This popular plan recently underwent a rebranding to create a more balanced program, changing its four-phase approach with the help of a science advisory board. The Atkins Diet is still low-carb, but you won't be chowing down on steak and eggs all the time to promote weight loss. Lean protein is still key, but there's more of a spotlight on fiber, fruit, vegetables, and healthy fats.
A. Deprivation is a powerful thing. When you're deprived of something, which is often true on diets, you want it even more, explains Stephanie Karpinske, M.S., R.D. That's where the cheat day comes in. It's a psychological trick to satisfy your cravings for chips, pizza, donuts, and other non-diet foods so that you won't feel deprived. If that satisfaction keeps you on your diet, then yes, it can help with weight loss. But keep in mind that on your cheat days, you're eating more calories, maybe even 1,000-2,000 calories more. That can really slow down weight loss. And the cheat day could backfire -- giving into your cravings may have you saying goodbye to the diet and hello to your old ways of eating.
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.
A. Deprivation is a powerful thing. When you're deprived of something, which is often true on diets, you want it even more, explains Stephanie Karpinske, M.S., R.D. That's where the cheat day comes in. It's a psychological trick to satisfy your cravings for chips, pizza, donuts, and other non-diet foods so that you won't feel deprived. If that satisfaction keeps you on your diet, then yes, it can help with weight loss. But keep in mind that on your cheat days, you're eating more calories, maybe even 1,000-2,000 calories more. That can really slow down weight loss. And the cheat day could backfire -- giving into your cravings may have you saying goodbye to the diet and hello to your old ways of eating.
Packaged meals: Many diet plans rely on meal-replacement bars, shakes, or other snack type foods. Still others rely on frozen entrees as a major part of your diet. Ask yourself if you are okay with a bulk of your diet relying on prepackaged snacks, shakes, or frozen meals, or if you prefer the flexibility of cooking your own meals or eating out frequently.
Little treats keep you from feeling deprived, so every day, allow yourself a bit of something you love (aim for 150 calories each). This kind of moderation is the difference between a "diet" and a lifestyle you can stick with forever. For salon owner Caitlin Gallagher, who lost 125 pounds, that meant replacing her nightly bowl of ice cream with a square of chocolate; social worker Brittany Hicks, who lost 100 pounds, started baking mini versions of her favorite pies.
In other words? "Drinking makes you more likely to eat sh*t," Dr. Seltzer says, referring to drunk foods. At the same time, he stops short of asking patients to quit alcohol cold-turkey to lose weight. Plus, research suggests you don’t have to, as long as your intake is moderate—i.e., less than about a drink a day. "If you drink a glass of wine every night and notice you eat more afterward, eat less early to account for this," he says. "Or, if you’re drinking four glasses of wine a week, drink three instead so you’ll won’t feel such a big difference."
When you're at your heaviest, it can be intimidating to step into a gym and begin running or lifting among the spandex-clad. Working out in your own space is also simply easier to schedule—you can lift weights while the baby naps or first thing in the morning without dragging yourself out the door. "I bought an exercise bike so I can work out whenever I want," says Sarah DeArmond, who lost 100 pounds.
In other words? "Drinking makes you more likely to eat sh*t," Dr. Seltzer says, referring to drunk foods. At the same time, he stops short of asking patients to quit alcohol cold-turkey to lose weight. Plus, research suggests you don’t have to, as long as your intake is moderate—i.e., less than about a drink a day. "If you drink a glass of wine every night and notice you eat more afterward, eat less early to account for this," he says. "Or, if you’re drinking four glasses of wine a week, drink three instead so you’ll won’t feel such a big difference."
It's the well studied yo yo effect, and the only solution is to maintain your new weight with as much determination and diligence as it took to drop the pounds in the first place. In fact, some experts now contend that keeping your weight consistent -- even if you're carrying around a few extra pounds -- may be more important to preserving your long term health than slimming down. Chronic yo yo dieting throughout your life can cause damage to your heart.
Close the Kitchen at Night. Establish a time when you will stop eating so you won't give in to the late-night munchies or mindless snacking while watching television. "Have a cup of tea, suck on a piece of hard candy or enjoy a small bowl of light ice cream or frozen yogurt if you want something sweet after dinner, but then brush your teeth so you will be less likely to eat or drink anything else," suggests Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, WebMD's "Recipe Doctor" and the author of Comfort Food Makeovers.
Because the diet isn’t as restrictive as a traditional vegan or vegetarian diet, it may be simpler to stick with — hence its No. 2 ranking in U.S. News & World Report’s Easiest Diets to Follow category. Because you’ll be eating meat some of the time, you may also be at a lower risk of the aforementioned nutrient deficiencies that vegetarians and vegans may face.
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.
Wrap up your morning meal with dessert—yes, really. In a Tel Aviv University Medical Center study, one group had a 304-calorie breakfast with 10 grams of carbs, while the other group ate a 600-calorie breakfast with 60 grams of carbs, which included a small sweet, such as chocolate, a doughnut, a cookie, or cake. Halfway through the 8-month study, both groups had lost an average of 33 pounds per person. At the end, however, the low-carb group regained 22 pounds, while the dessert group dropped an additional 15. Researchers say the dessert-eaters reported dealing with fewer cravings, and had a better chance of sticking to their calorie requirements for the rest of the day.
In what is perhaps the biggest buzzkill of all time, sex doesn’t quite count as cardio or burn a significant amount of calories: Women burn about 3.6 per minute. "It’s still a good idea," Dr. Seltzer says, citing the activity’s other benefits, like increasing the output of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which naturally reduce food cravings.

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.


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.
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