Reduced Calorie Plan Practice

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There are a plethora of weight loss plan choices out there and many try to go beyond this basic formula of calories in versus calories out. Diets that direct you to eat large quantities of certain foods, such as grapefruit or meat, that drastically cut calories, or that eliminate entire food groups, such as carbohydrates, may result in nutritional problems, even if you take vitamins or supplements. Unfortunately, most weight-loss diets are hard to stick to long enough to reach your weight goal. And some may not be healthy. So choosing a plan based on calorie restriction is the best way to ensure that you will be able to maintain what you learn once you reach your weight loss goal. This practice focuses on the fundamentals of healthy eating: balanced meals, portion size, eating nutritionally dense foods and being mindful of caloric intake.

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You can Expect: increased energy, gradual weight loss

Level of Effort: Moderate

Time Involved: 30 minutes or more a day


Getting Started:

  1. Determine a healthy weight for your body and decide how much weight you want to lose.
  2. Know your weight loss goals.
  3. What you need to know about yourself before choosing a plan.
  4. Choose a provider.
  5. Consider your maintenance plan.


What to Consider:



1. Determine a healthy weight for your body and then decide how much weight you want to lose.

  • Body Mass Index (BMI) is a statistical measure of an individual's weight scaled according to his/her height. Basically it is a simple index of weight-for-height and is a useful tool and for most individuals to classify their current weight and determine an ideal or happy weight for themselves.

Calculate Your BMI

  • Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) You can also calculate the number of calories your body actually needs in order to function. If you understand the amount of calories your body needs to function then you can determine how many calories are needed to maintain your current weight and then how many to lose weight. There is a right number of calories for you to eat each day. This number depends on your age, activity level, and whether you're trying to lose, maintain or even gain weight. Knowing your BMR can also help you think about how much exercise you are willing to do.

Calculate Your BMR


2. Know your weight loss goals

Make a commitment to yourself, after that you can take steps to make the process habitual. Ask yourself:

  • Am I ready to do this?
  • Is my motivation coming from within?
  • Can I deal with occasional setbacks or lack of progress?
  • Can I focus on weight loss fully? (If you're in the midst of a job change or other distractions, for example, it might be better to resolve those issues, and then focus on weight loss efforts.)
  • Am I committed to exercising on a regular basis?
  • Finally, be sure you're committed to losing weight for yourself -- not because someone else is pressuring you to do so.

Assuming you are making the choice to loose weight as a part of a long-term goal to be fit and healthy, it is important to include that as a goal of the diet. That way as you are going through the plan you can remind yourself to pay attention to what the plan is trying to teach you about healthy eating. It will also help you choose a plan because you want to ensure that you truly are learning about portion control, creating balanced meals and finding healthy foods that you enjoy eating.


3. What you need to know about yourself before choosing a plan

Determine your weight loss plan budget - Some weight-loss programs require you to buy supplements or meals, or to visit weight-loss clinics or attend support meetings. Does the cost of such programs fit your budget?


Determine the Time Commitment you can make - if you want more freedom in your diet plan then it may require a bit more time on your part to establish the meals and nutritional elements. On the other hand, there are plans that have more rigid guidelines that reduce the time required by you.

In conjunction with the amount of time you want to spend you should consider if you desire a program that includes in center support, online support or any support at all. Attending these meetings will also be a time commitment on your part. Ask yourself the following:

  • Do you prefer to diet on your own, or do you like getting support from a group? If you like group support, do you prefer online support or in-person meetings?
  • How much are you willing to figure out or do you want detailed instructions?


Think through your home and work responsibilities - If you have a family that you cook for on a nightly basis you will need to consider if you are willing to prepare separate meals for your family or if you can include cooking for them as part of your plan.


Understand your personality and how it affects your choice - Personality plays a role in our attitude towards food. Therefore, if you are aware of your tendencies you will be better able to choose a plan that works with your lifestyle and helps you conquer temptations.

Keeping a food journal for a week is a great way to learn more about your food personality. It will help you identify patterns and understand your relationship with food better. When thinking about your personality, ask yourself if any of the following apply to you:

  • Impulsive - If you have a tendency to be impulsive, you might see a pint of Ben & Jerry's in the freezer and go for it. As a result you are a dieter who needs to remove those temptations.
  • Oblivious - If you tend to not pay attention when you eat - do you eat on autopilot a lot, not really remembering eating? Are you a snacker, do you snack in front of the TV or computer? If so, you need to avoid such situations if you want to control portions. Additionally you will want to focus on mindful eating.
  • Uptight - If you are highly anxious, you will probably have more difficulty. Those who are anxious, nervous, and depressed might eat to feel better.
  • Tenacious - Certain personalities don't find it that difficult losing weight. If you are highly self-directed, cooperative, and have a lot of willpower, you are going to have an easier time.


Do you have any special needs or considerations?

  • Do you have a health condition, such as diabetes, heart disease or allergies?
  • Do you have specific cultural or ethnic requirements or preferences when it comes to food? These are important factors that should help determine which diet you choose.


Do you have any past diet insights- If you have tried diets in the past it is helpful to evaluate what you did and did not like about them.

  • What did you like or dislike about past diets?
  • Were you able to follow the diet?
  • What worked or didn't work for you on this diet?
  • How did you feel physically and emotionally while on the diet?


4. Choosing a provider

In the end there is no magic trick that any diet plan or program can give you to lose weight - the fundamentals of weight loss are the same for everyone: reduce calorie intake and/or increase calorie expenditure through movement. What foods you eat and how much of them you eat as part of your reduced calorie diet is where plans and programs can seek to help you. However, there is no single weight-loss plan that will help everyone who tries it, but if you consider your personal preferences, lifestyle and weight goals, you may be able to find or tailor a plan to suit your individual needs.

There are a ton of diet plan providers, using the items above that you have determined about yourself will help narrow down the list. Keep in mind that just because it's popular or your friends are doing it doesn't mean it's the best, or safest, weight-loss approach for you.


Program Elements

Long-term success with weight loss will require making permanent changes in your eating and exercise habits. Therefore, it is important that the plan you choose teaches you these skills. The plan you choose should contain these basic elements:

  • Flexibility. The plan may shift at some point starting out being rigid and then becoming more flexible as you reach certain milestones. But it is important that at some point the plan prepare you for everyday life after you reach your goal or end the diet. Look for a plan that doesn't forbid certain foods or food groups but instead includes a variety of foods from all the major food groups. A healthy diet includes vegetables and fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean protein sources, nuts, seeds and even an occasional sweet indulgence.
  • Balanced nutrition. If you are eating a balanced diet then you should feel satisfied and not be hungry. A weight-loss plan should include proper amounts of nutrients and calories for your individual situation. Diets that leave you feeling deprived or hungry may create irresistible cravings, or worse yet, may leave you feeling like giving up. Additionally if your weight-loss plan doesn't encourage permanent healthy lifestyle changes, the pounds you do lose could quickly come back once you stop dieting.
  • Enjoyment. A diet should include foods you like and that you would enjoy eating for the rest of your life, not just for several weeks or months. If you don't like the diet, if it's overly restrictive or if it becomes boring, you're probably not going to stick to it.
  • Availability. If a diet plan doesn't feature foods that you can easily find in your local grocery store, it may be harder to follow.
  • Physical activity. Every weight-loss program should include recommendations to increase physical activity. Exercise plus calorie restriction can help give you the weight-loss edge. Exercise also offers numerous health benefits, including boosting your mood, strengthening your cardiovascular system and reducing your blood pressure. Additionally, exercise has been found to be the most important factor in maintaining weight loss. Studies show that people who maintain their weight loss over the long term get regular physical activity.
  • Steady pace. A slow and steady approach is easier to maintain and usually beats out fast weight loss for the long term. An average weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds a week is the typical recommendation. In some situations, faster weight loss can be safe if it's done the right way, such as during a brief quick-start phase of a healthy-eating plan that offers lots of healthy and safe strategies at once. If a diet touts that you will loose large amounts of weight in a short period of time it is usually considered a "fad diet" and should be avoided.


Evaluate providers

Keep the elements you determined previously in mind when you review providers.

  • What does the program consist of? 
    • Think about time commitment, what it teaches you and how it fits with your personality
    • Does the diet plan provide general guidance that you can tailor and adapt to your situation, or does it require you to follow specific menus?
    • Is it something you can easily incorporate into your lifestyle?
    • Does it teach you how to make positive, healthy changes in your life to help maintain your weight loss?
    • Does it help you adopt a lifelong, healthier approach to eating and exercise that will help you maintain weight loss permanently?
    • Do you go to a clinic, center, online or some other method?
  • Does it offer support? If so, is it online or in-person support?
  • What results and benefits does the weight-loss program promise?
    • Does it claim that you'll lose a lot of weight in a very short time?
    • Does it claim that you can target specific problem areas of your body?
    • Does it tout before-and-after photos that seem too good to be true?
  • What are the risks?
    • Could the weight-loss program harm your health?
    • Does it require you to buy special meals, supplements, drugs or injections?
    • Are the recommended drugs or supplements safe for your situation, especially if you have a health condition or take medications?
  • Who created the weight-loss plan?
    • What are their qualifications and experience?
    • Do they have solid research and science to back up their weight-loss approach?
    • If you go to a weight-loss clinic, what expertise, training, certifications and experience do the doctors, dietitians and other staff have?
    • Will their doctors or staff coordinate care with your regular doctor?
  • Does the program offer a maintenance plan?
    • Most people can lose weight on almost any diet plan that restricts calories - at least in the short term. It's more difficult to maintain weight loss permanently. Most people who keep weight off for the long term are those who adopt healthy-eating habits as part of their normal lifestyle and who also get regular exercise.


Popular providers

Here are some of the most popular reduced calorie diet providers, along with a review table example.


Program Provider Budget Time Skills Taught Rigid or Flexible Support Plan Description
Weight Watchers Low to Moderate
Your choice
Yes, in center or online
Program uses weekly meetings and weigh-ins for motivation and behavioral support for diet and exercise changes, or you can sign up for similar support online. Dieters either earn or spend "points" with food and exercise or consume specified foods with "Core" plan
South Beach Low High High Rigid Yes, online
The diet promotes strategic snacking and there's no counting calories or strict portion sizes. But there's no gorging, either. The idea is to eat normal portions.
Best Life Diet Low High High Middle Yes, online with fee Designed by exercise physiologist Bob Greene it is an easy-to-follow, no-gimmicks approach to a healthy diet and lifestyle. You're encouraged to make gradual changes, one step at a time. The aim is to transform your old eating and exercise habits into healthier new ones that will last a lifetime.
Biggest Loser Diet Low Moderate High Rigid Yes, online
Diet based on Biggest Loser reality show, which focuses on a healthy diet and exercise. Has a personalized meal plan with a focus on low calorie, low-fat and low-carb. Exercise is a key component.
You: On a Diet Low High Moderate Flexible No Contains eating plans, exercises, and recommended prescriptions for losing weight and shrinking your waistline. The physician co-authors do a great job making sense of weight control, fat storage, fat burning, genetics and its relationship to weight, the importance of physical activity, and in general demystifying and explaining how the body works.
Thin for Life Low Moderate High Flexible No 6 week plan where week after week, you integrate one segment of the Food Guide Pyramid into your diet. In Week One, for example, you're focusing on fat, oils, and sweets intake - and learning to use them sparingly. The main focus is high-flavor, low-risk foods, which involves cutting calories and fat to match recommended intake for your height.
Mayo Clinic Diet Low High High
Flexible No
Plan focuses on eating according to the clinic's Healthy Weight Pyramid (similar to US gov pyramid), which tells you how many servings from each food group you need to reach your calorie goal. Being more physically active. Adopting healthy habits. Defining realistic goals. Staying motivated.

If you would like a more detailed description of the providers above, click here...

For help researching more providers Everydiet is a website focused on just that:


5.  Consider your maintenance plan

Ensure that whatever diet plan you choose that it has a maintenance plan that you can follow. Successful weight loss requires permanent changes to your eating habits and physical activity. This means you need to find a weight-loss approach that you can embrace for life. Even then, you may always have to remain vigilant about your weight. But combining a healthier diet and more activity is the best way to lose weight and keep it off for the long term. Take your weight loss and weight maintenance one day at a time and surround yourself with supportive resources to help ensure your success.


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Be cautious

  • Be cautious of "Fad diets". Fad diets are diets that usually promise that you'll lose a large amount of weight in a short period of time, often without changing your eating habits or exercising. They may tout pills, supplements, skin creams, patches, fat blockers, special combinations of foods, or other diet aids. Fad diets, such as cabbage soup diets, grapefruit diets and lemonade diets, are popular because they may work for the short term - but you usually regain the weight once you stop the fad diet.
  • Be cautious of very low calorie diets (or liquid based diets). These diets drastically cut your daily calorie intake, usually allowing you between 400 and 800 calories a day. These are sometimes called modified fasts because your food intake is so low and because they're generally liquid diets. Your doctor may recommend a very low calorie diet if you need to lose weight quickly before a medical procedure or if you have serious health problems because of obesity. Don't try a very low calorie diet on your own. You need close monitoring by your health care team to avoid complications and to make sure you're meeting your nutritional requirements. Examples of very low calorie diets include Optifast and Medifast.

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