Still, Jampolis suggests eating one to two healthy, balanced meals in addition to meal-replacement shakes or bars. "I think it's important for fullness," she says; naturally occurring fiber from food promotes satiety better than does synthetic fiber from meal replacements.
Mangieri emphasizes that meal replacements are not for life. People get bored eating the same thing over and over, she says. "Strict diets may work for quick weight loss, but they do not replace the need to eat real food in adequate portions to maintain a healthy weight over a long period of time."
Stop eating out. Eat all of your meals at home if possible, suggests Keri Gans, a registered dietitian and author of The Small Change Diet. That way, you can control portion size and how food is prepared (without a half-stick of butter, for example). Remember this is only temporary, she says.
Nix the liquid calories. Drink as much water as you can, advises Joy Bauer, health and nutrition expert for NBC's Today show and author of The Joy Fit Club. Naturally fruit-flavored bottled water is OK. She also suggests drinking 1 to 2 cups of plain green tea before or with lunch or dinner. Green tea has been shown to boost metabolism.
Eliminate sugar and artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners can intensify sugar cravings, Bauer says, making it more difficult to resist those chocolate donuts in the break room.
Eat protein with meals. Protein fuels your metabolism and helps you stay full, says Bauer. Try an egg-white omelet with vegetables for breakfast; a large vegetable salad with shrimp or chicken for lunch; and broiled salmon with steamed spinach for dinner. A snack may be nonfat, plain Greek yogurt, which can pack far more protein than the regular kind.
Start dinner with a non-starchy vegetable. Non-starchy vegetables are loaded with water and will fill you up, Bauer says. She recommends tomato or cucumber slices, a handful of baby carrots, sugar snap peas, or a broth-based vegetable soup (without pasta, rice, or beans).
Get moving. For faster results, take your fitness regimen up a notch by doing a high-intensity interval training workout. Power-circuit training—a superset of four to six different exercises with no rest in between—is the preferred method of Jackie Warner, celebrity trainer and author of 10 Pounds in 10 Days. She recommends doing the workout five times a week for 20 to 40 minutes.
However, too much exercise can undercut weight-loss efforts, says Pete McCall, an exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise." Overtraining syndrome" can cause an overproduction of the hormone cortisol, which can prompt the body to conserve (not burn) fat. If you start feeling dizzy or nauseated or you notice that it is taking too long for your heart rate to return to normal, you may be overdoing it, McCall says. Pain is another signal that something is wrong.
Consider hiring a professional. A personal trainer can help you design an effective exercise routine, while a registered dietitian can help you design a sensible plan that will result in a slimmer but still healthy-looking body, Mangieri says. "Investing in a professional will keep you accountable and provide an efficient and effective program while pushing you harder," Stacy Berman, founder and head trainer of Stacy's Bootcamp in New York City, said in an email. And it will be a fraction of the cost of a feeding tube.