A dietary quality index was developed that simply reflects the percentage of calories people derive from nutrient-rich, unprocessed plant foods on a scale of 0 to 100. The higher the score, the more body fat may be lost over time and the lower the risk may be of abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high triglycerides. The standard American diet was found to rate 11 out of 100. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates, 32 percent of our calories comes from animal foods, 57 percent from processed plant foods, and only 11 percent from whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. That means on a scale of one to ten, the American diet would rate about a one.
But vegetarians may suffer high rates of chronic disease if they eat a lot of processed foods. Take India, for example, where rates of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and stroke have increased far faster than might have been expected given its relatively small increase in per-capita meat consumption. This has been blamed in part on the apparent shift from brown rice to white and substitution of other refined carbohydrates, packaged snacks, and fast-food products for India’s traditional staples of lentils, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
The the induction phase gets people used to losing weight at a fast rate, which will not last and is not healthy. Faster weight loss does not mean healthy weight loss. Any diet that emphasizes fast, easy weight loss is one to approach with caution. The guidelines are clear that a safe, healthy rate of weight loss is to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week after the first couple of weeks. The Atkins diet states you will lose "only body fat" by eating regular meals, taking in adequate calories, and keeping your insulin levels down. There is no way to only lose body fat when losing weight. Each pound you gain from consuming excess calories is 75% fat and 25% muscle, and each pound you lose from cutting back 3,500 calories is the same ratio of fat and muscle. Claims that you will lose only fat are not based on science despite the fact that the Atkins diet claims to be scientifically based.
The Mindset Makeover was developed by one of the leading psychologists in the weight loss field, Gary Foster, Ph.D. It is designed to "help people learn new behaviors when it comes to weight loss and related lifestyle issues." This behavior piece is essential but very rare in most diets. You are given access to this and an online account with community support as part of each of the programs.
If you’ve got weight to lose and you want it gone fast, try swapping out your usual proteins in favor of fish. Not only is fish lower in calories than an equivalent amount of beef or chicken, a study published in Obesity reveals study subjects who added omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in fish, to their diets shed more weight and had an easier time keeping it off than those who skipped them.
“Intermittent fasting can be really challenging if you have an ever-changing schedule,” adds Hultin. “If you're traveling and crossing time zones, it could be very difficult to follow. It might be best for people with more stability in their lives.” Intermittent fasting isn’t safe for people with type 2 diabetes, children, pregnant or lactating women, or anyone with a history of an eating disorder.
It’s impossible to target belly fat specifically when you diet. But losing weight overall will help shrink your waistline; more importantly, it will help reduce the dangerous layer of visceral fat, a type of fat within the abdominal cavity that you can’t see but that heightens health risks, says Kerry Stewart, Ed.D. , director of Clinical and Research Physiology at Johns Hopkins.
To start off, aim to do ab work 3 or 4 times a week on non-consecutive days with at least 24 hours of rest in between sessions, says Gagliardi. During those sessions, you can start with simpler moves like crunches, bicycle crunches, and planks. Even though you may only be directly targeting your abs 3 or 4 times a week, you should still be activating your core (aka, tightening your ab muscles) in every workout you do, says Gagliardi.
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When you go on a "program" to lose body fat, you may set yourself up for failure. A program implies an end point, which is when most people return to their previous habits. If you want to lose fat and keep it off, make changes that you can live with indefinitely. Don't over-restrict calories, and find an exercise program that adequately challenges you, provides progression, and offers sufficient variety so that you can maintain it for years to come.
"When going out for fast food, I used to get the large-size value meal. Now, I satisfy a craving by ordering just one item: a small order of fries or a six-piece box of chicken nuggets. So far, I've shaved off 16 pounds in seven weeks, and I'm on track to being thinner than my high school self for my 10-year reunion later this year." —Miranda Jarrell, Birmingham, AL
If you don’t have an established exercise routine, simply walking is the best first step toward weight loss. “Walking is a pretty good entry point for people,” says Gagliardi. This is particularly true if you have been out of the gym for a while and want to ease back into a workout routine. One small study published in The Journal of Exercise Nutrition & Biochemistry found that obese women who did a walking program for 50 to 70 minutes three days per week for 12 weeks significantly slashed their visceral fat compared to a sedentary control group.