Tip the scales in your favor with these expert insights into long-term weight loss.
Anyone who’s struggled to lose weight for good knows it’s easier said than done. Interestingly, a 2022 survey conducted by OnePoll and commissioned by Nutrisystem revealed that more than 70% of Americans are more health-conscious following the COVID-19 pandemic. However, despite trying to live healthier lifestyles, 52% of the 2,000 U.S. adults surveyed reported putting on anywhere from nine to 20 pounds over the past two years, and most respondents cited weight loss as their number one health priority. Additionally, research shows that the average dieter typically gains back more than half the weight they shed within a two-year time span
So the biggest obstacle preventing people from achieving their weight loss goals is sustaining the healthy lifestyle habits required for weight loss. Fortunately, Eat This, Not That! recognizes how challenging it can be to keep weight off long-term. That’s why we spoke with health and nutrition experts to deliver 15 stellar tips for sustainable weight loss.
“Sustainable weight loss through a balanced, nutritious diet and regular physical activity is more likely to lead to long-term success and weight maintenance than fad diets or extreme weight loss methods,” states Trista Best, RD, a registered dietitian with Balance One Supplements.
Keep reading to find out what they are, then take a look at 6 Tips for Women To Lose Belly Fat & Keep It Off.
Have whole foods make up most of your diet.What you eat day to day makes a world of difference when it comes to shedding pounds and keeping the weight off for good. Sure, occasionally indulging in ice cream or a burger can still exist in a healthy diet—as long as you’re eating primarily whole foods daily. A 2020 study published in The American Journal of Lifestyle Medicines concluded that whole food plant-based diets are highly effective for long-term weight loss and reduce your risk of hypertension and type 2 diabetes. Aim to eat a balanced, nutritious diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains,” advises Best.
Don’t skip breakfast.”Eating breakfast every day sets your day right and can curb cravings later in the day,” Melissa Mitri, RD, a registered dietitian with Melissa Mitri Nutrition, tells us. “It’s also an opportunity to fuel your workouts if you are a morning workout person, leading to a more effective workout and better performance.”
Science supports Mitri’s claim. A 2021 study published in Nutrients found that skipping meals was associated with being overweight and obesity, since it can slow your metabolism and result in overeating at your next meal.
Practice mindful eating.Mindful eating is an excellent technique for building healthy eating habits. Instead of adhering to restrictive diets, counting calories, or feeling guilty after a “slip-up,” mindful eating requires you to pay attention to hunger cues and feelings of fullness your body’s giving off. Ultimately, mindful eating can make mealtime more enjoyable and help prevent overeating, according to research.
“Practice mindful eating by paying attention to hunger cues and eating slowly,” suggests Best.
Weigh yourself weekly.It’s easy to fall into the weight loss trap of obsessing over the number on the scale. But weighing yourself every day has its drawbacks. For one, it doesn’t provide an accurate picture of your weight loss, according to the American Heart Association. Your weight can vary daily based on several factors, including the amount of physical activity you get, your hormones, and your fluid intake. Also, daily weigh-ins may discourage you from sticking with it if you don’t see the number dropping fast enough.
A healthier way to track your progress is by weighing yourself once a week. “Tracking your weight often keeps you accountable and aware of what’s happening. This keeps your results top of mind and mindful of your habits that lead to successful weight loss,” Mitri explains.
Stay on top of your hydration.The next time a craving has you salivating for your favorite comfort food, try downing a glass of water first and see if that helps your hunger dissipate. According to a 2016 study, staying hydrated can lead to weight loss by helping decrease the amount you eat and increasing lipolysis (fat-burning). Also, drinking more water can subdue hunger, speed up your metabolism, and help you burn calories more efficiently, per Johns Hopkins University.”Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and reduce calorie intake,” recommends Best.
Exercise regularly.”Exercise may be the most beneficial for weight loss maintenance,” Mitri states. “And after you reach your goal weight, regular exercise becomes even more important. Besides burning calories, exercise improves your mental health, makes you feel more confident, and can motivate you to eat better.”
It’s no secret that regular exercise is a fundamental component of sustainable weight loss. That’s because physical activity bumps up the calories your body torches for energy. When combined with a slight calorie deficit, regular exercise is an ultra-effective tool for achieving weight loss goals, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Prioritize sleep. According to Sleep Foundation, there’s a strong connection between sleep and weight loss. For example, getting the minimum recommended seven hours of sleep each night can help regulate your appetite, curb cravings, and improve exercise performance.”Getting enough quality sleep each night will support weight loss and overall health,” says Best. Stay clear of processed foods. Processed foods are the yin to whole foods’ yang. While plant-based whole foods benefit weight loss, processed foods are the polar opposite.
In one study, researchers fed half the participants ultra-processed foods such as chicken nuggets, canned ravioli, pork sausage, tater tots, and hot dogs. The other half ate a less processed diet with salads, vegetables, grilled beef, and fish. They found that those eating a highly processed diet consumed more calories and packed on an average of two pounds compared to those eating less processed foods.
“Limit highly processed foods and focus on whole, minimally processed foods,” Best advises.
Practice portion control.If you were raised with the idea that you have to finish every last bite of food on your plate before the meal is done, join the club. However, while this old-school mentality prevents food waste, it’s not necessarily the best for slimming down your waistline. A much healthier approach to long-term weight loss is practicing portion control, according to 2014 research. Whether you simply serve yourself less or decide to use smaller plates, Best says, “Practice portion control by eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day.”
Add movement throughout your day.Instead of taking the elevator, escalator, train, or car, add as much movement as possible throughout your day. For example, consider biking to work, taking the stairs when possible, or even getting up from your desk every 30 minutes for a two-minute walk.
A 2022 study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that interrupting prolonged periods of sitting with just a couple minutes of exercise (e.g., walking, bodyweight squats) can boost muscle protein synthesis and support healthy weight loss.
“Incorporate regular physical activity into your routine, such as walking, jogging, or strength training,” recommends Best.
Make exercise enjoyable.If physical activity is a critical component of your weight loss plan, it must be exercise that you find fun and enjoyable. Otherwise, you’ll likely lose steam and not keep the weight off. So whether running, dancing, playing sports, or lifting weights, find an activity you love doing (or at least love how you feel afterward) to reap the sustainable weight loss benefits.
Track what you’re eating.You can’t improve what you don’t track. Losing weight is challenging enough as it is, so make it easier on yourself by monitoring your food intake. This practice involves keeping a daily log of what you eat and jotting down how you feel afterward. This can help you gain a better understanding of the way you eat and make changes as necessary, according to Harvard Health Publishing. For example, an older study from 2008 looked at almost 1,700 participants and found that those who tracked their daily food intake dropped double the weight as those who didn’t.
“Stay accountable by tracking your food intake and progress towards your weight loss goals,” says Best.
Build community.You’ve likely heard the famous quote by motivational speaker Jim Rohn that goes, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” This law of averages applies directly to your health and fitness. If you surround yourself with a community of like-minded people who support you on your weight loss journey, you’ll give yourself a huge leg up toward losing weight and keeping it off for good. “Surround yourself with a supportive community of friends, family, or a weight loss support group,” states Best.
14 Practice deep breathing exercises.You may ask yourself, “How can breathing help me lose weight?” According to research, deep breathing exercises can help your body relax, quell anxiety, boost mental health, and alleviate stress. Chronic stress can get in the way of your weight loss efforts by causing you to eat more and exercise less, more research shows.
“Manage stress [for weight loss] through stress-reducing techniques like meditation or deep breathing,” says Best.
Celebrate your successes.You’ve put in the hard work, changed your diet, started exercising more, and reached your weight loss goal—congrats! Now all that’s left is to celebrate your accomplishment.
“Set realistic, achievable goals and celebrate your progress along the way,” suggests Best. So instead of worrying about regaining back the weight you lost, celebrate by rewarding yourself with a dinner out or a favorite homemade meal. As long as you stay on track with eating primarily whole foods, exercising regularly, prioritizing sleep, staying hydrated, and managing stress, you’ll be able to keep that weight off once and for all.