Tips for Weight Loss That Actually Work

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From savoring your food to prioritizing protein, check out this practical advice for losing weight, courtesy of registered dietitian nutritionists.

Over the years, you’ve probably heard your fair share of wacky weight loss advice, whether it’s to drink celery juice every day or replace your meals with weight loss “cookies.” And often those tips are promoted by people without any health expertise.

But just as there’s a ton of misguided weight loss advice out there to be avoided, there are also a lot of legitimate, research-backed, and expert-approved suggestions for people who are in the right mental health space and have weight loss as a personal goal.

One such tip is to pick a time to exercise — and stick to it. A study published in July 2019 in the journal Obesity found that exercising consistently at a certain time each day may help you successfully maintain weight loss.

More good advice is to choose nuts over heavily processed snacks. An article published in December 2019 in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health found that cutting back on processed foods and upping how many nuts you eat by half a serving (for example, from half an ounce to 1 ounce) each day is linked with less weight gain and lower odds of obesity.

There’s also evidence that a weight loss counselor could help you trim your waistline. A study published in November 2019 in JAMA Internal Medicine found that for people with type 2 diabetes, pairing such counseling sessions (in this case, weight loss via low-carb dieting) with group medical visits helped them lose weight and take less medication compared with a group that did not undergo counseling. A win-win!

Your mindset can matter, too, when it comes to weight loss. Research published in February 2022 in the journal Obesity found that those who lost weight and maintained it embraced their setbacks, seeing them as temporary pauses in their plan, rather than as failures.

1. Eat Slowly
“I have my clients learn how to choose foods they like, really taste each morsel going into their mouths, and chew deliberately. I advise them to chew slowly, swallow only when the food is all chewed up, and repeat. It takes time to know we’re full. Eating slowly not only allows us to enjoy our food more but gives us better cues of satiety.”

2. Enjoy the Food You Eat
“So often we’re told what to eat, and then when we don’t like that specific food, we’re less apt to create long-term healthy habits. Try new fruits and vegetables. Find out how to prepare new dishes that provide variety and flavor. Add herbs and spices to elevate flavor. Or if you prefer, savor the sweetness of fruit and the depth of raw and steamed vegetables. There’s no reason that your relationship with food can’t be pleasurable.

3. Keep a Daily Gratitude Journal
“Our eating habits are sometimes connected to our emotions, whether we realize it or not. When we’re stressed, we may use food to help cope with the stress. I work with clients on keeping a daily journal of things they’re grateful for — or even just a journal to write in when stressed — so that they’re better prepared to cope with the stress by acknowledging it and utilizing other tools, rather than reaching for food as a coping mechanism.”

4. Batch Cook and Prep
“Every Sunday I batch cook enough chicken for the week. I cut off the fat, bake it with seasoning, measure 3.5 ounces, and put that much into a container with some mustard and frozen veggies, so I can grab one a day to bring to work. I also take the time to divvy up in individual containers ¼ cup of rolled oats, 1 tablespoon each of natural peanut butter and ground flax, and a pinch each of protein powder and cinnamon to sweeten. So when I’m a zombie in the morning, all I need to do is add water and microwave!”

5. Don’t Forget the Weights
“Make sure you are lifting weights two or three times a week. Using moderate to heavy weights — three or four sets of 10 to 15 reps with weights that challenge you — helps increase your muscle mass. When you have more muscle on your body, the food you eat is more likely to be utilized as fuel, rather than be stored as fat.”

6. Get Enough Z’s
“A lack of sleep increases your hunger hormone, ghrelin, and decreases your satisfaction hormone, leptin, which can contribute to weight gain. When we are sleep deprived, we crave more salty and sweet foods. Why? Because anytime you feel more intense hunger, your cravings for higher energy — aka higher calorie — foods intensify. We also know that the way we think and process our emotions is affected by inadequate sleep, so it’s easy to connect this with an impaired ability to make sound choices in many areas of life, including with food. If we flip the coin, we can safely assume that when we are well rested, we will make better choices. When it comes to eating, that would mean that we would eat when we are truly hungry and eat just until satisfied. Our hormones are also going to be better balanced because our bodies got the time needed to sleep, repair, and refresh.”

7. Don’t Skip Meals
“Remember, our body’s ultimate goal is to stay alive. As soon as we are being kept from calories, which are literally the life energy for our bodies, it will do things to survive. Our body knows what foods are higher in energy density, and we will crave those more. Honor your hunger and don’t allow your body to think it’s being starved. This goes against many of the dieting tactics, but those tactics truly don’t work well for people in the long term. I generally recommend eating every four hours.”

8. Stay Hydrated
“Research has found that people who drank two glasses of water before a meal lost more weight than people who didn’t drink water before meals — and they kept it off. This simple tip works in two ways. Thirst can mask itself as hunger, causing you to eat more. And water makes you feel fuller, causing you to eat less during a meal.”

9. Cut Calories, Not Flavor
“By choosing options such as sharp cheddar over mild cheddar, you can use less, but you’ll still get a lot of flavor without feeling like you’re on a diet.”

10. Weigh Yourself Once a Week
“Same day, same time, same amount of clothing. Remember that your weight isn’t a single number but a five-pound range. Work to move the range down, not the exact number.”

11. Reorganize Your Plate
“Make half your plate vegetables, a quarter of your plate whole grains, and a quarter of your plate lean protein. When you switch the portions of grains and vegetables on your plate, you’ll see a difference. The only caveat: Potatoes, corn, and peas are starchy vegetables, so they go in the grains category.”

12. Start Where You Are and Do What You Can
“Don’t feel like you need to overhaul your entire life starting immediately. Assess where you are currently and then figure out where you’d like to be in the future. A great starting point for mostly sedentary people is to get a step counter and see how much you walk on a normal day. Then set a step goal slightly higher than the norm and strive for that, working your way up slowly to a goal of 10,000 steps per day.”

13. Think Big — Not Small
“Focus on the weight loss ‘big rocks’ — there are a few areas that will give you the most bang for your buck when you’re trying to lose weight. Prioritizing those and letting go of all the minutiae that contribute to overwhelm will make reaching your goals feel easier and more sustainable. On the nutrition front, pay attention to calories, protein, and fiber. For exercise, prioritize strength training, daily steps, and recovery.”

14. Look Beyond the Scale
“While the scale isn’t useless, it also isn’t the only thing that matters. To help you gauge progress that might not be reflected on the scale, take regular photos and measurements, in addition to keeping a running list of non-scale victories. This will help keep the scale in perspective and show you all the positive changes you’re making to your health and overall lifestyle.”

15. Give Your Breakfast a Protein Boost
“Aim for 15 to 25 grams of protein at breakfast. Protein is digested slowly and suppresses hunger hormones, helping keep you full. Additionally, a high-protein breakfast helps curb cravings later in the day. Pair protein foods with fiber and healthy fats, like two eggs with whole-wheat toast and avocado or high-protein frozen waffles with nuts, berries, and a little maple syrup.”

“While the scale isn’t useless, it also isn’t the only thing that matters. To help you gauge progress that might not be reflected on the scale, take regular photos and measurements, in addition to keeping a running list of non-scale victories. This will help keep the scale in perspective and show you all the positive changes you’re making to your health and overall lifestyle.”

15. Give Your Breakfast a Protein Boost
“Aim for 15 to 25 grams of protein at breakfast. Protein is digested slowly and suppresses hunger hormones, helping keep you full. Additionally, a high-protein breakfast helps curb cravings later in the day. Pair protein foods with fiber and healthy fats, like two eggs with whole-wheat toast and avocado or high-protein frozen waffles with nuts, berries, and a little maple syrup.”

 

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