Since we are talking about setting a meal plan, we need to talk about how many calories you should plan to eat. If your goal is to lose weight, all you need to know is your goal weight. The equation is easy; add a zero to the end of your goal weight to find your daily calorie goal. Just be sure not to go under 1200 calories per day as this will send your metabolism into preservation mode, which may cause your body to hold onto weight instead of releasing it.
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.
If taking the time to slice and dice vegetables holds you back from eating them, then invest in the pre-chopped or pre-washed vegetables. Rene Ficek, RD, the lead nutrition expert at Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating says fresh produce is the cornerstone of healthy nutrition—and using pre-chopped vegetables could cut your cooking time in half. “Plus, keeping sliced veggies and prepared dips like hummus are great to have on hand at all time,” Fieck adds.

Keep stocked in your refrigerator or freezer a box of veggie burgers (look for low-sodium varieties). Veggie burgers are a much better choice for your waistline and heart than ground meat. Veggie patties have only about half the calories of regular red meat patties, and zero heart-hurting saturated fat. Plus, they’re so easy to cook – just one or two minutes in the microwave. While toasting your whole-wheat bun, take from your pantry a jar of roasted red bell peppers and top your veggie patty with a couple of luscious slices. Smear your bun with a little low-sodium Dijon mustard.
The idea is that the fasting induces mild stress to the cells in your body, helping them become better at coping with such stress and possibly helping your body grow stronger. The verdict is still out regarding the diet’s long-term effectiveness with weight loss, according to a review of preliminary animal research published in January 2017 in Behavioral Sciences. (17)

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.
Choose Liquid Calories Wisely. Sweetened drinks pile on the calories, but don't reduce hunger like solid foods do. Satisfy your thirst with water, sparkling water with citrus, skim or low-fat milk, or small portions of 100% fruit juice. Try a glass of nutritious and low-calorie vegetable juice to hold you over if you get hungry between meals. Be careful of alcohol calories, which add up quickly. If you tend to drink a glass or two of wine or a cocktail on most days, limiting alcohol to the weekends can be a huge calorie saver.
The main advantage of the low-carb diet is that it causes you to want to eat less. Even without counting calories most overweight people eat far fewer calories on low carb. Sugar and starch may increase your hunger, while avoiding them may decrease your appetite to an adequate level. If your body wants to have an appropriate number of calories you don’t need to bother counting them. Thus: Calories count, but you don’t need to count them.
Second, take a few photos of yourself to keep your motivation up. "Most of the people who come to me are doing it for a reason," he explains. "They're going on vacation, competing in a bodybuilding show, or maybe going to a reunion. I always have them strive for that goal. I take front, side, and back pictures of them at the beginning and have them post the photos on their mirror at home. I tell them, just keep looking at that picture and think of what you're going to look like in a few weeks."
Different foods have different nutritional values, even if they sometimes have the same number of calories. And making a few simple food swaps could be beneficial for both your health and your waistline. Felicia Stoler, RD, an exercise physiologist, suggests swapping margarine for butter, corn oil for soybean oil, corn-fed proteins for grass-fed proteins, and artificial egg whites for farm fresh eggs. “Smart consumers are choosing grass-fed options because those tend to have more nutrients and fewer added hormones,” Stoler says.
The best way to understand and implement Step 1 is to skip the boxed, pre-made foods, and shop the perimeter of the grocery store. By shopping just the perimeter of the grocery store you’ll pick up organic fruits and veggies, lean protein from the butcher and freshly baked bread from the store bakery. You’re only buying fresh food. Of course this is more metaphor than rule. Organic pasta, rice and beans are usually found in isles as well are organic whole wheat flour and spices. Be sure to choose these ingredients in the purest forms, pick up the organic brown rice, not the box of rice mixture with the spices. The only ingredient on the label should be “brown rice.”
HCG, or Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, is a hormone produced during pregnancy by the placenta after implantation, and doctors sometimes prescribe it for fertility issues. But this hormone has also gained popularity as a weight-loss supplement — and using it as such can be dangerous. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns against purchasing over-the-counter hCG, as these supplement products are illegal. (34)

The main advantage of the low-carb diet is that it causes you to want to eat less. Even without counting calories most overweight people eat far fewer calories on low carb. Sugar and starch may increase your hunger, while avoiding them may decrease your appetite to an adequate level. If your body wants to have an appropriate number of calories you don’t need to bother counting them. Thus: Calories count, but you don’t need to count them.

So how does this work? A quick run-through: The first tip was to eat low carb. This is because a low-carb diet lowers your levels of the fat-storing hormone insulin, allowing your fat deposits to shrink and release their stored energy. This tends to cause you to want to consume fewer calories than you expend – without hunger – and lose weight. Several of the tips mentioned above are about fine-tuning your diet to better this effect.
In our eat-and-run, massive-portion-sized culture, maintaining a healthy weight can be tough—and losing weight, even tougher. If you’ve tried and failed to lose weight before, you may believe that diets don’t work for you. You’re probably right: some diets don’t work at all and none of them work for everyone—our bodies often respond differently to different foods. But while there’s no easy fix to losing weight, there are plenty of steps you can take to develop a healthier relationship with food, curb emotional triggers to overeating, and achieve lasting weight-loss success.
Go back to basics. Go through your meal planners and food logs to see what does not match up. Look for possible processed foods or artificial sweeteners in new foods you’ve added to your diet recently. If you’ve stopped logging or planning your meals, take this opportunity to start again. Most often just that one step will pull you out of a plateau.

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Being in optimal ketosis for a prolonged period of time (say, a month) will ensure that you experience the maximal hormonal effect from eating a low-carb diet. If this doesn’t result in noticeable weight loss, you can be certain that too many carbs are NOT part of your weight issue and not the obstacle to your weight loss. There are, in fact, other causes of obesity and being overweight. The next three tips in this series might help you.
You've got 28 days to get to your goal, so we've recruited Juge to help you every step of the way. He's adapted a traditional bodybuilding competitor's diet for a noncompetitor (that means you!) who wants to look his best, shedding as much fat as possible in a very short time. With just under a month, there's no time to fool around, so get started on your high-protein meal plan now to lose weight and build muscle while you're at it. Go to the grocery store and stock up tonight. Come breakfast time tomorrow, follow his plan as strictly as you can and get ready to show off those impressive muscles in a month.
Some diet plans, such as the MIND diet and the DASH diet, are meant to focus on certain areas of health — and weight loss may be a bonus. Others are created with weight loss as a primary goal. “It is important to remember that we are all very unique individuals,” says Kyle. “We all have different states of health and different lifestyles, which could affect what diet plan is best for us. That means that you should not be considering what is working for your friends or family members — and instead should pay attention to what works for you individually.”

Go back to basics. Go through your meal planners and food logs to see what does not match up. Look for possible processed foods or artificial sweeteners in new foods you’ve added to your diet recently. If you’ve stopped logging or planning your meals, take this opportunity to start again. Most often just that one step will pull you out of a plateau.


Start with 40 grams of Net Carbs of carbohydrates a day. Net Carbs represent the total carbohydrate content of the food minus the fiber content and sugar alcohols (if in the product). The Net Carbs number reflects the grams of carbohydrate that significantly impact your blood sugar level and therefore are the only carbs you need to count when you do Atkins.
Habits and cravings are the devil when it comes to dieting. Let's first deal with habits. Juge explains that it takes a good week or two to ease into dieting. "Fast food is so easy and there's a McDonald's on every corner. The hardest thing is to develop the new habit of preparing your meals and taking them with you." The first week is the most difficult, so prepare yourself for some challenges as you abandon your usual routine. For example, you might usually go out for a sub sandwich or burger at lunch. You'll now have to bring your food with you and resist the temptation of spicing up your meal with the Doritos in the vending machine or your usual can of Coke. It can be a real mental battle to stick to your food plan.

Lastly, to help you stay motivated I recommend you log your weight loss results so that you can gather an average. You will always have good weeks and bad weeks, but it’s the average that counts. Every weigh in (only weigh in once per week) write the pounds lost on your calendar. At the end of 8 weeks add up all the weight loss pounds and divide by 8 for your 8 week average. This will help you stay motivated and see your results. Anytime you have a bad week, think of your weight loss average and know this is all just part of the process.
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.”

There’s a large spectrum of where people can fall on a vegetarian diet: For example, vegans consume no animal products, whereas ovo-lacto vegetarians eat both dairy and eggs. The eating style may help with weight loss, suggests a review published in August 2017 in Nutrients, but some vegans and vegetarians may become deficient in specific nutrients, such as calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12, according to an article published in December 2017 in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases. (23,24)
Your 28 days are up; you look great and want to keep it that way. Juge has an easy plan to maintain your body, yet enjoy greater flexibility with your diet. No.1, he says, is to eat a good, clean breakfast. If you're at home, it's much easier to do—just scramble a few egg whites and have a whole-grain item (whole-wheat bread or a bagel, for instance), and/or some fruit. Eat dinner at home, again a healthy, clean meal consisting of a lean protein source, green vegetable, and whole grains. Then, bring a protein shake or bar with you to work for a midday meal. "You've now got three clean meals taken care of," says Juge. So if you're eating at a restaurant at lunch and you want to have something different, you can have it. Just keep the rest of your meals pretty strict, without added sugars and fats.
To reach your get-lean goal, you must also follow a get-lean diet, filled with the best foods to burn fat. Why? Even if you work out hard for an hour every day, that still leaves 23 more hours for you to wreck all your hard work in the gym with just one slip-up: a measly handful of chips, a beer with the guys, or a burger at lunch. Diet is a huge, so to speak, part of the fat-loss equation. It's the backbone of your entire plan, the foundation of a hard body.
Be choosy about carbs. You can decide which ones you eat, and how much. Look for those that are low on the glycemic index (for instance, asparagus is lower on the glycemic index than a potato) or lower in carbs per serving than others. Whole grains are better choices than processed items, because processing removes key nutrients such as fiber, iron, and B vitamins. They may be added back, such as in “enriched” bread.

By planning your meals and logging what you eat and drink, you will start memorizing how many calories are in your favorite meals and ingredients. Best of all you will learn your own eating habits and cravings, so over time you can better plan your meals to suit your cravings. After a couple weeks if you see you consistently have a 3:00 pm craving for carbs, you can head off that craving in advance with a skinny sandwich at lunch. Or, a sweet craving at 10:00 am can be managed with a sweet oatmeal breakfast.


Coffee add-ins could be adding in unnecessary extra calories to your diet. According to the Mayo Clinic, common calorie culprits include sugar, half-and-half, whipping cream, and even fat-free milk. Meanwhile, black coffee has only five calories. Registered dietitian Andy Bellatti adds that another good swap is unsweetened plant milk instead of the sweetened ones for your beverages.
When you're eating to protect your ticker, researchers have realized that it isn't about clearing your fridge of all fat, but rather focusing on the right type. "Choosing foods with omega-3 fatty acids and mono- and poly-unsaturated fats can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol even more than limiting the cholesterol you eat," says Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, RD, a professor of nutrition at Penn State University.

The final possible culprit behind stubborn weight issues may be the stress hormone, cortisol. Too much cortisol will increase hunger levels, bringing along subsequent weight gain. The most common cause of elevated cortisol is chronic stress and lack of sleep (see tip #10), or cortisone medication (tip #9). It’s a good idea to try your best to do something about this.
Consuming protein in the morning will stabilize blood sugar, Sharon Collison, RD, sports dietitian and clinical instructor at the University of Delaware says. “Make sure to have an excellent source of protein with every breakfast such as Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or two to three eggs,” she says. Eating more protein earlier in the day could also help reduce sugar cravings in the late afternoon, Collison adds.
Notes: Chop the sweet potatoes and halve the Brussels sprouts, and place on a sheet pan. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Roast at 450°F (230°C) until tender, about 15 minutes. Brush the chicken with 1 teaspoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over medium-high heat until marked and no longer pink in the center, about 5 minutes per side.
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