Mindful eating is vital for a healthy diet, according to McKenzie Flinchum, RD, LD/N, CPT, Founder of The Flexible Dietitian LLC. “We tend to eat for many other reasons besides hunger, including boredom, celebrations, food cravings, etc.,” Flinchum says. “When a person sits down while eating, he or she is more conscious and is better able to pay attention to the whole process.” That said, eliminating other distractions while eating is beneficial too since a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that distracted eating may add to weight gain.
Use leftover spaghetti for lo mein the next night. Toss 1 cup of the spaghetti with 12 peanuts and 1 cup of chopped celery, onions and bok choy that's been sauteed in 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil for 425 calories. Make fish tacos with 3 ounces of grilled halibut stuffed into two 6-inch corn tortillas with lettuce and chopped tomatoes and served with 1/2 cup of a mix of brown rice, black beans and corn for 405 calories.
The sad truth is that conventional ideas – eat less, run more – do not work long term. Counting calories, exercising for hours every day and trying to ignore your hunger? That’s needless suffering and it wastes your time and precious willpower. It’s weight loss for masochists. Eventually almost everyone gives up. That’s why we have an obesity epidemic. Fortunately there’s a better way.
Real talk: It could take weeks or months to see the metabolic effects of exercise on the scale, and even then, building muscle, which is denser than body fat, could lead to weight gain. "Do what you like because it’s good for you," Dr. Seltzer says, noting the way exercise is awesome for your heart, mental health, and more—and that not all measure of progress can be seen on the scale.
It might seem like swapping regular products for “sugar-free,” “fat-free,” or “diet foods” is an easy fix. But they could do more harm than good. In fact, artificial sweeteners they could even cause weight gain, according to research published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. As for fat-free foods, choosing the full-fat option will keep you fuller longer, according to Pashko. Steering clear of ravenous hunger will ensure you don’t overeat later.
This eating plan promotes an average loss of one to two pounds per week. You’ll eat portion-controlled, pre-packaged meals and snacks; you can add your own fresh fruits and vegetables. Then, you’ll slowly introduce regular meals with the help of weekly counseling sessions. Jenny Craig does have some scientific evidence to back it, and dieters say they like the personalization and support of weekly meetings with a counselor. On the downside, the program can get expensive, and it uses a lot of processed foods with long ingredient lists. This plan isn’t meant for children under 13 or people with food allergies. For a budget-friendly option, check out the best free meal planners for weight loss.
Eating healthy is easier if you prepare for the expected and the unexpected. That’s why Lara Felton, RDN, head of the dietary team at mobile nutrition app ShopWell recommends preparing filling snacks for work or school. “I find that people often make poor food choices because they get so hungry they just grab whatever is close,” she says.”If you have something healthy already tucked in your bag or briefcase, you’ll save yourself the extra calories and eater’s remorse.” She recommends packing snacks that have a balance of carbs, protein, and healthy fat to keep your energy levels up and hunger at bay, but nothing too perishable or fragile.
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.
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.