How To Lose Weight: Complete Fast-Track Guide Including Nutrition Plans & Workouts
Weight Gain and Obesity: A Detailed Look
Weight gain is one of the most perplexity and pressing social issue of the modern era. Despite having unrivaled access to healthy food choices, exercise equipment, food and dietary supplements, and information on proper nutrition, most countries across the globe are experiencing rising obesity rates.
Beyond this, most of us want to be at a healthy weight. The desire to be thin is there, but the solution seems impossible. Nearly everyone we know either is dieting, or has tried to diet in recent years.
Very few individuals who attempt to lose weight keep it off successfully. Lasting weight loss is like a puzzle; a deadly and complex puzzle that very few ever solve.
Before we dive into the topic of weight loss, let’s look at a few statistics.
Weight Loss and Dieting Statistics
- $20 Billion – Americans spend $20 billion each year on weight loss and diet, including diet books, prescription medications and even weight loss surgical procedures.
- 108 Million – 108 million Americans diet each year. Each of these individuals will make several attempts each year to re-start their failed diets.
- 85% – 85% of individuals who purchase weight loss products, or spend money on weight loss procedures are women.
Some additional statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (link):
- 35.75% of US adults are considered obese.
- $147 billion was spent on obesity related health issues in 2008.
- 49.5% of non-Hispanic blacks, 39.1% of Hispanics and 34.3% of non-Hispanic whites are obese in America.
On an international level, the World Health Organization predicts that the number of overweight adults will reach 2.3 billion by the year 2015. There were 1.6 billion overweight adults in 2005. The following is a list of the most obese countries in the world, based on the percentage of the population that is over a BMI of 25:
- Nauru – 95%
- Micronesia – 92%
- The Cook Islands – 92%
- Tonga – 92%
- Niue – 84%
- Somoa – 83%
- Palau – 81%
- United States – 79%
- Kiribati – 77%
- Dominica – 76%
- Kuwait – 75%
- Argentina – 75%
- Mexico – 73%
- Australia – 71%
- Egypt – 70%
- Greece – 70%
- Belarus – 67%
- United Kingdom – 66%
The Obesity Epidemic – Counter-arguments
While there has certainly been an increase in obesity on a globular level, dissenting opinions exist regarding the severity of the obesity epidemic. Let’s take a look at some of the counter-arguments that exist regarding just how epidemic the obesity issue really is.
Childhood obesity in the UK. The boom in childhood obesity is considered a major problem in the UK. What do the statistics reveal? From 1995 to 2003 the average child gained one pound of bodyweight. This information was part of a 2004 Health Survey for England.
Linking childhood and adult obesity. The Thousand Families study in the UK has documented the weight of 1,000 Newcastle families since 1954. The resulting statistics reveal that 4 out of 5 obese adults were not obese children. Looking at this another way, most obese children did not turn out to be obese adults.
Food control in children and weight gain. While accurate statistics regarding childhood eating disorders are hard to come by, several recent studies have hinted at a correlation between parental control of a child’s food intake, and increased risk of obesity as an adult.
The correlation between childhood obesity and sweets intake. In one of the most confounding modern studies, the World Health Organization analyzed the eating habits of 8,904 British students and found that overweight children ate sweets less frequently. The study also revealed that children who ate more junk food were less likely to become obese. A 2004 study by Harvard analyzed the eating habits of 14,000 children and came up with the same conclusions: there was no direct correlation between junk food consumption and obesity.
Fruits, vegetables and obesity in children. One study in the United States monitored the fruit and vegetable consumption rates of 15,000 children. The results revealed no correlation between increased fruit and veggie intake and lower body weights.
The American obesity epidemic. In 1998 the government changed the standard for what was considered obese. The result is that 35 million people instantly became obese overnight. This change in the standard is rarely talked about, yet plays a major role in the modern “obesity explosion.”
It should also be noted that as a people, Americans are on average 10 years older than they were in 1970. This means that not only are adults slightly heavier due to a natural increase in weight as we age, but there are more adults and fewer children in the modern demographic simply because we are older.
Americans are 8-12 pounds heavier than they were a generation ago, but they are also older, and as a result, 1.5″ taller. With each additional inch of height, you can expect to gain approximately 5 additional pounds. Our increase in height has added about 7.5 pounds to our frame, so in reality we are only about 0.5 to 4.5 pounds heavier than we were a generation ago. Now add in the fact that Americans are on average 10 years older than they were in 1970, and these weight gain figures start to appear rather normal and predictable.
Obesity Rates and Correlating Health Risks
Just how many Americans are considered overweight? Here are the numbers from a BMI standpoint:
- More than 50 pounds overweight: 6%
- 21-50 pounds overweight: 17%
- 11-20 pounds overweight: 15%
- 1-10 pounds overweight: 24%
- Normal healthy weight: 18%
- 1-10 pounds underweight: 7%
- 11-20 pounds underweight: 3%
- More than 20 pounds underweight: 1%
- Undesignated: 9%
To further complicate the topic of obesity, research hints that being slightly overweight may actually lead to a longer lifespan. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), individuals who are considered overweight by BMI standards (up to a 29.9 BMI), but not obese BMI of 30 or greater), may actually live longer than folks with a normal “healthy” BMI.
Compound this with the reality that the BMI standard does not take into consideration overall health, body composition, and numerous other important factors, and you begin to understand why the BMI standard is considered unreliable by many in the health and fitness industry.
At the end of the day, and all debates aside, many of us still fall into the “obese” category, and need to lose weight. Not only that, but we know out lives are not how we want them to be. We eat a high percentage of unhealthy foods and rarely exercise.
How Do We Become Obese? Common Factors That Contribute To Weight Gain
How do we become overweight? This section will look at common factors that contribute to weight gain, obesity, and the health conditions that result from carrying around too many extra pounds.
While there is certainly a lot of confusion regarding diet and nutrition, there is one universal truth that must be remembered: you must adopt an eating lifestyle, and not a quick fix diet, if you hope to dramatically improve your chances of keeping the weight off.
A good share of diet books and programs in the market focus on fad diets. A fad diet is a quick fix, and usually involves obscure eating practices that will be abandoned once the individual has lost weight. These types of fad diets do nothing to address the mistakes that were made that created the weight gain in the first place.
So before we dive into specific diet plans and options, let’s take a look at healthy lifestyle choices that help to prevent excessive amounts of weight gain.
Factor #1 – Inactivity
While exercise by itself is not a miracle cure for obesity, increased activity levels do allow you to eat more on a daily basis making it harder to gain additional weight. On the same note, if you continue to eat the same amount of food, but decrease your overall activity levels, you will find it much easier to gain weight.
As children we tend to be very active. This heightened activity level usually stays with us throughout our early college years, and even into our late 20s and early 30s.
It is safe to say that many adults hit an “activity wall” after the birth of their first child. Sleep patterns are disrupted, the focus of their lives change, and most parenting adults gradually become more sedentary.
Obviously this can happen with non-parenting and/or younger adults as well. Once the bad habit of a sedentary lifestyle is put into place, it’s hard to break free and get moving again. This type of lifestyle usually snowballs, often resulting is poor food choices, lower overall energy levels, and an ever-decreasing motivation to make needed changes.
It should be noted that while exercise can help prevent extra weight gain, it can also drive us to eat more. At some point you’ve probably heard your grandparents or parents say something like: “looks like you’re working up an appetite.”
While inactivity opens doors for us to gain weight, the extra hunger we receive from exercising must be approached properly. Feed this extra hunger with primarily whole foods that are packed with a high nutritional value.
The relationship between weight gain and inactivity is somewhat of a chicken and egg debate: does inactivity lead to weight gain, or does weight gain lead to inactivity? There has been some research into this debate, but the bottom line is that each of us lives a unique life, with unique demands, stresses, food cravings, etc.
When it comes to exercise, remember that while it is great for improving health, and can help to keep your energy levels elevated on a daily basis so that you continue to exercise, maintaining a proper diet packed with good nutrition should remain the cornerstone of a weight control plan.
Exercise and Weight Loss
- Exercise improves your overall health in too many ways to count. When you feel better, you are more likely to sustain motivation and stick to a good eating plan and exercise regimen.
- In the same vein, exercise increases your daily energy levels, making it easier to sustain activity and keep motivation levels higher.
- Exercise allows you to eat slightly more food each day, providing an extra edge against the battle of the bulge.
- Body composition is important, so build muscle. Muscle requires more calories to maintain.
Factor #2 – Low Quality Food
Your body requires a specific set of nutrients to function properly. Common sense tells us that if your body is not receiving these nutrients, there is a strong chance you will experience cravings for more food, or certain types of foods.
Eating is not just about calories and feeling full. Low quality foods, such as processed foods filled with chemicals and very little relative nutritional value, might fill you up but they are not “feeding” the body what it craves.
High quality, nutritionally dense foods lead to a greater feeling of satiety. Nutritionally dense foods have a high ratio of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals when compared to their calorie content.
The body is an amazing machine, but it requires the proper tools to repair and prevent breakdown. By eating a broad range of whole foods each week, you insure that you are giving your body a broad base of materials to work with.
One of the pioneers in the field of nutrient density is Dr. Joel Fuhrman. A pillar of Dr. Fuhrman’s teachings is that nutritional density will make it easier for you to stick to a weight loss diet. Along the same lines, if you eat foods that are nutritionally dense, it will be easier for you to maintain weight and fend off cravings.
Let’s compare an apple versus a handful of potato chips with the same calorie content. An apple provides you with potassium, fiber, vitamin C and hundreds of other valuable phytochemicals. Each of these nutrients fulfills a need within the human body, reducing the drive for more food intake on a small, but important level.
Food Quality and Weight Loss
- Food cravings can be tied to vitamin and mineral deficiencies or needs. To reduce food cravings, consume a higher amount of nutritionally dense foods.
- While it is not necessary to reduce all low quality food, make the switch to 80-90% whole foods. This improvement in food quality will help with long term weight management.
- Learn to cook. Instead of forcing down bland broccoli or chicken breasts, proper seasoning and cooking techniques will dramatically elevate meal quality. You will actually look forward to eating healthy foods if they taste good, and they can.
Factor #3 – Overconsumption – Binge Eating
Binge eating involves the overconsumption of food, healthy or processed, beyond the “feeling full” stage. This practice of overeating can be eating disorder related, or it can simply be caused by a lack of self control.
We’ve all over-eaten at parties, buffets, restaurant meals and on holidays. In fact, most of us overeat more than we’d like to admit. How many times have you gone back for seconds, or finished those last small bites, despite feeling stuffed? Several times per week? Quite a few of us do this on a nightly basis.
If you analyze your binge eating tendencies, there is a good chance that overeating may be the cause of most of your weight gain over the last 5-10 years. Let’s say that you overeat by 300 calories, five times a week. This is a total of 1,500 extra calories consumed per week.
Over the course of a year this adds up to an extra 78,000 calories. A pound of fat contains 3,500 calories, so by “only” overeating slightly each day, you still gained up to 20 extra pounds of fat in a single year.
Combating overeating is really quite simple. Imagine if you stopped eating dinner after a plateful, and reduced your snacking by only 2 candy bars or small bags of chips per week. This seemingly small adjustment would make a huge impact on your weight over the long term. Eating a little bit of fun food is certainly ok, as long as you are not overeating day in, and day out.
If your binge eating is stress or eating disorder-related, more dramatic steps may need to be taken. Keeping junk food out of the house is a great place to start. Another suggestion would be to try and stick to the “plate rule” – stop eating at any given meal after your first plate is done.
Step away from the table, relax, and don’t allow yourself to eat at least for another hour. If you are still hungry, eat a small meal or snack that is nutritionally dense. Make yourself wait at least another hour before eating again.
When you do feel the urge to eat something sweet or salty, turn to healthy choices first – such as flavored almond, or apples, oranges and strawberries. If you’re going to eat, or are tempted to overeat, consume something with nutritional value.
Another good option when you are feeling the urge to binge is exercise. Crank up the music, get on the treadmill and let some steam out. Holding things in will not help you control you cravings to binge eat.
Binge Eating and Weight Loss
- Limit yourself to one plateful of food per meal. Force yourself to wait at least one house after each meal before eating again.
- Cut back on the portion sizes of your junk food excursions. Have a taste, and then try to eat a healthier option such as apples or almonds.
- Instead of focusing on trying to be “perfect”, try to be better. If you can reduce your weekly number of binges or overeating sessions, you will make it much easier to maintain your existing weight, or even lose weight.
Factor #4 – Stress and Depression
While stress and depression plays a role in binge eating, they deserve a section of their own.
In the animal kingdom there are a very limited number of things that cause animals to feel stress. One of these stressors is hunger. When we feel stressed it triggers a biomechanical reaction putting us into survival mode.
In this state our metabolism will slow, and our bodies will want to store fuel. We will also be driven to feed; another self-protecting measure that occurs in response to feeling stressed.
It is almost impossible to escape stress in the modern world. We are busy, busy, busy, and with constant access to news and information, incoming texts and Facebook updates, we rarely have any down time. Life keeps finding a way to interrupt.
Combine this constant business with an easy access to any food or craving we could possibly want, and it’s a recipe for overeating and obesity.
Stress and Weight Loss
- Keep a “stress” log. Write down everything that triggers your stressful eating. Try to avoid these situations when possible, and plan for them when not possible. Know in advance what you will eat when under stress.
- When stressed, force yourself to do 30 minutes of cardio before you give in to the desire to eat. This period of exercise will make you feel better, and will hopefully reduce your stress levels enough that you don’t give in to the need for comfort foods.
- Be proactive. Set aside an hour a day and detach from the TV and all electronics. Relax, read or nap. Go for a walk. Do something for you.
Factor #5 – Liquid Calories
Liquid calories are very stealthy. They can add up quickly, and are a major contributor to weight gain and obesity.
Unless you are making your own juices or drinking milk or homemade protein shakes, there are very few forms of liquid calories that have nutritional value. Even 100% fruit juice, which is seemingly “healthy”, is actually quite unhealthy. It is like fruit with all the good nutrition (from the pulp, skin, etc) taken out, leaving you with sugar contents that are often higher than soft drinks.
Spend a week detailing the amount of liquid calories you are drinking. Next, try and find suitable calorie-free replacements for these beverages. Choose natural drinks when possible.
You might find it hard to give up your daily flavored coffee, but consider the numbers. 300 liquid calories per day adds up to an extra 110,000 calories per year, or a weight gain of up to 30 pounds. Even if you can cut back your liquid calorie consumption by 1/2, you’ll be making it much easier to maintain or lose weight.
- If the thought of plain water doesn’t excite you, try adding in some fresh lemon juice or a flavored amino acid powder. Both of these will add a lot of flavor without adding in a lot of calories.
- Love your flavored coffees? Try adding scoop of chocolate protein powder into your hot or cold coffee for a mocha-like taste. You may need to add a bit of water to your hot coffee before adding in whey.
Factor #6 – Excessive, Long Term Carbohydrate Consumption
This may be the most controversial factor in this list. It is presented for informational purposes.
Carbohydrate consumption elevates blood glucose levels. To remove this glucose, the pancreas releases insulin. Glucose is then converted into glycogen which is stored in the liver and in muscle tissue. As the body can only store so much glycogen, extra glucose is stored as fat.
Over time excess carb consumption can lead to insulin resistance. The result of insulin resistance is that excess glucose remains in the blood stream. This leads to elevated blood sugar levels, which must then be managed or handled by the liver. The liver will convert this excess blood sugar to fat, which is then placed back into the blood stream and distributed throughout the body.
In the health and fitness industry there is quite a heated debate over which factor is more important when it comes to fat gain: calories in, calories out…or excess carbohydrate consumption. As health conscious individuals how do we then eat? It is probably best to not only keep calories at reasonable intake levels, but also to minimize junk carbohydrates as much as possible. This will cover both bases.
- Don’t fear fat intake. Your body needs healthy fats. make sure at least 20% of your daily calories come from healthy fat sources.
- Use the 20% rule. Try to limit your junk food consumption to 20% or less of your daily calories. Since junk food is filled with unwanted carbohydrates, this is an excellent way to manage insulin resistance over the long haul.
- Eat more protein. Protein is not only needed for muscle building and repair, but it is also hard to overeat and binge on.
Factor #7 – Lack of Meal Planning
One the surface this seems like a somewhat trivial factor, but meal planning can make a huge difference in your life. If you know what you’re going to make for dinner, or you prepare your secondary meals in advance, you are far less likely to make a McDonald’s run, or a trip to the vending machine.
We can learn a lesson from top level fitness models and bodybuilders, both male and female. These athletes tend to prepare minor meals in bulk. So instead of preparing 5 different lunch meals, or taking processed foods for lunch, they will prepare a single bulk healthy meal and split it up into Tupperware containers.
It’s not uncommon for these physique stars to spend part of their Sundays cooking meals for the week.
- Make a list of 10-20 “quick and easy” meals that you can make in bulk. Make sure these meals use whole, nutritious foods. No processed or boxed meals.
- Plan your dinners each week before you do grocery shopping.
- If you find that you have very little time to cook at night, get a crock pot. There are thousands of free crock pot recipes on the Internet that require very little preparation time.
Factor #8 – Prescription Medications and Drugs
It has been well documented that certain prescription drugs and medications can increase weight gain. A team of researchers from Glasgow University analyzed a pool of 25,000 individuals One of the interesting finds was that individuals taking drugs for psychiatric conditions (such as olanzapine and clozapine) gained up to 22 pounds in only 52 weeks.
This study also found that those taking insulin for type 2 diabetes gained up to 13 pounds in a year, while some anti-depressants caused up to an 8 pound weight gain over the same period of time. Drugs for heart disease, epilepsy, and high blood pressure also revealed a small, but noticeable amount of weight gain.
The “big 3” when it came to weight gain were: olanzapine, beta-blockers and corticosteroids. It should be noted that the degree and severity of prescription drug-relayed weight gain varies greatly from person to person.
The use of birth control pills also presents a possible risk for weight gain. Pills with higher estrogen amounts are more likely to increase appetite, as well as lead to more water retention.
- Before taking a new prescription medication, ask your doctor about possible weight gain side effects, and what you can do to minimize them.
- If you are gaining weight while taking a prescription drug, do not discontinue use. Talk to your physician.
- Be proactive. Clean up your diet and set up a quality exercise program.
Factor #9 – Menopause/Low Testosterone
It is estimated that 90% of menopausal women gain weight. This weight gain typically occurs between the ages of 35 and 55.
Men face a similar struggle as they age, and experience lower testosterone levels. Testosterone works to help maintain proper insulin levels, glucose and fat metabolism. Low testosterone has been tied to increase insulin resistance, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and, of course, weight gain.
While hormonal changes seem to be inevitable, there are certainly many things you can do to stave off the effects of aging. Eat right, exercise, refrain from bad habits such as smoking and excessive drinking, reduce your stress and find ways to be happy and enjoy life.
- Nutrition and exercise play a major role in how well we “age.” Eat right and exercise. This will not only help you stave off weight gain now, but will also fend off possible age-related weight gain.
- Live a balanced life. Don’t smoke, limit alcohol consumption, set aside the trivial worries and do more things you enjoy. All of these things create a healthier, more hormonally strong and balanced body.
Weight Control – A Simple Recap
While the above factors may not be an exhaustive list, they do provide a very useful roadmap on how to limit weight gain. Here is a simple 9 step program that everyone should remember.
- Step 1 – Get moving. Exercise. Do something extra each day.
- Step 2 – Eat better. You don’t have to eat perfect, but little improvements will make a big difference over the long haul.
- Step 3 – Control binge eating through preparation and portion control.
- Step 4 – Take steps to avoid or control stress in your life.
- Step 5 – Reduce liquid calories as much as possible.
- Step 6 – Avoid excessive carbohydrate consumption, limiting white sugar and white flour as much as possible.
- Step 7 – Plan your meals. Know exactly what you are going to eat, and when. This will help to reduce impulse meals.
- Step 8 – Ask your doctor about your prescription medications and possible side effects.
- Step 9 – Live a balanced life. Take care of yourself, laugh, love, smile and enjoy. Take care of yourself, mentally and physically.
How to Lose Weight – Eating and Diet Plans
Before we look at specific plans to help you lose weight, let’s establish a few weight loss rules.
- Rule #1 – Know your enemy. Understand why you gained weight in the first place. Was it binge eating? Lack of exercise? Understanding what causes your weight gain is half the battle.
- Rule #2 – Base a diet plan off your specific needs. If you are a big night time eater, then plan more of your daily calories for later in the evening. If you’re not a breakfast eater, don’t force yourself to eat breakfast. Work with your current eating habits, don’t fight against them.
- Rule #3 – A diet plan should be a reasonable eating lifestyle. A fad diet is not a wise choice. You want to adopt a new “eating lifestyle”; something that you will stick with (and add calories too to maintain weight) once the weight loss is over.
- Rule #4 – Remember how to eat. Debates rage over high-protein, low-carb and vegetarian eating lifestyles, but there is one this most nutritionists agree upon: choosing whole foods and setting aside processed foods is the way to go. Keep dieting simple. Choose the whole foods you enjoy – fruits, veggies, protein sources, etc. Eating doesn’t have to be complicated; we simply have forgotten how to eat. Focus on nutritious whole foods as the base for your diet plan.
- Rule #5 – Don’t rush the process. Remember that you are embarking upon a lifestyle change, and not a 6-8 week diet program. Remain patient and focus on fostering new eating and exercise habits. Don’t go to diet and exercise extremes all in the name of quicker results.
- Rule #6 – Perfection is not a reasonable goal. Bad days will happen. Instead of getting depressed when they do, plan a day or two each week into your diet that allows for a few extra calories. This way if you get a craving for ice cream or tortilla chips, you can have a bit – within reason – and still remain on your diet.
- Rule #7 – Don’t punish your body with exercise. Exercise is good. It helps with overall health, and improves our quality of living. When you hit the gym, train with these goals in mind. There is no need to punish your body with an excessive amount of physical activity. Balance is key.
There are just about as many ways to lose weight, and diet plans, as there are books in a library. The following methods are time tested, and generally considered the most reasonable choices in the fitness and nutrition industry. Please do research on each of these plans to help find out which one is right for you.
Diet Plan #1 – Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is fast (no pun intended) becoming “the” method for getting ripped and shredded. The premise is simple…you eat nothing for 16 to 20 hours each day, and then eat the totality of your daily calories during a 4 to 8 hour window.
This window could consist if one, two or even three smaller meals and/or snacks. It really doesn’t matter, to be honest. Meals, and the fasting period in general, should be structured to best fit the individual’s lifestyle and needs.
If you are a binge eater, or love to eat big night time meals, it may be best to limit your feeding window to only 4 hours per day. This way you can work with your current eating habits, feel satisfied, and fall asleep at night without feeling hunger or consumed by food cravings.
Intermittent Fasting “Rules”:
- Fast 16 to 20 hours each day.
- Eat mostly clean, whole foods.
- Structure a 4 to 8 hour feeding window that suits your eating habits. You may eat as frequently as needed during this period, as long as you are not overeating calories.
Notes: Because you are free to eat whatever types of whole or clean foods that you like, intermittent fasting is rather flexible and easy to adhere to. With that said, take some time to Google “healthy recipes.” Having plenty of tasty recipe choices is never a bad thing.
Diet Plan #2 – The Warrior Diet
The Warrior Diet is an intermittent fasting variation that existed prior to the modern rise in popularity of Lean Gains. When on the Warrior Diet, you alternate between carb heavy and protein heavy meals. You are also allowed a very minor amount of nuts, seeds, light proteins or low glycemic fruits/veggies during the underfeeding (fasting) window.
Warrior Diet “Rules”:
- Fast approximately 20 hours per day.
- Alternate between carb-heavy and protein-heavy eating days.
- Small snacks are allowed after the big meal, but within reason.
- You can eat a very minimal amount of seeds, nuts, light proteins and/or low-glycemic fruits/veggies during the underfeeding window.
Notes: Despite allowing for a minimal amount of daily grazing, the Warrior Diet is a tad bit more restrictive than pure intermittent fasting. Because of the cycling between heavy carb and protein meals, meals must be planned to a minimal degree.
This will get easier over time, certainly, as you develop habits. With that said, for many people the Warrior Diet will not work well as a lifestyle choice because of the alternating carb and protein meals.
Diet Plan #3 – Low Carb Diets: Atkins Diet, Paleo Diet
These are many different types of low carb diets that advocate slight dietary variations on the same low carb theme. The main thing to know about low carb eating is that you want to focus on eating whole, nutritiously dense foods.
Most low carb diets allow you to eat whatever you want, within reason. Obviously binge eating is never a good idea, but with low carb diets the advice is generally “eat until satiety, and when hungry, eat again.”
Many people can lose weight eating this way. With junk food out of the equation, and high fats added to the equation, you are likely to feel a greater degree of satiety. That said, monitoring calories during weight is still a wise thing to do.
Paleo Diet “Rules”:
- Eat when hungry.
- High fat, moderate protein, low to moderate carbs.
- No limits on saturated fats.
- Eat all the veggies you want.
- No grains, including corn and corn products.
- No legumes, including peanuts, peas, etc.
- No refined sugars (including high fructose corn syrup).
- No dairy. Some allow allow butter and heavy cream.
- Starchy tubers are an area of disagreement. Some say yes, others no.
Atkins Diet “Rules”:
Note: This is for the “induction” phase, or first 2 weeks. For more information on the Atkins diet please click here.
- Eat plenty of protein foods.
- 12 to 15 grams of carbs from veggies.
- Up to 3-4 ounces of cheese.
- No trans fats.
- Eat plenty of cold water fish.
- Olive oil is recommended.
- Avoid corn oil, soy oil, safflower oil and sunflower oil.
- No margarine unless it is free of trans fat.
- No sugar or processed flour.
- Splenda is ok.
- No grains, or anything made from grains.
- No fruit juice.
- No diary products except for butter and heavy cream.
- No starchy veggies, including potatoes, beets and corn).
- No legumes.
- No alcohol.
- No nuts until after induction.
After induction you are allowed:
- Up to 1-2 ounces of nuts.
- More veggies.
- Coconut milk, almond milk.
Diet Plan #4 – Simple Calorie Reduction
While calorie reduction is a cornerstone of most weight loss programs, simple calorie reduction often has very few rules. You determine an appropriate amount of calories per day, and eat whatever you want as long as you do not exceed your limits.
Obviously, it makes little sense to eat only junk foods or processed foods. Consider the following to be guidelines, rather than rules.
Simple Calorie Reduction “Guidelines”:
- Do not use a starvation-style diet.
- Eat mostly whole foods that are nutritionally dense.
- Try to balance your macronutrient intake on some reasonable level – protein, carbs and fats.
- Don’t adopt an eating lifestyle that will be hard to maintain after your diet is over.
Diet Plan #5 – Anabolic Diet
The Anabolic diet was developed by Dr. Mauro Di Pasquale. The goal of this eating approach is to build muscle while burning fat, and was set up to allow a natural lifter to achieve quality gains. By eating the right foods at the right times, the Anabolic diet is said to maximize your anabolic hormones, helping you to maximize your efforts in the gym.
Anabolic Diet “Rules”:
- High protein, high fat, carb cycling.
- During the week you eat proteins, fats and veggies.
- During the weekends you eat lots of carbs.
- General rule is to take your bodyweight and multiply it by 18 to determine your calorie intake.
- Start the program with 12 days of fats and protein only, and no carbs. Follow this with 2 carb days.
- No carbs days include 40% protein, 60% fat, and 25g carbs maximum.
- High carb days include 15% protein, 25% fat, 60% carbs.
Note: It will take a while to adapt to this style of eating. At first you may feel foggy or lethargic.
Diet Plan #6 – Zone Diet
The Zone diet is a popular weight loss system created by Barry Sears. The main focus on this weight loss system is on eating proteins, carbs and fats in a balanced manner. The purpose of doing so is to balance your hormones, preventing your insulin from getting to high or low, and glucagon levels too high.
Barry Sears has made the claim that a 30 to 40 ratio of protein to carbohydrates places your body into “The Zone”, which works to keep insulin and glucagon levels where they need to be. Sears also claims this ratio is both heart-friendly and works as a natural anti-inflammatory.
The obvious question becomes: how does this help us lose weight? The answer: lower carbs and better food choices. While the Zone Diet is not extremely low carb, Sears does not believe that a low fat and high carb diet are good for the waistline. He also believes in nutritional balance. Therefore, The Zone Diet advocates lower carbs rather than minimal carbs.
In addition, the fact that you are making better food choices will help with the weight loss process. By reducing junk food and high glycemic carbs you should start to see a change in your body composition and an improvement in your health.
Zone Diet “Rules”:
- Use a 40/30/30 macronutrient ratio.
- 40% of your calories from carb intake.
- 30% of your calories from protein intake.
- 30% of your calories from fat intake.
- High glycemic foods are limited.
- You do not eat fewer calories, just better calories.
Note: The Zone Diet book details a method of structuring your eating plan. Space constraints prevent us from adding more detail regarding how much food to eat per day, and when to eat it.
Diet Plan #7 – Dukan Diet
Originating from France, the Dukan diet is protein rich weight loss plan developed by doctor Pierre Dukan. Though Dukan had been promoting this style of eating for 30 years, it did not catch fire in the dieting industry until the release of his book The Dukan Diet. Sales of this book currently exceed 10 million copies.
The Dukan diet consists of four phases: attack phase, cruise phase, consolidation phase and the stabilization phase. You are also provided with a list of 100 allowed foods.
Dukan Diet “Rules”:
- The attack phase – you are allowed to eat as much as you want of 72 protein rich foods over the course of the first 2 to 7 days. Expect to lose some weight during this phase simply because you are not eating carbs and junk food.
- The cruise phase – 28 approved veggies are added as options. Expected weight loss is about 2.2 pounds per week.
- The consolidation phase – fruit, bread, cheese and starchy foods are introduced back into your diet, as part of 2 celebratory meals per week.
- The stabilization phase – you are allowed to eating freely within a certain set of rules.
Diet Plan #8 – Carb Cycling
The cycling of carbs, and along with it calories, has been around the muscle building realm for quite a long time. This style of eating usually involves some form of rotation between low carb days, moderate carb days and heavy carb days.
Many carb cycling diet approaches keep fat and protein intake consistent on a day to day basis. By doing so, calorie intake is also rotated as carb intake is rotated.
The following are not rules, but rather suggestions.
Carb Cycling “Suggestions”:
- Men: try and eat at least 160 to 180 grams of protein per day. Women – try to eat 100 to 120 grams of protein per day.
- On low carb days avoid high glycemic fruit, starchy veggies, grains, legumes, sugar and flour. Try and limit your carb intake to 25 to 50 grams.
- On moderate carb days consume about 0.8 grams to 1.5 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight.
- On high carb days consume about 2.0 grams to 2.5 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight.
- Fat intake should be around 20-30% of overall average daily calorie intake.
Diet Plan #9 – Carb Nite
Carb Nite is an eating approached outlined by John Kiefer in his book The Carb Nite Solution. It is an eating system that allows for fat loss while maintaining, or building muscle mass, and is rapidly growing in popularity in fitness, strength and muscle building circles.
Carb Nite was initially introduced to help anyone – even couch potatoes who don’t exercise – drop bodyfat while maintaining muscle tissue. It works by manipulating the body’s leptin levels via the use of high carb refeed meals.
Carb Nite “Rules”:
- Start with a 10 day recalibration, eating no more than 30 grams of carbs for 10 days.
- After 5pm on day 10 start eating carbs – whatever you want. Donuts. Pizza. Ice cream. Go for it.
- From this point forward, eat low carb all week and have one refeed night per week – a Carb Nite.
Parting Thoughts On Choosing a Diet Plan
For every diet approach listed on this page, you could find 10 other reasonable approaches in books or on the Internet. When searching for a diet plan, please keep these factors in mind.
Avoid Starvation Diets
There are many downsides to starvation approaches. First and foremost is the reality that once you are off this style of a diet, you will be right back to your old ways of eating. Couple this with your body’s desire to overcompensate for this starvation period, and you are very likely to not only gain all your weight back, but then some.
Another huge downside of starvation diets is that they cause you to lose lean muscle tissue. Even if you do lose weight on this type of a plan, you’ll look horrible – skinny fat. Thin, but flabby. This is not the type of body most of us are after.
Avoid Fad Diets
A fad diet can be hard to define. They generally involve practices that make little sense, like eating only a grapefruit and 2 Hershey’s kisses for lunch, or eating only cabbage soup for a week.
Some fad diets will call for a tight restriction on proteins or fats.
A quality weight loss diet is one that can easily be transitioned into a weight maintenance program after you have reached your goal weight. For example, let’s look at intermittent fasting. Once you have finished losing weight, you can eat until satiety at night and have very few issues maintaining weight, as long as your food intake is balanced and sensible.
On the other hand, weight loss programs like the cabbage soup diet are not lifestyles. Once you have lost weight, you are right back where you started – having no clue how to eat to maintain weight.
Nutrition, Nutrition, Nutrition
The cornerstone of any good weight loss plan should be good nutrition and whole foods. Fruits, veggies, meat, seafood, nuts, etc. – all of these types of foods are unprocessed, packed with good nutrition and should make up the bulk of your food intake.
Some junk food is ok, as long as your overall calorie intake is kept within check. A reliance on junk food creates a nutritionally weak diet, which can lead to additional food cravings and weakened resolve.
Exercise and Weight Loss
Exercise, just like an eating plan, should be reasonable and something that fits your lifestyle. Far too often people will either try to lose weight by living in the gym (while ignoring their calorie intake), or by neglecting exercise completely while trying to starve themselves.
You do not need to exercise excessively to lose weight. Several 20-30 minute cardio sessions per week is plenty. This additional amount of exercise will not only work to increase your metabolism, but it will also improve your health.
Furthermore, exercise should be eased into. How many times have you hit the gym all gung ho, only to wake up immovably sore the next day and completely devoid of motivation? If you’re like most of us, this has happened to you.
Start slow. Do a little bit, and try to improve each day. It’s ok to start with “only” 2 minutes of cardio, if that’s all your body wants to do. The next time you hit the gym try to do 2:15, or 2:30. These small steps will make it easier on you physically, make maintaining motivation easier, and allow you to get physically fit within months.
Here are some fun cardio workouts for those of you who want to move beyond the treadmill:
Muscle Building/Resistance Training
Most of us who are looking to lose weight want one thing…to look amazing. Resistance training plays a vital role in how we look after the weight loss process is done.
When you train for progressive overload (trying to get stronger) you are telling your body that its existing muscle tissue is needed. This makes it much easier to hold on to your existing muscle while losing weight. The result is that you will look much better.
Many people lose weight but are unsatisfied with how they look. The mirror will reveal a skinny, but still flabby-looking physique. Many folks will then attempt to lose more weight, trying desperately to get “ripped and shredded.” Without resistance training the only thing they will achieve is a greater degree of muscle loss, and a skinnier but still unattractive body.
Approach resistance training just like you do cardio. Three to four sessions per week is plenty. There is no need to lift weights 6 to 7 times per week. If anything, this will decrease your motivation while trying to shed the pounds.
Here are some top rated resistance workouts from Muscle & Strength:
Exercise/Activity Types and Calories Burned Per Hour
The amount of calories burned in a given hour can depend on intensity and weight. The following ranges involve individuals that weight from 130 pounds to 210 pounds. Individuals heavier than this can expect to see a greater amount of calories burned per hour.
- Hiking w/Backpack – 410 to 650 calories per hour.
- Step Aerobics – 500 to 800 calories per hour.
- Basketball, Shooting Hoops – 270 to 420 calories per hour.
- Bowling – 180 to 280 calories per hour.
- Circuit Training – 470 to 740 calories per hour.
- Walking, Moderate – 200 to 310 calories per hour.
- Cycling, Moderate – 470 to 750 calories per hour.
- Swimming – 400 to 750 calories per hour.
- Gardening – 240 to 370 calories per hour.
- Golf, No Cart – 250 to 400 calories per hour.
- General Cleaning – 200 to 330 calories per hour
- Running – 650 to 1000 calories per hour.
- Sex – 250 to 300 calories per hour.
- Stairmaster – 350 to 700 calories per hour.
Weight Loss Supplements
Can supplements help with the weight loss process? Let’s take a look at common supplements and see what science has to say.
Green Tea and Weight Loss
- Waist Line Decrease – Individuals drinking more green tea showed a significantly greater decrease in waistline over a 24 week period. (Study link)
- Green Tea and Caffeine – Over the course of 12 weeks, individuals taking both green tea and caffeine had fat loss rates trending towards statistically significant. (Study link)
- Weight Loss – A meta-analysis of eleven studies revealed that green tea increased weight loss by 1.31kg over a 12 week period. (Study link)
L-Carnitine and Weight Loss
- Body Composition – Two grams of L-Carnitine was administered to 84 subjects over a 30 day period, resulting in an improvement in body composition. (Study link)
CLA and Weight Loss
- Fat Loss – A double blind study involving 60 subjects revealed that CLA dosages above 3.4 grams per day was associated with a decrease in fat mass. (Study link)
- Fat Loss – 157 obese but healthy subjects were given 4.5 grams of CLA for one year resulting in a decrease in body fat levels while experiencing an increase in lean muscle tissue. (Study link)
- Fat Loss – A two year study of 134 overweight subjects given 3.4 grams of CLA revealed a reduction in body fat lass. (Study link)
Whey Protein and Weight Loss
- Increased Protein Intake – Over a 23 week period, overweight subjects using whey protein while bringing protein intake levels up from 12 to 23% experienced a reduction in fat mass by 2.8kg. (Study link)
- Women and Fat Loss – 31 overweight and older females on a calorie restricted diet were administered an additional 50 grams of whey protein a day resulting in enhanced fat loss. (Study link)
HMB and Weight Loss
- Athletes and Fat Loss – 8 athletes were given 3 grams of HMB per day during calorie restriction resulting in a greater amount of fat loss than the placebo group. (Study link)
Weight Loss FAQ
What is the optimal rate of weight loss if I want to maximize muscle tissue retention?
To look your best you need to maximize muscle tissue while reducing fat. Assuming you are utilizing some form of resistance training while dieting, most sources will tell you that any weight loss greater than 1.5 to 2 pounds per week may lead to fat loss and muscle tissue loss.
I don’t know how many calories I should eat to lose weight.
Men, start with 2,500 per day. Women, start with 1,800 per day. If after 2 weeks you are not losing an acceptable amount of weight, drop calories by 200-300 per day and give this another 2 weeks.
Why do you lose weight rapidly during the first week of a diet?
When you cut calories you also generally reduce your overall carb intake and sodium intake. When this happens, your body flushes out quite a bit of excess water, resulting in a “week one weight loss surge.” Never assume the weight you lose during the first week of a diet will continue. That is unlikely to happen. Weight lost during weeks 2 and 3 of a diet are a better indicator of what to expect at your current calorie intake level.
What diet plan is best for me?
The best diet plan is the one you are most likely to stick with. Pick a plan that motivates you to get started.
Do I have to be perfect, and never eat junk food again?
No. Think about the reasons you gained weight in the first place. If you can address the problems with your diet, and reduce these issues and occurrences by 80%, you should have a rather easy time maintaining your existing weight.
Is eating at night bad?
No. Eating more of your food later in the day does not lead to weight gain. Eating too many calories per day leads to weight gain. It really doesn’t matter when you eat, as long as your eating is reasonable.
How many calories are in one pound of fat?
Does eating fat make me fat?
Absolutely not. Eating too many calories leads to weight gain.
Why do so many diet plans involve carb reduction?
As a culture we eat a lot of excess carbs. Cookies, chips, sugary drinks. By reducing junk carbs, or going low carb, you make it much more difficult to overeat. Very few of us can overeat protein foods, or fats for that matter. Most of the fats we overeat are contained in carb-heavy junk foods.
Is fruit juice better than soda?
Not generally. Fruit juice is usually fruit with all the good nutrition removed – pulp, skin, etc. All that is left is a high sugar drink, often times with more sugar per ounce that sodas.
If I am very obese should I be performing high intensity cardio?
There is no need to abuse your body with high intensity cardio. Listen to your body and do forms of exercise that make sense. Moving is moving.
What form of cardio is best?
Pick forms of cardio you enjoy. You will be more likely to stick with exercise this way.
Why do most diets fail?
People either quit when they have bad days, or look at dieting as a short term fix rather than a lifestyle change. When you are living a new eating lifestyle it’s ok to have bad days, because you go right back to your good habits.
Can you spot reduce fat with exercise?
No. To reduce areas with excess fat you must diet. Exercise will not spot reduce these areas.