It’s natural to want to drop weight as fast as you can when you start a new diet, but losing pounds gradually may be the key to keeping them off. People who lose 2 lbs. or less per week are more likely to maintain that weight loss, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thus, stretching out a healthy eating plan over a seven-week period is a strategy that’s both smart and sustainable.
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The National Institutes of Health notes that the only proven weight loss method is burning more calories than you take in, which you can do by cutting calories from your diet, participating in regular exercise or both. To lose about a pound per week or 7 lbs. total, you’ll need to slash 500 calories from your daily eating plan; double that amount to lose 2 lbs. per week or 14 lbs. total. However, be careful about cutting too many calories, especially at the start of your eating plan when it may be hard for you to maintain sudden changes. The NIH recommends that women eat no fewer than 1,200 calories daily and men no fewer than 1,500.
In addition to thinking about how many calories you’ll eat on your seven-week plan, it’s worth considering how to best divide up those calories to meet all of your nutritional needs. MayoClinic.com recommends that you get about 20 percent of daily calories from protein, 25 percent from healthy fat and 55 percent from carbs. The healthiest sources of all three nutrients are natural, whole foods, since they tend to be lowest in calories, and contain the most vitamins and minerals.
Energy density is an important consideration as well. MayoClinic.com states that low energy-dense foods are best for weight loss because they fill you up and allow you to eat large portions without taking in a lot of calories. To be low in energy density, a food must have a low calorie and fat count, and high fiber and water contents. Examples are fruits, vegetables, nonfat dairy products, whole grains and lean proteins.
You’ll find it easier to stay on track with a seven-week diet if you take the time to plan healthy meals, snacks and menus in advance. At the beginning of every week, devise a menu based on healthy family favorites, new recipes you’d like to try and quick but nutritious meals. Ensure your menus will fall within your calorie goals with the aid of an online calorie counter and a food journal. HelpGuide.org points out that prepared items, convenience foods and restaurant meals tend to be higher in calories, fat and sodium than homemade meals, so make food yourself whenever possible. Finally, get your doctor’s approval before starting any weight loss plan.