Eat fewer calories, and you will lose weight.
If you asked me to distill nine Eat This, Not That! books into a single golden rule, that would be it. The best part: It's a rule that will never, ever change.
So why don't we all just do it? Because today's restaurants are designed to make us eat more calories, not less—and swimming against that tide means outsmarting a whole industry of professional food marketers who are out to force-feed us their wares.
Now, you might think that a restaurant would make more money by giving us less food, not more. But restaurants know that by feeding us a ton of calories, they can addict us to their products the way tobacco companies try to addict us to their cigarettes. A 2010 study from the Scripps Research Institute found that rats given one hour per day to eat fatty, sugary foods began binge eating, and their brain patterns mimicked those associated with escalating cocaine use. Not surprisingly, the rodents gained a ton of weight. (Search: Signs of food addiction.)
This is what's happening to us—the more sweet, high-fat foods we eat, the more sweet, high-fat foods we crave. And then we're overweight and wondering why we're still hungry. And it's not just restaurant foods. There are plenty of calorie dealers at your local supermarket as well. Avoid becoming a victim with our list of the 125 Best Supermarket Foods.
If you can switch your habits, even for a couple days, I promise you'll begin to lose weight. To show you how much, I've set up two days of big-calorie swaps. Granted, most of us aren't eating three high-calorie meals like this every day—and certainly not for two days in a row—but I bet some of us eat six of them a week. And many of us eat six meals like this a month. Make the simple swaps below and you'll still indulge your grumbling belly and your sweet tooth. But you'll also save 10,500 calories. That's 3 pounds of belly fat . . . poof! (Video: Set Your Table for Weight Loss.)
IHOP Country Fried Steak & Eggs w/ hashbrowns, pancakes, and syrup
95 g fat (29 g saturated)
4,065 mg sodium
The word "country" conjures up feel-good images of big red barns, rolling hills, and roaming cows, but rest assured, there's nothing wholesome about this IHOP breakfast disaster. Not only does it deliver most of your day's calories, but it also has 1.5 days' worth of saturated fat and about 2 days' worth of sodium.
Eat This Instead!
Belgian Waffle w/ bacon and syrup
21 g fat (10 g saturated)
835 mg sodium
You lose: 0.4 pounds!