The Best Advice for Anyone Trying to Lose Weight
Meet the Experts
Clinical psychologist Camilla Mager, who specializes in treating women with disordered eating, provided one-on-one phone counseling.
Registered dietitian Marissa Lippert, who founded the New York City nutrition-counseling firm Nourish, analyzed each woman's food diary.
Rachel Mariotti, a personal trainer at Equinox, evaluated the women's fitness assessments.
GOAL: Take control of her health. After her husband died last year, Shaniqua learned she was prediabetic. She's determined to make good eating choices even though she's surrounded by temptation in her work as a party planner.
Since the loss of her husband, Shaniqua has been attending a grief counseling group, but when life gets hectic and she can't make it to the meetings (which happens often), she relies on virtual support networks. "Facebook groups and online chats with friends can be helpful, but they can't replace interpersonal contact," says Mager. "The person can't see your reaction and, as a result, may not respond in a meaningful way."
Stop skipping meals. Lippert noticed a few days in Shaniqua's food diary when she had only a small midday snack or passed on lunch altogether. "Even if she's busy working, Shaniqua needs to keep her metabolism and blood sugar steady throughout the day to burn calories effectively," Lippert says.
GOAL: Set a good example for her kids. Michelle, a former model, says that since giving birth to her second child in 2015, she's 65 pounds heavier than she's ever been.
"Michelle has done an enormous amount of work on herself and changed her relationship with food quite a bit over the past 20 years," says Mager. But, she adds, there are two areas Michelle still needs to resolve: labeling food as good or bad, and hiding the fact that she eats junk food. "When we think of foods as good or bad, it sets us up to feel shame when we eat something 'bad,'" says Mager. "Shame will never help you move forward in life. Michelle needs to be open and honest about everything she's eating. She'll feel less constrained about what she can and can't have. It's all about balance."
Consume more healthy fats. While Michelle's eating all the right things—egg whites, salads full of leafy greens—they aren't filling enough, says Lippert: "You can't let your blood sugar tank. That's when cravings arise." Her advice: Michelle should always add one or two eggs with yolk to her breakfast, swap rice cakes for whole grain rye crisps with peanut butter, and top her salads with nuts or avocado for omega-3s.
GOAL: Have a baby. Jen and her husband have been trying to get pregnant through fertility treatments for three years. At her doctor's suggestion, she's taking a six-month break to give her body a rest and focus on slimming down.
"Jen is a phenomenally positive person, and she's incredibly strong—but even strong people need a little help sometimes," says Mager. "I'd love for her to join a fertility support group and talk to a therapist since infertility can lead to deep feelings of inadequacy. Emotional burdens can translate physically if you don't have an outlet."
Drop the artificial sweeteners and flavoring. "Jen is consuming too many sugar substitutes, creamer powders, and spray butters," says Lippert. "Not only are they making her light-headed, they're also unsatisfying. She can still have her morning coffee, but instead of the creamers and sweeteners, she should use whole milk with half a packet of Sugar in the Raw."
GOAL: Feel more confident as she reenters the dating world. Currently going through a divorce, Sabrina dropped 30 pounds after her ex moved out but wants to lose ten more.
"As a single mom of two kids, Sabrina's constantly racing from one place to the next," says Mager. "It takes her about 20 minutes to get home from work. She typically uses that time to catch up with friends, but I want her to do some deep breathing so she can let go of work and center herself enough to be present with the kids. It's going to make everything that much easier—including feeding herself. If you're not taking care of yourself, you're going to have a much harder time taking care of anyone else."
Add fiber to every meal. Lippert has a few tips for how Sabrina can make meals more filling so she's less ravenous: Eat fresh fruit—not in smoothie form—to increase fiber and satisfaction from chewing, make veggies at least half of lunch, and incorporate fiber-rich whole grains like quinoa or farro at dinner.