Sure, you can lose weight quickly. There are plenty of fad diets that work to shed pounds rapidly -- while leaving you feeling hungry and deprived. But what good is losing weight only to regain it? To keep pounds off permanently, it's best to lose weight slowly. And many experts say you can do that without going on a "diet." Instead, the key is making simple tweaks to your lifestyle.
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.
Skimp on fluids, and your body will release an antidiuretic hormone that leads to water retention that could affect the scale, Dr. Setlzer says. While this sneaky effect is one reason why the scale is a poor measure of body mass loss, you can outsmart it by drinking more—particularly if you fill your glass with water or non-calorie alternatives like unsweetened coffee and tea.
It could be beneficial for your health and your weight loss goals to drink more water and less alcohol. Dr. Bazilian says that alcohol doesn’t have to necessarily be avoided altogether. but you should think if and where alcohol fits in the context of your overall health goals. “Aside from calories, alcohol doesn’t offer much by way of nutrition, so it’s at minimum an important decision to have going into any weight-loss program for yourself whether, how often, what type and how much may or may not fit in your timeline and goals,” she says. Alcohol also reduces inhibitions sometimes making it more challenging to make healthy eating choices, according to Dr. Bazilian. And alcohol may negatively impact sleep which plays a role in healthy metabolism, she adds.
"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.
Prep foods in advance. To make sure you stick to your diet plan, organize your meals in advance. You can do this after dinner in the evening. Lay out the foods you'll eat for breakfast so they are ready to go when you wake up. Then pack your lunch and snacks for the next day. Finally, do any meal prep for the next night's healthy dinner so that it's easy to throw together when you come home from work.
Carbohydrates are the preferred form of fuel for your body's energy needs. Simple or sugary carbs have their place when you need fast energy, but for the most part you should eat complex or slow-burning carbs (we'll give you examples of these later). The thing about carbs, though, is that after you consume all the carbs your body needs for immediate energy, any excess carbs will be stored as body fat.
To stay motivated and deal with cravings, Juge has a couple of great recommendations. First, schedule a cheat meal on every seventh day. "Many of my clients have their cheat meal on Sunday, so then they're ready for Monday and the week to come," he says. If you feel deprived during the week, concentrate on the cheat meal to come, knowing you can eat absolutely anything you want to—pizza, lasagna, doughnuts, beer, chips, you name it. Remember, though, it's just one cheat meal, not an entire day of cheating. Afterward, get right back on the wagon with your next scheduled meal.
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So as tedious as this one step might seem, it is an important step for both weight loss and maintenance later on and it holds everything together. Having a meal plan helps you manage plateaus while keeping you motivated. In the long run you’ve studied for your new healthy lifestyle and for your new figure. It makes it easier to maintain your weight loss diet when you have done the studying. So don’t skip this step, you’re studying for the most important test of your life… your health.
Most low-carb diets advocate replacing carbs with protein and fat, which could have some negative long-term effects on your health. If you do try a low-carb diet, you can reduce your risks and limit your intake of saturated and trans fats by choosing lean meats, fish and vegetarian sources of protein, low-fat dairy products, and eating plenty of leafy green and non-starchy vegetables.
Glassman suggests starting with a calorie baseline: If you're trying to lose weight, she recommends a meal plan that contains (roughly) 1,500 calories, with 40 percent coming from whole, fiber-rich carbs, 30 percent from protein, and 30 percent from healthy fats. That balance is ideal for keeping energy levels up and helping you build lean muscle while squashing hunger and the cravings that come with it, she says.
This vegan side dish is traditionally served at room temperature with grilled meat or fish, but feel free to double your portion and eat it as a vegan entree with crusty bread for dipping in that garlicky, flavor-packed olive oil. The name for this combination of roasted vegetables comes from the Catalan escalivar, meaning to cook in ashes, though most folks these days use an oven or grill to put some char on their veggies.
Close the Kitchen at Night. Establish a time when you will stop eating so you won't give in to the late-night munchies or mindless snacking while watching television. "Have a cup of tea, suck on a piece of hard candy or enjoy a small bowl of light ice cream or frozen yogurt if you want something sweet after dinner, but then brush your teeth so you will be less likely to eat or drink anything else," suggests Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, WebMD's "Recipe Doctor" and the author of Comfort Food Makeovers.
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.”