Have you ever tried anything crazy to lose weight? If you have, you’re not alone. From the grapefruit diet of the 1970’s to the HCG diet where people took human growth hormone and ate an insanely low amount of calories, there is never a shortage of fad diets.
If you want to lose weight, you want it gone yesterday. I totally get it. And there are crazy diets out there that promise super rapid weight loss. And yes, some of them deliver. But research shows that they just don’t work long-term. And some of them can cause lasting damage in the form of reduced metabolism, nutritional deficiencies, and more.
Plus, these diets are not sustainable. Most of the fad diets involve dramatic calorie restriction or eating from a very select group of allowed foods. And while you may be able to keep it up for a few days, or even weeks, these approaches are not going to work long-term.
And most of these restrictive diets have the potential to do long-term damage to your metabolism. Your body is going to think you’re starving while you’re on your diet. So your metabolism is going to suffer. Then when you can’t stick with the restrictive diet, you will gain the weight back and then some — even if you just go back to eating the way you did pre-diet.
If you want to lose weight, your best bet is a slow, steady, and sustainable approach. It’s not as exciting and you have to be ready to play the long game. But reasonable dietary changes can make a difference in your weight over time. And there’s research that backs this up.
So let’s look at some of the best science-backed practices that can help you lose weight and increase your chances of keeping it off.
Carbohydrates have been demonized a bit in the last few years as the low-carb and keto diets have gained popularity.
But there’s nothing wrong with carbohydrates. In fact whole-food carbs can give your body a quick energy boost and provide valuable nutrients.
But you 100% DON’T need refined carbs. These are foods like sugars, starches, heavily refined grains like white flour, and most processed foods. These foods are digested quickly, leaving you hungry more often. And they can throw off your blood sugar balance.
Trading in refined carbs for whole food options like fruits, veggies, and whole grains will help you feel fuller, keep your hunger levels down, and even help balance your blood sugar.
You can consume hundreds of excess calories without even realizing it when you drink sugary drinks like soda, sweetened tea, and coffee drinks like flavored lattes.
These drinks taste good and go down fast. But they don’t satisfy your appetite. In fact, your brain registers liquid calories differently than food calories. So even though you may consume a meal’s worth of calories in that Venti Frappuccino, you won’t feel full.
Yes, I’m serious. Poor sleep is actually one of the biggest risk factors when it comes to weight gain.
Gaining — or losing — weight isn’t just about calories and exercise. Our bodies are more complex than that. How much you weigh depends on a variety of hormonal factors. And when you don’t get enough sleep, you can throw these off.
Studies show that not getting enough sleep can lower leptin (the hormone that suppresses appetite) and raises ghrelin (the hormone that stimulates appetite). There is also a correlation between short sleep duration and increased BMI. Studies show that people who are sleep-deprived are up to 55% more likely to develop obesity as compared to people who get adequate sleep.
In our hurry-up, hustle culture, many people eat on the go. How many times have you eaten while you’re driving or working, or even standing over the kitchen sink?
When we multitask while we eat, we’re likely to overeat simply because we’re not paying attention. I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of sitting down in front of the TV with a bag of chips or a bowl of popcorn only to find it has magically disappeared a few minutes later.
Mindful eating is the practice of paying attention while you eat. And it can be an enjoyable experience. When you eat mindfully, you allow yourself to fully relax and experience your meal — the sights, sounds, and tastes.
And when you’re paying attention to what you’re eating, you’re much more likely to stop when you’re full.
A whole-food-centered diet is one that’s based on eating foods that are minimally processed. So you choose a chicken thigh over chicken sausage. You eat fresh or frozen green beans instead of canned. You choose brown rice over Rice-a-Roni.
Whole foods tend to be lower in calories, higher in fiber, and full of vitamins and minerals. And whole-food meals can be simple and easy to prepare. Think grilled meat, fish, or chicken and some roasted veggies.
Eating a whole-food diet means you’re cutting back on processed foods. In other words, you’re eating fewer things that come in boxes and cans. And when you do eat packaged foods, take a look at the label. If you see a looooong list of ingredients, or ingredients that you don’t recognize, skip that food.
As I mentioned before, weight loss is about much more than calories. Another factor that can influence your body weight is your microbiome. Your microbiome is the bacterial population in your gut. And while you may not think of bacteria as being a good thing, a healthy microbiome is an important factor in many aspects of health, including your weight.
Studies show that obese and overweight people generally have different gut bacteria than people whose weight is within the “normal” range. Probiotics can help improve the diversity of your gut bacteria + they have the added benefit of improving digestive health!
While exercise won’t counteract a diet of drive-thru meals and junk food, healthy movement can make a difference in your weight loss efforts.
There are two types of exercise to focus on: cardio and strength training. Cardio like walking, hiking, cycling, or swimming can help you burn calories. Don’t get me wrong. You can’t take a 10 minute walk and expect it to burn off that whole bowl of ice cream. But burning calories through cardio can help your weight loss efforts. Plus, cardio exercise helps reduce the belly fat that can be a contributing factor to some diseases.
Resistance training like lifting weights can help you build muscle and prevent your metabolism from slowing down. Lifting weights regularly can prevent the loss in muscle mass that sometimes accompanies dieting.
The tips in this article aren’t glamorous. And they aren’t going to guarantee you lose those 30 pounds in time for that class reunion next month. But these tips point you in the right direction to make the healthy changes that can help you lose weight and improve your overall health.
If you make these changes and you don’t see a difference in your weight or how you feel, you may have some other things going on. Often when people have imbalances, food sensitivities, or lots of inflammation, their bodies stubbornly hold onto excess weight.
If this is happening to you, it might be time to work with a practitioner who can help you figure out what’s really going on. In my practice, I take a personalized approach to every client to make sure we are getting to the root cause of their issues.
If you’re ready to take charge of your health, feel your best, and shed some of those stubborn pounds, let’s chat!