet, as long as you buy their brand. They’re full of carbohydrates. Don’t be fooled.
Counseling and community: Think about whether you need one-on-one guidance from an expert or a supportive diet-related community to succeed on a weight loss program. Some people prefer to go it alone or involve their friends or family rather than a forum, but others enjoy finding acceptance and encouragement from others who are using the same program.
"Anytime you’re stressed, you probably go for food," Dr. Seltzer says. (Have we met?!) That’s because cortisol, the stress hormone, stokes your appetite for sugary, fatty foods. No wonder it’s associated with higher body weight, according to a 2007 Obesity study that quantified chronic stress exposure by looking at cortisol concentrations in more than 2,000 adults’ hair.
Call it what you will: An eating plan, a lifestyle, a diet, a philosophy, but few things garner such heated debate as how to lose weight. The truth is, whether you’re on a low-carb keto program, devoted to the Paleo lifestyle, all in to the Whole 30 or remain committed to low-fat eating, these plans have more in common than you think. What’s more, follow any one of them religiously, and you’ll likely notice results.
The fad military diet consists of low-calorie, odd food pairings such as bun-less hot dogs with banana, carrots, and broccoli. “Any diet like the military diet that severely limits the amount of calories you consume or eliminates one or more entire food groups puts any individual at risk for nutrient deficiencies,” says Kyle. “This can be more harmful than holding onto those 10 extra lb you’re trying to lose.” (32)
MyFitnessPal: An app widely recommended by trainers and fitness enthusiasts, MyFitnessPal is great for tracking macros. Goal macros: 50% carbs, 30% fat, 20% protein. It further breaks these general guidelines into specific gram amounts that make it easy to see how some macros add up quick (carbs) and others don’t (protein — hitting 64 grams takes conscious effort!).
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.
A. Not necessarily. "Restricting your calorie intake over a prolonged period of time will likely slow your metabolic rate," says Elisa Zied, R.D., a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. "After a decade of this, your body has probably become accustomed to functioning on fewer calories, so any increase could translate into extra pounds." But the effect isn't permanent.
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?