According to its fervent proponents, humans were not made to be eating constantly; rather, we were designed to eat for short periods of time followed by hours (and sometimes days) of fasting. Much like vegetarianism, intermittent fasting is practiced for two main reasons: health and religion/spirituality. There are no food or caloric restrictions, but rather a restriction on WHEN to eat. The most popular methods include the 16/8 (8 hours of eating followed by 16 hours of fasting), the “Eat-Stop-Eat” method (two 24-hour fasts per week on non-consecutive days); and the 5/2 method (only 500 calories for 2 non-consecutive days, and 5 days of normal eating per week). While it's generally considered a healthy approach to eating when done moderately, some studies suggest extreme fasting may lead to hair loss and anxiety.
Still, it’s a worthy goal to lose belly fat because it’s “unfortunately the most dangerous location to store fat,” says Lawrence Cheskin, MD, chair of the department of nutrition and food studies at George Mason University and director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center. Because belly fat—also known as visceral fat, or the deep abdominal fat that surrounds your organs—is more temporary, it circulates throughout the bloodstream more regularly and is therefore likelier to raise the amount of fat in your blood, increasing your blood sugar levels and putting you at a greater risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
And then there are WW’s “freebies.” The company recently incorporated the Zero-Point Foods concept to its dietary approach, a list of over 200 foods that do not have to be “tracked” or counted because they’re unlikely to be overeaten. (For example, one is more likely to binge on French fries than on chicken breasts). Examples of Zero-Point foods include skinless turkey breast, fish, shellfish, beans, tofu, lentils, corn, peas, fruits, vegetables, and non-fat unsweetened yogurt.
You already know that a perfect diet doesn't exist, but many of us still can't resist the urge to kick ourselves when we indulge, eat too much, or get thrown off course from restrictive diets. The problem: This only makes it more difficult, stressful, and downright impossible to lose weight. So rather than beating yourself up for eating foods you think you shouldn't, let it go. Treating yourself to about 200 calories worth of deliciousness each day — something that feels indulgent to you — can help you stay on track for the long haul, so allow yourself to eat, breathe, and indulge. Food should be joyful, not agonizing!
Eat like the Italians and the Greeks! This is the dietician’s darling, named #1 non-commercial diet by many experts in the health and weight management industries. It's not a fixed diet with a fixed menu, but rather a general guideline based on fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, healthy grains, fish, olive oil, red wine (yes, red wine), and small amounts of meat and dairy. It is one of the most flexible diet plans out there, as it is highly customizable to fit anyone’s tastes and needs. It does not require calorie counting, mainly because most of the foods in this diet are filled with fiber and healthy fats, which makes you digest them slower, so you feel fuller longer.
Be choosy about carbs. You can decide which ones you eat, and how much. Look for those that are low on the glycemic index (for instance, asparagus is lower on the glycemic index than a potato) or lower in carbs per serving than others. Whole grains are better choices than processed items, because processing removes key nutrients such as fiber, iron, and B vitamins. They may be added back, such as in “enriched” bread.
"Stop focusing on calories and start focusing on the quality of the foods you eat. High-quality diet options are natural, whole, minimally processed foods, like vegetables, fruits, nuts or seeds that offer a lot more nutritional value in the form of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and fiber. These foods help tame hunger naturally and nourish our cells at the deepest level so that we aren't left with constant cravings. — Michelle Loy, MPH, MS, CSSD, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and owner of Go Wellness in Orange County, California
"Your body begins to work differently. This study proves that small amounts of nourishment throughout the day are better than the same amount of food concentrated in three big sittings. If we feed the body at regular intervals we send a signal to the body that it doesn't have to store calories. Conversely, when we skip meals we send just the opposite signal for the body to store calories, creating a negative effect on the metabolism." — Dr. Wayne Scott Andersen, co-founder and Medical Director at Take Shape For Life