If you're having problems starting your diet, try Jackie Warner's two-week diet jumpstart. "I designed the first two weeks of this food plan to be a 'non-diet,'" she says. It's all about laying the groundwork for a lifetime of healthy eating.
1. "Try to keep your calories to about 1500 a day, but don't get bogged down with counting," she says.
2. "Eat three meals a day plus snacks to feel full."
Next: The Jumpstart (Weeks 1 and 2)
Don't worry about counting calories just yet. These two weeks are about adding to your diet and being more mindful.
•Take a multivitamin daily and never skip a meal. Eat three meals a day plus two snacks; meals can be about 400 calories and snacks 100–150. If you're craving sweets, have a piece of fruit or drink a cup of herbal fruit tea before you cave in.
•Aim to get 25 to 35 grams of fiber per day. That's the equivalent of a cup of instant oats, an apple, a cup of berries, a small green salad, plus a cup of steamed broccoli or spinach. A good guideline: Add 1 to 2 cups of veggies to your lunch and again at dinner. "Fiber fills you up so you're less likely to crave food between meals," says Warner.
•Add one or two eggs to your breakfast each morning. The protein prevents energy spikes and is a smarter option than sugary pancakes or most cereals.
•If you cheat and indulge in something sweet or loaded with fat, don't get disheartened and eat whatever you want the rest of the day. Acknowledge the misstep and keep going with your good habits. Eating right is not an all-or-nothing proposition and nobody's perfect.
•"Listen to your body when it says you're full and don't keep eating," recommends Warner. (Her plan is not the clean plate club!) If you cut out distractions—like TV, the internet, or even reading a newspaper or magazine—during meals, you'll pay more attention to what you're downing and eat less.
Change Your Habits for Good (Week 3 and Beyond)
Now you've got some good habits under your belt and you can get down to the business of seriously changing how you eat.
•Aim to consume about 1,500 calories per day but omit the most obvious fat- and sugar-laden foods, including desserts, bagels, high-sugar cereals, processed snack foods, and bread and butter. The changes you made in the first couple of weeks will make this step feel less painful. You may already be doing it.
•Cut back on carbs at night. This will help boost levels of Human Growth Hormone. Levels of this naturally occurring hormone decline as we age, which is bad because it helps your body prefer fat for fuel—versus carbs—and it helps you add muscle (not bodybuilder-huge muscles, just metabolism-boosting ones!). You won't miss the carbs if you do
the next tip:
•Eat 3 to 4 ounces of healthy lean protein (fish, beans, eggs, chicken) for lunch and again at dinner and serve it with 2 to 3 cups of salad. Just FYI: Fish raises leptin levels and this helpful hormone tells your brain when to stop eating. The more you have, the lower your appetite.
•Start becoming hyper-aware of all the hidden sugar sources in your diet, such as ketchup and other sweet condiments, alcohol, bottled spaghetti sauces, and canned goods like baked beans.
•Eat healthy for five days in a row Eat healthy for five days in a row and you can allow yourself one treat meal on Saturday and again on Sunday to avoid feeling totally deprived (that's what Warner does!). Just keep the meal (say, a dinner out with friends or a splurge at the movie theater) under 1,200 to 1,500 calories or you're doing more harm than good. Of course, you should stick to your eating plan the rest of the weekend; it's not a treat "day," after all!
•Find an outlet for stress. The more stressed you are, the more cortisol your body releases and cortisol spikes your cravings for sweets and fatty foods. Plus, it can contribute to visceral fat, that dangerous layer of flab that accumulates around the organs in your midsection. Regular exercise can help you conquer tension and anxiety and keep cortisol levels low.