In a recent study, 41 percent of women cited "not enough time" as the reason they don't eat better. Spending just an hour or two on the weekend shopping for a week's worth of healthy meals and getting a jump-start on the prep work (cutting veggies, making marinades) will save you time and pounds in the long run. A survey by the CDC found that almost 40 percent of people who lost a significant amount of weight and kept it off planned their weekly meals.
"When you don't map out your meals, you're too tempted to grab whatever's nearby, which is often high-calorie junk," says Dr. Elizabeth Ricanati, founding medical director of the Lifestyle 180 Program at the Cleveland Clinic.
If you drop weight without lifting any, you risk shedding muscle tissue instead of fat. Muscle takes more than twice as many calories to maintain, and it keeps your metabolism revving at peak calorie-burning speed, so it's important to hang on to it, says Donald Hensrud, M.D., an associate professor of preventive medicine and nutrition at the College of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic.
Your best strategy is to eat lots of protein and strength train for 20 to 30 minutes two or three times a week. Protein will fuel those workouts and help you maintain lean muscle, says Hensrud. Eat at least three or four servings of two to three ounces of protein-rich beans, soy, fish, lean meat, poultry, or low-fat dairy every day.
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Watching your waistline doesn't mean you have to become a recluse who spends every spare moment on the elliptical machine. In fact, an all-or-nothing approach is counterproductive. "Many women make changes they'll never be able to stick with -- like eating nothing but raw food or vowing to go for a run at 5 a.m. every day -- and set themselves up for failure," says Hensrud. "Total deprivation doesn't work."
He advocates skipping extreme regimens in favor of small changes. When he asked a group of overweight study subjects to make several small lifestyle shifts--such as eating breakfast, having as many veggies as they'd like with each meal, and watching TV for only as long as they'd exercised that day--they dropped an average of eight pounds in two weeks. "When you combine a bunch of little strategies, the cumulative effect can be huge, and you won't feel as if you've given up your entire life to be slim."
The upcoming Women's Health Diet book is chockfull of easy, totally painless weight-loss rules. Here's a sneak peek:
Skipping breakfast robs you of energy. You should eat 30 to 35 percent of your daily calories in the morning.
The average American drinks more than 450 calories every day. Cutting that amount in half is enough to save you about 25 pounds in a year.
If It Grows Out of the Ground, It's Good
Fruits and veggies keep you satisfied and filled with nutrients, and leafy greens are high in folate, which can help you lose eight times as much weight.
For info on ordering, go to WomensHealthDietBook.com.
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