Call it what you will: An eating plan, a lifestyle, a diet, a philosophy, but few things garner such heated debate as how to lose weight. The truth is, whether you’re on a low-carb keto program, devoted to the Paleo lifestyle, all in to the Whole 30 or remain committed to low-fat eating, these plans have more in common than you think. What’s more, follow any one of them religiously, and you’ll likely notice results.
There's a reason you've been hearing so much about cutting meat out of your diet lately. It's not just great for your body, but also a quick way to shed some extra pounds. "Consider swapping a few meat-centric meals each week for ones centered around vegetarian proteins — or give a full-fledged vegetarian diet a try if that's of interest to you," Gorin says. "Research shows eating a vegetarian diet may boost and speed up weight loss, resulting in a loss of up to 10 pounds." Gorin recommends topping a salad or filling a veggie taco with vegetarian protein sources like pulses — which are beans, chickpeas, lentils, and dried peas — to give your weight loss a boost. One study found eating ¾ cup of pulses daily led to a loss of close to a pound over about six weeks, versus people not eating pulses daily.
Luckily, that doesn’t mean you need to dedicate even more time exercising. In fact, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts can slash the time commitment while boosting results. HIIT workouts last about 20 minutes and combine bursts of super-intense exercise with slower recovery phases. This type of workout has been found to help people lose more fat once the workout is over, even though they burn less calories during the workout (since workouts are shorter) and also build muscle, rather than break it down the way conventional cardio does. (3)
We pulled the top 14 of the best commercial diets (marketed to the public for profit) and the top 12 of the best diets overall. We also threw five of the most popular diet apps into the mix. Since these are largely tracking devices that don’t espouse unique eating habits, they don’t appear to meet US News’ definition of diet, but are still potentially effective weight loss tools.
Consequently, researchers have widely discredited the hCG diet, which involves using hCG injections, pellets, sprays, or drops, and consuming as few as 500 calories daily. The diet is problematic not only because there’s a lack of research on hCG supplements, but also because the calorie requirement is dangerously low, potentially leading to nutrient deficiencies, fatigue, hormone imbalances, blood clots, and other issues. Thus, most experts agree the hCG diet is not safe for anyone, the Mayo Clinic notes. (35)
While not everyone has time to spend two hours at the gym every day, it is still possible to get enough daily activity to help your body burn off unwanted belly fat. Try to fit in three five minute sets of vigorous exercise per day, five days out of the week. Some great examples of workouts that will get your heart pumping and help you lose belly fat include:
●Personalize your portions. If you’re a woman eating with a man, customize your portions to suit your body’s needs, says Sass. That might mean more veggies and smaller servings of protein and foods with starch and fat. For example, on burrito night, skip the tortilla in favor of a bed of greens, and stick to a piece of lean protein the size of a smartphone, a small scoop of a healthful starch such as brown rice and a dollop of guacamole.
Belly fat, or visceral fat, is an especially harmful type of fat that sits around your organs. The first 2 weeks of belly fat loss are the most important, because changes to diet and exercise can result in relatively large weight loss in a short time. Learn the truth about how the body stores and removes belly fat, then adjust your lifestyle for maximum fat reduction.
Regardless of which of these diets appeals to you, the biggest challenge for any of them is that you have to have at least some ability in the kitchen -- and for some you have to be pretty competent -- because all of them are based, at least in part, upon purchasing and preparing your own, whole foods. That may be a challenge if food prep is not your thing or you're often pressed for time. In that case, Weight Watchers is probably the easiest program for the non-cook to follow. They not only have a complete line of prepared foods, they also have tools to give you the points values for the menus of many popular restaurants. If you really want to make dieting as simple as possible, skip on over to our discussion of the Best Prepackaged Diet Plans for some really convenient weight loss plans.
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.
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.
Skimp on fluids, and your body will release an antidiuretic hormone that leads to water retention that could affect the scale, Dr. Setlzer says. While this sneaky effect is one reason why the scale is a poor measure of body mass loss, you can outsmart it by drinking more—particularly if you fill your glass with water or non-calorie alternatives like unsweetened coffee and tea.
When you’re cutting calories, it can be tough to make sure you’re still getting enough of all the good stuff your body runs on. “Nutrient deficiencies can stall or halt weight loss,” says Crandall. She sees lots of patients with low levels of vitamin D, for example, a nutrient that is critical to parathyroid hormone function—it helps with weight regulation. If you’re not eating a well-balanced diet, a multivitamin can be a good way to bridge those nutritional gaps and make sure you’re not missing anything that could impede weight loss or muscle building, such as calcium or iron.
Cinnamon contains powerful antioxidants called polyphenols that are proven to alter body composition and improve insulin sensitivity. A Metabolism journal study showed that the addition of dietary cinnamon can activate thermogenesis and potentially help you burn fat. Add it to your overnight oats or sprinkle some in your coffee to reap the benefits.
When you restrict your caloric intake, or cut out specific food groups, you do run the risk of having nutritional deficiencies, especially when it comes to micronutrients. Cutting out fatty foods, for example, could have the inadvertent effect of causing your omega-3 fatty acid intake to plummet, which could increase your long-term risk for cardiovascular disease (8).
A 2010 study from the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition) shows that probiotics may help reduce belly fat. Every day for 12 weeks, 87 study participants drank either seven ounces of fermented milk enriched with a probiotic strain called Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055 (LG2055) or the same amount of fermented milk made without LG2055. Compared to the control group, those who consumed the LG2055-enriched fermented milk showed a greater reduction in belly fat and body weight.
There are a plethora of resources for getting started on, or maintaining, the Atkins Diet. In addition to the official Atkins website, with recipes, many free downloads, and a support community, there are thousands of websites built by low carb devotees with additional tips, recipes and encouragement. The book, New Atkins for a New You (Est. $12), is also a good place to start the low carb journey. It's highly rated by users, who say it's a great guide for making a dietary lifestyle change. Some like that the science of low carb eating is well presented, others say they would prefer a more casual approach and more recipes. Others point out that all of the information in the book is available on the Atkins website, free of charge.
Weight Watchers is still the best choice for both short-term weight loss and long-term healthy eating, while Jenny Craig rules in the prepackaged convenience category. But if neither of those works for you, we also review the top diet books, low carb diets, the Paleo diet and more. We even recommend less-expensive alternatives to the top commercial diets.
Cruciferous veggies are one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat, but unfortunately they’re also the ones most likely to cause your tummy to inflate. Thanks to raffinose, a compound that produces extra gas as it breaks down, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and the like can seriously increase your waistline. But don’t ditch them forever. Just save them for meals where you can wear loose pants. Here are other surprising foods that cause gas.