Every year, dieters are bombarded with fad diets, diet pills, and fat-burning clothing filled with promises of quick and easy weight loss. However, these extreme dieting trends are just a temporary fix to your desired body image goal. Rather than surrender your body to an all-or-nothing approach, you can lose the weight fast and safely, without compromising your health.

Calorie Counting

The basis of any diet plan starts with counting calories. The estimated amount of calories needed to maintain energy balance varies with gender and age. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the recommended calorie intake for women aged 19 to 51 years ranges from 1,800 to 2,000 calories a day. Meanwhile, men aged 19 to 51 years require even more, between 2,200 to 2,400 calories per day. Depending on your lifestyle, you may require more calories if you want to gain weight or vice versa.

Rachel Pires, a weight loss advisor and the author of the book Diet Enlightenment, believes the fastest way for dieters to shed pounds is to follow a calorie-restricted diet. “By learning to cut calories (focus on foods that are high in bulk and low in calories) dieters can follow a style of eating that they can stick to for life,” she told Medical Daily in an email.

It’s no surprise you should consume fewer calories for weight loss, but just exactly how?

Cut Sugars And Starches

Diet and exercise are two vital factors in the formula for weight loss as you’re told to “eat less and move more.” Eating less of particular foods, specifically sugars and starches, is one of the first steps to achieve your weight loss goals. These foods are known to stimulate the secretion of insulin, which is the main fat storage hormone in the body.

Typically, insulin has a lowering effect on HSL (hormone-sensitive lipase) levels, encouraging fat storage. Cutting back on simple sugars will lead to a decrease in insulin levels. According to Kevin Meehan, a holistic practitioner and founder of Meehan Formulations in Jackson, Wyo., when our insulin levels are low, HSL increases, creating a "withdrawal" of fat from the fat cells. "As we can see, keeping the insulin levels low will help utilize our stored fats, creating weight loss," he explained to Medical Daily in an email.

Lower levels of insulin means the fat is able to get out of the fat stores, which leads the body to start burning fat instead of carbs. Moreover, the kidneys will be able to shed excess sodium and water from the body, since insulin levels and fluid retention are correlated. A 2007 study published in the journal Renal Physiology, found the decrease in insulin levels led the participants’ kidneys to retain less sodium and water, reducing both body fat and water weight.

Add Protein And Vegetables

Cut out your sugars and starches to add more protein and vegetables to your diet. This formula helps you meet the recommended range of grams of carbs to consume in one day. For example, adults on a diet will consume between 1,200 to 1,600 calories, which means they have to aim between 135 grams to 195 grams a day on a 1,200-calorie diet and 180 grams of carbs a day on a 1,600-calorie diet. Carb consumption should not surpass 260 grams a day.

Meat, fish and seafood, and eggs are among the best sources of protein to help you meet your weight loss goals. Eggs are the ideal food to eat in the morning for losing weight, without feeling famished. A 2008 study published in the International Journal of Obesity found the egg breakfast was more likely to enhance weight loss when combined with an energy-deficit diet, but it does not induce weight loss otherwise. After eight weeks, dieters who ate eggs for breakfast experienced 65 percent more weight loss than the bagel group and saw a 61 percent greater reduction in body mass index (BMI).

Consuming the right amount of protein at meals and snacks will help balance blood sugar and stabilize energy levels. Lauren Harris-Pincus, a registered dietitian nutritionist, explained to Medical Daily this helps to curb cravings by managing hunger, while protein helps to delay digestion so you feel satisfied for longer. Her weight loss tip: Fill half of your plate with veggies at each meal. “They are low in calories and packed with nutrients our bodies need. The fiber will fill you up so you have less room for more calorie dense foods,” Harris-Pincus said.

Add More Weight

Every good diet plan is accompanied by a good exercise plan. Losing weight and keeping it off are two distinct things dieters often struggle with. Going to the gym to lift weights will help you burn calories and speed up your metabolism. It helps maintain your lean muscle mass and leads to a higher metabolic rate. Shane Allen, a certified personal trainer, sports nutritionist, and weight loss specialist, told Medical Daily in an email: “Each pound of muscle you have, takes six calories per day to maintain itself. Fat only needs two calories per day.” The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism.

Gaining muscle while losing a lot of body fat is possible even if you’re on a low-carb diet. A 2002 study published in the journal Metabolism found a carb-restricted diet does lead to a significant reduction in fat mass and is connected to an increase in lean body mass. The researchers believe this is most likely mediated by the decrease in insulin levels.

Mindful Eating

Calorie counting, cutting sugar and starches, adding protein and veggies, and exercise are part of the weight loss formula, but is there anything else you can do?

Controlling your eating behavior can be as simple as changing your plate size. We tend to eat with our eyes first. A large plate can establish an optical illusion that lead to inaccurate estimates of serving size. It can make a serving of food appear smaller, while smaller plates can lead you to misjudge the same quantity of food as being significantly larger. For example, a 2006 study published in FASEB Journal found when children and adults served themselves in large plates or bowls, there were more food contents served compared to those given a smaller plate.

Small plates can really help you see what portion control really is.

How Much Will You Lose?

People who lose weight gradually and steadily lose about 1 to 2 pounds per week and are more successful at keeping the weight off. However, those on a 1,050- to 1,200-calorie diet who eat less and move more, can lose 3 to 5 pounds in the first week. You can center your weight loss rate based on the amount of calories you consume and burn.

Weight loss should be effective and safe, and it starts with exercising and cutting calories.