For weight loss, you need to find the right balance of calories so that you lose at a rate of 1 to 2 pounds a week. Starvation diets that severely restrict caloric intake may help you lose weight faster, but you're losing water and muscle, not fat. Plus, when you eat too few calories, your body may hold onto fat as a means of protection against the starvation. This change in metabolism makes it even harder for you to lose the unwanted pounds.
Changing your eating habits can be intimidating, I know. It may even feel like you’re leaving everything you love behind. All the midnight snacks, takeouts, sweets… But, although it may seem like that at first, soon enough you realize that eating healthy will not only make you feel and look good but can also taste darn good! The key is finding a lifestyle you love (not one you dread) so that you stick to it.
“A lot of people think the foundation of a paleo diet is high-fat meat, but I suggest that it’s vegetables,” says Hultin. The concept is to eat only foods — including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, fruits, and vegetables — that would have been available to our Paleolithic ancestors. This means grains, dairy, legumes, added sugar, and salt are all no-no’s.
Fiola Sowemimo, MD, board-certified in internal and bariatric medicine, says that the quality and quantity of food you eat is only half of the weight loss equation. “Regardless of which diet you choose, when you eat is important too,” Dr. Sowemimo says. Starving during the day and ignoring hunger could lead to bingeing later, she says. Plus, Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RD, adds that the peaks and valleys of hunger throughout the day could make it more difficult to manage cravings. Eating regular meals at regular times could actually help normalize your metabolism, according to Dr. Bazilian.
If you want to lose weight you should start by avoiding sugar and starch (like bread, pasta and potatoes). This is an old idea: For 150 years or more there have been a huge number of weight-loss diets based on eating fewer carbs. What’s new is that dozens of modern scientific studies have proven that, yes, low carb is the most effective way to lose weight.
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.
Portion control is another key element of weight loss. Part of the process is understanding an actual serving size. Measuring high-calorie ingredients will help you learn to eyeball portions. Even calories from healthy foods add up. “One of the foods people love are healthy fats, which are great,” Amari Thomsen, MS, RD, LDN, dietitian, and founder of Eat Chic Chicago says. Your definition of a handful of nuts might be four times bigger than an actual serving size, she warns.
Meal prep is one of the best ways to ensure you’re eating healthy all day long and prevent the vicious cycle of skipping meals during the day and binging on unhealthy foods once you’re finally home in the evening, one of the problems many people who are struggling with losing weight are facing with every day. Plus, it’s so much easier to grab and eat food you’ve already prepared than to struggle with also cooking and/or prepping it when you’re hungry.
Becky Duffett is a contributing nutrition editor for Fitbit and a lifestyle writer with a passion for eating well. A former Williams-Sonoma cookbook editor and graduate of San Francisco Cooking School, she’s edited dozens of cookbooks and countless recipes. City living has turned her into a spin addict—but she’d still rather be riding a horse. She lives in the cutest neighborhood in San Francisco, spending weekends at the farmers’ market, trying to read at the bakery, and roasting big dinners for friends.