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5 Ways to Go from Crash Diet to Healthy, Long-Term Habit

What good is losing 20 pounds in two weeks just to gain it all back once you return to a steady diet of cheesy French fries and pints of ice cream? But that's what you can expect from crash diets, which instruct weight-loss hopefuls to shock both body and mind with over-the-top restrictions and an overwhelming number of changes at once. When it comes to developing your healthy lifestyle, don't expect to make a complete 180 overnight. Instead, focus your efforts on one habit at a time to create lasting change and see real long-term results.

THE INFAMOUS ATKINS

The appeal: You eat too much dessert, cereal, and pastries and are starting to think you'd be better off without carbs altogether. The risk: There's a reason the term "balanced diet" gets thrown around a lot, and the theory of Atkins runs counter to it. The balance in your food choices should be among protein, fat, and carbs. All three can be used as fuel for the body, but carbohydrates get converted to glucose quickly, giving you the energy you need to keep going immediately. They'll get burned off before the fat you eat, sure, but they also protect muscle tissue from being broken down for energy in case of a calorie deficit, like after a heavy workout. Carbs also help maintain digestive health, assist in calcium absorption, and regulate blood pressure. One-step wonder: The best ratio of the three macronutrients varies from person to person, but a good place to start is 20 percent protein, 30 percent fat, and 50 percent carbs. A food journaling app like MyFitnessPal will create these charts for you, but you have to be on top of listing everything you eat. The smart first step is to focus on what's lacking from a lot of diets: the protein. By increasing protein intake, you'll be decreasing carbs and fats. When you do consume carbs, stick to high-fiber foods like fruits and whole grains.