You may be tempted to skip meals like breakfast when you're trying to lose an extreme amount of weight, but those who succeed at weight loss make breakfast a priority. Try a poached egg on a slice of whole-wheat toast covered in one-eighth of an avocado and served with 1 cup of sliced strawberries and a 6-ounce container of nonfat Greek yogurt for 420 calories. A 1/2-cup serving of low-fat cottage cheese with a sliced banana and an English muffin with 2 teaspoons of peanut butter also makes a good breakfast option on your weight-loss diet. That option contains 440 calories. Or enjoy a breakfast smoothie by blending 12 ounces of nonfat Greek yogurt with 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds, 3/4 cup of blueberries, 1 cup of raspberries and ice for 400 calories.
For weight loss, you need to find the right balance of calories so that you lose at a rate of 1 to 2 pounds a week. Starvation diets that severely restrict caloric intake may help you lose weight faster, but you're losing water and muscle, not fat. Plus, when you eat too few calories, your body may hold onto fat as a means of protection against the starvation. This change in metabolism makes it even harder for you to lose the unwanted pounds.
Not all fat is bad. Healthy or “good” fats can actually help to control your weight, as well as manage your moods and fight fatigue. Unsaturated fats found in avocados, nuts, seeds, soymilk, tofu, and fatty fish can help fill you up, while adding a little tasty olive oil to a plate of vegetables, for example, can make it easier to eat healthy food and improve the overall quality of your diet.
The trick here is not only to avoid all obvious sources of carbohydrate (sweets, bread, spaghetti, rice, potatoes), but also to be careful with your protein intake. If you eat large amounts of meat, eggs and the like, the excess protein will be converted into glucose in your body. Large amounts of protein can also raise your insulin levels somewhat. This compromises optimal ketosis.
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.
Cutting out food groups is not the healthiest weight loss solution. “When you eliminate either fats or carbohydrates, you’re probably eating way too much of what’s left over,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, manager of wellness nutrition services at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. For example, if you cut out fat, you could overdo it on carbohydrates or vice versa. Instead, Kirkpatrick recommends balancing your meals and having one whole grain carbohydrate at each meal and opting for low-fat dairy products and lean meats. Here is the worst diet advice nutritionists have ever heard.
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.
The final possible culprit behind stubborn weight issues may be the stress hormone, cortisol. Too much cortisol will increase hunger levels, bringing along subsequent weight gain. The most common cause of elevated cortisol is chronic stress and lack of sleep (see tip #10), or cortisone medication (tip #9). It’s a good idea to try your best to do something about this.
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.
“A lot of people think the foundation of a paleo diet is high-fat meat, but I suggest that it’s vegetables,” says Hultin. The concept is to eat only foods — including meat, fish, poultry, eggs, fruits, and vegetables — that would have been available to our Paleolithic ancestors. This means grains, dairy, legumes, added sugar, and salt are all no-no’s.
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.