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When you know you have some extra weight to lose before a beach weekend, wedding or other big event, or as a personal goal for your healthy lifestyle, it can be tempting to do a quick search online for "how to lose weight fast." Who wants it to take an entire year when you want to look and feel your best in a matter of months (or weeks)? No, you want quick weight loss.
Here's the truth: no matter how high it goes on your wish list, losing fat fast may not be a sustainable approach to weight loss. If your diet is too restrictive, you will likely lose weight quickly, but you're setting yourself up to gain it all back.
Instead, try a healthier approach to weight loss that lasts: make some healthy changes right now that have the biggest impact and can help you lose weight faster—and keep it off for good.
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Pictured Recipe: Cauliflower Risi e Bisi
The sweet spot for successful weight loss: get the weight off in a reasonable time frame, but do it in a way that keeps you healthy by not being restrictive and setting yourself up to gain it all back.
Sounds like a dream, right? But if you upend the body's expectations—for food, exercise or both—you should see results. You just need a game plan. If you're looking for some advice on how to lose weight fast, we've rounded up eight tried-and-true tips from the experts.
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Pictured Recipe: Squash & Red Lentil Curry
Eating intuitively is key. Don't eat because the clock says it's your typical snack hour. Eat when your body expresses hunger, and then stop when it shows signs that you're full. You may need to remove yourself from distractions in order to truly hear these cues. Turn off the TV; put down the phone; close the book. If you're trying to tone up your bod, pulling in the reins on free snacking and setting some boundaries at meals is a smart move.
Pictured Recipe: Pineapple Nice Cream with No Added Sugar
Sugar is a sneaky source of calories. Assess your current sweets habit, and be aware of these sneaky sources of added sugar. Don't eliminate sugar entirely or your palate will balk. You'll be pouring on sweet stuff even more. Instead, cut back in increments. If you put two packs of sugar in your coffee most mornings, try one—or cut down one pump of flavoring from your morning latte. Think you need "a little something sweet" after every meal? Skip the piece of chocolate, and chew gum instead. Slowly eliminating sugar from your diet is good for your health and your daily calorie total. Readjust your palate, and you'll never miss the sweet—but you'll be thankful for the new waistline look.
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Pictured Recipe: Cherry-Mint Spritzer
Sure, there may be some health benefits from drinking alcohol, but at 7 calories per gram, alcohol is almost as calorie-dense as fat. Don't drink your calories. Instead, sip sparkling water with a little fresh fruit juice after a long day at the office. You'll cut calories and increase your hydration level.
"Take inventory of what you're drinking at night, especially if it typically involves a glass of wine or a nightly cocktail, which can quickly add unnecessary calories to your waistline", says Regan Jones, R.D.
Pictured Recipe: Chicken with Bell Pepper & Hominy Stir-Fry
Protein is a fundamental part of a healthy and balanced diet, but when you are in the daily grind, you may not get the proper amounts, especially if your goal is weight loss. Protein not only helps keep you satisfied for longer, it also contains amino acids like leucine, which has been shown in research to aid in maintaining muscle during weight loss.
Jones encourages "women to focus on keeping their protein intake at 20 to 30 grams per meal, spaced evenly throughout the day. This helps keep you satisfied and helps prevent muscle loss that's often associated with cutting calories."
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Nonstarchy vegetables, especially the green leafy ones, are high in fiber and low in calories. You can pile them onto your plate without a major calorie hit, so aim to make them half of your dinner to boost your weight-loss success.
Sports dietitian Jenna Braddock says, "Find a new way to like vegetables. Salads can be lower in calories and full of great nutrition, but they almost always become repetitive and boring." Try roasting your veggies, steaming frozen bags of vegetables, blending greens into smoothies, or sautéing them into a breakfast hash.
Sure, sweating it out at the gym or going for a run may sound like a drag or a lot of effort right now, but when it comes to dropping weight quickly, exercise is a nonnegotiable part of the equation.
Alison Shipps, a NASM-certified personal trainer, says HIIT (high-intensity interval training) is the quickest and most effective type of training for speedy fat loss. "You don't have to spend hours in the gym to get results. Try doing several Tabata circuits—20 seconds of work, 10 seconds of rest, with 8 rounds. A few of these, and you'll be burning calories all day," she says.
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Half-caf latte before work? Check. Afternoon tea with honey and lemon? Check. But what about a good ol' glass of H2O?
Drinking enough water can help prevent false hunger cues, which can lead to weight loss. Aim to up your water intake by keeping your insulated mug or cup of ice water at your desk or in your car. Keep tabs on how much you are drinking by setting a reminder on your smartphone or watch.
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Pictured Recipe: Roasted Chicken & Vegetable Quinoa Salad
Research shows that adding more fiber into the diet can aid in weight loss. However, while it's recommended that women consume 25 grams of fiber per day and men, a whopping 38 grams, most Americans are not meeting that daily goal.
Nutrition expert and mom Holley Grainger, R.D, recommends adding plant-based proteins like beans and lentils to your meals and snacks for a boost of satiating fiber. She also suggests upping your fiber game by topping salads with white beans, combining lentils with lean ground beef when making spaghetti sauce or tacos, or baking chickpeas for a crispy snack.
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Fast weight loss is rarely sustainable if it's done with restrictive diets. A healthy approach to quick weight loss, however, can set you up for success and help you maintain the loss for life. Focus on healthy habits, and keep them up long past your weight-loss deadline to reap the benefits for many more "special events" to come.