It’s a common truism that celery is a ‘negative calorie’ food—meaning that more calories are burned during the digestive process than are contained in the vegetable itself. Experts agree that celery and certain cruciferous vegetables can create a thermogenic effect that speeds the metabolism. But, they’re quick to add, that doesn’t make them a magic formula for weight-loss success.

    “There are better things to monitor and regulate blood sugar,” says Mike Jaudes, owner of Fitness Edge. He recommends lean proteins such as chicken, fish, turkey or egg whites, in combination with fibrous vegetables, low glycemic fruits and moderate portions of carbohydrates. “Calorically, everything will take care of itself if you monitor portion size,” he says. “As a male, portions of protein and carbs should be the size of your fist. For a female, it’s between the size of the palm of your hand and a fist. For vegetables or a salad, you should have one to two fistfuls.” Jaudes also recommends eating about once every three hours to keep blood sugar levels from spiking or dropping dramatically.

    “Lean protein sources help maintain satiety,” adds weight loss coach Charles D’Angelo of Team Charles. “High-protein foods help you feel fuller and lean protein won’t have a negative impact on cholesterol levels. That helps you feel less like you need to snack on foods that are an issue.” He also recommends choosing foods such as nuts and yogurt, and others with a low glycemic index, to keep blood sugar levels relatively consistent.

    Jeff Brockes of Brockes Bodyworks, a certified exercise and holistic lifestyle coach, says it’s not enough to go out and buy foods marketed as ‘diet’ food. “Make sure you can pronounce every ingredient; it shouldn’t look like a science experiment. That cuts out a lot of problem foods. We want whole, quality foods: healthy, organic vegetables and fruits.” Berries have high nutrient density, which is beneficial, he says. He also recommends limiting potatoes. “I give the kids I work with potatoes if they need to gain weight for sports.”

    It’s easier to maintain willpower if you add in positive foods, rather than focusing on cutting out specific things, Brockes says. “I add in a piece of fruit in the morning; it makes them want the other stuff less. Adding in healthy foods supports their willpower and motivation. It puts the power in their hands instead of me telling them what they can’t have.” 

    D’Angelo says planning meals ahead of time often helps people stick to their goals. “If you have to give thought to it in the moment, that often leads to making the wrong decision because you’re likely to be hungry and not have access to the foods you should be eating. I’ve worked with more than 60 folks who have lost more than 100 pounds each, and they were able to do it in large part because they planned ahead what they were going to eat and how much.” He adds that choosing foods that are easily accessible is essential to success.

    “Eighty percent of it is psychological,” D’Angelo says. “If you go to the bookstore, there are aisles full of weight loss and fitness books—all the information is out there. There’s really nothing new. What is new is you need to come up with a plan that you can stay consistent with, and accountability to someone who’s not going to be your friend or take your money and sell you a line that if you screw up it’s no big deal. You need someone who is invested in getting you where you want to be.”

    When trying to lose a significant amount of weight, it’s often the first 10 and last 10 pounds that are the most difficult, Jaudes says. “The last 10 is a problem because people will try and sabotage your goal indirectly,” he says. “It’s not that they don’t want you to succeed, but they’ll tell you, It’s Joan’s birthday and we brought in cupcakes, and people just succumb to that. They think, I’ve worked hard and I’ve earned it. I deserve it. It’s not that you can’t ever have fun, but you have to understand why you’re doing this—you need a very specific goal and reason why you need to meet it. You have to know, If my goal is X and I’m not there yet, then obviously I can’t let up.”  LN