Because most purveyors of weight-loss plans are idiots, the words “diet” and “deprivation” have become nearly synonymous.
When you start thinking about losing fat and maintaining a healthy weight, you imagine a dreary patch of flavor denial and an aching belly, and–quite naturally–you turn away. That’s what’s wrong with the average diet: It contains the seeds of its own destruction.
You do have another option: Don’t diet.
Instead, try a plan, which is different from in diet in the sense that you’re taking action to create a holistic approach to eating. A plan encourages you to look at what you need to eat instead of what you don’t need to it. A plan provides a little wiggle room and, if all goes to hell, the opportunity to blow up the entire plan and start building a new plan. A plan is more sensible and thereby more effect.
What plan to start with? Well, funny you should ask, because Men’s Health has published SO MANY of them in our long history as a magazine.
And what’s interesting about each and every one of these plans is that they all have a few things in common.
They are each geared to helping you lose the weight one pound at a time, with a target goal of 10 or 15 pounds. That might not sound like a lot, but only in the context of extreme diets that promise you’ll lose 50 to 100 pounds. (Remember: If it’s too good to be true, it freaking isn’t.)
And these plans also focus on eating well, instead of eating only a little. Because if you eat well–instead of depriving yourself–you’ll feel better, have more energy, improve your long-term health prospects, and keep the weight off, for good.
Eat 5 Meals a Day
That’s three squares and two snacks. In a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers found that men who ate four or more times a day had half the risk of becoming overweight compared with those who ate three times or fewer.
This doesn’t mean three feasts and two 900-calorie “snacks,” however. (Read on for the foods to pile on your plate.
Fill Up on Fiber
“Fiber is the best food you can eat when you ‘re trying to lose weight,” says Gay Riley, R.D., a nutritionist in Dallas and the author of Pocket Personal Trainer.
Here’s why: Fiber slows your rate of digestion, which keeps you feeling full longer and reduces sugar cravings. And because it binds to other foods, fiber helps hustle calories out of the body.
5 or more grams fiber
- 1 cup of any cereal with “bran” in the name
- 1 cup of cooked beans–pinto, kidney, navy, any kind
- 1/2 an avocado
2 to 4 grams of fiber
- 1 medium apple, pear, orange, or banana
- 1 cup of any fruit that ends in “berry”
- 1/2 cup of cooked asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, green beans, sauerkraut, or spinach
- 1 ounce (about a handful) of almonds, peanuts, cashews, pecans, or sunflower seeds
- 1 cup of cooked brown rice or whole-wheat pasta, or two slices of whole-wheat bread
Put a Limit on Starch
Since 1980, the average guy’s food intake has grown by 500 calories a day, nearly 80 percent of which can be attributed to carbohydrates; in that time, the prevalence of obesity has increased by 80 percent.
The lesson: Always eat the highest-fiber, least-processed versions of these foods: whole-wheat breads, pastas, and cereals; brown rice instead of white; and whole potatoes, including the skin.
Don’t Count Calories
A good diet is effortless. By frequently eating the right foods, you’ll eliminate hunger and control your calorie intake.
Never restrict your produce intake. You can’t eat too many fruits and vegetables. Potatoes excepted, they contain very few calories, little starch, and lots of fiber.
Have some protein with every meal. Make an effort to eat a serving or two of high-quality protein–yogurt, cheese, milk, beef, turkey, chicken, fish, pork, eggs, or nuts. You’ll get the daily ideal 8 gram leucine, an amino acid that’s critical for boosting metabolism and preserving muscle as you drop pounds.
Don’t Fear Fat
Researchers at the City of Hope Medical Center, in Duarte, California, report that men who ate a low-calorie, high-fat diet lost 63 percent more weight in 6 months than those who followed a low-fat plan with the same number of calories.
By replacing some of the starches with fat–which takes longer to digest–you’ll stay full longer and eat less. Emphasize healthy, unsaturated fats: In the study, the high-fat dieters ate 3 ounces of almonds a day.
Rise and Dine
Never mind what you’ve seen at Denny’s–fat guys skip breakfast. University of Massachusetts researchers found that men who skip breakfast are 4 1/2 times more likely to be obese than those who don’t.
“Eating breakfast is like putting kindling on the fire of your metabolism,” says Riley, so your body will be less likely to store fat.
Make sure you eat within 90 minutes of waking–men in the study who waited longer increased their chances of obesity by nearly 50 percent.