"When going out for fast food, I used to get the large-size value meal. Now, I satisfy a craving by ordering just one item: a small order of fries or a six-piece box of chicken nuggets. So far, I've shaved off 16 pounds in seven weeks, and I'm on track to being thinner than my high school self for my 10-year reunion later this year." —Miranda Jarrell, Birmingham, AL
A diet that’s low in fat and carbohydrates can improve artery function, according to a 2012 study by Johns Hopkins researchers. After six months, those on the low-carb diet had lost more weight, and at a faster pace. But in both groups, when weight was lost—and especially when belly fat shrank—the arteries were able to expand better, allowing blood to travel more freely. The study shows that you don’t have to cut out all dietary fat to shrink belly fat. For heart health, simply losing weight and exercising seems to be key.
The second concept I coined is called “diet confusion.” And I name it after the similar concept in weight lifting called muscle confusion. The idea behind diet confusion is, you have to keep your body off-kilter. So by changing the type of foods that you eat, the frequency of the foods that you eat, you can keep your metabolism revved up. Instead of eating the same food all the time and your body gets adjusted to that same food and your metabolism no longer is challenged. Those two principles are really the driving principles of Shred and why people are finding such success.
All meals are important, but breakfast is what helps you start your day on the right track. The best, heartiest breakfasts are ones that will fill you up, keep you satisfied, and stave off cravings later in the day. Aim to eat anywhere between 400 and 500 calories for your morning meal, and make sure you're including a source of lean protein plus filling fat (e.g., eggs, unsweetened Greek yogurt, nuts, or nut butters) and fiber (veggies, fruit, or 100% whole grains). Starting your day with a blood sugar-stabilizing blend of nutrients will help you slim down without sacrifice.
You can blame biology for your sweet tooth. We’re hardwired to have a preference for sweets, and this drive is universal and begins early on, according to research on the subject. Sugar makes food taste good, so food companies add it to everything from breads to soups to salad dressings to cereals, yogurts and more. This adds up to way too much sugar!
It's recommended that adults should try to be active every day and should complete at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week - this could include cycling or walking at a fast pace. Alternatively, you could complete 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise, which could include running or a game of football. You could split this up into easily manageable 30-minute workouts over 5 days of the week.
And so my Twitter followers and people on Facebook, they lost so much weight in such a short period of time—they were losing four pounds in five days, five pounds in seven days; the results were outrageous—they kept asking me for more. And so I kept tweeting them more and emailing them. Before I knew it we had 5,000 people across the country, [and] as far away as the UK, who were on Shred. And they were losing weight hand over fist.
The Shred Diet is a cycle diet, which means that if you haven’t hit your goal weight after six weeks, you can repeat the cycle of weeks in a different order. Once you’ve hit your target weight, you’ll be in the maintenance phase, which means that every 4 weeks you choose any week of the diet and follow its plan for 7 days. Once you’ve kept the weight off for a period of six months, you can commit to a week of the cycle to do every eight weeks, like a tune-up for your metabolism.
The researchers hypothesize that participants who abstained from animal products dropped significantly more pounds since plant-based foods include loads of filling fiber and slow-to-digest complex carbs. Though more research is needed to confirm these results, the study authors write, "Vegetarian diets appeared to have significant benefits on weight reduction compared to non-vegetarian diets."
There’s a reason everyone harps on about protein: Not only does it help keep you full, but it’s also responsible for repairing the tiny tears caused by strength training in your muscles. This helps them grow bigger and stronger, nudging out body fat in the process. As a general rule of thumb, aim to get at least 70 grams of protein throughout the day, says Dr. Cheskin. (These high-protein foods can help you reach that goal.)
It depends on your goals and preferences. Some weight training will be beneficial in any regimen as it'll help you build lean muscle mass, increase the amount of calories you burn daily, and aiding in body fat management. However, the total number of weight training days can be altered between 2-6 depending on what form of exercise you actually enjoy doing.
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.
“Getting deep down to the root of why you want to lose weight is a very powerful and eye-opening experience,” she says. “I do this exercise with my clients. I give them a piece of paper and they start at the top with the initial reason they want to lose weight. Often, it starts with reasons like ‘I will look better.’ Under that, I ask them why that is important. Sometimes there are some very deep and powerful reasons that are incredibly motivating like ‘I want to lose weight to travel on an airplane with my husband on our second honeymoon’ or ‘to be able to really play with my kids.’”
How does it work? The Shred Plan is based on “diet confusion.” This principle is modeled after a similar strategy in exercise called muscle confusion, which is used to help break through plateaus of muscle growth. When you do the same types of exercises at the same times, your muscles acclimate to the stress and your progress stagnates. Muscle confusion dictates that people work their muscles in different ways for varying durations of time. By “confusing” your muscles, you can trigger their sustained growth and continue to move toward your fitness goals.
That’s because it theoretically causes a mild ketosis (yep, the basis of the keto diet), which is a fat-burning state that should make you feel less hungry. The key in being successful with a low-carb diet (especially if you’re used to a more high-carb lifestyle) is to compensate for those lost carbs with protein-rich foods, says Dr. Cheskin. That way, your volume of food stays the same, but you’re doing it healthfully rather than in a way that exacerbates your weight gain.
“Exercise should not be used to purge calories,” Albers says. “Instead, to boost your mood to keep you motivated.” The thing is, exercise is great for you and can make you feel awesome. And feeling good about yourself seems to be actually useful in weight-loss efforts. Plus, some research has shown that changes in exercise behavior can lead to changes in eating behavior. “In part, it is neurochemical. Movement and exercise you enjoy boosts your serotonin and dopamine levels, which makes you feel good all the way around,” Albers says.
“Do what you can instead of quitting when you can't be ‘perfect,’” Fear says. As if there’s such a thing as “perfect.” After all, research suggests that perfectionism surrounding food and weight, especially coupled with body dissatisfaction, contribute to disordered eating and even obesity in women. Researchers note that perfectionism can contribute to poor self-esteem, dietary restraint, and binge eating.
A study in Psychosomatic Medicine confirms the link between stress and weight gain, revealing that women who are most vulnerable to the effects of stress are more likely to have excess abdominal fat and higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. One reason could be that women tend to eat more, especially sweets, on days they are stressed, according to a study in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.
Nuts. It’s very easy to eat until the nuts are gone, regardless of how full you are. A tip: According to science, salted nuts are harder to stop eating than unsalted nuts. Salted nuts tempt you to more overeating. Good to know. Another tip: Avoid bringing the entire bag to the couch, preferably choose a small bowl instead. I often eat all the nuts in front of me, whether I’m hungry or not.
If you don’t have an established exercise routine, simply walking is the best first step toward weight loss. “Walking is a pretty good entry point for people,” says Gagliardi. This is particularly true if you have been out of the gym for a while and want to ease back into a workout routine. One small study published in The Journal of Exercise Nutrition & Biochemistry found that obese women who did a walking program for 50 to 70 minutes three days per week for 12 weeks significantly slashed their visceral fat compared to a sedentary control group.
They should help keep you from feeling deprived and bingeing on higher-calorie foods. For instance: honey has just 64 fat-releasing calories in one tablespoon. Eggs have just 70 calories in one hard-boiled egg, loaded with fat-releasing protein. Part-skim ricotta cheese has just 39 calories in one ounce, packed with fat-releasing calcium. Dark chocolate has about 168 calories in a one-ounce square, but it’s packed with fat releasers. And a University of Tennessee study found that people who cut 500 calories a day and ate yogurt three times a day for 12 weeks lost more weight and body fat than a group that only cut the calories. The researchers concluded that the calcium in low-fat dairy foods triggers a hormonal response that inhibits the body’s production of fat cells and boosts the breakdown of fat.
Fiber works its weight loss magic in multiple ways. It helps you feel fuller, longer so eating fiber-rich foods is the dieting equivalent of working smarter, not harder. Plus, fiber takes a long time to digest, so fiber-rich foods don’t cause spikes in blood sugar that can send your insulin levels soaring. On the other hand, when you eat the so-called bad carbs (the refined or sugary ones that lack fiber), you may wind up with an insulin response that promotes fat storage. The takeaway: More fiber equals less fat storage.
Don't get me wrong — exercising at any time is good for you. But evening activity may be particularly beneficial because many people's metabolism slows down toward the end of the day. Thirty minutes of aerobic activity before dinner increases your metabolic rate and may keep it elevated for another two or three hours, even after you've stopped moving. Plus, it'll help you relax post-meal so you won't be tempted by stress-induced grazing that can rack up calories.
Based on my experience in nutrition counseling, most of us tend to snack on foods that aren’t nutrient-dense, but are high in calories. For example, skipping sugary beverages is often the easiest way to lose weight faster. You don’t feel full from drinks — even the ones that do contain calories — so swapping those out for sparkling water or unsweetened tea and coffee is the best place to start. Other major culprits often come in refined grains like cereals, chips, crackers, and cookies.
While it’s often assumed that bread is off-limits when you’re trying to lose belly fat, the right bread may actually expedite the process. Switching to sprouted bread can help out carb-lovers eager to get their fix without going up a belt size, thanks to the inulin content of sprouted grains. The results of a study published in Nutrition & Metabolism reveal that found that pre-diabetic study subjects whose diets were supplemented with inulin shaved off more belly fat and total weight than those whose meal plans didn’t pack this healthy prebiotic fiber.