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8 Weeks to a Slimmer You

Whether you're just trying to shed 5 pounds, are frustrated by the last 10 or need to drop 15 fast, we've got a customizable meal and exercise plans to get you there.

By Leslie Goldman

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Cameron Sadeghpour
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We've partnered with fitness guru Ellen Barrett and nutrition authority Lisa Young, R.D., to offer you three customizable eight-week programs that will help you lose weight, get in shape, and look sensational.

Eating Plans

Fuel your workouts with these satisfying, nutrient-packed dishes developed by Lisa Young, R.D., author of The Portion Teller Plan and adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University. "Each meal includes a healthy dose of hunger-dampening protein and fat to keep you satisfied and prevent overeating," Young reveals. The sample plan listed contains 1,200 calories and is designed for a 15-pound weight loss. Looking to lose less weight? You get to eat even more! Make our suggested tweaks for a more tailored approach. To drop 10 pounds, you'll aim for 1,500 calories a day. Shave off 5 pounds by aiming for 1,800 daily.

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Sample Meal Plans to Lose 15 Pounds

Breakfast: Fruit and Yogurt Parfait

Layer 6 ounces fat-free Greek yogurt with 1/2 cup blueberries, 1/2 cup high-fiber cereal (try Fiber One or Kashi Heart to Heart) and 1 teaspoon honey. Coffee with skim milk. 270 calories, 60g carbs, 21g protein, 1g fat

10-pound plan: Add an extra 1/2 cup blueberries. 310 calories, 71g carbs, 21.5g protein, 1.5g fat

5-pound plan: Add an extra 1/2 cup blueberries and 1 tablespoon crushed walnuts. 360 calories, 72g carbs, 23g protein, 6g fat

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Meal Plan to Lose 15 Pounds

Lunch: Turkey Pita Pocket

Stack 3 ounces turkey in a whole wheat pita with 1 cup mixed salad (lettuce, celery, cucumber, tomato), 2 tablespoons hummus and an optional 1 teaspoon low-fat mayo. Add mustard to taste. 240 calories, 27g carbs, 26g protein, 4g fat

10-pound plan: Add 1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable soup (try Amy's or Tabatchnick). 320 calories, 42g carbs, 28g protein, 5g fat

5-pound plan: Add 1/4 cup sliced avocado to pita and 1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable soup. 380 calories, 45g carbs, 29g protein, 10.5g fat

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Meal Plan to Lose 15 Pounds

Midafternoon Snack: Cheese Plate

1 stick part-skim string cheese and 1 medium apple. 145 calories, 25g carbs, 6.5g protein, 3g fat

10-pound plan: Add 1 rice cake spread with 1 teaspoon peanut butter. 211 calories, 34g carbs, 8g protein, 5.5g fat

5-pound plan: Add 1 rice cake spread with 1 tablespoon peanut butter. 274 calories, 36g carbs, 11g protein, 11g fat

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Meal Plan to Lose 15 Pounds

Dinner: Salmon with Veggies

—2 cups mixed green salad (romaine lettuce, cucumber, celery, red pepper, carrot, tomato) with 1 tablespoon balsamic vinaigrette

—3 ounces grilled salmon basted with 1 tablespoon teriyaki sauce and 1 teaspoon olive oil served with 1/2 cup quinoa plus 1 cup broccoli and cauliflower drizzled with 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil. 425 calories, 38g carbs, 30g protein, 18g fat

10-pound plan: Increase salmon to 4 ounces. 480 calories, 37g carbs, 37g protein, 20g fat

5-pound plan: Increase salmon to 4 ounces and quinoa to 3/4 cup; use 1 to 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil. 571 calories, 47g carbs, 39g protein, 23g fat

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Meal Plan to Lose 15 Pounds

Snack/Dessert: Fruity Fro-Yo or Pudding

Mix 3/4 cup low-fat frozen yogurt or 1 container fat-free pudding with 1/2 cup each strawberries and raspberries. 156 calories, 24g carbs, 3g protein, 1.5g fat

10-pound plan: Add 1 tablespoon slivered almonds and 1 cup air-popped popcorn on the side. 190 calories, 31.5g carbs, 5g protein, 5g fat

5-pound plan: Add 1 tablespoon slivered almonds and 3 cups popcorn. 221 calories, 43.5g carbs, 6g protein, 5.5g fat

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Exercise Plan: Lose 5 Pounds

To Drop 5 Pounds Try Our Quick Cardio Sculpt

"This routine ramps up your heart rate for an incredibly efficient two-for-one workout," explains Ellen Barrett, a Family Circle Health Advisory Board member, personal trainer and star of Grace + Gusto (DVD). "All these elements boost your heart rate and keep your muscles warm, which enhances the sculpting moves and prevents injuries."

Equipment Needed: Just yourself!

How Many Times Per Week: 5

Minutes Per Session: 25

Perform each of the following exercises for 1 minute with as short a pause as possible between moves. Repeat the entire sequence 4 more times for a total of 5 rounds.

Exercise 1

Wall Push-Up: Stand facing a wall, 2 to 4 feet away (the farther your feet are from wall, the more intense the move). Place palms on the wall, shoulder-width apart. Keeping your back flat and abs and butt tight, bend your arms until your face is 3 inches from the wall, then straighten. Repeat at a tempo you can maintain for the full minute.

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Exercise Plan: Quick Cardio Sculpt

Exercise 2

Plié to Knee Lift: Stand with feet wide apart, toes turned out. With your hands gently clasped behind your head, elbows out, sink into a plié. As you straighten back up, lift your left leg off the floor, bringing your knee toward your left armpit, crunching sideways to meet it. Drop your left leg back down, bend into another plié and repeat on the right, alternating sides.

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Exercise Plan: Quick Cardio Sculpt

Exercise 3

Jumping Jacks: Aim for at least 20, ideally 30—or go for even more!

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Exercise Plan: Quick Cardio Sculpt

Exercise 4

Seesaw Left Lift: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointed out, legs straight, hands at waist. Shift your weight onto your right foot and, without bending your right leg, extend your left leg out to the side as high as you can. Return to starting position and alternate sides.

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Exercise Plan: Quick Cardio Sculpt

Exercise 5

Triceps Dip: Sitting on the floor, knees bent, feet hip-width apart, place hands on the ground directly beneath shoulders, fingers pointing toward your body. Lift your hips up to assume a crab-walk position. Keeping hips elevated, bend and straighten your arms.

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Exercise Plan: Lose 10 Pounds

To Drop 10 Pounds Try Our Interval Training Workout

"Multiple bursts of high-intensity work, like explosive jumps and shoulder presses, will maintain an elevated heart rate while continually challenging your body, keeping your muscles on their toes," says Barrett. "Variety is critical to maintaining a stoked metabolism: When your body gets too familiar with a workout, it stops burning as many calories." Each combination pairs upper- and lower-body moves for a true full-body routine.

Equipment Needed: A pair of 3- to 5-pound hand weights

Try: Reebok 5-pound hand weights (Target stores, $9 each) or Weider 5-pound neoprene dumbbells ($6 each).

How Many Times Per Week: 4

Minutes Per Session: 27

Perform each single exercise for 1 minute and complete each combination twice (4 minutes per combo.) Then immediately do a 15-minute power walk.

Combo 1

Plyo Jump: Begin by standing with your feet together. Launch a big, powerful jump to the right, sticking the landing with soft knees, feet planted close together. Jump back to the left; stick and hold. Repeat for 1 minute.

Lateral Shoulder Press: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, weights in hands. Bring weights to shoulders, exhale and press overhead. Return to shoulders and repeat for 1 minute. Return to plyo jump.

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Exercise Plan: Interval Training Workout

Combo 2

Wall Sit: Stand with your back against a wall, feet a few feet away. Bend your knees and slide your back down the wall until your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Hold for 1 minute. (Can't last the full minute? Raise your tush a few inches above knee height.)

Side Fly: Stand with feet hip-width apart and legs bent very slightly. Hold weights in hands, palms facing in. Lift arms straight out to sides until nearly parallel with floor. Lower to starting position and repeat. Return to wall sit.

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Exercise Plan: Interval Training Workout

Combo 3

Front Kick: Stand with feet hip-width apart, hands on hips, and kick your right foot straight out so your leg is parallel to the floor. (Think Rockette, not karate.) Repeat with left leg, alternating for 1 minute.

Biceps Curl: Hold weights in hands, palms facing forward, elbows near waist. Raise the weights to your shoulders and back down for 1 minute. Return to front kick.

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Exercise Plan: Lose 15 Pounds

To Drop 15 Pounds Try Our Living Room Boot Camp

"You'll need to invest some time in slimming down, so why not turn your home into a gym?" suggests Barrett. "The payoff: You can work out any time—even when the weather's bad. And you don't need to buy any expensive equipment." These moves are so much fun, your kids will want to—and can—jump in.

Equipment Needed: Jump rope; a step or stair; You can pretend with an air jump rope or try one of these: Nike Speed Jump Rope (amazon.com, $14) or NordicTrack Adjustable Weight Jump Rope (sears.com, $15).

How Many Times Per Week: 6

Minutes Per Session: 30

Perform each exercise in the cardio step series for 1 minute, each power arm exercise for 1 minute, then jump rope for 7 minutes straight. Mix up your moves: Hop from right to left, skip, try a double hop. Repeat the entire routine. Avoid taking any breaks except for sips of water for a total body fat-burning workout.

Exercise 1

Cardio Step Series: (5 moves, 1 minute each)

1. Step up and down on a step or stair, leading with your right foot first, then your left foot.

2. V-step up and down on a step or stair. Lead with your right foot, planting it just past hip-width apart on the stair. Follow with left foot, past hip-width as well. Step back down with right foot, then left. Repeat, leading with left foot. Alternate.

3. Turn your right side toward the stair and step up and down.

4. Turn your left side toward the stair and step up and down.

5. Face the step and jump up with two feet together.

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Exercise Plan: Living Room Boot Camp

Exercise 2

Power Arm Series: (3 moves, 1 minute each; be sure to pace yourself!)

1. Wide Stance Push-Up: Kneel 2 to 3 feet in front of your step and place your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart on top of it. Bend your elbows until your nose is 6 inches from stair. Extend arms and repeat.

2. Triceps Dip: Flip around and perform triceps dip on the step or stair: Plant hands on stair directly under shoulders, fingers facing your body (they may curl around the stair). Walk your feet out until your knees are directly above ankles. Keeping your hips elevated, use your triceps to dip your body up and down.

3. Diamond Push-Up: Perform push-up as in move 1 above, but place hands close together so index fingers and thumbs touch, forming a diamond (your thumbs may curl over the step). Aim your nose toward the middle of the diamond.

Originally published in the May 2012 issue of Family Circle magazine.

All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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