Fast and healthy weight loss?
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We’ve all been there: A big event (reunion, wedding, beach vacation) is just weeks away—and You. Just. Want. To. Look. Awesome. But can you really get there without totally starving yourself or logging six hours of cardio a day? Hollywood trainer and Biggest Loser
coach Bob Harper promises you can in his new book Jumpstart to Skinny
, a three-week plan to slim down quickly but healthfully. In fact, “having a goal and a deadline is the motivation that many of us need to make a change, get off the couch, get our noses out of the fridge, and get ourselves back onto the path of a healthy (and slimming) life,” he writes.
Harper says he developed the plan for a celebrity friend who needed to slim down ASAP for big performance. He’s upfront: It is restrictive and just for the short term—not something to keep up past a few weeks. So if you want to lose weight—stat—like a Hollywood star, here’s how Harper says to get it done.
Cut your calories. A lot.
Harper advises that women consume 800 calories a day and men shoot for 1,200. While most weight loss experts advise not going below 1,200 calories a day for women, Harper says that special circumstances call for aggressive measures. Noting that this isn’t a permanent regimen, he says “you’ve got to ratchet your intake way down if you want a skinnier you.”
If this sounds like starvation, keep in mind that Harper is all about calorie quality. You’ll be filling up on ridiculously healthy, nutrient-dense foods (especially veggies) that will help you feel more satiated than you would on 800 calories of processed junky foods.
Skip complex carbs after breakfast.
So it’s not exactly true that Hollywood stars shun carbs completely—they just limit them to breakfast. “Complex carbs (even whole grains) are forms of sugar, and sugar cues the pancreas to make more insulin,” Harper writes. “And that process triggers appetite.” He contrasts this with simple carbs like those in fruits and veggies, which your body doesn’t process in the same way because the fiber content offsets the carb load.
Limiting complex carbs to the A.M. works, Harper says, because the later in the day you eat them, the more likely you are to get food cravings late at night.
Do 45 minutes of cardio—again, in the morning.
We’re not talking crazy boot camps or jazz aerobics—Harper suggests walking because “it’s simple, you can do it alone, with a friend, or with your dog, and you don’t need any equipment.” And as for the morning workout prescription, Harper says that among his clients and Biggest Loser contestants, the ones who work out first thing, before eating, tend to stay on their diets and lose more weight. While the research is mixed, there is some evidence that exercising on an empty stomach burns more fat.
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Count—and cut—your salt.
If you eat a lot of packaged foods, you’re likely getting more salt than you need, Harper warns—even if you’re careful to eat low-sodium versions. The problem with too much salt is that it leads to water retention, which can make you puffy. Harper tells his clients to shoot for 1,000 milligrams a day when they’re trying to get slim in a hurry.
Pop fish-oil supplements.
This heart-healthy fat may also help with post-exercise soreness and boost immunity. The pills probably aren’t necessary for everyday, low-intensity cardio, but Harper says they will help you recover from the conditioning workouts (15 to 20 minutes, five times a week) he recommends in the book. “As a guy whose business it is to exercise,” he writes, “fish oil has changed my life.” He recommends 3,000 milligrams a day, but you should check with your doctor first to make sure this amount is safe for you.
OD on veggies
If you’re hungry, eat veggies. This is one of Harper’s fundamental rules for weight loss in a hurry. He loves them for all the obvious reasons: they’re a great source of vitamins and minerals, they contain tons of fiber, and they also act as natural diuretics. One of Harper’s favorite veggies to kick start weight loss? Asparagus. He roasts it as a side dish dinner staple, folds it into egg scrambles, and chops it into salads.
Lay off all booze.
Stars may look glamorous holding Champagne flutes at awards ceremonies, but they don’t imbibe when they’re trying to squeeze into their couture gowns. Booze, including heart-healthy wine, according to Harper, makes you retain water and look bloated, makes your eyes puffy, and alters your metabolism to slow down fat burning. What’s more, drinking also chips away at your self control—a “slippery slope to raiding the fridge or the drive-through.”
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Get more healthy-eating tips and delicious recipes and meal and workout plans in Bob Harper’s new book Jumpstart to Skinny
Plus, see our tips on the "skinny rules
" that Biggest Losers