When you've got a lot of weight to lose, deciding where to begin can be super-overwhelming—but we've got a good place for you to start. We've talked to dozens of women who completely transformed their bodies—we're talking shedding 50-plus pounds—and pulled together a list of the eight simple changes they made that had the biggest impact on the scale. Their tried-and-true tips might be exactly what you need to get on the path to serious results. But don't just take our word for it: These women's results speak for themselves.
Live It! This phase is a lifelong approach to diet and health. In this phase, you learn more about food choices, portion sizes, menu planning, physical activity, exercise and sticking to healthy habits. You may continue to see a steady weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds (0.5 to 1 kilogram) a week until you reach your goal weight. This phase can also help you maintain your goal weight permanently.
This formula will help you lose weight faster, says Kristin Kirkpatrick, R.D., manager of wellness nutrition services at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. A 2016 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that increasing your protein intake while decreasing the amount of calories you consume ensures that you lose fat instead of muscle. This 35-35-30 breakdown doesn't mean you can eat any old carb or fat though, she says. Aim to get most of your healthy fat from nuts and fish, your carbs from beans and whole grains, and protein from lean sources like eggs, chicken, and fish, she says.
Also, while your menstrual cycle may not affect weight gain or loss, losing or gaining weight can affect your menstrual cycle. Women who lose too much weight or lose weight too quickly may stop having a period, or have irregular periods. Women who have obesity may also have irregular periods. A regular period is a sign of good health. Reaching a healthy weight can help women who have irregular periods to have cycles that are more regular. Learn more in our Menstrual Cycle section.
Intermittent fasting—limiting your eating hours to just eight, say between 10:30 and 6:30—has gained popularity as a way to shake up your metabolism, and it just might work. “There is a lot more research that needs to be done but it does seem to benefit some people, particularly men,” says Angel Planells, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics based in Seattle. Another approach is to fast—or eat next to no calories (500-600 calories total)—two non-consecutive days a week. (You can eat normally the other five days.) The tactic seems to increase fat burning. “When your body isn’t getting fuel, it will start burning fat,” Planells says. Read about this woman’s experience with intermittent fasting.
Taking soy supplements may reduce belly fat in obese postmenopausal women, according to a small study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 2010. For the study, researchers assigned 39 postmenopausal women to three months of treatment with either soy supplements or a placebo. Results revealed that soy helped reduce belly fat and interleukin-6 (a marker of inflammation), but failed to improve blood-sugar metabolism and increase levels of leptin (a hormone involved in fat metabolism).
"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)
Diet plans are usually divided into three categories, namely Low Carb, High Carb and High Protein. Menu choices also include vegetarian, gluten-free, allergy and diabetic-appropriate meals. It is essential that you consult with a doctor or a nutritionist before enrolling in a diet program this is to ensure that the diet plan is in-tune with their health condition.
The support of others can play a vital role in losing weight and maintaining your health. Look for an online weight loss program that boasts a vibrant, active community you can participate in. Elements that mark a strong community include message boards, member blogs and weight loss challenges sponsored by the service to encourage and energize members. Online weight loss support can come from the service as well as fellow dieters facing the same challenge.
The authors wanted to compare low-fat vs. low-carb diets, but they also wanted to study genetic and physical makeups that purportedly (their word) could influence how effective each type of diet will be for people. Previous studies had suggested that a difference in a particular genetic sequence could mean that certain people will do better with a low-fat diet. Other studies had suggested that insulin sensitivity may mean that certain people will do better with a low-carb diet.
This may explain why the fat-burning effects of eating more protein were confirmed in a study published in the American Journal of Physiology. One group was fed a high-protein diet (just over 1 gram per pound of body weight per day) while the second group consumed an amount closer to the lower recommendation of the RDA (recommended dietary allowance). The group eating the higher-protein diet burned the most fat.
Close the Kitchen at Night. Establish a time when you will stop eating so you won't give in to the late-night munchies or mindless snacking while watching television. "Have a cup of tea, suck on a piece of hard candy or enjoy a small bowl of light ice cream or frozen yogurt if you want something sweet after dinner, but then brush your teeth so you will be less likely to eat or drink anything else," suggests Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, WebMD's "Recipe Doctor" and the author of Comfort Food Makeovers.
Your New Year's resolution diet should be based on a well-balanced eating plan that fits your lifestyle, rather than a weird fad replete with food restrictions. That's according to U.S. News & World Report's best diet rankings for 2018. The two diets that tied for the top spot -- the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH Diet -- fit that bill because they feature real food and reasonable, flexible guidelines, experts said.
Popularized by the documentary Forks Over Knives, the Ornish diet is a low-fat, plant-based diet plan based on whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes. It's based on a lacto-ovo style of vegetarianism, allowing only egg whites and nonfat dairy products. It's packed with vitamins, fiber, and lots of filling plants to keep you satiated. Some studies have shown it can reverse heart disease and have beneficial effects on other chronic health conditions. (BTW, there is a difference between a vegan diet and a plant-based diet.)
Dieters often decrease the number of daily meals in an attempt to reduce calories—a big no-no. "If you eat six meals a day vs. three with the same total calories, you can lose more fat because more meals burn more calories [by increasing thermogenesis, the production of heat, in the body]," says Aceto. Calculate how many calories you want to consume per day (see tip 3), and spread them evenly across 5-6 meals.
Nutrisystem is so accessible, you can even grab it at your local Walmart. There are a few different plans to choose from, but each of them has you eating 4 to 5 times a day — and every meal and snack is high-protein, high-fiber, and contains zero trans fat, MSG, or artificial preservatives. Those who use this diet are said to lose an average of 1 to 2 pounds per week.
If figuring out what to put into your body is too overwhelming, start with how much you're serving yourself. The easiest way to do this? Swap out your plates for smaller ones, like mother of two Jeanenne Darden did. With the help of this trick, she managed to lose an amazing 22 percent of her body weight, going from 187 pounds to 146 pounds. "I ate normally," she says. "I just ate less of everything." Pro tip: This trick is even easier with some cute portion-control dishware.
Another frontrunner on the U.S. News and World Report 2016 list (it came in at number two in the weight loss category), the HMR Weight Management program is used in over 200 medical facilities around the U.S. Dieters embark on two phases, the first centered around HMR's products (meals, shakes, snacks) and the second transitioning towards a sustainable plan emphasizing fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
Use an adult energy needs calculator to estimate your calorie intake needs; then subtract the 500 to 1,000 calories for weight loss. For example, a 28-year-old woman who is 5 foot, 9-inches tall weighs 175 pounds and is lightly active -- less than an hour a day -- burns about 2,400 calories daily. She'll burn about 2 pounds of fat in a week if she eats 1,400 calories daily, or 1 pound a week if she eats 1,900 calories a day.
Plain and simple: We just don't feel full by liquid calories in quite the same way as we do real food. Drinking a juice or caramel coffee drink, for instance, won't make you feel full the way eating a bowl of veggie- and protein-packed stir-fry will. So monitor your intake of juice, soda, sweetened coffee and tea, and alcoholic beverages. If you consume each of those beverages during the day, you'll have taken in at least 800 extra calories by nighttime — and you'll still be hungry. (Incidentally, alcohol may suppress the metabolism of fat, making it tougher for you to burn those calories.) Some other ways to skip sugar? Check 'em out here.
Usually work out for 30 minutes? Exercise for a third of that—but go hard! "An intense 10 minutes jump-starts your metabolic furnace and equals about 20 or 30 minutes at a moderate intensity," says Jordan Metzl, MD, author of Dr. Jordan Metzl’s Workout Prescription. If you can’t spare the full 10 minutes, you can sweat for even less time: According to a 2013 study from Colorado State University, exercising for just 2 ½ minutes at a high intensity (think running or biking sprints) can help you burn 200 more calories over the rest of the day.
Fiber is found in beans, nuts, seeds, fruits, veggies, and whole grains and foods rich in fiber tend to lend themselves to weight loss. At the moment, just 10 percentof Americans are hitting fiber targets of around 25 grams per day. Studies that track what people eat over time suggest that there’s a connection between weight and fiber intake, with higher fiber intakes linked to lower body weights (the reverse is true, too). One review of 12 studies found that supplementing the diet with more soluble fiber helped people slim down. Another year-long study found that people who followed the simple suggestion to eat 30 grams of fiber each day lost about 5 pounds.
●Halt bad eating habits. Before you cave to the crave, hit the pause button, recommends Pamela Peeke, author of the bestseller “The Hunger Fix: The Three Stage Detox and Recovery Plan for Overeating and Food Addiction.” Ask yourself: “Am I hungry? Angry? Anxious? Lonely? Tired?” Get in touch with your emotions and ask, “Am I’m emotional right now? Am I about to knee-jerk into overeating?”
Filling up on spicy food when you’re already sweating may sound counterintuitive, but scientists present a solid case for how culinary heat can help us beat the heat — and the bulge. They call it “gustatory facial sweating.” It’s a phenomenon that suggests spicy foods trigger special nerve receptors in our mouths and thermosensors in our stomachs that cause us to sweat — the body’s way of releasing heat via evaporative cooling. You’ll get the same heat-up-cool-down effect from a hot cup of tea, but spicy summer foods have the added benefit of being rich in capsaicin, a fat-burning compound found in chili peppers.
Long-term weight loss appears to be more of a function of lifestyle choices than specific food choices. One study on people in the National Weight Control Registry, a large group of people who have lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off for at least five years, found that key weight maintenance behaviors include a consistent diet pattern, not skipping breakfast, and exercising at least an hour per day (5).
This is what's known as insulin resistance. Basically, when your body doesn't respond well to insulin, it actually makes more of the stuff, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. And that can lead to fat storage, especially around the middle of your body. That's where protein comes into play: A diet high in protein may protect you against insulin resistance, says Aronne.