It’s true that a caloric deficit—burning more calories per day than you take in—is a requisite of weight loss. But creating a deficit doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t) involve deprivation. That goes for calories, carbs, sugar, fat, or any other commonly demonized nutrient. “No one food is responsible for your weight,” Langer says, explaining that a good vs. bad mentality sets people up for disordered eating and exercise habits. In fact, caloric deprivation increases how the brain responds to food, setting you up for binge-eating down the line, according to research from the Oregon Research Institute.
As we mentioned above, eating in a calorie deficit is key. Jim recommends eating 500 calories less than your total daily energy expenditure, or TDEE. This is the number of calories you burn in a day, which is based on factors like age, height, sex, and activity level. To calculate what this number is and what your calorie target should be to lose weight, use this formula. Just make sure you don't go below 1,200 calories a day for women; in a previous interview, Jim said eating any fewer calories than that can slow down your metabolism and result in negative side effects like low energy, loss of hair, hunger pangs, and a negative impact on your menstrual cycle.
Work indulgence foods into your calorie plan. If you do want to have something that is a little higher in calories, then make sure that you work it into your overall calorie goal for the day. For example, if you are following an 1,800 calorie plan, and you want to have a brownie that is 300 calories, then you would only have 1,500 calories left for the day.
If you drink regular, go to 2%. If you already drink 2%, go down another notch to 1% or skim milk. Each step downward cuts the calories by about 20 percent. Once you train your taste buds to enjoy skim milk, you’ll have cut the calories in the whole milk by about half and trimmed the fat by more than 95 percent. One disclaimer: There are times when fat-free dairy isn’t the best option.
You should already be following a diet to get lean, and should therefore be aware of how much you’re eating. But to remove any guesswork, we’ll give you some numbers to hit for the week: Consume one gram of protein and 10–11 calories for every pound of your body weight; 20% of those daily calories should be from fat, and the remainder from carbs. (Remember to first subtract the protein calories you’re also eating from the total allowed before you calculate the number of carbs.)
Dairy products contain varying amounts of lactose (milk sugar), which slows down weight loss. What’s more, part of the protein in milk generates a significant insulin response, which can have the same effect. Consequently, cutting back on dairy products may accelerate weight loss. This applies especially to dairy products typically lacking in fat, such as regular milk and various yogurts, but be careful with full-fat dairy such as cream and cheese all the same. And don’t forget whey protein powder, which is pure milk protein.
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Close the Kitchen at Night. Establish a time when you will stop eating so you won't give in to the late-night munchies or mindless snacking while watching television. "Have a cup of tea, suck on a piece of hard candy or enjoy a small bowl of light ice cream or frozen yogurt if you want something sweet after dinner, but then brush your teeth so you will be less likely to eat or drink anything else," suggests Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, WebMD's "Recipe Doctor" and the author of Comfort Food Makeovers.