It’s Not Keto,But This Is The Best Diets of 2019 According to Experts

It’s Not Keto,But This Is The Best Diets of 2019 According to Experts

The 2019 rankings include 41 of today’s most popular diets. New to the list this year is the Nordic Diet, a plant-heavy eating plan that incorporates Scandinavian traditions and ranked 9th best overall. Here’s how the rest of the rankings shook out this year, and what experts have to say about the good, the bad, and the trendy. (Here’s a hint: They’re still not crazy about keto.)

Best overall diets

For the last eight years, the DASH Diet (which stands for Dietary Approach to Stopping Hypertension) has been ranked the best overall diet by U.S. News. Last year it tied for first with the Mediterranean Diet, and this year it’s been bumped to No. 2 for the first time.

U.S. News’s panel of experts noted that the Mediterranean Diet earned this year’s top spot because research suggests it can help improve longevity and ward off chronic disease. The Mediterranean Diet was also ranked No. 1 in several other categories: Easiest Diet to Follow, Best Diet for Healthy Living, and Best Diet for Diabetes. It also tied with the Ornish Diet for Best Diet for Heart Health.

“The Mediterranean Diet has been studied extensively, so that’s a big part of it,” says panelist David Katz, MD, director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center. But the diet—which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein—also gets top billing because it’s practical, he adds.

“This is a traditional diet of a large region of the world where people happily go to enjoy the food,” Dr. Katz tells Health. “This is very manageable; it’s not suffering, it’s not excluding things—it’s something that people and families really can do.”

The DASH Diet, now in second place, is also an excellent choice for health-conscious Americans, says Dr. Katz. Although it was designed to help lower blood pressure, the diet has also been shown to help people lower their cholesterol and lose weight, among other health benefits.

Coming in third this year is the Flexitarian Diet, which involves following a mostly vegetarian regimen and incorporating more non-meat proteins like beans, peas, and eggs. Weight Watchers—the highest ranked commercial diet—takes the fourth spot, tied with the MIND Diet, a Mediterranean-DASH hybrid plan that aims to stave off cognitive decline.

New kid on the block: What is the Nordic Diet?

U.S. News’s expert panel decided to include the Nordic Diet (also known as the New Nordic Diet) in this year’s rankings after it received considerable attention in the last year. There’s no one official Nordic Diet, but the 2017 book The Nordic Way is a good example of the diet’s basic guidelines.

Essentially, the Nordic Diet is based on 10 core concepts: eating more fruits and vegetables every day; eating more whole grains; eating more seafood; choosing high-quality meat, but less meat overall; seeking out food from wild landscapes; using organic produce whenever possible; avoiding food additives; basing more meals on seasonal produce; consuming more home-cooked food; and producing less waste.

In other words, the Nordic Diet focuses on locally sourced ingredients, avoids processed foods, and embraces “a return to relaxed meals with friends and family,” according to U.S. News’s description. These are similarities it shares with the Mediterranean Diet, Dr. Katz points out.

“In all of these places around the world where people derive the greatest benefit from their diets, people aren’t waiting around for anyone to tell them what to eat on January 1,” he says. “Even though we have new diets to evaluate every year, the ones that rank the highest are generally the oldest, most traditional ones.”

Where does the ketogenic diet rank?

One of the buzziest trends in the weight-loss world has been the ketogenic diet, a low-carb, high-fat regimen that promises fast results. People on the “keto” diet cut back on bread and sugar so that their body enters ketosis, a state in which it burns fat rather than carbohydrates.

But health experts are wary about the keto diet, and U.S. News’s rankings reflect that skepticism. For the second year, keto is at the bottom of the best diet rankings (tied with the Whole30 Diet at No. 38 out of 41), with an overall score of just 2.1 out of 5 and a “healthy” score of just 1.8 out of 5.

We have basically no evidence that this diet is consistent with human health over time,” says Dr. Katz. (Its heavy emphasis on animal protein isn’t ecologically sustainable, either, he adds.) “All of the evidence we have points toward a plant-predominant diet with an emphasis on vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts, and seeds—all of the very things that the ketogenic diet avoids.”

The keto diet did jump considerably in one specific category, however: This year it tied with several other diets for No. 2 in Best Fast Weight-Loss Diets (after the HMR Diet, a commercial plan that replaces most meals with pre-packaged nutrition bars and shakes), up from No. 13 last year. “Yes, you can do this for quick weight loss,” says Dr. Katz, “but I wouldn’t recommend it.”

How the rankings are calculated

U.S. News’s Best Diets rankings are put together by a panel of nutritionists, dietary consultants, and doctors specializing in diabetes, heart health, and weight loss. Each member of the panel scored all 41 diets in seven different areas, including how easy they are to follow, how well they protect against chronic disease, and how likely it is that followers will actually lose weight and keep it off.

The rankings rely heavily on peer-reviewed clinical trials, a practice that provides both strengths and weaknesses, says Dr. Katz. On one hand, it’s good to have evidence-based data, he says—but it also means that lesser-known, non-commercialized diets may not get the attention they deserve.

For example, Weight Watchers has consistently ranked toward the top of the U.S. News list. “That may be well deserved,” says Dr. Katz, “but they have also been around longer and have more money to afford more studies, which gives them an advantage.”

Despite their limitations, these rankings are important, says Dr. Katz—especially because more than 45 million Americans embark on diets every year, and many of them are overwhelmed by constantly changing messages in the media.

“There is a range of diets here, which should be an invitation for people to go shopping among these diets, which are approved by experts, and find one that works well for themselves and their families,” he says. “The idea that there are so many variations on healthy eating is a really good thing.”

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Want to Lose Belly Fat Try these Simple Ways

 Want to Lose Belly Fat

Try these Simple Ways

Excess weight in your midsection can be annoying—not only because it’s so darn tough to ditch, but because it also has an impact on your overall health. Extra belly fat ups your risk of issues such as heart disease and diabetes, and, according to certified strength and condition specialist Michele Olson, PhD, life is filled with sneaky little saboteurs that make putting on the pounds in this area way too easy.

“Due to changes in hormones, daily stresses, lack of sleep, coupled with possibly pregnancies, the fat women gain is often stored increasingly in the belly area,” explains Olson, also a senior clinical professor at Huntington College in Montgomery, Alabama.

And while you can’t exactly spot reduce, you can make lifestyle changes that can help you lose belly fat—and fast. Here, healthy-living pros offer their best science-backed strategies for winning the battle of the bulge.

Clean up your diet

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times: Abs are made in the kitchen. Unfortunately, if you regularly eat ultra-processed foods (think chips, store-bought baked goods, and candy), you won’t be able to see yours. “These foods are produced using sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup, which in high amounts has been shown to promote visceral fat accumulation in the liver, leading to weight gain, inflammation, and related diseases,” explains Rachel Fine, RD, owner of To The Points Nutrition.

Instead, opt for eats that have healthy amounts of soluble fiber such as oatmeal, sweet potatoes, avocado, and citrus fruits. Research reveals that an increase in these foods is linked to a decrease in visceral—aka belly—fat.

Slow down on spirits

Reducing alcohol intake can also help, says Fine. Alcohol contains about seven calories per gram—”just under fat, which equates to nine calories per gram.” And because alcohol is absorbed quickly, “when over-consumed, alcohol metabolism impairs metabolism of other macro nutrients, such as carbs and fat, promoting…fat storage rather than breakdown,” she says.

While you’re rethinking your drinks, limit your consumption of carbonated beverages as well, advises Vanessa Volitional, RD, a New York City-based registered dietitian, noting that those fizzy drinks, though yummy, can cause belly bloat. (Sorry LaCroix!)

Instead, stick to water, which Emily Incledon, RD says can act as an appetite suppressant, as well as help flush out your body to decrease the feeling of being bloated.

Make sure you exercise

Great news: Working out is good for more than just adding years to your life, boosting your brain health, and reducing stress levels—it can also help you rein in your gut. In fact, research in the journal Cell Metabolism reveals that exercise specifically helps reduce visceral fat.

The key to losing belly fat with exercise, though, is making sure your sweat session is intense. You’ll want to be working at 85% of your max heart rate at least, says Olson. “The higher your heart rate, the higher the release of epinephrine into the bloodstream and cells,” she explains. “A positive side effect of epinephrine is that it also activates greater release of abdominal fat into the bloodstream to be used for energy.”

So what type of exercise is best when it comes to burning belly fat? Olson recommends intense weight training, Tabatha interval training, sprint-style cardio, and kettle bell exercises. Of course, a little ab work won’t hurt either—especially moves (like dead bug) that target the transverse abdominal, the deep core muscles that act like a girdle for the waist, cinching you in all over.

Don’t skimp on sleep

Falling short on zzz’s is also a surefire way to put your waistline in jeopardy. That’s because sleep deprivation knocks your hunger hormones out of whack, leading to an increase in ghrelin, which stimulates appetite, and a decrease in lepton, which signals when you are satiated. What’s more, research has shown that when you aren’t well-rested, you’re also more likely to reach for junk food (hello Ben & Jerry’s!)—and it may even become harder for you to build muscle mass.

To help keep belly fat in check, aim to cuddle with your pillow for at least seven to eight hours each night. And if possible, hit the hay at the same time each night—one study found that women who did so and clocked around eight hours of sleep per night had lower body fat.

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The DASH Diet Is Great For Weight Loss, But No One Following It,Case Study….

The DASH Diet Is Great For Weight Loss, But  No One Following It,Case Study….

Dash Diet Hypertension

The DASH diet often flies under the radar, especially when compared to buzzy diets such as the Keto diet, but it’s one of the most widely-respected diets out there. U.S. News & World Report has named it the “Best Diet Overall” for eight consecutive years in its annual diet rankings, and it’s recommended by the American Heart Association, who used it to develop their 2010 Dietary Guidelines.

With virtually no food groups as off-limits, DASH offers much more flexibility than other popular diet plans. It can also aid in weight loss and weight maintenance, given its emphasis on overall health. With all its praiseworthy qualities, you’d think everyone would be following a DASH diet plan. But here’s the surprising truth—less than 2 percent of the population actually follows the DASH diet.

How could this be? Let’s take a closer look at the DASH diet to find out for ourselves.

What Is the DASH Diet?

DASH stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.” The diet was developed out of a study by the National Institutes of Health after researchers noticed that vegetarians tended to have lower rates of high blood pressure. Understanding that sodium intake affected blood pressure, researchers also believed that these levels may also be impacted by other nutrients in plant-based diets.

Enter the DASH diet. When individuals followed this eating plan, researchers saw dramatic reductions in blood pressure levels. Today, the eating plan is recommended for preventing and treating hypertension and heart disease—and it has been linked to decreased bone deterioration, improved insulin sensitivity, and possible risk reduction for some cancers.How to Follow a DASH Diet Plan:

keto-diet-vs-atkins-diet

The DASH diet plan focus on increasing vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes; choosing lean meats, low-fat dairy, nuts and healthy fats; and limiting added sugars, trans fats, added salt, and processed foods. Serving sizes from each food group are based on individual calorie needs (see below for a 1600-calorie plan), and you’ll likely find that the plan looks pretty close to the MyPlate plan, as well as another consistently rated “top diet,” the Mediterranean Diet. Here’s a breakdown of the recommended nutrients in a typical day and week on the DASH diet:

Nutrients Per Day:

  • Grains: 6 servings
  • Vegetables: 3-4 servings
  • Fruits: 4 servings
  • Low-Fat or Fat-Free Dairy: 2-3 servings
  • Lean Meat, Poultry, or Fish: 4 ounces or less
  • Fat/oils: 2 servings
  • Sodium: 2300 mg or less

Nutrients Per Week:

  • Nuts, seeds, and legumes: 3-4 times per week
  • Sweets and added sugars: 3 servings or less

The secret to DASH’s success is its emphasis on increasing vegetables, fruits, and whole foods that are naturally low in sodium and high in potassium. While most know that reducing sodium is essential, many don’t realize that getting adequate potassium intake is just as key for regulating blood pressure.

When foods are processed, their potassium levels actually decrease. So, choosing whole or minimally processed foods can improve blood pressure regulation from both a sodium and a potassium perspective. In addition, you’ll usually decrease your intake of saturated fat, added sugars, and overall calories—all of which can help you lose weight, and keep it off for good.

So—Why Does DASH Have So Few Followers?

DASH’s lack of followers seems to come down to misconceptions that people have about it. Here are some common perceptions about the DASH diet, including what is—and what isn’t—true.

The DASH diet was created when researchers were looking for ways to effectively reduce hypertension, but this was over 20 years ago! Though it’s still often marketed as a treatment for high blood pressure, the DASH eating plan is really an ideal way to eat for overall health, weight maintenance, and chronic disease prevention. In fact, studies suggest that DASH lowers risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome, and some cancers.

Also, people with high blood pressure aren’t the only ones who need to worry about sodium intake. Data suggests that 90 percent of Americans exceed sodium’s max limit (3500mg) daily. Regularly going over this amount takes a toll on your body—even healthy bodies—over time.

Sodium reduction is part of the DASH equation, but it’s not the only focus. Eating by DASH recommendations also increases your intake of potassium, calcium, magnesium and fiber—all nutrients that play a role in cardiovascular health, as well as the prevention of other chronic diseases. It’s thought to be the combination of increasing your intake of these nutrients and decreasing your intake of added sugar, salt, sodium and unhealthy fats that leads to lower blood pressure and a laundry list of other long-term health benefits.

Also, reducing sodium doesn’t restrict you to boring, bland food, nor does it mean you have to toss out the salt shaker. Yes, reducing the amount of salt you use and choosing lower-sodium products are key, but opting for fresh foods or whole foods instead of boxed, canned, and ready-to-heat items makes a big enough impact. Experiment with spices and herbs, and use a little salt to enhance flavor. Salt should never be the sole flavoring or seasoning in any in dish.

Many equate healthy eating, particularly lower-sodium eating such as DASH, with the idea that all meals have to be cooked from scratch. This is overwhelming for many (myself included), but there are plenty of tricks and tips to help you. First, understand that “whole foods” doesn’t exclusively mean fresh produce. Take advantage of time-saving, minimally processed foods like unseasoned frozen vegetables and no-salt-added canned veggies.

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A Nutritionist Explains Can It Help You Lose Weight


A Nutritionist Explains

Can It Help You Lose Weight

small food meal HIIT high intensity workout frequent frequency meal diet nutrition learning portion

If you’ve tried to lose weight on the ketogenic diet or another low-carb plan and found it too difficult to all but abstain from bread, whole grains, and other carbohydrates, then you might be in need of a little TLC—the TLC diet, that is.

planetary diet vegetarian pescatarian red meat fruits vegetables health healthy digestion planet earth sustainable

TLC stands for Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes. Created by the National Institutes of Health, the plan focuses on helping people make heart-healthy food choices. It encouraging followers to get 50%-60% of their daily calories from carbs, 24%-35% from fat, and 15% from protein. The plan debuted in 2002 and was updated in 2013, and earlier this month it landed on the list of best-ranked diets by U.S. News and World Report.

Here’s how to follow it, what the pros and cons are, and how to know if TLC is right for you.

What is the TLC diet?

Designed as a way to manage cholesterol, TLC may also help you lose weight and lower your risk of other chronic illnesses. Following the diet means keeping track of the percentage of macronutrients you take in daily. No food group is banned, but you might have to whip out a calculator to make sure you’re consuming the right balance of carbs, protein, and fats. The breakdown of what to eat goes like this: 

25–35% of your daily calories should come from fat. As for types of fat, less than 7% of your daily calories should come from saturated fat. Up to 10% of your daily calories should be from polyunsaturated fat, and about 20% of your total calories should come from monounsaturated fat.

50–60% of your daily calories should come from carbohydrates, with 20–30 grams per day of dietary fiber. 

Approximately 15% of your daily calories should come from protein.

Less than 200 mg a day of cholesterol is allowed. Sweets and desserts are okay too, but definitely in moderation.

As for calories, only consume enough to reach or maintain a healthy weight.

TLC also advises at least 30 minutes of a moderate intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking, on most, and preferably all, days of the week.

Pros and cons of the TLC diet

The plan offers a few key pros. Because it recommends 20-30 grams of fiber daily, whole foods that are high in healthy carbohydrates like vegetables, fruit, pulses, nuts, and whole grains are encouraged. This also fits with the 200 mg per day limit on cholesterol, as dietary cholesterol is not found in plant-based foods. And the allowance of up to 20% of calories from monounsaturated fat makes the TLC diet avocado- and olive oil–friendly, giving it some alignment with the highly regarded Mediterranean diet.

There are a handful of cons however. The high percentage of calories from carbs and modest allotment of protein may be slightly off base for some. In my practice, I often cap carbs at 40% of calories for less active people, or those with lower energy needs, including older adults. And my active clients typically require a higher protein intake, depending on their training regime and goals.

In addition, the 200 mg cholesterol limit now appears to be unnecessary. You may have heard that the 2015 Dietary Guidelines scientific advisory panel deemed cholesterol (from food) “not a nutrient of concern for over consumption.” That designation was based on a growing consensus that cholesterol intake has little effect on cholesterol in the bloodstream. In addition, some high-cholesterol foods, like whole eggs, can contain health-protective nutrients, including anti-inflammatory vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. 

The other challenging aspect of TLC is translating the numbers into practical everyday meals. The 85-page TLC explainer from the National Institutes of Health offers suggested daily servings from various food groups, answers questions about sodium, omega-3 fatty acids, and alcohol, and provides tips for seasoning food, snacking, dining out, exercise, and weight loss. But you’ll have to look further for sample menus and recipes. 

Plus, many of the food suggestions are outdated, in my opinion. These include eating lower-fat hot dogs, using margarine, and opting for Jello as dessert, to name a few. In the face of today’s clean eating mantra and advice to slash sugar, I believe TLC could use another update.

If you decide to give TLC a try, consider modernizing the plan with a focus on whole foods, which further supports anti-inflammation and weight loss. And if you need help personalizing the plan based on things like food allergies or intolerance’s, or you want to adapt it to meet the needs of your very active lifestyle, consider meeting with a registered dietitian nutritionist.

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You Lose Weight Fast But Is It Safe?

You Lose Weight Fast But Is It Safe? 

There are countless weight-loss plans to choose from, but the simple truth is this: What works for one person just may not click for another. Some people need a plan with lots of choices and variety, or one that allows them to cook. Others prefer an ultra-streamlined approach, in which all of the food is provided and options are minimized.

If you’re in the latter group, one program to consider is HMR, which stands for Health Management Resources. Here’s how to follow HMR, the number of calories and types of foods you’re allowed, and my thoughts as a registered dietitian nutritionist as to whether it’s safe, healthy, and can result in long-term weight loss.

How to follow the HMR diet

U.S. News and World Report ranked HMR the number one diet for fast weight loss. The company’s simple 3+2+5 Healthy Solutions plan includes 3 shakes per day and 2 pre-made meals (which you purchase from HMR) and 5 daily servings of fruits and vegetables that you supply yourself.

The structured approach also recommends daily tracking using the HMR app, and incorporating physical activity, such as a few daily walks. Participants typically lose 23 pounds on average within 12 weeks. The company also offers an even lower calorie medically supervised option, which can result in significantly greater weight loss for obese people. (More on this below.)

The plan provides roughly 1,200 calories a day, and a starter kit that contains three weeks worth of meals costs about $300. However, this phase is designed to last until you hit your goal, which may take much longer. The program also includes support, via the app, and weekly group phone sessions led by a “health coach” who offers cheerleading and problem solving.

The goal is to transition to a maintenance plan, which reduces the reliance on HMR foods and teaches healthy lifestyle skills, including meal planning and prep, plus how to navigate social situations while you’re trying to lose weight.

The benefits of HMR

In all of my years counseling clients, I have learned that it’s important to know your personality in order to determine if any particular approach is doable and sustainable for you. Both ultimately determine a successful (or disastrous) outcome, as well how you’ll feel emotionally as you’re shedding pounds.

For example, if fewer choices make you feel restricted and trigger cravings, a plan like HMR isn’t the best choice. But if you’re the type of person who thrives on structure and repetition, and you feel freed by not having to make decisions about what and how much to eat, an approach like this may work well. And if you need to see some quick weight loss in order to build momentum and boost your motivation to transition to a longer term healthy eating pattern, a ready-to-eat approach may fit.

Drawbacks to know about

There are few things I don’t like about HMR, however. My number one issue is the ingredients. The shakes contain the artificial sweetener saccharin and artificial flavor, and they are dairy and egg-based. I did not see an option for those with dairy or egg allergies or sensitivities on the HMR site.

Also, the entrees are shelf stable (not frozen) and highly processed. While some are better than others, I did spot ingredients like carrageenan, which has been linked to inflammation, as well as preservatives and soy, another common allergen.

My other red flag concerns long-term results. While I appreciate the fact that the program emphasizes produce from day one, supplies group support, and teaches lifestyle changes, I’ve seen people use these types of programs as quick fixes before rebounding right back to old habits. There doesn’t seem to be solid data on how HMR participants do at keeping weight off for good.

One study, which looked at the very low calorie diet (VLCD) HMR option, was unable to determine outcomes past one year. Researchers also noted some risks associated with very VLCD approaches, including constipation and gallstones. The latter may be three times more common in VLCDs compared to more traditional low calorie approaches.

Finally, HMR or any plan like it is challenging when socializing. Dining out is pretty much off limits in phase one, and getting through holidays and special occasions can be difficult—not just for the dieter but also for friends and family.

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Amazon Shoppers Are Convinced This

Amazon Shoppers Are Convinced This

We just found the swimsuit of your dreams.

We’re calling it now—what the viral Orolay “Amazon coat” was to winter, this popular Tempt Me one-piece swimsuit will be to summer.

While there are tons of cute swimsuits in a range of styles on Amazon, this $26 to $27 ruched one-piece bathing suit stands out from the rest for its universally flattering design and affordable price point, according to Amazon shoppers. Over 1,200 reviewers gave it a five-star rating, praising its simple but very stylish silhouette.

Shoppers love the inexpensive suit, which comes in nine colors, for its comfortable feel, supportive bust, interesting mesh V-shaped neckline, and its flattering ruching across the stomach. And owners all agree about one thing in particular—the piece’s unique look strikes the perfect balance of being subtly sexy without being too revealing.

“Wow. I have never found a suit that provides so much coverage and is still perfectly flattering,” one Amazon reviewer wrote. “I don’t usually write clothing reviews however, if I can help just one woman find her perfect suit and feel great then it is entirely worth it. If you’re thinking about this swimsuit, do it and you will not regret it!”“I will be buying another one. Not kidding,” another chimed in. “It makes me feel sexy and comfortable and covered up [without] feeling too naked! This swimsuit is definitely worth more than they are charging!”

Owners even argue it’s better than any high-end suit you’ll find in a department store. “Loved it,” one owner wrote. “It was tight enough to give some shaping support and covered in all the right places. Much better quality and fit than more expensive suits that I’ve bought at popular brick and mortar retail stores!”

Reviewers also appreciate the range of sizes offered (extra small through 16 plus) and its thoughtful design that beautifully complements all shapes and figures. Women with everything from small to large busts, short to long torsos, and a variety of swimwear concerns say it fits them perfectly. Just like the pair of jeans from The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, this stylish bathing suit seems to work for everyone.

What’s more, the suit features removable cups to ensure you’re supported, plus just a touch of stretch to ensure you’re comfortable for long days at the beach and pool.

As summer approaches, now’s the perfect time to replace that tired, go-to suit that’s seen better days. And since it comes with Prime shipping, you can order it and have it at your door in just two days, making it the perfect piece to throw in your suitcase at the last minute. Thousands of Amazon shoppers can’t be wrong, right?

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How This Woman Lost 80 Lbs. with Small Changes

Randi Vasquez was “always pretty chubby” growing up, but it never affected her confidence.

“I was always feeling myself,” the 27-year-old tells PEOPLE. “I wasn’t scared to wear a two-piece bathing suit or trendy outfits. I wasn’t always the happiest about my image, but I didn’t let that hold me back.”

But after she graduated from college, Vasquez found herself in “a post-grad slump.”

“I couldn’t find the job that I wanted, and I had trouble adapting,” she says.

Living in Chattanooga, Tenn., she and her friends would go for hours-long, mimosa-filled brunches every weekend and dine on fried chicken and waffles. And her other meals were just as caloric — Vasquez relied on fast food and remembers one day when she and her roommate ate at the southern burger joint Krystal’s three times.

“I was getting heavier and heavier,” she says. “I started to notice that my confidence was going down, and I wasn’t motivated to do anything. It started to click that if I didn’t change my life that it would just get worse and worse.”

“I remember one proposal session on a mountain and I had to run up and down this trail,” she says. “I couldn’t keep up with the couple and I remember that day was a big moment because I felt so out of shape. I was so embarrassed because I was so exhausted.”

Vasquez decided to start trying to lose weight, but with small changes. She joined her local YMCA in the fall of 2014 and found a body pump class that she loved.

“I went twice a week — I became obsessed with it. Within five or six months I lost 18 to 20 lbs. just by going to the gym,” she says.

In March 2015, a friend introduced her to Kayla Itsines’ popular BBG plan, and she got a Fitbit Surge later that year to monitor her heart rate and figure out how to push herself during workouts.

“Within a few weeks my body started to change and that helped me stay motivated,” she says.

Vasquez also started cooking more of her meals and going for healthier options. She stuck to a low-carb diet as much as possible, but didn’t cut out fast food completely — “I didn’t want to restrict too many things,” she says. One of the biggest moments in her weight loss journey came when Itsines shared one of Vasquez’s progress photos on Instagram.

“That was one of the best moments for me, because it helped me break down a wall I had up,” she says. “Before I was heavy and I didn’t want anyone to know that I had gained weight after college and that I was struggling, but having that out in the world tore that wall down. It helped me share my story and meet other people like me who were tackling their weight problems.”

And slowly but surely, the weight started coming off.

“Year after year, month after month, I made small little goals and just kept going,” she says. “I hit 80 lbs. down in fall 2017. That was such a big moment for me. That was my original weight loss goal. I had these jars with marbles in them, and every time I lost a pound I would move a marble to the other jar. When I hit 80 lbs. down and moved that last marble it was such an amazing moment.”

In the year-and-a-half since, Vasquez has worked on maintaining her weight loss with a few ups and downs — she opened up to her now-72,800 Instagram followers in January that she was “constantly yo-yoing” in weight during 2018 and wanted to find a better balance. And in the months since, she accomplished one of her bucket list goals: running a half marathon.

Because She Lost 350 Lbs

Getting Skin Removal Surgery on Her Legs

Because She  Lost 350 Lbs

After losing 350 lbs., the first thing Jacqueline Adan wanted gone were the layers of loose skin now covering her legs.

“They’re my biggest insecurity,” the 32-year-old tells PEOPLE. “I always struggled with loving my legs, and the size of them.”

And they were also a source of bullying — Adan, a Montessori preschool teacher — went viral in 2017 after she shared a photo of herself on the beach, post-weight loss, and said that a couple nearby started pointing and laughing at her legs.

But when she started the long and painful process of skin removal surgery in 2016, her doctor said that she would have to be patient.

“He said that we’re putting my body back together like a puzzle, and we can’t start with the legs,” Adan explains. “We started with my stomach, because it was the largest area, and then we did the upper part of my stomach and my arms.”

The surgeries and the lengthy, difficult recoveries that followed took three years, and during that time her legs struggled to hold up the excess skin around them.

“The pain in my legs from the loose skin keeps getting worse, because they’re just so heavy,” she says. “I was going to physical therapy because my knees and my hips couldn’t keep carrying that weight, and there’s nothing I can do until I get the skin removed. They started putting me in compression garments to hold the skin, but then all the loose skin got pulled to the top. All the leg skin is sitting at the top of my hips. I just need it removed.”

On March 21, Adan is finally getting her wish. After a consult with her doctor last week, they determined that she’s ready for skin removal surgery on her legs. Over the 7-hour surgery, Adan’s doctor will cut from the groin area down to the backs of her knees to take off pounds of excess skin.

But as excited as she is for the surgery to finally happen, Adan struggled with her mindset after their consult.

“I started getting really hard on myself and angry because I have to get this surgery, and asking myself why I let myself get to 500 lbs., and all that negative talk started coming in,” she says. “I started getting annoyed with myself that I have to go through another intense surgery that I could have avoided if I didn’t get myself to 500 lbs. But I can’t change the past. I have to focus on right now and getting mentally prepared so I can deal with it in the best way possible. Going into these surgeries with a positive mindset is so important because it helps you heal faster.”

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