Did bikini season sneak up on you? Is your soon-to-be worn wedding dress still just a touch too tight? Did a last-minute invite for a beach getaway come your way? You're a lucky dog – and a panicked one too because you want to drop pounds, and fast. These 10 diets are likely to help you lose significant weight within a year, according to a panel of experts who reviewed 41 plans for the U.S. News Best Diets rankings. Just remember: Short-term weight loss is markedly different from long-term weight loss, which is more important for your health.
If you’re actively watching your weight this season, know this: Research from the University of Chicago found that dieters lost 55% less fat when they slept for 5½ hours than when they slept for 8½ hours. To settle into slumber more easily, avoid lit screens, food and, yes, booze for a full two hours before bed, and fill your plate with foods that help you fall asleep earlier in the night (think cherries, jasmine rice, and bananas).
To figure out how many calories you burn a day, calculate your resting metabolic rate—the number of calories you burn daily doing routine activities, not including formal exercise—using this formula: RMR = bodyweight (in lbs) x 13. Next, determine how many calories you burn through exercise—a half-hour of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise burns around 350 calories in the average man, and a half-hour of lifting burns around 200. Add your RMR to the calories you burn in the gym, and keep your daily calorie consumption below that total.
Sure, ketchup is tasty, but it’s also a serious saboteur when it comes your weight loss efforts. Ketchup is loaded with sugar — up to four grams per tablespoon — and bears little nutritional resemblance to the fruit from which it’s derived. Luckily, swapping out your ketchup for salsa can help you shave off that belly fat fast. Fresh tomatoes, like those used in salsa, are loaded with lycopene, which a study conducted at China Medical University in Taiwan links to reductions in both overall fat and waist circumference. If you like your salsa spicy, all the better; the capsaicin in hot peppers, like jalapeños and chipotles, can boost your metabolism, too.
"About a year ago, I went to the doctor for my annual exam. I had just turned 30, and the number on the scale was the highest it had ever been, and my cholesterol was high," says Lauren Zarzour, 31. "I joined Weight Watchers and ClassPass. I'm now 30 pounds lighter and have developed a better understanding of nutrition and a passion for the gym. I've learned how much more you value food when every day isn't an indulgence, and how amazing it is to be strong. I wish I would have known how easy it could be, but I don't think it would have been easy if I hadn't had that epiphany." (Related: How to Rekindle Your Weight-Loss Motivation)
Invest in single-serving containers. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases says that a serving size on a food label may be more or less than the amount of food you should eat, depending on your age, height, sex, and weight. Once you're done cooking, place the excess servings in the containers to eat for lunch or dinner tomorrow. That way, you won't polish off everything in one sitting.
Tart cherries have been shown to benefit heart health as well as body weight, in a study on obese rats. A 12-week study by the University of Michigan found that rats fed antioxidant-rich tart cherries showed a 9 percent belly fat reduction over rats fed a “Western diet.” Moreover, the researchers noted that cherry consumption had profound ability to alter the expression of fat genes.
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.
Jillian Michaels is a full-fledged fitness regimen, complete with exercise protocol and meal guides. If you’re motivated to lose weight and get in shape, this may be the program for you. The workouts are broken up into circuits of a few simple exercises, with multiple circuits per day. You’ll also benefit from the encouragement of Jillian Michaels herself—who repeatedly promises to kick your butt and whip you into shape on her website—through her video tutorials and training guides. It’s like having a personal trainer motivate you during your workout, but with a much lower price tag.
So what can we do with all this knowledge? Tempting as it is to get discouraged, we can actually find it encouraging. Biology is not destiny, after all. “Lifestyle choices are immensely powerful,” Peeke says. And on the heels of any tidal wave of new research is sure to come a trickle of weight-loss advice that can be more customized and more effective to help men and women with their weight-loss obstacles, no matter what they are.
Hu, T., Mills, K. T., Yao, L., Demanelis, K., Eloustaz, M., Yancy, Jr., W. S., ... Bazzano, L. A. (2012, October 1). Effects of low-carbohydrate diets versus low-fat diets on metabolic risk factors: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. American Journal of Epidemiology, 176(Suppl. 7), S44–S54. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3530364/
There’s also the impact fiber has on your gut health. By now you’ve likely heard of the microbiome—the trillions of bacteria that live in your digestive tract. It turns out that a predominance of certain strains of bacteria may encourage inflammation and weight gain, and eating fiber-rich foods can favorably shift this balance. While it’s too soon to say that changing your microbial makeup will prompt weight loss, it’s likely to send a “hey, stop gaining weight,” message.
Want to lose that belly fat? In your dreams! Seriously, though: a good night’s sleep is one of the best ways to get rid of that extra fat around your waist for good. Among the 60,000 women participating in the Nurses’ Health Study, those who snoozed for fewer than five hours a night were at the greatest risk of becoming obese and gaining 30 or more pounds over the course of the 16-year study period when compared to those who slept for seven or more hours.