If you eat a carbohydrate-rich meal (lots of pasta, rice, bread, or French fries, for example), your body releases insulin to help with the influx of all this glucose into your blood. As well as regulating blood sugar levels, insulin does two things: It prevents your fat cells from releasing fat for the body to burn as fuel (because its priority is to burn off the glucose) and it creates more fat cells for storing everything that your body can’t burn off. The result is that you gain weight and your body now requires more fuel to burn, so you eat more. Since insulin only burns carbohydrates, you crave carbs and so begins a vicious cycle of consuming carbs and gaining weight. To lose weight, the reasoning goes, you need to break this cycle by reducing carbs.
In our eat-and-run, massive-portion-sized culture, maintaining a healthy weight can be tough—and losing weight, even tougher. If you’ve tried and failed to lose weight before, you may believe that diets don’t work for you. You’re probably right: some diets don’t work at all and none of them work for everyone—our bodies often respond differently to different foods. But while there’s no easy fix to losing weight, there are plenty of steps you can take to develop a healthier relationship with food, curb emotional triggers to overeating, and achieve lasting weight-loss success.
Portion control is another key element of weight loss. Part of the process is understanding an actual serving size. Measuring high-calorie ingredients will help you learn to eyeball portions. Even calories from healthy foods add up. “One of the foods people love are healthy fats, which are great,” Amari Thomsen, MS, RD, LDN, dietitian, and founder of Eat Chic Chicago says. Your definition of a handful of nuts might be four times bigger than an actual serving size, she warns.
"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.
Make sure that the diet has been studied extensively for safety — and discuss any changes with your physician or registered dietitian before beginning a new diet. (If you don’t have a dietitian, find one in your area at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website.) And do a self-check to ensure the diet fits with your own values and preferences.
Plan your meals ahead of time so you make healthy choices. When dining out, check the menu online and decide what you will order ahead of time. Ask for dressings on the side and opt for foods that are baked, broiled or steamed versus foods that are fried or in creamy sauces. Avoid the chips and bread baskets that can add unnecessary calories to a meal.
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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.