Downsize portions by just 15 to 25 percent to drop extra pounds fast - and leave yourself a little more room for that occasional treat or extra glass of red wine.
Cheater's secret: Set your plate up as: 50 percent fruits/vegetables, 25 percent lean protein (about 3 to 5 ounces or the size of your fist), and 25 percent healthy, complex carbs.
A sample meal could be: a colorful mixed green salad sprinkled with blue cheese and dried cranberries or cherry tomatoes + 4 - 5 ounces of lean steak (like filet mignon or beef tenderloin) + 1 cup of roasted potatoes
Agua in Action
If you're still trying over-come too many holiday indulgences, take a look at your water bottle. It might sound too simple, but we often misinterpret thirst for hunger, taking in more calories than necessary. In addition, water boosts energy levels, helps jump start your digestion and in the dry cold weather months, it gives parched skin a refreshed shine.
Cheater's secret: Suck down 1 1/2 to 3 liters of water per day and pop-in sliced lemon or lime for some extra flavor.
De-bloat with Simple Switches
What to ditch: artificially sweetened items, caffeine and carbonated drinks, fried, greasy, super-creamy foods, salty foods like frozen meals, cold cuts and canned soups (they're high in sodium and can cause water retention), and too many refined carbohydrates (like bagels, pastries, large portions of pasta).
Cheater's secret: Choose de-bloating foods (that help release extra water weight) like these seasonal ingredients: grapefruit, tangerines, fennel and beets and healthy tummy-flattening fats like avocado, olive oil and wild salmon.
Boost up Fruits and Vegetables
You may have heard it too many times to count, but most of us still don't get the amount of fruits and veggies we need. According to one study, nearly 74 percent of Americans aren't getting enough vegetables on a daily basis and 67 percent aren't consuming the recommendation for fruit.
Cheater's secret: Aim for two fruits and two different vegetables/salads a day and you'll be well on your way to better health and sustained weight loss.
By making fruits and vegetables the focus of most meals (50 percent or more), your calorie intake automatically downshifts without you having to wrack your brain counting calories or spending hours in the kitchen...and you still have room to fit in all the other foods you love.
Write it Down: Keep a Food Journal
Cheater's secret: Holding yourself accountable ups the ante and allows you to really see WHAT and HOW MUCH you're eating/drinking on an average day; you're keeping tabs on patterns and portions.
If you're hitting hurdles, your weight has plateaued or you've had one too many heavy meals in a week, you'll be able to determine why and how to fix it.
Alcohol... Yes, You Can Still Have it and Lose Weight!
Cheater's secret: Decrease your total weekly alcohol consumption by just 25 percent (that's eight drinks down to six), and you still get your cocktails, wine or beer!
Skip sugary-sweet mixers and calorie-bomb frozen margaritas which can wreck havoc on weight loss attempts.
Have one or two of your favorite cocktails or regular bee - and then switch to something lighter like champagne, wine, light beer or the standby vodka-soda.
Pace yourself and spread out your drinks (and your calories) by reaching for club soda with lime in between cocktails.
Make mixers and drinks work to your advantage. Drink this not that:
vodka-cranberry (217 calories) vs. vodka-soda and a splash of cranberry (110 calories) = you save over 100 calories
5-ounce glass of wine = 110 calories (remember that restaurants often pour 8-ounce glasses)
12-ounce lite beer (110 calories) vs. 12 ounces of regular beer (150 calories)
or look to Guinness for a hearty winter-time choice. It's packed with heart-healthy antioxidants and a 12-ounce glass is just 126 calories
Two Cheat Meals and Two Treats a Week
Two amazing, more-indulgent meals AND sweets/treats a week? Believe it.
You can indeed have your chocolate cake and eat it too. BUT make indulgences really worthwhile - like when a phenomenal neighborhood Italian place is known for their homemade pasta, go ahead and order it. Just be sure to keep smart portion sizes in mind at restaurants and balance out a heavier entree dish with a starter salad or a side of vegetables.
Two treats equate to 200 - 300 calories. A few examples might be: a really incredible cupcake, cookie or brownie, a single scoop of REAL ice cream, or sharing dessert at a restaurant.
Smarter Snacking for More Weight Loss
Eat a small meal or satisfying snack every three to four hours and keep your metabolism revved up to continue blasting calories. One of the biggest mistakes dieters often make is skipping meals or going too long in between meals and allowing their metabolism to wane. Your body needs fresh, good-food fuel to burn up those extra pounds!
If you're a mindless snacker or nibbler, put food on a plate before you dive in. You'll see exactly what and how much you're munching on!
A few healthy snacks to hit all your cravings:
Pre-gym: (some energizing carbs) banana and two graham crackers with one tablespoon of all-natural peanut butter
Post-gym: (protein-packed) low-fat Greek yogurt and a handful of granola [or a hard-boiled egg & piece of fruit]
Sweet tooth: two squares dark chocolate (70 percent cocoa or more) and 10-12 roasted almonds or cashews
Refreshingly light: two clementines or one to 1.5 cups of grapefruits slices with fresh mint
PM pick-me-up: tall skim mocha or a tall skim latte sprinkled with cinnamon from Starbucks
Salt fix: serving of wholegrain tortilla chips (about 15) with 1/4 cup guacamole
How to Bust a Plateau
Give your digestive system a break for a few days when you've hit a plateau or back-peddled. If your jeans are little tighter or you're coming off of a high-calorie weekend or vacation, clean things up and give your body a boost to jump start weight loss again - curb foods that are often more allergenic or that might not make you feel so great. Dairy, soy, refined carbohydrates or heavy-gluten items like bread and pasta, red meat, alcohol, heavy doses of caffeine and frozen entrees/packaged or processed foods.
Cheater's secret: Ditch these items for three to seven days and instead, emphasize more fresh, weight-shedding foods like fruits and vegetables, salmon/fish, gluten-free whole grains and complex carbs like sweet potatoes, butternut squash, quinoa and chickpeas and beans, avocado, nuts, healthy oils like olive oil and grapeseed oil and herbal or green tea.
Get Enough Sleep and Exercise and Keep Stress in Check
Sleep deprivation is one of the biggest threats to sustainable weight loss. If you're sleeping less than seven hours on most nights and are consistently stressed, you may find that your body's out of whack, cravings for sweets and carbohydrates are higher and that no matter how "well" you eat, the scale's not budging (thanks in part to cortisol and stress hormones). You may even gain weight if you're not getting enough sleep as your body's ability to regulate appetite and hunger and satiety cues is affected.
Aim to get at least 7 1/2 hours of sleep per night, find activities that help you relax and alleviate tension and try to build time for exercise into your week - three to four times a week is a good target to start with, 30 or more minutes per workout.