What's the best way to lose weight fast? David Zinczenko, author of The Abs Diet For Women, says it's to get engaged. "There's nothing like an impending deadline—and a formfitting gown—to inspire someone to take her diet seriously," he says. Problem is, too many women try to shed the pounds by starving themselves or by trying fad diets. There's a better way—you can actually eat your way slim. By concentrating on the right foods, you can reduce your calorie intake while inspiring your body to burn only fat, not muscle. The result: a lean wedding-day physique that can look as toned and fine on your 5th, 10th, or even 20th anniversary as it does on your honeymoon.
1. Focus on the good, not the bad. One of the problems with traditional diets is that they are all about deprivation. You can't stick to them for very long because they make you feel bad—it's all about "can't, can't, can't." A smart nutrition plan is about finding more foods that you can and should eat, and eating as many of them as possible every day.
2. Never let yourself get hungry. Two bad things happen when you get hungry. First, you start craving fast, easy energy—and the fastest, easiest energy comes from junk like chips, cookies, and candy. Second, when you're hungry, your body starts breaking down muscle (not fat)—leading to the rebound weight gain so common with fad diets. Try to eat six times a day. Huh? Really? Yes! Three square meals and three smart, nutritious snacks will keep your body constantly fueled and constantly burning fat. And the real bonus: Since you're not depriving yourself, there's no temptation to ever go "off your diet."
3. Pay attention to the 12 food groups. In researching The Abs Diet for Women, I discovered that healthy eating can be as simple as remembering this phrase: ABS DIET POWER. The letters represent the 12 foods that should be the staples of your daily eating plan. Every meal and every snack should have at least two of the following:__A__lmonds and other nuts;__B__eans and legumes;__S__pinach and other green veggies;__D__airy;__I__nstant oatmeal;__E__ggs;__T__urkey and other lean meats;__P__eanut butter;__O__live oil;__W__hole grain breads and cereals;__E__xtra protein (whey) powder; __R__aspberries and other berries.
4. Cut back the baddies. In a dramatic rush to slim down? Cut them out entirely. Just looking to maintain your figure for a lifetime of lean living? Then give them the hairy eyeball as much as possible, but don't worry about the occasional incursion into your diet. Here are the baddies:
TRANS FATS: Some fats, like those found in nuts, avocados, and other natural sources, are good for your heart and actually help you burn away flab. But there's nothing natural about trans fats, which your body uses to build its spare tire factory—and which will gum up your arteries down the road. On ingredient lists they are called "partially hydrogenated oil" and can be found in packaged baked goods like cookies and cakes, as well as fried and battered foods.
REFINED CARBOHYDRATES: Refined sugar and refined flour give you an instant energy high, followed by an energy drop—and cravings for more refined carbs. Focus on whole-grain breads and cereals, and snack on nuts and fruit instead of cookies and candies.
HIGH-FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP (HFCS): Don't know what that is? Too bad, because your body loves to turn this supersweet sugar substitute into fat. HFCS is found in soda, cookies, and candy. It also lurks in premade pasta sauce, ketchup, even bread. The average American consumed about 62 pounds of it in the last year—an average of 228 additional calories every single day. Open the door to your fridge or pantry, take a look at the ingredients of the food inside, and you'll be shocked. You can't avoid HFCS entirely unless you move to Alaska and start hunting moose, but you can cut down on it significantly by reading the labels before you buy and limiting your intake.
5. Do the 20-second abs workout. Your abdominals are designed to stabilize your core; the more stable your core, the tighter your tummy. Think of it as creating a natural corset that helps keep your belly flat. Your secret weapon: an exercise called the plank. To do it, get into push-up position, but bend your elbows and rest your weight on your forearms instead of your hands. Your body should be in a straight line from your ankles to your neck. Now brace your abdominals as if you're about to be punched in the stomach, and hold them that way for 30 seconds (work up to a minute) while breathing normally. Do two sets, three times a week.
6. Have a smoothie (or two) every day. This drink is a great way to ensure that you're getting more of the power foods into your diet. Use plain or vanilla yogurt as a base; add fruit, some whey powder for extra protein, and ice. Toss it all into a blender and press "start." Now you've got a delicious, nutritious substitute for ice cream. A University of Tennessee study found that people who added three servings of yogurt a day to their diets lost 61 percent more body fat and 81 percent more stomach fat over 12 weeks than those who didn't eat yogurt.
7. Build more muscle. It's depressing to spend an hour on the treadmill sweating away like a guest on The O'Reilly Factor, only to discover you've burned a measly 300 calories—that's about two Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. But you can boost your burn after your workout by bringing some resistance exercise into your plan. Unlike aerobic workouts, lifting weights has been shown to raise your metabolism for up to 39 hours after your last repetition. So you burn more calories even while you're lying on the couch. And if you can't get to the gym, exercise such as climbing stairs, hiking, or even just walking uphill will firm and tone the legs and butt—where the majority of your body's muscle already resides.
8. Skip the liquid sugar. You may think a glass of OJ is just the thing to start off your day, but, in fact, most juices are packed with calories and often include added sugars. And don't get me started on soda. People who drink sweetened beverages (including iced tea and lemonade) consume an average of 330 calories a day more than those who don't. That's enough to add a pound of flab to your body every 11 days.
9. Beware of booze. I like beer, wine, and the occasional gin and tonic on a hot summer day. But alcohol and weight loss don't mix. Your body sees alcohol as a poison, and as soon as you have a glass of wine, your digestive system becomes all about getting rid of the booze—which means it takes everything else you've eaten and stores it to the side of your stomach. Booze distracts your body from the task at hand—burning off fat and building a leaner, sleeker physique.
10. Once a week, cheat. Not a great prescription for marriage, but a terrific remedy for weight loss. By giving yourself one meal a week where you can have whatever you want, you reward yourself for being a conscientious eater.