A two-week diet can come in handy before a party, a beach vacation or an important work meeting. Even the slightest weight loss will boost your confidence and body image. The question is: can you really slim down in as little as two weeks?
While it's possible to lose a few pounds in just 14 days, don't expect miracles. No matter how hard you try, you won't get rid of love handles or lose massive weight overnight. However, there are a couple of things you can do to get in shape and look your best on the big day.
Set Realistic Goals
First of all, make sure you have realistic goals. It took you months to gain that extra weight, so it won't go away within days. The safe rate of weight loss is one to two pounds per week. To reach this goal, you must create a 3,500- to 7,000-calorie deficit, since one pound of fat equals about 3,500 calories.
This doesn't necessarily mean that faster weight loss is unsafe, though. There are cases when medical professionals recommend low-calorie diets with quick results. These diet plans have been proven beneficial in obesity treatment. Furthermore, very-low-calorie diets appear to be more effective than gradual programs, according to a study published in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology in December 2014.
Read more: PROs and CONs of the 10 Most Popular Diets
However, these diet plans are typically recommended in severe cases and require medical supervision. If you're only slightly overweight, you can slim down without resorting to extremes. Something as simple as cutting out your daily latte can make a big difference.
Decide how much weight you want to lose and then use the 3,500-calorie rule to determine your daily energy intake. Be careful not to eat too few calories or it may hamper your ability to get all the nutrients needed for good health. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute suggests women shouldn't eat fewer than 1,200 calories a day and men no less than 1,500 calories. Talk to your doctor for specifics.
Make a list of foods you enjoy and eliminate those with a lot of sugar and calories. Beware that many seemingly healthy foods are packed with sugar, trans fats and chemicals that promote weight gain. Here are some examples:
- Flavored yogurt
- Granola bars
- Protein bars
- Dried fruit
- Store-bought trail mixes
- Breakfast cereals
- Fruit juices
- Store-bought smoothies
- Bran muffins
- Canned soups
- Frozen dinners
- Microwave popcorn
- Baked potato chips
Dried fruits, for instance, are rich in antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Their sugar content, though, can hamper your progress. A single serving of raisins (1.4 oz) provides 120 calories and 31 grams of carbs, including 29 grams of sugars. One serving of red grapes (2.5 oz), by comparison, has only 50 calories, 13 grams of carbs and 11 grams of sugars.
Start a Two-Week Diet
A meal plan for extreme weight loss might do the trick, but it can also put your health at risk. Stay on the safe side and come up with a diet plan that meets your nutritional needs. For example, if you have an active lifestyle and engage in regular exercise, a high-protein diet with moderate amounts of carbs might be the best choice.
In a randomized clinical trial published in Obesity Facts in June 2017, subjects who followed a high-protein diet lost more weight compared to those on a moderate-protein diet plan. Both groups experienced a reduction in blood lipids, insulin levels, blood sugar and waist circumference. The high-protein diet group consumed 1.34 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day, while the other group had a daily protein intake of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight.
According to a review published in the November 2014 edition of Nutrition & Metabolism, high-protein diets may reduce body fat mass and suppress appetite. Fish, poultry, lean meat, soy and other protein-rich foods curb hunger and increase energy expenditure, making it easier to create a calorie deficit. Additionally, they help balance ghrelin, leptin, GLP-1 and other hormones that influence appetite.
Fill up on protein to burn more calories and stay full longer. Lean beef, chicken breast, turkey breast, low-fat cottage cheese, eggs, beans and Greek yogurt are ideal for a two-week diet. Chicken breast, for example, has just 110 calories and a whopping 26 grams of protein per serving (3.9 oz). Another healthy choice is low-fat ground beef, which boasts about 21 grams of protein per serving (3.9 oz), however, with more calories than chicken breast, at 243 calories (but still a reasonable amount).
Adjust your daily carb intake based on how active you are. Feel free to eat more carbs on the days when you hit the gym. Your body will use these nutrients to replenish its glycogen stores and recover from training. Reduce your carb intake on your off training days.
Each gram of protein delivers 4 calories. The same goes for carbohydrates. Fat, on the other hand, contains 9 calories per gram. Estimate your daily calorie intake from protein and carbs, and fill the rest with healthy fats like olive oil, avocado and fatty fish.
Read more: Cut Calories With These 9 "Pasta Poser" Recipes
Try Intermittent Fasting
Another strategy you can use is intermittent fasting (IF). This dietary pattern alternates between periods of feeding and food restriction. Most versions involve fasting for eight to 36 hours. Eat, Stop, Eat, the 16:2 diet and the Warrior diet are some of the most popular fasting protocols.
A July 2015 review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that intermittent fasting may aid in weight loss and boost cardiometabolic health. In clinical trials, this eating pattern improved blood lipids, reduced fat mass and decreased blood pressure. Subjects also reported mood improvements.
In fact, many dieters use this strategy without realizing it. For example, if you have your last meal or snack at 7 p.m. and eat breakfast at 9 a.m. the next day, that's a 12-hour fast. To lose weight, incorporate intermittent fasting into your daily routine. Depending on your preferences, you can set a daily time frame for fasting or use a more restrictive approach like whole-day fasting or alternate-day fasting.
A two-year study featured in the Journals of Gerontology Series A in July 2015 assessed the effects of calorie restriction on young and middle-aged adults who didn't have obesity. The researchers tried to find out what changes occur in the body following a 25 percent reduction in daily calorie intake.
By the end of the study, subjects with lower calorie intakes experienced significant weight loss as well as a greater reduction in total and LDL cholesterol levels, blood pressure and blood sugar, compared to the control group. The side effects were negligible. As the scientists note, calorie restriction is safe for adults who don't have obesity and may improve cardiometabolic health. However, more studies are needed to confirm its efficacy.
Read more: 13 DOs and DON'TS of Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is a form of calorie restriction. If your goal is to lose weight, you can use this strategy to reduce your energy intake. Start with a six- or eight-hour fast to see how your body reacts. Consult your doctor beforehand if you have an existing condition like diabetes, anemia or heart disease.
- centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "What Is Healthy Weight Loss?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Counting Calories: Get Back to Weight-Loss Basics"
- Journals of Gerontology Series A: "Very Low Calorie Diets for Weight Loss in Obese Older Adults — A Randomized Trial"
- The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology: "The Effect of Rate of Weight Loss on Long-Term Weight Management: A Randomised Controlled Trial"
- USDA: "Raisins"
- USDA: "Red Grapes"
- Obesity Facts: "Effect of a High-Protein Diet Versus Standard-Protein Diet on Weight Loss and Biomarkers of Metabolic Syndrome: A Randomized Clinical Trial"
- Nutrition & Metabolism: "A High-Protein Diet for Reducing Body Fat: Mechanisms and Possible Caveats"
- USDA: "Chicken Breast"
- USDA: "Beef, Ground, 85% Lean Meat / 15% Fat, Raw"
- British Nutrition Foundation: "Nutrition for Sport and Exercise"
- USDA: "How Many Calories Are in One Gram of Fat, Carbohydrate, or Protein?"
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Health Effects of Intermittent Fasting: Hormesis or Harm? A Systematic Review"
- Journals of Gerontology Series A: "A 2-Year Randomized Controlled Trial of Human Caloric Restriction: Feasibility and Effects on Predictors of Health Span and Longevity"
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: "Healthy Eating Plan"