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.
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.
The truth is there is no “one size fits all” solution to permanent healthy weight loss. What works for one person may not work for you, since our bodies respond differently to different foods, depending on genetics and other health factors. To find the method of weight loss that’s right for you will likely take time and require patience, commitment, and some experimentation with different foods and diets.
"Researchers around the world say what really works is not just cutting calories but satisfying your hunger with the right kinds of foods," says Health’s Frances Largeman-Roth, RD. In fact, women following a low-fat diet who were allowed to fill up on all the fruit and vegetables they wanted lost 23% more weight than women on a low-fat diet alone, a new study from the United Kingdom reports.
Some men can lose up to 5 lbs. per week, says Juge, if they follow the diet strictly. He recommends striving for a weekly 2- to 3-lb. loss for more lasting effects. "That way it's not such a drastic change and you'll be less likely to put all the weight back on when the diet's done," he adds. Weigh yourself naked just once per week, at the same time, preferably on the same scale. That way it'll be as accurate as possible.
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.
You may be tempted to skip meals like breakfast when you're trying to lose an extreme amount of weight, but those who succeed at weight loss make breakfast a priority. Try a poached egg on a slice of whole-wheat toast covered in one-eighth of an avocado and served with 1 cup of sliced strawberries and a 6-ounce container of nonfat Greek yogurt for 420 calories. A 1/2-cup serving of low-fat cottage cheese with a sliced banana and an English muffin with 2 teaspoons of peanut butter also makes a good breakfast option on your weight-loss diet. That option contains 440 calories. Or enjoy a breakfast smoothie by blending 12 ounces of nonfat Greek yogurt with 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds, 3/4 cup of blueberries, 1 cup of raspberries and ice for 400 calories.
The degree to which exercise aids weight loss is open to debate, but the benefits go way beyond burning calories. Exercise can increase your metabolism and improve your outlook—and it’s something you can benefit from right now. Go for a walk, stretch, move around and you’ll have more energy and motivation to tackle the other steps in your weight-loss program.
Nuts. It’s very easy to eat until the nuts are gone, regardless of how full you are. A tip: According to science, salted nuts are harder to stop eating than unsalted nuts. Salted nuts tempt you to more overeating. Good to know. Another tip: Avoid bringing the entire bag to the couch, preferably choose a small bowl instead. I often eat all the nuts in front of me, whether I’m hungry or not.
Many people ask me what to do about extra skin, or loose skin, after weight loss and the answer is always “that’s what exercise is for.” If all you can do is a 20 minute yoga video after the kids go down for their nap, or a walk with the dog after work, find a way to make the most of it. And whenever possible increase the time you exercise, if even by 5 minutes.
Here’s the full shopping list for exactly what to buy, and check to make sure you have a few pantry staples on hand. Morris recommends starting on a weekend, so you can make a big pot of veggie soup, and give your body a chance to adjust before diving into a busy week. Her plan cuts carbs for the first couple of days, before slowly reintroducing whole grains. And if you want to mix it up, there are lots more options for healthy snacks, just make sure to get a serving of fruit or vegetables, along with protein.