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.
If you’ve been eating fast food for years, get real about your approach: You’re probably not going to stick to an organic, gluten-free, paleo overhaul for very long. "You want to change as little as possible to create calorie deficit," says Dr. Seltzer, who insists the best way to support sustainable weight loss is to incorporate small changes into existing habits. So instead of giving up your daily BLT bagels in favor of an egg-white wrap, try ordering your sandwich on a lighter English muffin. Or say you eat a snack bar every afternoon: Swap your 300-calorie bar for a 150-calorie alternative. "Your brain will feel the same way about it, so you won’t feel deprived," he says.
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.
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.
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.
While there are probably plenty of pre-made bean and veggie soup options that just need a few minutes to heat through on the stovetop, making your own soup is really easy—and a great idea for your health. Homemade soups are much lower in sodium – about 100 milligrams or less per 2-cup serving. By contrast, 2 cups of many canned soups contain a blood-pressure-busting 1,200 milligrams or more, a worrisome amount considering that health experts recommend consuming no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium for the entire day. This is also a great way to use up all those leftover vegetables in your crisper—pretty much anything works in this soup.
“Don't like eating meat?” asks Ginger Hultin, RDN, a dietitian in private practice in Seattle and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Then don't be paleo! Travel a lot and rely on eating out? The DASH diet may end in frustration for you.” The bottom line: The diet you choose needs to be safe and effective, while taking into account your lifestyle.
When it comes to cravings, protein drinks and bars may also help cure your need for sugar, says Juge. He recommends mixing a flavored protein powder in a blender with as much ice as possible, so it'll taste more like a milkshake. Day Five's protein shake includes a cup of berries, which will also help with sugar cravings. Once or twice per week, Juge adds, you can have a low-sugar, high-protein bar. The newest varieties taste more like candy bars, with state-of-the-art sweetening techniques.
We’ve now arrived at tip number 16. If you’re still having trouble losing weight, despite following the 15 pieces of advice listed above, it might be a good idea to bring out the heavy artillery: optimal ketosis. Many people stalling at weight plateaus while on a low-carb diet have found optimal ketosis helpful. It’s what can melt the fat off once again.
Try to do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, such as a fast walk or a low-impact aerobic class, five days a week. Additionally, you want to work out all the major muscle groups with strength-training exercises, such as lifting weights or using a resistance band, for 30 minutes two days a week. As you lose weight and your fitness level improves, you may want to increase your exercise to up to 60 minutes a day to burn more calories, but with your doctor's permission and supervision.
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.
Lastly, consider how the diet plan can be incorporated into your lifestyle and whether it’s sustainable for you over the long-term. Most weight loss fails because of the dieter’s inability to maintain their commitment. Price, time requirements for meal planning and preparation, satisfaction and flexibility with your lifestyle are therefore essential to your success, no matter which diet plan you choose.
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."
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.
The success or failure of your diet plan ultimately depends on your compliance with the program. This is why it is important that you check the different features and services offered by each company. Some companies offer personalized diet plans that are designed to answer each client’s nutritional and weight loss need. Clients can even have the option of mixing and matching from the different sets of menus available.
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.