Sheryl Kraft, a freelance writer and breast cancer survivor, was born in Long Beach, New York. She currently lives in Connecticut with her husband Alan and dog Chloe, where her nest is empty of her two sons Jonathan. Sheryl writes articles and essays on breast cancer and contributes to a variety of publications and websites where she writes on general health and wellness issues. She earned her MFA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College in 2005.Full Bio
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This is generally the time of year people are searching for the answer to that timeworn question: What's the best way for me to lose weight? It's no secret that the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is when things are especially challenging; when you're surrounded by lots of food, parties, temptations—and weight gain.
If you've put on an extra pound or two (or more), you're not alone. Most people report gaining about five pounds during the holidays. And it's best to address that weight gain as soon as you can, because if you're not careful, you end up with a "snowball effect"—before you know it, those pounds morph into 10, 15 or even 20. Those pounds can add up fast.
So, what IS the best diet? What's the best way to melt off the pounds?
People have been searching for that answer for as long as the holidays have been around. (Try an online search and see how many results you come up with. I did—and got almost 5 million!)
But I can save you all that searching and tell you what I've learned after speaking with numerous renowned obesity specialists for the hundreds of articles I've written over the years.
The best diet is—ta-da!—THE ONE YOU WILL STICK WITH.
Yes, it's really that simple.
You may be thinking, "That's all??? How can it be that simple?"
It is. Any diet will work, as long as you eat the way it tells you to eat. That's because simply being on a "diet" means you are watching what you eat. And when you watch what you eat and are mindful of what you're putting into your mouth, you naturally eat less.
OK, there are a few caveats. Not all diets are created equal. There are good, sensible diets that include healthy foods and supply a healthy dose of vitamins, nutrients and amino acids. And then there are diets that are totally unrealistic and unhealthy—like diets that promise you can lose 10 pounds in one week or diets that that strictly limit or forbid certain healthy foods or diets that tell you to eat grapefruit before each meal. (After 10 days, and 30 grapefruits, will you ever be able to look at a grapefruit again?)
It's not just about what you eat (or don't eat)
So, you've chosen a diet … now what? Oftentimes, it's not just the diet you need but also certain behaviors that will up your chances of succeeding. Willpower will only get you so far.
Be accountable. When you're accountable, you're more responsible and careful. Some examples of how making things more tangible can help: weigh yourself regularly, use a food diary, hold onto that pair of skinny jeans so you can track your progress, team up with a weight-loss buddy.
Eat mindfully. When you're conscious of what you're doing, you do it more carefully. Eating without distractions helps you notice when you are full. It also helps you savor the tastes, smells, flavors and textures of your food. According to research, people eat more when they're distracted. Read more about how to curb mindless snacking.
Be selective. When you choose your foods carefully, you make sure they're the things that matter and will give you pleasure. Eating grapefruit at every meal for 10 days will help you lose weight, but it's likely you'll end up hating grapefruit, having an upset stomach and gaining back all the lost pounds—and more. Choose the diet that includes foods you enjoy and would realistically continue eating after you end your "diet."
Step up exercise. Not only aerobic exercise, but strength training, too—they can both help boost your metabolism and burn more calories.
Include high-fiber foods. Fiber is good for you, and most Americans don't get enough of it. It slows the rate at which sugar is absorbed into your body. It also helps relieve or prevent constipation, lowers cholesterol and normalizes blood sugar levels. Plus, it can help you fill up faster and stay full longer. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes are all high in fiber. Learn more about good sources of fiber.
Personally, I think rather than looking for a "diet," I think we should seek a permanent "lifestyle change"—a healthy way of eating that will sustain you season after season and prevent that snowball from gaining any momentum.