The 28 Day Diet Plan

If losing weight was easy, the United States would not be experiencing an obesity epidemic. Instead of rushing into a new, trendy diet, you may find more success easing into a healthier way of eating to lose weight. A 28-day diet plan, such as the 28-Day High School Reunion Diet created by Dr. Oz, can help you make better choices week by week to create healthy habits that last. Consult your doctor before making changes to your diet.

Lose weight steadily on a 28-day diet plan. (Image: JGI/Jamie Grill/Blend Images/Getty Images)

Dr. Oz's 28-Day High School Reunion Diet

The 28-Day High School Reunion Diet created by Dr. Oz is aimed at helping you drop a few pounds before the big event. It is not a crash diet but offers suggestions on how to make changes to your usual intake week by week. for week one, Dr. Oz suggests you cut out sugar. During week two, he wants you to add flavor to your food with spices such as cayenne pepper and oregano. In the third week of the 28-day diet, it's recommended that you eat a rainbow of foods, such as strawberries, cantaloupe, bananas, broccoli, carrots and eggplant. In the final week of the reunion diet, you need to hit the gym. Although geared toward a special event, these diet suggestions make a healthy addition to any 28-day diet plan.

28-Day Diet Plan

Most people lose and regain the same weight over and over because instead of creating healthy eating habits, they look for temporary solutions to lose the weight fast, such as omitting whole food groups or severely restricting their calorie intake. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases says that most people are more successful at losing weight and keeping it off by dropping pounds slowly, by making healthier food choices and eating smaller portions. Adding regular exercise is also an important piece of the weight-loss equation. Making a new diet change each week over a 28-day period may make it easier for you to stick with the plan for long-lasting weight loss, rather than seeking the quick fix.

Day 1 through 7: Keeping on Track With a Food Diary

Calories are one of the most important aspects of any good diet plan, whether your goal is to lose weight or maintain. Eating too few calories leads to weight loss, while eating too many causes weight gain. Finding the right balance is key to getting to and maintaining a healthy weight.

During the first week of the 28-day diet plan, you want to get an idea of how much you currently eat to help you determine the number of calories you need to lose. Start by keeping a food journal and writing down everything you eat and drink. After three days, average your usual caloric intake. To lose 1/2 pound to 2 pounds a week, which is the amount of weight loss considered safe, you need to eat 250 to 1,000 calories less than your current intake. If you're a woman, however, don't eat fewer than 1,200 calories a day, and if you're a man, don't drop lower than 1,800. Not eating enough calories may make it harder for you to lose weight because your body believes it is being starved and tries to hold onto fat stores. It also may lead to an inadequate intake of essential nutrients, which may result in health problems such as anemia, a greater susceptibility to colds and a drop in energy levels.

Continue your food diary to help you stay on track throughout the 28-day diet plan. A 2008 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that a food diary was an effective tool at helping people lose weight when following a reduced-calorie diet.

Day 8 through 14: Eating Healthy, Nutrient-Dense Foods

Now that you have your calories under control, you want to start incorporating healthier foods into your 28-day diet plan, such as colorful fruits and vegetables. To stay well and combat the everyday stresses of life, you need to fill your diet with foods that maximize your nutrient intake. That means more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthier proteins such as seafood, dairy and beans and healthy fats such as olive oil and nuts. Use herbs and spices, such as cayenne and oregano, to add flavor to your food without calories.

These foods are not only rich in nutrients but also tend to be low in calories. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans are good sources of fiber as well. People who get more fiber in their diet eat less, according to a 2005 study published in Nutrition, because it improves satiation.

There are a number of ways you can swap your usual foods for healthier versions. For example, instead of a bowl of cornflakes at breakfast, eat whole-grain flakes or a bowl of oatmeal. At lunch, make your sandwich with 100 percent whole-wheat bread, skip the mayo and top your sandwich with a slice of avocado. Add a side of mixed greens to every dinner to help up your intake of veggies. To satisfy your sweet tooth, blend frozen bananas in a food processor or blender for a quick and healthy frozen treat.

Day 15 though 21: Controlling Portion Sizes

Now that you're keeping track of what you eat, you may be more familiar with portion sizes. Controlling food portions is a key behavior in people who have lost weight and kept it off. Knowing proper portions and how to manage them may help prevent you from eating too many calories.

Start by using the food label on packaged foods to get an idea of a typical serving size. Use measuring cups, spoons and food scales to help keep portions under control. For foods without a label, you can use common household items to help you estimate a proper portion. For example, a baseball measures about 1 cup and is equal to two servings of rice or pasta or one serving of mixed greens. A deck of cards is equal to 3 ounces, which is an appropriate portion for meat or tofu.

To keep a lid on portions, never eat straight out of the box or container. Always measure your food and eat off a plate or out of a bowl. Eat slowly and savor every bite so your brain has time to catch up to your filling stomach. When it comes to snack foods, buy foods that are single-portioned, such as fruit or individual snack packs.

Day 22 through 28: Adding Exercise

Now that you've mastered your diet plan, you can start incorporating activity into your routine during the final week of your 28-day diet plan. Adding exercise helps your body burn more calories to boost your weight loss. Start with 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity five days a week, such as a swimming, a hilly bike ride or a fast-paced walk. As your fitness level improves, up the intensity, such as turning your walk into a jog. It's important to note that it may take longer than a week for your fitness levels to improve, however. Go at your own pace, and be sure to consult your doctor before you start any exercise program.

While aerobic exercise is good for your heart and lungs, you also want to add strength-training this final week of your diet plan to help tone and build muscle. Lift weights or do body-resistance exercises including pushups, pullups, lunges, squats and situps, twice a week. Consult a fitness professional if you need help designing your exercise routine.

Give Yourself Time

While 28 days may seem like enough time to form new, healthy habits, don't get discouraged if some of these new habits don't stick. According to a 2009 study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it can take a person anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form a new habit. You may have to repeat the 28-day diet plan steps a few times before all the healthy habits become second nature.

Steps to Keep Going

If you're struggling to stick with the plan or keep the weight off, you're not alone. A 2012 study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that both weight maintainers and weight regainers have the same struggles when it comes to keeping the weight off. But weight maintainers follow different strategies to help keep the weight from coming back. The researchers note that the maintainers continue to follow the diet plan that helped them lose and check their weight regularly to help them stay on track. Weight-loss maintainers also used techniques to help them better solve potential diet saboteurs, such as reading the menu before going out to dinner or eating a small snack before attending a party. Maintainers also engage in more encouraging self-talk, which might include positive affirmations or keeping a journal to document feelings.

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