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.
Measure it: If you want to improve something, measure it. While a pedometer can seem utterly arbitrary, wearing one and holding yourself to a daily goal can lead to forming powerful habits. Fitbit devices also allow you to create an online account where you can track yourself against friends and co-workers, so you can push each other to exercise. The nice thing about measuring exercise rather than weight is one can become a habit that leads to the desired goal, whereas the other is a lagging and fluctuating indicator. Each day you do your daily exercise you will be aware of what you did and how it made you feel. And those who exercise may have slightly elevated serotonin levels which lead to improved satiety, diminishing hunger.
In contrast, highly effective weight-loss techniques involve following a healthy eating pattern or lifestyle, with a goal of long-term weight maintenance and lowered risk for chronic disease. For example, a healthy eating pattern known as the DASH Eating Plan (similar to the 2010 Dietary Recommendations for Americans) does not involve calorie restriction. Instead, it encourages the consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean meat.
The determinants of the ability of weight maintenance are genetic, behavior, and environment. Among them, diet is the most important factor that influences the stability of body weight.[6,7] Some studies have shown that calorie intake less than the requirement and changing the calorie distribution from macronutrients may have a role to play. Also eating behaviors such as higher dietary disinhibition and binge eating result in weight relapse.
However, many people lead busy lifestyles, and if you don't have time to prepare every meal at home, start reading ingredient labels. Don't just stop at the calorie count because harmful additives may be hiding in ingredient lists. One of the worst culprits for weight gain is trans fat, and you have to be diligent when looking out for it. The nutrition information may say 0 grams trans fat, but if a food contains 0.49 grams or less, the company is allowed to list it as 0 grams. Look for partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredients, and put the food back if you see that ingredient. Look for hidden sugar as well. Fructose, Dextrose, and Sucrose are all sugar ingredients that add up quickly.
Stress may contribute to abdominal fat, according to several studies, including a recent one at the University of California, San Francisco. "When you're stressed, hormones like cortisol stimulate your appetite, slow your metabolism down and encourage fat storage inside your abdomen," explains Shawn Talbott, Ph.D., director of the Nutrition Clinic at the University of Utah. So what's a frazzled girl to do? "Find an activity that reduces stress for you, whether it's listening to soothing music or taking yoga, and do it daily," advises Talbott.
“Even though a smart diet is key, exercise can help boost your body’s metabolism to shed fat. Through health care providers often recommend brisk walking or jogging, these exercises may not help you see the results you want. Instead, try interval training. Here’s how: While performing your usual walking or jogging routine, intersperse faster paces periodically throughout your workout. In other words, you may be walking at your normal pace for 2 minutes and then begin a slow jog or fast walk for 1 minute. After the faster speed, return to your slower speed and continue this alternation for 20 minutes. Research shows this type of exercise can stimulate metabolism, melt fat and push your fitness status to the next level.” — Dr. Sean M. Wells, DPT, PT, OCS, ATC/L, CSCS Owner and PT, Naples Personal Training, LLC
The main sources of calories in a typical person's diet are carbohydrates, proteins, and fat, with alcohol also being a significant portion of calorie intake for many people (though ideally this should be limited since alcohol contains many empty calories). Some studies have shown that the calories displayed on nutrition labels and the calories actually consumed and retained can vary significantly. This hints at the complex nature of calories and nutrition and is why many conflicting points of view on the "best" methodology for losing weight exist. For example, how a person chews their food has been shown to affect weight loss to some degree; generally speaking, chewing food more increases the number of calories that the body burns during digestion. People that chew more also tend to eat less, since the longer period of time necessary to chew their food allows more time to reach a state of satiety, which results in eating less. However, the effects of how food is chewed and digestion of different foods are not completely understood and it is possible that other factors exist, and thus this information should be taken with a grain of salt (in moderation if weight loss is the goal).
Still not convinced to make sleep a priority? A lack of sleep doesn't only affect how much and which food you eat, but also how it metabolizes that food. Insufficient sleep messes with your metabolism by making your body more insulin resistant—a condition that usually leads to diabetes and weight gain—according to a 2012 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. (And, get this, it even changes your fat cells.)
Beware of Sugar: Your body processes carbohydrates differently than fats and proteins. Eating foods with a high glycemic index (those heavy in sugar and other quick-acting refined carbohydrates) will cause your blood sugar to quickly spike then crash, making you hungry again sooner. Whereas fats and proteins are processed slower and give you a sense of satiety which lasts longer. Calorie counting doesn't work for most people because it requires too much time, effort, and discipline. Eating vegetables and foods with a higher fat and protein content and less carbohydrates means you shouldn't need to count calories, as your body won't tell you that you are hungry when you don't need food. There are literally sugar candies in grocerie stores which are marketed using the label "a fat free food!" The "low fat" healty food marketing gimmicks came out of large agribusinesses creating demand for their frankenfood products.
“When you’re anxious, your body feels like it’s under a tremendous amount of stress all the time. This is why anxiety is a powerful trigger for weight gain. Two of the most proven cures for anxiety are exercise and spending time in nature. Combine both with an outdoor run or bike ride and race away from the anxiousness. Making this habit part of your lifestyle can help you stay lean for life.” — David Zinczenko, author of the Zero Belly Cookbook
Health issues stem from obesity, so getting a handle on weight loss leads to healthier futures. Weight loss calculator brings precision to weight loss efforts, estimating the number of calories required for various weight scenarios. The feedback provided illustrates caloric intake needed to maintain present weight as well as what would be necessary for gaining or losing weight.
Over-exercising can actually cause adverse health-effects. Someone who goes from zero physical activity to two hours at the gym, four times a week is at risk for serious injury. A pulled muscle, a torn tendon, broken bone, or any number of things can happen if you push yourself too hard too fast. Then, instead of moving forward with your exercise routine, you'll be facing weeks of healing time, which can be discouraging if you set specific goals for yourself. Gretchen Reynolds' The First 20 Minutes is a great starter guide to healthy exercising.
“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.
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.
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.