10 Weight Loss Tips From the Duke Diet
Follow the Duke Diet's medically tested slimming strategies and watch the pounds melt away.
By Rachel Grumman Bender
Medically reviewed by Ed Zimney, MD
Losing weight is easier when you've got an experienced support team. That's the concept behind the Duke Diet, which focuses on smart, healthy, straight-forward strategies for losing weight and keeping the pounds off. Celebrity fashion stylist Kithe Brewster came to the center to work toward his goal of losing 60 pounds in 6 months by following the Duke Diet.
The diet, which was developed over 40 years by the experts at the Duke Diet & Fitness Center in Durham, N.C., sets itself apart from other weight-loss plans with its team approach, offering clients the opportunity to stay at the center for several days or weeks so they have immediate access to nutritionists, exercise physiologists, medical doctors, and psychologists to help them change their eating and exercise habits.
Watch Stylist Kithe Brewster Lose 60 Lbs in 6 Months
But you don't need to travel to the Duke Diet center to take advantage of the program. We asked the center's experts to share their top 10 tips for achieving weight loss success — from scheduling meals to getting a grip on emotional eating. Here's what they told us:
1. Eat More — But Choose Wisely
You already know that fruits and vegetables are good for you. That's because they're not only packed with disease-fighting nutrients, but they're also great for losing weight and maintaining weight loss. Fruits and vegetables contain fiber and water, which fill you up so you eat less at each meal. Duke Diet nutritionists recommend loading half of your plate with fruits and vegetables at lunch and dinner to leave less room for unhealthy foods.
"Seeing a full plate also helps you feel more satisfied on a low-calorie diet," says Christine B. Tenekjian, a Duke Diet & Fitness Center dietitian. "When people come to our program, they're afraid of being hungry, but more often they say, 'This is more food than I usually eat.'" Tenekjian recommends having at minimum of two to four servings of fruits and vegetables each day and making sure your plate contains 50 percent produce. Ideally, the rest of your plate's real estate should be filled with 25 percent healthy protein — fish, lean beef or white meat chicken, or a plant-based protein such as tofu — and 25 percent should come from carefully-chosen, fiber-rich starches, such as beans and other legumes.
2. Schedule Your Meals
Many people who come to the Duke Center have stopped listening to their hunger cues long ago and instead eat because they're upset, bored, or just saw a commercial for a tempting food, says Tenekjian. "As a society, we've really lost the ability to recognize our hunger signals," she notes. "Until the people who come here become cognizant of that, we ask them to eat on a schedule — small meals every three to four hours — when they go home." Those who are most successful at losing weight and keeping it off tend to eat five to six small meals a day or about every three to four hours, according to Tenekjian.
3. Keep a Food Journal
Jotting down what you eat — in a journal, on your iPhone, or in an Excel spreadsheet on your computer — helps you stay aware of whether your meals are balanced, how frequently you're eating, and how many calories you're consuming. "If people come back to the center because they're regained the weight," says Tenekjian, "it's often because they stopped monitoring what they've been eating."
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4. Get a Grip on Emotional Eating
To help halt emotional eating, says Sofia Rydin-Gray, Ph.D., assistant director of behavioral health and lifestyle coaching at Duke, first suss out why you're reaching for that pint of ice cream in the first place. She suggests asking yourself the following questions before eating.
"Some clients add questions, such as, 'How long will have to exercise if I eat this?' Or, 'How many calories will I have burn?'" says Rydin-Gray. "One client put a note on the fridge that says: 'What you're looking for isn't in here.'"
- Am I hungry?
- How am I feeling?
- What do I really need?
- What can I do instead?
10 Weight Loss Tips From the Duke Diet (continued)
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5. Allow Yourself a Daily Indulgence
Duke Diet participants stick with a 1,200- to 1,800-calorie diet each day, but that doesn't mean they're deprived of sweets. The diet allows for a planned treat — chocolate, alcohol, cookies, potato chips — that's no more than 10 percent of the person's daily caloric intake. So if a person is on a 1,500-calorie-a-day diet, he can have a 150-calorie treat every day as part of his total daily calories. The catch? "You have to find a treat that doesn't turn into a trigger food," says Tenekjian. If you can't eat just one chocolate chip cookie, then that shouldn't be your treat. "You have to find something that tastes good and satisfies your craving for something sinful, but doesn't turn into something completely out of control," she says.
6. Don't Beat Yourself Up
If you caved in and ate nachos and frozen margaritas at happy hour with your friends, don't blame yourself for blowing your weight loss plan. "It's impossible to ruin your diet in one day," says Tenekjian. "Don't try to make up for it with excessive exercising or fasting the next day." Rather than adopting an all-or-nothing mentality, she suggests just getting back on your normal plan and journaling about your feelings and why you think you fell off the weight-loss wagon.
If You're Going to Splurge, At Least Do It Right.
7. Walk Your Way to a Lower Weight
Most people who come to the Duke Diet center have not been exercising regularly, says Gerald K. Endress, a clinical exercise physiologist and fitness director at the center. He recommends using a pedometer as an easy way to rev up your activity level. "If you're just starting out, figure out how many steps you take each day as a baseline," he suggests. "Then try to work your way up to 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day. That's a great strategy for getting people going, and having that feedback from the pedometer is important."
8. Rise, Shine, and Work Out
Making exercise a priority is a challenge for most people, but it's non-negotiable when it comes to weight loss. Ryden-Gray recommends exercising first thing in the morning so other commitments — work, dinner plans — don't get in the way. "Some people cannot be successful if they don't exercise in the morning since it's often hard to fit it in at the end of the day," she says.
9. Make Working Out Easy
Using your own body or minimal equipment allows you to work out anywhere — at home, on vacation, on a work trip. Endress recommends squats, wall pushups, triceps dips from a chair, abdominal crunches, and calf raises. Do one to two sets of 8 to 12 repetitions two to three times a week. "If you prefer to workout at home or you travel a lot, I also recommend resistance bands — you can pack and travel with those," he says.
There Are Plenty of Exercises You Can Do Anytime
10. Find More Than One Way to Stay Motivated
You might think setting a weight-loss goal is all the motivation you need, but Rydin-Gray encourages clients to come up with a variety ways to stay on track. "You want different things to motivate you, especially down the road once you've lost weight or more importantly, when you've reached a plateau," she says. "If your motivation is weight loss and you haven't been losing weight, you're at a loss." Rydin-Gray suggests other meaningful motivators such as training for a 5K race or focusing on being healthy for your children.