The key to losing weight and keeping it off, say experts, is not a crash diet or sending yourself to a brutal boot camp, but making long-term lifestyle change consisting of the healthy food and activities you enjoy. That makes total sense, but if you’re on a mission to get svelte in a hurry, you can still see quick results without harming your body. Behold: Your 10-point plan for faster weight loss.
1. Set an Alarm to Lace Up Your Sneakers
According to holistic health coach Seth Santoro, a key element of your strategy for getting trim in record time is to increase cardio workouts, and to do them in a fasted state. “Hit the gym and do some treadmill sprints on an empty stomach to burn fat,” he says. “Your body is already in a calorie deficit, and it will ignite its fat-burning ability.” Glycogen levels are depleted during sleep, so your body will utilize a greater percentage of your body fat as an energy source.
2. Be Prepared to Get Snacky
“Always be prepared for a busy or unpredictable day by keeping healthy snacks on you, at your desk, in your car,” says nutritionist Amy Shapiro. She suggests having almonds or other unsalted nuts, apples, bananas, chia bars, protein bars, or other fruit and nut bars close at hand. Shapiro says that if you have to skip breakfast, lunch, or even dinner during your quest to look your best, you can keep your energy levels up while making healthy choices. “You’ll have no reason to run to the vending machine for chips or stick your hand in the candy bowl,” she says. For the healthiest ideas on the planet, check out our list of the 50 Best Snack Ideas for Weight Loss!
3. Avoid or Reduce Alcohol Intake
There’s a reason they call it a beer belly. “Alcohol contains a fair amount of calories, and when you add sodas or sugary mixes to your liquor, one or two drinks can easily pack more calories than your lunch or dinner,” says Shapiro. In addition to the calories in the alcohol itself, she reminds us that overdoing it can lead to hangovers—that self-inflicted malady people tend to treat with fried, greasy and high-calorie foods.
4. Fill Up on Fiber
Most Americans don’t eat enough fiber (women need at least 25 g a day and men 38 g a day), but they should. Why? For starters, a low-fiber diet may cause constipation, which can lead to bloating and weight retention. Not cute. “Fiber-rich meals make you feel full longer, usher toxins and cholesterol out of the system, and help keep blood sugar at normal and even levels,” says nutritionist Susan Tucker. Fiber has numerous long-term benefits, but it can also help you trim your waistline in the short term: Fiber-packed fruits, vegetables and beans are filling and actually slow down digestion, so you won’t be hungry soon after eating, says Amy Shapiro.
5. Drink Lots of Water
Often we confuse hunger with dehydration. If you’re stomach’s growling, your best bet is to drink some water. It’s a low-stakes way to find out whether you need food or liquid. “Try drinking water and waiting 20 minutes before grabbing that snack you’ve been eyeing,” says Shapiro, who urges replacing sugary drinks like soda, juices or sports drinks with water. Or detox waters or tea, which has serious fat-burning power. That’s why we made tea part of our bestselling new diet plan, The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse! Test panelists lost 10 pounds in one week!
6. Limit Your Sodium Intake
One of the most important things you can do to lose weight quickly is to shed water weight. Drinking more water will actually help with reducing bloat, as will reducing the amount of salt in your diet. Cutting down on sodium reduces bloat because it immediately affects how your kidneys control the water balance in your body. An excess of salt may cause the body to retain water, leading to bloating and swelling. Avoid condiments, chips, pretzels, frozen and canned foods, deli meat, bread and other baked goods like they’re the second season of True Detective.
7. Avoid Added Sugars
Sugars — even “natural sugars” like honey, agave, maple syrup, coconut sugar, dates and dried fruits — add calories (and possibly anxiety) to your life if you’re trying to slim down for a vacation, wedding or life-modeling gig. Shapiro says that to drop weight quickly, beware of hidden sugars in pre-packaged foods and reduce how much sugar you add yourself.
8. Cut Down on Portion Sizes
OK, so you’ve upped your cardio. But to see quicker results, you’ll need to decrease your food daily intake of food and liquids (excluding water, of course). Warning: Eating too few calories can actually slow your metabolic rate. But, unsurprisingly, decreasing the amount of food on your plate will cause you to lose weight in the short term. For some quick and easy ways to encourage yourself to eat mindfullly, read these 10 Diet Hacks You Need Now.
9. Chase Your Hunger Away
If plenty of water and fresh veggies aren’t abating your hunger, run like you’re fleeing the scene of a crime. Studies have shown that exercise can dull appetite. A study showed that participants who exercised in short intense bursts ate less that other participants who were exercising more gently but for longer periods. Stomach growling? Jumping jacks, burpees or short sprints can take the edge off.
10. Replace Meat with Other Protein-rich Foods
By replacing meat with foods like beans or lentils, you’ll decrease your intake of saturated fat and calories and increase fiber consumption, says Shapiro. “All too often, we eat more than the recommended serving size of 3 to 4 oz of meat at a meal — in addition to all the other foods on our plate — and the calories quickly add up,” she says. “All that fat and protein is difficult to digest and can make you feel sluggish. That may decrease your activity level for the rest of the day, or influence your decision to snack on a sugary item later." For healthy, satiating ideas for meat replacements, check out the 29 Best-Ever Proteins for Weight Loss!