It’s officially summer—and swimsuit season. Lately I’ve been hearing a lot of crazy talk about dropping 10 pounds by, um, next week.
People know I have a degree in nutrition (with a focus in weight loss)—so they like to tell me their latest schemes for shedding pounds quickly. I hear about fasts, elimination diets (i.e., cutting out, say, wheat or meat, mostly to lose weight) and whatever plan Kim Kardashian is doing these days. Unless a friend is doing something really nutty—like taking an unregulated supplement that I’m pretty sure is dangerous—I usually just bite my tongue. Unless they outright ask what I think. And if they do, I tell them what I think, which is this:
To lose weight, you need to cut calories. To lose weight fast, you need to cut more calories. For every 3,500 calories you cut, you lose 1 pound. (So minus 500 calories a day equals a loss of one pound a week).
How low can you go? Generally, not lower than 1,200 calories per day, say weight-loss experts, including Jean Harvey-Berino, Ph.D., chair of the University of Vermont’s Nutrition & Food Sciences Department and co-author of The EatingWell Diet.
But for a quick fix, you could shave off a few more—going absolutely no lower than 800 calories—for up to three days (no longer), Harvey-Berino told nutritionist and EatingWell advisor Rachel Johnson, Ph.D., R.D. Harvey-Berino also suggests creating rules that add structure—essentially creating your own diet plan.
At a loss for where to start creating your diet plan? Here are some of my personal tricks for slimming down in a hurry:
1. Nix alcohol. A 5-ounce glass of wine or light beer generally packs about 100 calories. Consumed every day for one year, 100 extra calories adds up to a 10-pound weight gain.
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2. Cut your carb servings in half. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that everyone should follow a low-carb, high-protein Atkins-like diet—or the currently trendy Dukan Diet. What I’m suggesting is to eat half of the bread, or the rice or the pasta, you’d normally have, plus extra veggies on the side to fill you up! (Choosing whole grains, which generally contain more fiber, will also help you feel fuller for longer.) To lose the extra weight I gained while pregnant with each of my boys, I started having one slice of bakery bread spread with peanut butter instead of two for breakfast.
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3. Have a salad every day for lunch. I’m talking a big salad with loads of fiber-rich vegetables, topped with a little lean protein: chicken, salmon or baked tofu. Research suggests that both fiber and protein are particularly satisfying.
4. Eat every 3 or 4 hours. When you’re cutting calories, it’s important to spread them out so that you don’t get too hungry. I find that having a meal or snack every few hours keeps my hunger in check. Keep in mind, though: the more frequently you eat, the lower in calories your snack should be. Good choices: an apple and a few almonds or some raw veggies with a few tablespoons of hummus.
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