Phase 1: The Rev-Up
In the first four weeks, focus on moving more, changing your eating patterns and eliminating six problem foods. To start, step on the scale to get your starting weight. Then, put it away!
The first step is to get moving! Activity burns calories and revs up your metabolism beyond its normal capacity, allowing you to eat more food while losing weight.
The hardest part is getting started. Determine where you are on the activity scale . If you are already exercising regularly, move up one level. If you're at level zero, go up two levels and start formal workouts right away after checking with your physician. Your body will adapt, and it will be easier to increase how much you move.
Also, start eating three meals and one snack daily. Plan to get 25 to 30 percent of your total calories from each meal, with the rest from your snack. And don't forget breakfast! It gives your metabolism a jolt and will keep you satisfied until lunch. If you wake up without an appetite, give it an hour to develop. If you're still not hungry, eat anyway.
You should also steer clear of six foods that are a major source of weight gain for most people. You'll be replacing them with less fattening foods that will curb your appetite.
There are a few other rules at this stage:
Have a glass of water at every meal.
Take a multivitamin, an omega-3 supplement and a calcium supplement if you're not getting enough from your diet.
Stop eating at least two hours before you go to bed.
Weigh yourself after four weeks. If you dropped a pound or more per week, consider staying in this phase two or three more weeks. If you didn't lose much weight, you're right where you should be. Your body is now prepared for the aggressive weight loss that's coming in the next stage of the program. Phase 2: The Hunger Check
During this phase, which should last a minimum of four weeks, you'll learn how to keep your calories in check by getting in touch with your hunger, putting a lid on sweets and other treats and eating proper portions.
Reigning in your treat calories—using Anything Goes Calories—can help keep your weight loss going. The number of Anything Goes calories you get each day depends on your daily calorie needs and activity level. You can spend these calories on whatever foods you like, including those that you eliminated in Phase 1. Check out the chart below to see how many you get each day.
Total Daily Calories
Anything Goes Calories Allowance
(for women only; this is too low for men)
300 calories for women
350 calories for men
In this phase, weigh yourself once a week. If the number goes up, don't be hard on yourself. Just look over the changes you've made and see where you may need to fine-tune your efforts. Also, think about increasing your level on the activity scale. This is optional, but exercise can provide some of the comfort you might otherwise find from eating, thanks to endorphins.
Reevaluate at the end of four weeks. If you've met your goal weight, move on. If you're 20 pounds or less from your goal and still losing, you have two options: Stay in Phase 2 until you reach your goal; or go to Phase 3, where you'll continue to lose while also making important dietary changes, such as reducing sodium and replacing less nutritious foods with healthier fare. If you have more than 20 pounds to lose and are consistently dropping, stay in Phase 2.
If you've stopped losing and still have 20 or more pounds to go, don't be discouraged. Make sure you're following the first two phases and haven't let extra calories slip back in your diet. Keeping a food diary can help you get a good picture of what's really going on. If you've been true to the program, try cutting your calories or increasing your exercise another notch. You may have hit a plateau, and this will help jump-start your progress. Phase 3: Happily Ever After
Welcome to the rest of your life! You don't have to incorporate all the recommendations of this phase at once, but do the best you can. Consider the way you eat and exercise as a work in progress.
Maintain the changes you achieved in Phases 1 and 2, and now try and incorporate more and more healthful foods, which will provide fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that can help stave off chronic diseases. Keep whittling out foods that are high sources of saturated fat, added sugar and sodium, and skip foods with partially hydrogenated oil altogether. Put "anything goes" calories toward "luxury foods" that are indulgent but still have something to offer, such as dark chocolate, full-fat cheese and yogurt, pizza with whole grain crust, or a glass of wine.
Try to focus your diet primarily on vegetables, but go easy on potatoes, corn and peas because they're as starchy (and about as caloric) as grains. Also incorporate more beans into your diet a couple times a week—they are superfoods in terms of nutrition. At least two servings of fruit are recommended a day. Also, continue to replace refined grains with whole ones. Ideally, 75 percent of the grains in your diet will be whole.
Keep pushing yourself to increase your activity. Exercise will help you maintain the weight loss you've achieved and allow you to eat more food without regaining. It will also help slow down the aging process. Weigh yourself no more than once a week and no less than once a month.