Lifestyle fit: Think about how much time and planning goes into each weight loss program. Some people will find that meal planning and preparation takes too long to fit into their busy lifestyle, while others will have the time to commit to a more demanding plan. Figure out whether a plan is compatible with your lifestyle before committing. Some meal plans are very simple; others require more work.
We pulled the top 14 of the best commercial diets (marketed to the public for profit) and the top 12 of the best diets overall. We also threw five of the most popular diet apps into the mix. Since these are largely tracking devices that don’t espouse unique eating habits, they don’t appear to meet US News’ definition of diet, but are still potentially effective weight loss tools.
As funny as it sounds, sleep deprivation may make you fat — and not just because you're susceptible to cases of the late-night munchies (although there's that too). There's tons of research that demonstrates getting less than the desired amount — about 7 hours — of sleep per night can slow down your metabolism. Plus, when you're awake for longer, you're naturally more likely to nosh. So don't skimp on your ZZZs, and you'll be rewarded with an extra edge when it comes to shedding pounds quickly.
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.
At the heart of its flexible system: SmartPoints. SmartPoints derive primarily from number of calories; sugar and saturated fat drive the number up, protein brings it down. Getting a feel for the number of points that different foods typically “cost” in order to stay on your daily “budget” is a great way to cultivate healthy decision-making: A fried chicken wing is 7 points, while 3 oz. of chicken breast without the skin is 2 points. A sugar-laden Coca-Cola is 9 points, but so is a dinner-sized serving of Moroccan chicken rice and potatoes. Some foods are zero points: fruits and vegetables, skinless chicken and turkey breast, seafood, eggs, nonfat yogurt. Being encouraged to eat certain items in this way helps to restructure your mindset around food.
A. "You'll be better able to maintain your weight loss if you don't have to permanently eliminate or restrict a single food group," explains Densie Webb, R.D. Low-carb diets are designed for short stints because your body simply cannot function without carbohydrates for very long. Diets that have this as their weight loss technique are appealing because they promise quick results, but studies show that after 12 months, they provide no greater weight loss benefit than a typical reduced-calorie, low-fat diet. Slow, steady weight loss is much easier to maintain for life, says Elisa Zied, R.D., a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
This drug is an injected variant of a satiety hormone called GLP-1. It slows down how quickly the stomach empties and tells the brain that you don’t need to eat yet – a great idea for losing weight. As a bonus this drug works fine while one is on the keto diet and it works even better with intermittent fasting – for a rapid weight loss with no hunger.
Fiber expands in your stomach and also takes time to digest, both of which help keep you feeling full for longer. Good sources include whole grains, veggies, and whole fruit (not juiced). Healthy fats like olive and nut oils—in moderation—improve flavor, give you energy, and help your body use certain nutrients. Alexandra Shipper added healthy fats, such as avocado, to protein sources like eggs and fish on her way to dropping 55 pounds.
Dairy products contain varying amounts of lactose (milk sugar), which slows down weight loss. What’s more, part of the protein in milk generates a significant insulin response, which can have the same effect. Consequently, cutting back on dairy products may accelerate weight loss. This applies especially to dairy products typically lacking in fat, such as regular milk and various yogurts, but be careful with full-fat dairy such as cream and cheese all the same. And don’t forget whey protein powder, which is pure milk protein.
Fancy coffee drinks from trendy coffee joints often pack several hundred calories, thanks to whole milk, whipped cream, sugar, and sugary syrups. A cup of regular coffee with skim milk has just a small fraction of those calories. And when brewed with good beans, it tastes just as great. You can also try nonfat powdered milk in coffee. You’ll get the nutritional benefits of skim milk, which is high in calcium and low in calories. And, because the water has been removed, powdered milk doesn’t dilute the coffee the way skim milk does. Here are 11 metabolism myths you have to stop believing.
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.”
Plain and simple: We just don't feel full by liquid calories in quite the same way as we do real food. Drinking a juice or caramel coffee drink, for instance, won't make you feel full the way eating a bowl of veggie- and protein-packed stir-fry will. So monitor your intake of juice, soda, sweetened coffee and tea, and alcoholic beverages. If you consume each of those beverages during the day, you'll have taken in at least 800 extra calories by nighttime — and you'll still be hungry. (Incidentally, alcohol may suppress the metabolism of fat, making it tougher for you to burn those calories.) Some other ways to skip sugar? Check 'em out here.
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.
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
Sure, you certainly need to drink plenty of water to help expedite the process of ridding your body of excess sodium, you can (and should!) also consume high-water content foods. Reach for cucumbers, tomatoes, watermelon, asparagus, grapes, celery, artichokes, pineapple, and cranberries — all of which contain diuretic properties that will also help you stay full due to their higher fiber content.
"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
Bitter orange is a currently available herbal stimulant used in some weight-loss supplements and is often called an ephedra substitute. The active ingredient in bitter orange has chemical properties and actions that are similar to ephedra and may be associated with similar adverse effects. Because of limited research and the use of bitter orange in multi-ingredient supplements, the safety of the product isn't well-understood.
Skimping on sleep sets you up for a host of health problems, such as increased risk for depression, type 2 diabetes, and stress. Here's one other benefit to spending enough time in bed: You're more likely to be a healthy weight. University of Chicago research revealed that dieters who were well-rested lost more fat than those who were sleep deprived.
I’m in favor of any program that promotes whole foods over hyper-processed fare, and this is one thing the popular diet plans can agree on. Overly processed foods have been linked to weight gain, perhaps because many unhealthy packaged foods (think: potato chips, ice cream, frozen pizza, cookies and the like) lack the fiber found in many whole foods, including vegetables. Fiber helps fill us up, and research suggests that by simply adding more fiber to your menu, you can lose weight nearly as well as a more complicated approach. Consistently choosing whole foods is one way to do this.
The lowest ranking diets were the Keto Diet and the Dukan Diet, which tied for last place. People who follow the Keto Diet slash carbs and fill up on fats in order to help the body enter of state of “ketosis,” where the body breaks down fat. The Dukan Diet is a rule-heavy plan that goes in stages, including a phase of eating a lot of protein. The experts rated both diets as hard to follow
"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.
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.