Sure, there's your one friend who swears by the Taco Cleanse. And that other friend who ate nothing but broccoli soup for a month and dropped 20 pounds, found the love of her life, and got promoted at work. But before you start blending 80 stalks of broccoli into a cup or crunching your way through a crate of tacos, check out which diets are backed by science. Because don't you want to try one that will do the trick for you?
“The best thing you can do for your belly is to give up processed foods. A study in the journal Food Nutrition Research found that our bodies burn only 50 percent as many calories digesting processed foods as they do real foods. So it’s like eating twice as much, even if the calories are the same!” — Mark Langowski, celebrity trainer and author of Eat This, Not That! for Abs
Starchy veggies (like potatoes) and processed whole grains (like whole-wheat bread) are foods I’d normally recommend eating in moderation, since they provide plenty of nutrients, fiber, and healthy carbs. However, high-carb foods aren’t your best friend when you’re looking to drop water weight. Essentially, when your body stores excess carbs, it stores them with water. So replacing carb-heavy foods with non-starchy veggies that still provide filling fiber without as much water retention is the way to go. For a week before your event, you can swap out the starchy carbs for more non-starchy vegetables to lose some water weight. (These are 10 things experts wish you knew about water weight.)
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.
As funny as it sounds, sleep deprivation may make you fat — and not just because you're susceptible to cases of the late-night munchies (although there's that too). There's tons of research that demonstrates getting less than the desired amount — about 7 hours — of sleep per night can slow down your metabolism. Plus, when you're awake for longer, you're naturally more likely to nosh. So don't skimp on your ZZZs, and you'll be rewarded with an extra edge when it comes to shedding pounds quickly.
You can lower your LDL or “bad” cholesterol with healthier food and medications. But it’s harder to raise levels of the “good” kind of cholesterol, HDL. That’s the type that clears bad LDL from your blood, so the more you have, the better. Exercise and losing body fat can get you into the ideal HDL range: above 60 mg/dl, which lowers your odds of having heart disease.