An ideal healthy weight loss diet plan is one where you stop restrictive dieting and instead focus on living a healthy lifestyle.
Restrictive dieting without handling the root cause of cravings is a losing battle. It’s no way to successfully lose weight… especially if you want to keep the weight off.
By developing a healthy lifestyle that emphasizes good nutrition, mindfulness, proper care of your body and reduction of stress, you can turn off cravings and turn on your body’s natural skinny genes.
Adapting such a lifestyle is the only safe long-term approach to maintaining a healthy body weight, keeping your energy levels up, and having a life full of vitality.
Reasons to lose weight
But why lose weight in the first place? Is it really that important to be thin?
Different people have different reasons for wanting to lose weight. It’s a good idea to honestly assess the actual reasons behind your desire to shed those extra pounds.
Studies show that maintaining a healthy weight leads to a better quality of life, a longer and more fulfilling life, and fewer health complications. Losing weight for these reasons can be a good thing.
If, on the other hand, your sole purpose for losing weight is avoiding body shame or trying to make someone else happy, you may want to examine and re-evaluate your sense of self-worth.
Is your view of yourself being affected by toxic people in your environment… and cultural expectations in general?
Your body is a personal thing. You own it, you control it, and you determine what is ideal and what is not. It’s not for anyone else to decide for you.
The first and foremost step in successfully losing weight is to decide for yourself why you want to lose weight. This includes envisioning how it will make your life better for yourself. In this way, you can develop a strong personal purpose for achieving what in your own eyes is an ideal body weight.
How fast can you safely lose weight?
It’s normal for dieters to want to lose weight as quickly as possible. But experts have traditionally warned against losing more than 1-2 lbs per week.
There are two reasons for this recommendation of gradual weight loss. The first has to do with the possibility of health complications. If your body loses weight too fast it can become malnourished. This may put you at risk of health problems such as muscle loss, gallstones, nutritional deficiencies and a drop in metabolism.
The second reason for encouraging gradual weight loss stems from studies that show dieters who lose weight quickly don’t typically keep it off — they tend to regain it just as quickly.
For example, research from the University of California at Los Angeles showed that about two-thirds of people who lost weight while dieting regained it and ended up weighing more than they did when they started.
On the other hand, some recent studies do suggest that rapid weight loss can be just as safe and effective as gradual weight loss, with the same long-term results either way.
So which is better — gradual weight loss or rapid?
The answer to this question seems to depend on the person and the particular weight loss strategy they embark upon. Some do better with gradual weight loss, while others can succeed with more rapid loss.
Whether rapid or gradual, the key to doing it safely is paying attention to your body and working with it. Specifically, giving it the nutrition and support it needs to safely adjust to weight-loss conditions.
The best way to maximize weight loss is to choose a program that keeps your body satisfied through healthy long-term adjustments to your lifestyle. These adjustments would include things like increasing nutrition, staying physically active, reducing stress, getting sufficient sleep, and so on.
How metabolism affects weight loss
Metabolism refers to the biological and chemical processes occurring in your body to keep it alive. It includes turning the food you eat into energy the body needs.
When someone says they have a slow or fast metabolism, they are referring to how quickly the body burns up calories from the food they eat. A fast metabolism means calories are quickly burned up, while a slow metabolism burns energy more slowly. When the body burns energy slowly, it needs fewer calories and stores the excess as fat reserves.
It’s important to understand that your metabolism is more complex than just how fast or slow the body burns calories. Think of your body as an engine that uses food for fuel. The condition of the entire engine and how well it’s functioning overall is the state of your metabolism.
The speed the engine runs at should be appropriate for the current environmental conditions. When you are in a situation where you need a lot of physical energy, your metabolism should rev up to produce that energy. And when you are relaxing and resting, it should slow down to conserve energy.
Moreover, it should be able to adjust and shift gears as those conditions change. An engine that is stuck in overdrive or can’t get out of a slow idle isn’t healthy. It runs poorly and will break down in the long run.
Reset your metabolism with a weight loss diet plan
If you understand metabolism, you can see you don’t want to just speed it up. Rather, your aim is to fine-tune it into an optimal state.
Resetting your metabolism back into its natural healthy condition is the best way to optimize it. In this state it can operate efficiently and appropriately for any circumstances your body finds itself in.
When your metabolism is operating as designed, it will be satisfied when you feed it a reasonable amount of fuel. This means when you eat you can enjoy small healthy portions; it won’t crave more food than it needs. You and your body will feel satisfied, healthy and energetic.
How to stop cravings
Cravings are your body’s response to malnutrition. If your body needs a nutrient that it doesn’t have, it gives you a feeling of craving to prod you into eating. Just like thirst is the body’s signal that it needs more water, cravings are its signal that it needs nutrients.
You can see how restrictive dieting is a losing battle: The less you eat, the more likely it is that your body isn’t getting the nutrients it needs. And when it’s missing these nutrients, it turns on a craving that is hard to resist.
This is a survival mechanism that served bodies well back in time before food was as abundant as it is now.
The trouble is that in modern times we have an abundance of food available to eat at any moment, and much of that food (i.e. processed and sugary food) is high in energy but low in the nutrients your body needs for survival.
So your body encourages you to eat more just to satisfy its nutritional needs.
The way to break this craving cycle is to ensure you are feeding your body plenty of foods that are high in the nutrients it needs. Specifically, this would consist of protein, fat and fiber. If you feed your body enough of these three things, your nutritional cravings will eventually subside.
The trick is to increase nutrient-rich foods in your diet while phasing out high-energy low-nutrient food (i.e. processed food and junk food). The Protein, Fat and Fiber program walks you through the exact steps of how to accomplish this.
Cravings can turn into addictions
Most of us living in the modern world have developed unhealthy eating habits. And we are to one degree or another addicted to these habits. So it helps to understand a little about what exactly addiction is.
In its essence, addiction is rooted in your body’s desire to acquire things necessary for its optimal survival.
Whenever you give it something it desires, it rewards you with a good feeling.
This is done chemically inside your brain with reward molecules that are released whenever your body senses it has acquired something that aids its survival.
For example, when a good friend gives you a hug, your brain releases reward molecules. A warm hug from a friend means your survival is enhanced because your friend likes you and supports you. Your body rewards you for achieving this beneficial circumstance by making you feel good.
Similarly, when you eat a spoonful of sugar, your body releases reward molecules that make you feel good. Sugar gives your body energy, which it needs for survival, so it rewards you for finding and consuming sugary treats. The same is true for other energy-dense foods rich in flour, starches and carbohydrates.
And… when you combine a sugary treat with a warm hug from Grandma, that really turns on the mood-boosting flood of reward molecules. This is why many people seek out comfort food — it’s tied both to energy from food and emotional support from a loved one. That’s a big survival benefit to the body, and so it rewards you generously.
The cycle of food addiction
This system of rewards for finding food and support in the environment was very beneficial to bodies in the wild where food was scarce. However, in our modern world food is abundant. As a result, it can become too easy to trigger these reward molecules in your body, and a cycle of addiction can occur.
It starts with the initial mood boost you get as a reward for acquiring something your body wants. This leads to wanting more of that feeling, so you give your body more of the same stimulus — i.e. you eat more of it.
However, this second helping triggers the reward molecules somewhat less than the first “hit” did. So you compensate by giving it more in an effort to achieve that same initial high.
The more you give it, the less it rewards you. To achieve that initial high you’re seeking, you need to keep giving more and more. This is the endlessly worsening cycle of addiction.
In nature, this process is self-regulating because energy-rich foods are scarce. You have to work hard to consume these foods, and they rarely come in large quantities.
But in modern society, such foods are readily available and you can sit on your couch scarfing down bag after bag of chips with little effort. This is where it becomes dangerous.
Break bad habits
An addiction is essentially just a bad habit that keeps worsening over time.
To get out of the trap of the addiction cycle, you need to become proficient at breaking bad habits.
There are several steps involved in breaking a habit:
1. Spot the habit
You’d be surprised at how many habits you are stuck in that you aren’t even aware of.
In fact, many habits are held in place simply because they are fully on automatic and therefore never noticed.
Spotting the habits that you need to break is the first step in changing your habits.
2. Break the automatic nature of the habit
Instead of just mindlessly going through the motions of the habit, pause and decide what you’re going to do before you fully carry it out.
A slight proactive break in the automatic behavior like this can significantly loosen the grip it has on you.
Even if you decide to carry out the same behavior the habit was about to make you do, at least you actively decided to do it.
Rather than being the total effect of your habit, you gradually start to become causative over it. You start making decisions about your behavior and calling the shots yourself.
3. Find a substitute that satisfies the same need
You body is rewarding you for maintaining your bad habits.
Stopping a habit cold turkey can turn on strong cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
Ease this by giving your body a healthier substitute that is just as satisfying.
4. Make it easy to get your new substitute habit established
Habits tend to follow the rule about taking the path of least resistance.
If your new habit is easy, it’s more likely to stick.
If your old habit was far easier, it will be tempting to revert back to it.
So make your new healthier habits easier and more enjoyable than the old bad habits and you’ll have a good chance of success.
5. Repeat the new substitute habit over and over until it gets fully established
You may have relapses back to your old habit from time to time as you work on developing a new habit.
Don’t worry about any relapses — pay no attention to them. Just let it go and don’t dwell on or resist them. The more you fight against relapses, the more they fight back and pull you in.
Simply keep working on grooving in the new habit, ignoring any setbacks, and you’ll eventually get there.
Set goals for yourself
When engaged in breaking bad habits and establishing healthier habits in their place, it helps to have a clear vision of why you’re doing it and what you hope to ultimately gain.
By setting well-defined goals for yourself, you give yourself a beacon to follow to help pull you along when the going gets tough.
Setting worthwhile goals also helps keep you motivated by having a strong purpose. This purpose acts as a driving force that plows through barriers. It can be that extra nudge you need to push you through the rough spots and keep you on track.
The stronger your purpose to achieve your goals, the more likely you are to succeed. So set good goals that are truly worth the effort to achieve, and maintain a strong desire and purpose to achieve them. It will get you through.
Best weight loss diet plans
There are many popular diet plans out there.
Let’s take a look at a few and assess their pros and cons — and how likely you are to succeed with each one.
(The following diet plans are listed in alphabetical order, not ranked from best to worst.)
The Atkins diet is a low-carbohydrate diet developed by cardiologist Dr. Robert Atkins. The theory behind this diet is that the body burns either sugar or fat for energy, and burning fat rather than sugar is better for losing weight and maintaining that weight loss. The diet recommends severely limiting sugars and carbohydrates to get the body to burn fat for energy.
It is possible to lose weight quickly on the Atkins diet. Additionally, sugars and starches in high quantities are unhealthy for human bodies. The World Health Organization recommends that only 5% of your calories intake should come from sugar. For an average adult, that comes out to only about 6 teaspoons a day. Cutting back on sugars and starches on the Atkins diet is a positive healthy choice.
The first phase of Atkins is a highly restrictive diet, which can lead to temporary nutritional deficiencies. Also, dieters on Atkins often replace sugars with highly processed food, sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners — all of which have been shown to be unhealthy. It’s best to stick with whole natural foods. As with many restrictive diets, people who lose weight on Atkins tend to regain that weight after completing the diet.
Jenny Craig offers a complete dieting program, complete with prepackaged low-calorie food, a personal consultant to support you on your weight-loss journey, online tools to help you plan and track your meals and an exercise plan.
This program promotes healthy eating with well-rounded nutrition and results in gradual weight loss — which tends to be healthier and more sustainable in the long run. It also offers the support of a personal consultant to keep you accountable and help you through the rough spots.
The main downside of this program is the cost. The cost is roughly $100/week for the program plus the cost of the food, which tends to run $15-$26/day for their prepackaged food until you eventually transition to preparing your own meals.
Ketogenic (Keto) Diet
There are several versions of the keto diet, but the basic premise is that you should not consume more than 5-10% carbohydrates in your daily diet. This is equivalent to roughly 20-50g of carbs per day. The low carbohydrate intake causes your body to go into a state of ketosis. During ketosis, your body doesn’t have enough carbs to break down into energy so it starts breaking down fats instead.
Ketosis is your body’s natural process for dealing with a carbohydrate shortage, and has been demonstrated to lead to significant weight loss as well as other potential health benefits.
Ketogenic diets are fairly restrictive diets and are difficult to maintain for long periods of time. Many people who are on a keto diet tend to eat too much protein and poor-quality fats from processed foods, without enough fruits and vegetables. This can cause a nutritional deficiency in the body and lead to health issues.
The goal of Nutrisystem is to simplify weight loss. The company sends you a breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert for each day. They determine your portion sizes, what foods you will eat, how many calories you will consume, etc. All you have to do is eat what they send you (you can add some fresh fruits and vegetables that you buy yourself at the grocery store).
Very convenient because you don’t need to do anything other than order your meals and eat them. You don’t need to worry about measuring portion sizes, planning your food, shopping and cooking.
Since you are basically allowed to eat only what they send you, you won’t be able to eat out at all while on this program. Also, transitioning to planning and preparing your own food after you complete the program can be difficult. As with any weight-loss program, you will eventually need to learn proper eating habits and develop the self-discipline to do it on your own. Otherwise you risk regaining all the weight you lost.
The paleo diet restricts your food intake to what might have been eaten during the Paleolithic era (2.5 million to 10,000 years ago). This typically includes lean meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and anything else that human would have been able to obtain through hunting and gathering.
The foods allowed on the paleo diet tend to be healthy and aligned with what your body thrives on. Positive health benefits have been seen in clinical trials, including weight loss, improved glucose tolerance, better blood pressure control, lower triglycerides and greater ability to manage appetite.
Finding foods you enjoy eating within these restrictions can be difficult at first. It may take a bit of experimentation to find foods you consider palatable and which are rich in all the various nutrients you need. Also, this tends to be an expensive diet. Eating wild game, grass-fed meats, and nuts can be pricier than other more commonly available sources of protein, fiber and vitamins.
South Beach Diet
Developed by cardiologist Arthur Agatston in 2003, this is a modified low-carb diet. It encourages you to eat fewer carbs and more protein and healthy fats. It’s not strictly a low-carb diet (you’re allowed to eat more carbs than a typical low-carb diet), and you don’t have to count calories.
It’s a long-term healthy lifestyle program which teaches eating well-balanced nutritional meals and avoiding junk food and “bad” carbs. It’s safe and is sustainable in the long run.
The first phase of this diet can be very difficult for people who are used to eating carb-rich diets. It takes some will-power to stick with it, as the program doesn’t prepare your body for reducing carbs — you just go in cold-turkey.
Weight Watchers (now rebranded as “WW”)
This program prides itself in letting you continue eating the foods you love and theoretically no foods are off-limits. The program steers you toward making better food choices while allowing you to continue eating foods you don’t want to give up. It uses a color-coded system with “SmartPoints” and “ZeroPoint” food designations to categorize foods and helps you budget your food choices toward healthier eating habits. You can add one-on-one meetings and personal coaching to assist you with the program.
Weight watchers encourages making better eating choices based on nutrition and a shift toward a healthier long-range lifestyle. Studies show that it is effective at losing weight and keeping that weight off. The program does all the calorie counting work for you, simplifying the process of tracking what you eat.
There is a monthly cost that goes along with the program. The initial starter fee to join is $20 and then you subscribe to a monthly plan ranging from $19.95/month to $54.95/month, depending on what services and resources you want to access.
The Whole30 diet is a nutritional program designed to clean up your eating habits and improve your overall health. It’s based on the idea that certain foods are inflammatory and have negative affects on your body and the way you feel. It is an elimination diet that requires you to cut out certain foods that tend to be inflammatory (including sugar, dairy, grains, legumes and alcohol) for 30 days.
In addition to weight loss, people who complete the diet report other benefits including: more energy, sharper mental focus, better sleep, clearer skin, improved mood, increased athletic performance, and reduced cravings for unhealthful foods.
The diet is quite restrictive for 30 days, in terms of which type of foods you can eat, which may be difficult to maintain for some people. There are no cheat days allowed.
The Zone Diet was developed by Dr. Sears, who spent several decades researching how foods people eat affect their hormones and gene expression. The main goal of the diet is to eliminate diet-induced inflammation. The basic idea is to balance your plate with 1/3 lean protein, 2/3 carbohydrates (mainly vegetables and fruits), and a small amount of monounsaturated fat. It also recommends taking anti-inflammatory supplements.
This diet is somewhat flexible and lets you eat out at restaurants so long as you continue following the recommended guidelines for plate proportions. No foods are outright banned, but certain foods are discouraged.
Testing whether you are in “the Zone”, which is the ideal state reached on this diet where your body is optimized to control inflammation, requires blood tests that only your doctor can administer. Also, the recommended supplements can add to the cost of doing this diet.
The Protein, Fat & Fiber program
The Protein, Fat & Fiber program is a common-sense approach to achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight. It was researched and developed by biologist Ron Feltes. By understanding and using the biology of your body to your advantage, you can achieve your body weight goals.
Through the establishment of 9 simple healthy lifestyle habits, you can defeat your cravings, get your eating under control, feel better about yourself, and regain your vitality and pep in life. Give the Protein, Fat & Fiber program a try, and see for yourself.
This program also makes it easier to succeed at any other healthy weight loss diet you may want to try.
Meal planning and preparation
An essential part of any healthy weight loss diet is the actual food you eat. The problem with many diets is that keeping up with the food requirements can be difficult. The secret is in the planning and preparation of your meals.
By planning ahead of time, you can have the appropriate foods prepared and ready to eat at any given time. This helps keep you on track instead of “cheating” and eating something more convenient.
Many people find it beneficial to plan and prepare the following week’s worth of food on the weekend. You can take a few minutes each Sunday to plan 21 delicious meals for the upcoming week, and ensure each of these meals meets the guidelines of your particular diet plan. Then prepare as much of that food as possible ahead of time.
You can make a week’s worth of your own “TV Dinners” that you freeze or refrigerate. Then simply heat and eat during meal times throughout the week. Making it easy to eat proper meals through the week will make it easier to stick to your diet.
Weight loss diet plan tips
Here are some tips to help you stick to your healthy weight loss diet and get the most out of it:
- Drink plenty of water, especially before meals.
- Avoid sugary drinks. Sodas, sweet teas, fruit juices, etc. all contain large amounts of sugar and calories. Choose water or unsweetened tea.
- Eat an adequate amount of protein to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to stay healthy and energetic. Eating a high-protein breakfast to start your day off right can make a big difference.
- Eat a good amount of fiber every day to keep your gut healthy. A healthy gut is critical in the success of any diet.
- Avoid processed foods. Eat whole natural foods such as vegetables, meats, nuts and other minimally-processed tasty treats.
- Try intermittent fasting to help melt away those extra pounds without constant calorie restriction.
- Some studies suggest that drinking coffee or green tea can be beneficial for weight loss. Just avoid dumping a bunch of sugar or other high-calorie substances into your drink.
- Stay active. If you sit all day long, it’s difficult to convince your body to shed some weight. But active bodies tend to adjust to that activity by becoming slimmer for better mobility.
- Get plenty of sleep. Your body burns calories and slims down during sleep. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re not giving you body a chance to become leaner.
- Keep junk food out of sight. Hide it in your cabinets instead of leaving it laying out on the counter. Better yet, don’t even bring it into the house. This avoids triggering cravings.
- Use smaller plates to help keep portion sizes small.