The only ways to lose weight (without surgery or prescription medications) are:
1. Take in fewer calories,
2. Burn more calories, or
Altering gut bacteria may help people to lose weight in the future. A review of several studies showed that eating a diet based on plant foods and restricting refined carbohydrates and most other foods appears to be a safe and effective way of changing colon bacteria to help control weight and high blood sugar (Gut Microbes, Jan-Feb, 2012;3(1):29-34). Currently, the best way to change your colon bacteria to favor the types that do not increase absorption of calories is to eat a diet that includes lots of foods that are not quickly absorbed. However, many people are unwilling or unable to lose weight or control weight just by restricting refined carbohydrates and eating a diet based on lots of plants that have not been processed. See my report on How Gut Bacteria Affect Weight . For now, beware of expensive diet products that promise to alter your colon bacteria; they will have no long term effects unless you make a permanent change in the types of foods you eat.
All of the popular diet books, regardless of the “scientific” explanations they give, recommend menus that give you 1500-1800 calories or less per day, and for most people this means you will be taking in fewer calories. You can lose weight on any low-calorie diet, but ask yourself: Is this a way of eating I can follow for the rest of my life? (If not, you will regain the weight as soon as you go back to your old eating habits.) And, do the foods they tell me to eat supply all the nutrients my body needs? Most people can eliminate whole food groups for a short time without any harm, but eventually you may create deficiencies if you do not eat a wide variety of foods, with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and other seeds. Don’t believe that you can make up for what’s missing with pills: a lousy diet with supplements is a lousy diet.
The sensible way to lose weight is to eliminate the foods with little or no nutritional value beyond the concentrated calories they contain, particularly refined carbohydrates. My guidelines for diabetics apply for anyone who needs to lose weight, particularly if you store most of your weight in your belly. Avoid foods that raise insulin to high levels such as bakery products, pasta, and foods with added sugars. You should eat enough whole grains, beans, and vegetables to keep you full and satisfied. Eat root vegetables and fruits with other foods to blunt the rise in blood sugar that they may cause.
I do not recommend “counting calories” since you will not do that for the rest of your life, and the calorie count listed on a food may not be what YOUR body actually extracts from a particular food. For example, nuts have a large number of calories, but your body cannot break down the fats in nuts very efficiently, so many of the potential calories pass through undigested. You may find that you can eat lots of nuts and still lose weight. See Why Nuts Won’t Make You Fat
When one person in a household needs to lose weight, the whole family should cooperate. Foods made with refined carbohydrates and added fats should be kept out of the house. Everyone will benefit from eating more vegetables, whole grains and beans.
Here’s the eating pattern I recommend, while you are losing weight and for the rest of your life:
At least 5 Vegetables
At least 5 Fruits
Up to 8 servings of WHOLE grains (that means not ground into flour)
2 servings of seafood per week (I strongly recommend that you avoid meat from mammals)
Beans or legumes (no limit)
A few tablespoons nuts or seeds
A few tablespoons of olive oil (optional)
Up to 3 servings of dairy products (optional)
Minimal added sugars (none if diabetic or trying to lose weight)
*Note: Serving sizes are typically 1/2 cup of cooked foods and 1 cup of raw fruits or vegetables.
If you have had weight-loss surgery or are using prescription drugs for diabetes or weight loss, you will be given you specific diet recommendations; they should be very similar to the guidelines above. Check with your doctor.
For the most successful way I know of to lose weight and keep it off, see my recommendations on Intermittent fasting for weight loss and weight control