The key to lasting weight loss?
Losing the weight quickly. Here’s why: It may give you a psychological boost that helps you stick to your new habits; in studies, fast weight loss led to more pounds off overall plus longer-term success in keeping it off. However, “anyone can do a cleanse or an extreme plan,” says Lisa Lillien, founder of HungryGirl.com and author of the new book The Hungry Girl Diet. “But the minute you stop, you gain the weight back and haven’t learned anything.” We interviewed top nutrition and fitness experts to get their best advice for quick and safe weight loss.
Close your kitchen for 12 hours.
That should be the time between your last bite at night and first in the morning, says Lauren Slayton, RD, author of The Little Book of Thin. If you finish dinner at 7:30, that means no eating until 7:30 the next morning. Need motivation? “Tell yourself, ‘Go to sleep now, wake up wow,’” says Slayton.
Heading to the kitchen? Pour a glass of water.
If it’s a cliché diet trick, it’s for good reason. “People confuse hunger with thirst, especially when they’re trying to stick to a weight-loss plan and may expect to feel hungry,” notes Lillien. When you find yourself walking toward the kitchen, get a glass of water instead of food.
Any time you reach for something to eat, ask these two questions:
“One, am I hungry? And two, what am I hungry for?” says Jennipher Walters, a certified personal trainer, co-founder of Fit Bottomed Girls LLC, and author of The Fit Bottomed Girls Anti-Diet. “You could be procrastinating, or bored, or stressed. Or maybe you just really need a hug. Distract yourself for five to 10 minutes, a buffer time to decide if you’re really hungry.” That can have a big impact on quick weight loss.
Eat an appetizer.
Choose wisely: Walters recommends beginning dinner with a broth-based soup or a salad. “It fills you up and elongates the meal, which prevents you from scarfing down your food,” she says. To avoid eating too quickly, keep your entrée and sides off the table until you’re done.
Shrink your portions, except…
Supersize your veggies, pleads Tosca Reno, author of The Eat-Clean Diet series. “Two sprigs of asparagus is not enough,” she says. One of the biggest mistakes Reno sees clients make is eating too much of everything else. If you eat proper portions of just two food groups—carbs and meat—you will accelerate weight loss and improve your health. Tip: Pasta should be the size of your fist; meat should be about 3 ounces, about the size of a deck of cards or bar of soap.
Find new favorites.
Don’t deprive yourself; deprivation is not a great place to start, says Walters. “If you want to stop drinking soda, don’t just cut it out—find something else with bubbliness, like seltzer or flavored water, to replace it.”
Set a time for treats.
If you know you have something indulgent to look forward to—a piece of high-quality dark chocolate, say, after dinner—it may be easier to turn down other temptations, such as office birthday cake, says Walters.
Track your food.
Often after working out, notes Lillien, people tend to overcompensate (“I just did Spinning, I can order the French toast at brunch!”) and eat more calories than they burn. That’s less likely to happen if you write down what you eat. “It’s just about being more aware so you make better food choices,” she says.
Balance your breakfast.
“A lot of people think that a low-fat yogurt and fruit is a healthy breakfast, but it’s not that satiating, so you will be hungry again soon,” says Walters. She recommends a morning meal that includes a balance of protein, fat, fiber, and veggies, such as a veggie egg scramble with avocado or cheese, or oatmeal with fruit and nuts.
Toss your trigger foods.
“Everyone has foods that make them want to keep eating more,” says Lillien. When craving starchy picks like chips and pasta, she continues, “instead, I use tofu shirataki noodles made from tofu and yam flour—the whole bag has 40 calories.” Reno advises clients to get “hidden foods” out of the house so you don’t have that crutch when you feel a need to binge. “Chances are you’re eating too much of them,” she says.
Watch for added sugars.
“Sugar is an addictive ingredient,” says Reno. “The more you eat it, the more you want. When you decrease your intake, your body will keep asking for it, but after two or three days, you’ll be amazed by how your body responds.” If you don’t feel like reading food labels, just try switching from processed choices (say, an energy bar) to whole ones (like an apple).
Stop drinking your calories already.
It’s not just soda. Healthy-sounding juice, iced tea, and other beverages can be big calorie bombs. But cut them out, and you’ll watch the number on the scale start to drop instead. “Sometimes a bottle of iced tea or juice has 2.5 servings,” says Lillien. “Read labels and you’ll see it’s just not worth it.”
Switch up your exercise.
If you’re stuck in an elliptical rut, ditch the low-key cardio for some circuit training or interval training, says Walters. “In circuit training, you’re doing strength training and cardio at the same time, which gets your metabolism up and burns fat,” she says. A good interval workout—where you alternate short bursts of all-out effort with less-strenuous recovery zones—“is super effective and challenging—it will shake you and your body out of your comfort zone,” says Walters.