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Slow and steady wins the weight-loss race, right? Not according to a new study from the University of Florida, which found that people on plans that gave them a speedy initial drop were five times more likely to be 10 percent slimmer 18 months later than those who didn't accelerate their diet. "Not seeing results soon enough is the number-one reason women give up on weight-loss plans," notes Patricia Bannan, RD, author of Eat Right When Time Is Tight.
Whoa there! Don't resign yourself to using the latest cleanse or juice fast just yet. Super-restrictive diets lack the nutrients you need, leaving you sluggish, weak, and starving. So what's the happy medium? A plan that targets your biggest diet downfall, allowing you to get slim quickly but safely. Try these easy, no-hunger strategies to outsmart every craving, and watch the post-holiday pudge melt away in record time.
Diet Derailer: You're a carbs queen.
Maybe man cannot live by bread alone, but woman can. Carbalicious potatoes, pasta, and rolls raise levels of serotonin, a feel-good brain chemical, says Elizabeth Somer, RD, author of Eat Your Way to Sexy. The catch is that refined carbs, which are often full of empty calories, can actually slow your metabolism, studies suggest.
To stop carbo-loading and fast-track your weight loss:
Power up your diet. Protein requires more energy to digest than carbs do and builds lean muscle, so it gets your internal engine humming. In fact, Danish researchers found that subbing protein for one-eighth of the carbs you typically eat in a day allowed dieters to better maintain a recent weight loss. Aim for at least 50 grams daily -- more if you're a vigorous exerciser, says Heather Bauer, RD, founder of Nu-Train, a nutrition counseling service in New York City. Eat eggs, lean meat, poultry, fish, or nonfat dairy with meals and snacks, Bannan suggests.
Be picky. Opt for whole-grain bread and pasta, which have more vitamins, minerals, and ab-flattening fiber than refined carbs do. In a study from Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, people who ate more fiber had less of the dangerous belly fat that has been linked to diabetes and heart disease than those who ate less fiber.
Time it right. Help yourself to healthy carbs, like oatmeal or whole-grain toast, in the morning and scale back at lunch and dinner. "You'll burn off the calories better and faster during the day than you will at night, when you're not as active," Bannan says. You'll also be less likely to give in to cravings, because an a.m. meal sets you up to make smart choices all day.
Quick Tip: Open the blinds as soon as you wake up. Exposure to sunlight boosts serotonin levels, which may curb your appetite, according to research.