Why does this popular plan work? For one thing, it pushes wildly healthy staples to the forefront (think: nuts, vegetables, fruit, olive oil). For another, it's simply delicious, thanks to it's focus on fresh, simply prepared dishes like grilled fish with lemon and whole wheat pita with hummus. Science agrees: One meta-review of 16 studies, found the eating M.O. helped those on it lose an average of 8.5 pounds.
But the whole idea of fast weight loss may be the root of the problem. According to a Time expose on the subject: “When people are asked to envision their perfect size, many cite a dream weight loss up to three times as great as what a doctor might recommend.” An improbable and disheartening goal, and one that obscures the truth that losing small amounts of weight — even ten pounds — still has great health benefits.
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.
Trim Portions. If you did nothing else but reduce your portions by 10%-20%, you would lose weight. Most of the portions served both in restaurants and at home are bigger than you need. Pull out the measuring cups to get a handle on your usual portion sizes, and work on paring them down. Get instant portion control by using small bowls, plates, and cups, says Brian Wansink, PhD, author of Mindless Eating. You won't feel deprived because the food will look plentiful on dainty dishware.
If you like eating meat and want to lose weight, you might be tempted to try this recent extreme diet fad that proponents have made some pretty outrageous claims about. One: that eating nothing but meat can cure you of autoimmune diseases. The problem is that there’s no good research to support that notion, or any other health claim, for that matter. Indeed, omitting foods known to be good for you — fruits and veggies among them — can lead to a bunch of unwanted side effects, including constipation and potentially dangerous nutrient deficiencies. Still, since you’re cutting out so many food groups, there’s a decent chance you’ll lose weight, experts say. Regardless of any possible benefits you might see, this restrictive approach is definitely one you’ll want to ask your doc about before you even consider diving in.
A heavy-handed pour will negate any of the health benefits you get from sipping a glass of wine. One serving of wine racks up 125 calories, and many of today's fishbowl-sized glasses hold three servings. (For the math-challenged, that's 375 calories—the size of a small meal.) Here, Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD demonstrates how to pour the perfect serving of wine.
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!).
You don't need to work out for hours on end to see results. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) alternates bursts of all-out exercise with brief rest periods, and research shows this training style burns fat more effectively than longer workouts that maintain a steady intensity. Download, print, or Pin this HIIT workout that gets the job done in 10 minutes.
“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 Watchers, The Mayo Clinic Diet, and especially Noom provide a lot of behavior-based support to integrate these good habits. These include learning portions, logging food, and both giving and receiving external support. Nutrisystem doesn’t ask for any behavior changes save for subsisting almost entirely off their pre-packaged, pre-portioned meals.
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.
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.
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:
For even more impressive effects on body composition: aim for exercise forms which elicit a positive hormonal response. This means lifting really heavy things (strength training), or interval training. Such exercise increases levels of the sex hormone testosterone (primarily in men) as well as growth hormone. Not only do greater levels of these hormones increase your muscle mass, but they also decrease your visceral fat (belly fat) in the long term.
Dairy products such as cream and cheeses. They work well in cooking as they satisfy. The problem is if you’re munching a lot of cheese in front of the TV in the evening… without being hungry. Be careful with that. Or lots of cream with dessert, when you’re actually already full and just keep eating because it tastes good. Or another common culprit: loads of heavy cream in the coffee, many times per day.
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.”
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.
Do you know what to eat to lose weight? You might be relieved to know that you don't have to spend a lot of money or go to fancy boutique grocery stores to fill your fridge when you're trying to slim down. In fact, most products on the best weight loss foods list are common items that you can find in any supermarket. Smart dieters eat these cheap and easy foods and slim down faster.
How would you like to take all the great weight-loss results you’ve just read about—and double them? That’s what happens when you supplement your diet with a combination of vitamin D and calcium, according to a Nutrition Journal study. Just four weeks into the 12-week experiment, subjects who had taken these two nutrients—found in abundance in some yogurts—lost two times more fat than the other group! To get similar results at home, start your day with one of these Best Brand-Name Yogurts for Weight Loss.
"When going out for fast food, I used to get the large-size value meal. Now, I satisfy a craving by ordering just one item: a small order of fries or a six-piece box of chicken nuggets. So far, I've shaved off 16 pounds in seven weeks, and I'm on track to being thinner than my high school self for my 10-year reunion later this year." —Miranda Jarrell, Birmingham, AL
"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.
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.
Lifestyle changes: Many people struggle with weight not only because of their eating and exercise habits, but because their lifestyles are stressful or exhausting, which makes losing weight more difficult. A plan that emphasizes quality sleep, stress control, and other tools that contribute to fat loss can help you lose the pounds and keep them off long term.
Squeezing in some refreshing lemon will not only help you drink more water; it also has detox benefits which are sure to help you lose weight fast. Lemons are rich in polyphenols, which are compounds that contain antioxidants. A study in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry found that mice who were fed lemon polyphenols were less likely to gain weight and accumulate body fat.
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.