Weight loss ultimately comes back to the concept of calories in, calories out: Eat less than you burn and you’ll lose weight. And while it’s possible to lose water weight quickly on a low-carb diet, I certainly wouldn’t advocate for it. The diet itself can trick you into thinking that this eating style is working — when really, you might gain back what you lost as soon as you eat carbs again. That can feel incredibly dispiriting if you want results that last longer than a week.
One of our most popular salad recipes, Spinach-Strawberry Salad with Feta & Walnuts (see Associated Recipes), gets a makeover in these simple yet totally satisfying meal-prep spinach salad bowls. They require minimal prep and can be customized to your taste. Swap in roasted salmon for the chicken thighs, and almonds or pecans for the walnuts, and use any fresh berry that looks good at your market.
When it comes to the "best" diet for most people, this one consistently ranks at the top of every list. If you can't afford a cruise to the Mediterranean (yet!), at least you can eat like the beautiful, long-living, and famously healthy people from the region. The Mediterranean diet teaches you to eat like a Sardinian, one of the "blue zones" identified by researchers as having a high number of people living past 100—by eating more fish, olive oil, healthy fats, and fresh vegetables. The point is to have not just a longer life but also a healthier and happier one, whether you're trying to lose weight or not. (Really—research shows that you can reap the benefits of the Mediterranean diet without cutting calories.)
This diet theory, consisting of 10% or less of daily calories from fat, is the flip-side to Atkins, Keto, and Paleo. Proponents of the ultra-low-fat approach adhere to a diet rich in plant foods, low in animal products, and high in carbohydrates (80% or more of daily caloric intake). An example of this type of theory is the TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) Diet created by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Association with the purpose of helping people combat heart disease, lower cholesterol levels, and prevent digestive problems.
"In order to increase your resting metabolic rate, it is the consistency of exercise that is crucial and not the intensity or duration. Focus on consistent, quality movement (walk, bike, climb, paddle board, etc.) every day, rather than embracing the weekend warrior mentality." — Timothy Lyman, ACE certified personal trainer and Director of Training Programs at Fleet Feet Pittsburgh
The one thing that is sure to make you lose weight is this simple equation: CICO, short for “Calories In, Calories Out.” In short, it means: a) if you eat more calories than your body spends, you’ll gain weight; b) if you eat less calories than you spend, you’ll lose weight. In spite of all their differences, all diet plans that aim to help you lose weight must adhere to this seemingly simple equation. However, most experts agree that, by itself, CICO is an incomplete and flawed approach due mainly to its focus on quantity over quality, and the fact that it doesn't take nutrients into account.
The Dietary Guidelines is a joint report created by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA). It’s designed with the purpose of setting a general basis for what constitutes a healthy diet. The most recent Guideline was published in 2015 and will be updated in 2020. They include five key recommendations:
HIIT stands for high intensity interval training, and it’s a great way to build muscle without spending hours in the gym. The idea is to go all out for a short period of time, followed by a slower pace that allows you to recover. Think of jogging or sprinting all out for 30 seconds, followed by a minute or two of rest, then repeat. Short bursts of high-intensity exercises keep your heart rate up while adding lean muscle. More muscle mass equals calories burned on a daily basis. Also, the more lean muscle you have, the higher your metabolism is.
“This is a great way of eating that I highly recommend to many clients, and I even model in my own life,” says Elizabeth Shaw, RDN, who is in private practice in San Diego and is the co-author of Fertility Foods Cookbook. “Since the premise of the diet is designed to help people who have high blood pressure, low-sodium foods are recommended. But considering that most Americans exceed their daily sodium levels anyway, it’s not surprising that dietitians recommend this style of eating for treating many different conditions, such as heart disease and obesity.”
"When going out for fast food, I used to get the large-size value meal. Now, I satisfy a craving by ordering just one item: a small order of fries or a six-piece box of chicken nuggets. So far, I've shaved off 16 pounds in seven weeks, and I'm on track to being thinner than my high school self for my 10-year reunion later this year." —Miranda Jarrell, Birmingham, AL
The number of calories you need to maintain or lose weight depends on a number of factors, including your age, sex, height, and level of physical activity, according to the FDA. To maintain a healthy body weight, the FDA recommends that you balance the number of calories you consume with the number of calories you burn through physical activity and your body’s metabolic processes. As a rule of thumb, the FDA recommends a standard 2,000 calorie diet for the average adult.
It can actually help you cut back on calories. That's because capsaicin, a compound found in jalapeño and cayenne peppers, may (slightly) increase your body's release of stress hormones such as adrenaline, which can speed up your ability to burn calories. What's more, eating hot peppers may help slow you down. You're less likely to wolfed down that plate of spicy spaghetti — and therefore stay more mindful of when you're full. Some great adds besides hot peppers: ginger and turmeric.
Getting enough protein every day, whether you’re in a quick-fix or long-term mindset is important for keeping your muscles and metabolism healthy throughout weight loss. Make sure you’re having some chicken breast, lean ground turkey, fish, seafood or tempeh that’s the size of a deck of cards at every meal. When snacking, have 2 eggs, 1/4 cup of nuts, or 3/4 cup of Greek yogurt or cottage cheese to meet your protein needs and stay full and feel slim.
The plan promotes long-lasting, sustainable changes, and undoubtedly a bounty of research backs this up. In fact, one December 2013 study in the American Journal of Medicine shows that people following Weight Watchers were close to nine times more likely to lose 10 percent of their body weight, compared to people following a self-help diet plan. (20)
Incorporate a 12-hour fast. Don't panic — most of this fast occurs while you sleep. Restricting your eating to 12 hours a day may help you lose weight, according to one study.[14] You should still eat your recommended daily calories, but limit yourself to only eating during a 12 hour period. So you might eat breakfast at 7am and cut yourself off from eating after 7pm. Though it is not fully understood, this 12-hour fasting period may cause your body to switch from burning food to burning fat.
Even though theoretically anyone can benefit from a healthy diet, it’s recommended that you consult with your doctor before beginning a new diet plan. Also, there are people for whom certain plans may not be ideal, including people with diabetes, pregnant women, people allergic to certain foods, people with hypertension, and people with a history of eating disorders.
Going long periods of time without food does double-duty harm on our healthy eating efforts by both slowing down your metabolism, and priming you for another binge later in the day. (Think: You've skipped breakfast and lunch, so you're ready to takedown a whole turkey by dinner!) Make it your mission to eat three meals and two snacks every day, and don't wait longer than three to four hours without eating. Set a "snack alarm" on your phone if needed.

HCG, or Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, is a hormone produced during pregnancy by the placenta after implantation, and doctors sometimes prescribe it for fertility issues. But this hormone has also gained popularity as a weight-loss supplement — and using it as such can be dangerous. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns against purchasing over-the-counter hCG, as these supplement products are illegal. (34)


Protein is also important for preserving muscle mass as you lose weight. If you cut back dramatically on calories and drop weight too fast, your muscles can suffer. Your body starts pulling from lean tissue like muscles and organs to fuel itself, and your metabolism slows to conserve energy. That’s why super restrictive diets that have you dropping weight fast aren’t healthy over the long run.
HIIT stands for high intensity interval training, and it’s a great way to build muscle without spending hours in the gym. The idea is to go all out for a short period of time, followed by a slower pace that allows you to recover. Think of jogging or sprinting all out for 30 seconds, followed by a minute or two of rest, then repeat. Short bursts of high-intensity exercises keep your heart rate up while adding lean muscle. More muscle mass equals calories burned on a daily basis. Also, the more lean muscle you have, the higher your metabolism is.
A big part of weight loss is simply being aware of the decisions you’re making. For example, when out at happy hour with friends, you may lose track of how much you're eating or drinking. But if you take a split second to step back and become aware of that fact, you’re more able to course correct. “The awareness and then planning for what else I can be doing, that might give me the same benefit of eating comfort foods,” says Gagliardi.

Spending more time in the kitchen can help you shed belly fat, as long as you’re cooking with the right foods, according to one 2017 study. After analyzing data from more than 11,000 men and women, UK researchers found that people who ate more than five homemade meals per week were 28 percent less likely to have a high body mass index, and 24 percent less likely to carry too much body fat than those whole only downed three meals at home.
"A study by David Jenkins, MD, PhD—the University of Toronto pioneer in low-glycemic eating — demonstrates that eating small portions at frequent intervals is good for your health in a number of remarkable ways. Within the study, they found that people who ate every three hours reduced their blood cholesterol by over 15% and their blood insulin by almost 28%. That's key, because in addition to regulating your blood sugar level, insulin plays a pivotal role in fat metabolism, inflammation and the progression to metabolic syndrome. When your body produces less insulin, you're much less likely to convert dietary calories into body fat.

To lose 10 pounds fast, Jackson explains you'll then want to cut your calorie consumption by 10%. "For example, if you average 2,000 per week, reduce that amount to 1,800 calories and see if you lose weight. You'll also want to take notice of the percentage breakdown of protein, carbs and fat. Aim for a 'bodybuilder breakdown' which is 40% protein, 40% carbs and 20% fat. You'll begin to drop weight in no time!" 

In what is perhaps the biggest buzzkill of all time, sex doesn’t quite count as cardio or burn a significant amount of calories: Women burn about 3.6 per minute. "It’s still a good idea," Dr. Seltzer says, citing the activity’s other benefits, like increasing the output of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which naturally reduce food cravings.
After subscribing and placing your order, you’ll receive your weekly meal plan at home in a recyclable package. And, if you live in certain areas, you could also get your food at one of the company’s 200 local pick-up locations. One curious aspect of these locations is that most of them are located in fitness centers, so you can get your sweat on while picking your food. 

Each one of us has a different preference for food. Some like chocolate, some like french fries and so on. But the desire to have junk is common to all of us. What’s your preference for junk food? Is it chocolate? Is it sweets? Find your poison and make sure you don’t have easy access to it. Don’t stuff your fridge with junk food. ‘Watch what you eat and don’t binge!’, says Neha Dhupia.


After subscribing and placing your order, you’ll receive your weekly meal plan at home in a recyclable package. And, if you live in certain areas, you could also get your food at one of the company’s 200 local pick-up locations. One curious aspect of these locations is that most of them are located in fitness centers, so you can get your sweat on while picking your food. 
Like protein, fiber slows the rate at which your body plows through carb calories so you feel full for longer and maintain steadier blood sugar levels, one reason why research consistently links fiber intake to weight loss. That means fibrous whole grain bread tends to be a better choice than white bread and also explains why fruits, which contain fiber and valuable vitamins in addition to sugar, beat straight-up candy every time.
"The best thing you can do for your belly is to give up processed foods. A study in the journal Food & Nutrition Research found that our bodies burn only 50 percent as many calories digesting processed foods as they do real foods. So it's like eating twice as much, even if the calories are the same!" — Mark Langowski, celebrity trainer, CEO and Founder of Body By Mark 
"How easy it is for someone to lose 10 pounds depends on a lot of things: age, gender, activity level, basal metabolic rate, and how much weight he or she has to lose" explains Kate Huether, MD, of The ReKovery MD, who also holds a master's degree in nutrition. "If someone is very overweight it is easier to lose excess weight as opposed to someone who is thinner," Dr. Huether adds.
For example, when researching the advantages or disadvantages of animal fat, we found two opposing views: one that treats it as a “cure for all” (keto enthusiasts) and another that swears it off completely (vegans). Both claim to hold the truth, but an objective analysis of data does not support either claim completely. This is why, when it comes to researching the different diet plans, all claims made by diet providers should be taken with a grain of salt.
"It's no big surprise, but my go-to weight loss tip is to eat more vegetables. They are the most low-calorie food you can consume, and they're filled with health-boosting, satiating nutrients. From smoothies and eggs to soups, main and side dishes, they can fit in anywhere and boost volume and nutrition. If you want to eat more while still losing weight, veggies are your answer. —Laura Burak, RD, CDN
"It's far more difficult to eat a healthier diet and fit in exercise if you don't plan ahead. Plan out your meals for the week ahead and go grocery shopping over the weekend to ensure you have the ingredients you need on hand. If you can, do some meal prep in your downtime—cut fresh veggies, marinate your protein, cook up a batch of whole grains in advance. When you're prepared you're far less likely to order takeout. — Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN, culinary-nutrition consultant and founder of Nutritioulicious
The fad military diet consists of low-calorie, odd food pairings such as bun-less hot dogs with banana, carrots, and broccoli. “Any diet like the military diet that severely limits the amount of calories you consume or eliminates one or more entire food groups puts any individual at risk for nutrient deficiencies,” says Kyle. “This can be more harmful than holding onto those 10 extra lb you’re trying to lose.” (32)
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