"Anytime you’re stressed, you probably go for food," Dr. Seltzer says. (Have we met?!) That’s because cortisol, the stress hormone, stokes your appetite for sugary, fatty foods. No wonder it’s associated with higher body weight, according to a 2007 Obesity study that quantified chronic stress exposure by looking at cortisol concentrations in more than 2,000 adults’ hair.
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.
This well-known plan promises weight loss of up to two pounds per week, and it has plenty of evidence to back it up. The bonus is that it’s built around real food. Weight Watchers has a strong community to support your success and offers personal coaching for an additional cost. The latest plan, WW Freestyle, has 200 zero Points foods, which makes tracking what you eat less of a burden. If you have a sweet tooth, this plan may be tough because sugar is heavily penalized. Weight Watchers doesn’t accept children under 13, pregnant women, or those with eating disorders. Find out which supermarket foods are best for weight loss.
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.
Eating at home puts you more in control of what you eat and how much you eat. One study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that people who ate at least five home-cooked meals per day were 28 percent less likely categorized as overweight. And they were 24 percent less likely to have excess body fat than participants who ate less than three home-cooked meals per week. Here are the weight loss rules pros cheat on.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Make your own. It’s easy! From one 14-ounce can of no-salt-added cannelini beans, spoon out 2 tablespoons of beans. Puree the rest. In a medium nonstick pot, sauté 5 cloves of chopped garlic until translucent. Add 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth and 1 head of escarole, chopped, or a package of frozen chopped spinach. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Add pureed beans, red pepper flakes and black pepper, to taste, and cook 1 minute longer. Garnish with the beans you spooned out plus, if you desire, a little chopped red bell pepper. Refrigerate or freeze what you don’t eat for easy soup prep for a future lunch or dinner.
We often make the wrong trade-offs. Many of us make the mistake of swapping fat for the empty calories of sugar and refined carbohydrates. Instead of eating whole-fat yoghurt, for example, we eat low- or no-fat versions that are packed with sugar to make up for the loss of taste. Or we swap our fatty breakfast bacon for a muffin or donut that causes rapid spikes in blood sugar.
The best way to understand and implement Step 1 is to skip the boxed, pre-made foods, and shop the perimeter of the grocery store. By shopping just the perimeter of the grocery store you’ll pick up organic fruits and veggies, lean protein from the butcher and freshly baked bread from the store bakery. You’re only buying fresh food. Of course this is more metaphor than rule. Organic pasta, rice and beans are usually found in isles as well are organic whole wheat flour and spices. Be sure to choose these ingredients in the purest forms, pick up the organic brown rice, not the box of rice mixture with the spices. The only ingredient on the label should be “brown rice.”
Dairy products such as cream and cheeses. They work well in cooking as they satisfy. The problem is if you’re munching a lot of cheese in front of the TV in the evening… without being hungry. Be careful with that. Or lots of cream with dessert, when you’re actually already full and just keep eating because it tastes good. Or another common culprit: loads of heavy cream in the coffee, many times per day.
If the diet is a quick fix rather than one that promotes lasting lifestyle changes, this could pose a problem. In particular, extreme diets that promise big weight loss up front aren’t always sustainable — and you may end up overeating or even binge eating if you feel deprived. “Consider if the diet’s habits are ones you can continue throughout your lifetime, not just 21 or 30 days,” says Angie Asche, RD, a sports dietitian in Lincoln, Nebraska.
This could be because the body increases insulin secretion in anticipation that sugar will appear in the blood. When this doesn’t happen, blood sugar drops and hunger increases. Whether this chain of events regularly takes place is somewhat unclear. Something odd happened when I tested Pepsi Max though, and there are well-designed studies showing increased insulin when using artificial sweeteners.