The Only Crash Diet to Consider If You Must Lose Weight Fast
You want to lose weight fast—is it possible to crash diet safely? Dietitian Christy Brissette reveals how you can without harming your metabolism.
Load up on non-starchy veggies
Face it, if you want to lose weight over the long haul, your best bet is to make sustainable, long-term lifestyle changes. But sometimes life comes at you fast and you need a fast solution. One smart lifestyle change is to eat plenty of veggies—especially for someone looking to lose weight. Vegetables are nutrient-packed and provide plenty of filling fiber with hardly any calories. Plus, non-starchy veggies have a high water content, so they hydrate you while filling you up—the perfect combination for weight loss.
Starchy veggies (like potatoes) and processed whole grains (like whole-wheat bread) are foods I'd normally recommend eating in moderation, since they provide plenty of nutrients, fiber, and healthy carbs. However, high-carb foods aren't your best friend when you're looking to drop water weight. Essentially, when your body stores excess carbs, it stores them with water. So replacing carb-heavy foods with non-starchy veggies that still provide filling fiber without as much water retention is the way to go. For a week before your event, you can swap out the starchy carbs for more non-starchy vegetables to lose some water weight.
Aim for filling at least half of your plate with non-starchy veggies like asparagus, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, spinach, kale, cucumbers, and more. This is a great idea for everyone's health, not just people wanting to lose weight.
Swap the salt for herbs and spices
Another healthy change that will help you look better is to cut back on salt. Sodium causes your body to hold onto excess water, so eating a high-salt diet means you're likely storing more water weight than necessary. If you're in a rush to lose weight fast, cut out added salt as much as possible. That means ditching the salt shaker and avoiding processed and packaged foods, where added salt is pretty much inevitable.
Try making food from scratch rather than eating out before your big event to further limit sodium and fight bloat. Even at healthier restaurants, sodium levels tend to be through the roof.
Avoiding salt doesn't mean your food has to be bland. Experiment with using different herbs and spices. Try adding fresh cilantro and cumin to grilled fish, lemon and rosemary to chicken, or ginger and Chinese five spice to tempeh or beef. Pick up some spice blends from your local market to help add more spice to your life... just read the ingredients and make sure there's no salt added.
Drink lots of water before meals
It seems counterintuitive to drink lots of water when you're looking to lose weight fast—especially water weight—but staying hydrated is one of the most important steps you can take to lose weight. People often mistake thirst for hunger, so staying hydrated allows you to be more in touch with the times when you are actually hungry, rather than just thirsty.
Drinking water before you eat has also been shown to lead to increased weight loss by decreasing the amount you eat at meals. It's hard for your eyes to be bigger than your stomach when you're already full from downing plenty of water! Staying hydrated also promotes good digestion, so you're less likely to end up backed up and bloated.
Keep a water bottle with you at all times and aim for drinking eight-plus cups a day. Eliminate sugary beverages like soda, juice, or sweetened coffee or tea since they're calorie bombs without much nutritional benefit. Throw in lemon slices or chopped fruit and herbs to your water to add flavor—it will encourage you to drink more!
Avoid gas-forming foods
Want to know how to lose weight fast and reduce bloating instantly? Avoid gas-forming foods leading up to your big event.
When you chew gum, you swallow more often than you would without a piece of gum in your mouth. Some of what you swallow is air, and that can get trapped, making you feel bloated. Most sugar-free gums are made with sugar alcohols, which can cause gas in some people as well.
Soda and diet soda often have gas-forming sugars or sugar alcohols—plus, they're carbonated. Those bubbles trapped in liquid can leave you feeling bloated.
Everyone's body is different when it comes to digesting some gas-forming foods, but there are a few you should be wary of: It's best to avoid beans and cruciferous veggies (think cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and broccoli) for a couple of days if you want to look slimmer. Choose lean proteins like chicken and fish or, if you're vegetarian, go for small amounts of nuts and seeds for protein. Pair with non-gassy vegetables like asparagus, spinach, and cucumber to help prevent bloat.
Ditch the packaged foods
Processed, packaged foods are often loaded with more salt, sugar, and refined carbs than you'd put in the foods you cook for yourself. When you're looking to drop weight fast, avoid foods that come in packages and stick to whole, unprocessed foods. Build your plates with non-starchy veggies, unprocessed whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, and season with spices, not salt.
Rather than snacking on chips and granola bars, grab a piece of produce and a source of protein to stay fueled. Need some ideas? Here's what that could look like:
Carrot sticks and a hard-boiled egg for a snack
An apple and a handful of raw almonds for a snack
Romaine lettuce topped with tomatoes, diced peppers, brown rice, shredded chicken, and avocado for lunch
- For dinner, try roasted broccoli, spinach salad, quinoa, and salmon seasoned with lemon and dill
Make sure you're getting enough protein
Protein is key for keeping you full and satiated, even when you're eating fewer calories. Studies have shown that eating a high-protein breakfast can help you reduce caloric intake throughout the day by starting you off full and fueled.
Protein is also important for preserving muscle mass as you lose weight. If you cut back dramatically on calories and drop weight too fast, your muscles can suffer. Your body starts pulling from lean tissue like muscles and organs to fuel itself, and your metabolism slows to conserve energy. That's why super restrictive diets that have you dropping weight fast aren't healthy over the long run.
Getting enough protein every day, whether you're in a quick-fix or long-term mindset is important for keeping your muscles and metabolism healthy throughout weight loss. Make sure you're having some chicken breast, lean ground turkey, fish, seafood or tempeh that's the size of a deck of cards at every meal. When snacking, have 2 eggs, 1/4 cup of nuts, or 3/4 cup of Greek yogurt or cottage cheese to meet your protein needs and stay full and feel slim.
Get plenty of sleep
Aim to get at least seven hours of sleep each night. Try going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Why? Ever notice how you start to crave donuts and drive-thru breakfasts when you're exhausted? When you don't get enough sleep, your hormones are thrown out of balance. Running on no sleep can actually drive up the hormones that make you want to eat, while pushing down the hormones that signal for fullness—and that's a recipe for weight gain. When you're well-rested, it's much easier to make healthy decisions and stay on track.
Keep meals lighter in the evening
Research demonstrates that eating later can actually lead to slower weight loss, while eating a larger meal at breakfast and smaller meals throughout the day can help you lose more weight! And while we're not going to tell you to restrict yourself to no food after 6 p.m, it's important to consider what time of day you struggle most with temptation.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23357955For many people, late-night fridge raids are a downfall, leading to overeating and unnecessary calories. If you wake up motivated to eat healthy, but lose steam by the end of the day and end up with a big takeout order, sidestep the problem by planning evening meals ahead of time.
If you do feel like you want to eat in the evening, ask yourself if you're really hungry or eating out of habit or boredom.
HIIT the gym
HIIT stands for high-intensity interval training, and it's a great way to build muscle without spending hours in the gym. The idea is to go all out for a short period of time, followed by a slower pace that allows you to recover. Think of jogging or sprinting all out for 30 seconds, followed by a minute or two of rest, then repeat. Short bursts of high-intensity exercises keep your heart rate up while adding lean muscle. More muscle mass equals calories burned on a daily basis. Also, the more lean muscle you have, the higher your metabolism is.
Focusing on cardio workouts like running or biking are great for your heart health, but make sure you do weight training workouts as well, to complement your muscle growth.
Call for backup
Drastic weight loss from a quick-fix diet is usually due mostly to losing water weight. At best a crash diet could help you drop a few pounds. At worst, it could leave you feeling weak and tired and make you sick.
Before you jump on the latest crash diet that promises drastic results, think twice about the impact on your physical and mental health.
For weight loss that lasts, you'll want to continue making sustainable changes long after that special event has passed. Meet with a registered dietitian to get nutrition advice that's specific to you and your goals.
- Christy Brissette, RD, dietitian and founder, 80 Twenty Nutrition in Chicago.
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