Few things are more discouraging to someone on a weight-loss plan than the oft-cited statistic that 95% of people who lose weight will regain it within a few years. The difficulty in sticking with a long-term weight-maintenance plan is one of the main reasons that weight-loss programs fail. To uncover clues to successful weight loss, researchers have been collecting information on people who have lost weight and successfully kept it off for many years. This project, known as the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR), records what these people did to achieve their goals.
And there's another benefit to using exercise as a weight-loss tool. If you lose weight by only reducing calories from your diet, you also run the risk of losing muscle and water in addition to fat. But exercise not only burns calories - it can also help you to increase your lean muscle mass. Since muscle burns more calories than fat, even when you are at rest, adding exercise to the mix can help make you a lean, mean, calorie-burning machine!
The best diet for losing weight is Weight Watchers, according to the experts who rated the diets below for U.S. News. Volumetrics came in second, and Jenny Craig and the vegan diet were third on this overall weight loss ranking list, which takes into account short-term and long-term weight loss scores. Some other diets performed as well or better in our rankings for enabling fast weight loss, but long-term weight loss is more important for your health.
Preheat oven to 400°. Coat a baking sheet and 1 (3-ounce) chicken breast with cooking spray; bake 30 minutes or until done. Chop 1 small potato into 1-inch cubes; toss with 2 cups broccoli spears, 2 teaspoons olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Roast 30 minutes. Mix vegetables with 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese and 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar; serve with chicken.
A gigantic Farmer’s Market-style salad with a variety of fresh seasonal produce and fresh herbs, such as fresh baby arugula and radicchio, and red wine vinegar sassed up with a little horseradish. Enjoy visiting your local Farmer’s Market every week and asking the vendors, “What’s new and tasty this week? What would make great ingredients for my salad?”
Watching little television. The average American watches 28 hours of television per week, but about two-thirds of NWCR participants reported watching 10 or fewer hours per week, and only 12% watched 21 or more hours per week. Those who watched the most TV were more likely to regain weight than those who watched less, even after researchers controlled for diet and exercise differences.
This meal replacement plan has mixed scientific evidence to support it. SlimFast promises a reasonable one- to two-pound loss per week, but you’ll need to buy its shakes, bars, and other products. The 1,200-calorie plan allows for one 500 calorie meal of regular food daily, with the rest of the calories made up of SlimFast products, fruits, and vegetables. The hard part will be sticking with the program; also, the SlimFast foods contain a lot of processed ingredients and artificial sweeteners. This isn’t for people younger than 18, or pregnant or breastfeeding women without medical supervision. Make the most of your one meal with 11 simple swaps that lead to dramatic weight loss.
This plan was developed by nutritionist Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, to allow vegetarians to have a burger every once in awhile. There is no specific weight-loss claim, but the guidelines recommend around 1,500 calories per day, so there’s a good chance you’ll lose weight. Recipes are available online and in Blatner’s book. Vegetarian diets have been linked with reduced risk for diseases such as diabetes and heart troubles, but you have to make smart food choices to avoid nutrient deficiencies. Learn about the healthy diet plan nutritionists recommend for weight loss.
Eat at least 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight, daily. If your protein intake is too low on a restricted-calorie diet, you'll lose a lot of muscle in addition to any fat you're lucky enough to shed. A high-protein intake will help you preserve lean mass during your dieting phase. Choose lean, high-quality proteins like egg whites, poultry, lean red meat, and protein supplements. The diet provided here contains about 220-250g of protein daily, fine for a male weighing 200-250lbs. Up your protein only if you're heavier than 250lbs, or you're very hungry and need to add food during the day. Juge suggests an additional protein shake for an easy quick fix. (If you're under 180lbs, cut out 3oz of meat or chicken per day from the diet.)
In other words? "Drinking makes you more likely to eat sh*t," Dr. Seltzer says, referring to drunk foods. At the same time, he stops short of asking patients to quit alcohol cold-turkey to lose weight. Plus, research suggests you don’t have to, as long as your intake is moderate—i.e., less than about a drink a day. "If you drink a glass of wine every night and notice you eat more afterward, eat less early to account for this," he says. "Or, if you’re drinking four glasses of wine a week, drink three instead so you’ll won’t feel such a big difference."
Knowing what you're going to eat for dinner may help prevent those last-minute stops at the fast-food restaurant. Spend a little time once a week planning out your dinner menu and prepping ahead, such as defrosting your chicken and chopping veggies. Make a healthy chicken Parmesan by topping a 3-ounce grilled chicken breast with 1/2 cup of tomato sauce and 1 ounce of low-fat mozzarella cheese, and serve it with 1/2 cup of cooked whole-wheat spaghetti and 2 cups of steamed broccoli. This meal has 425 calories.
To prep the kale for the salad, we’re going to add it to a large bowl with a little olive oil and rub all over the kale, massaging it until the kale reduces in volume and becomes less stiff. (This makes a huge difference in the texture of the kale and makes it much easier to eat. I like to buy pre-cut kale when I meal prep because it’s just easier and takes one less step out of the process.)
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.
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.
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.
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.