People strive to lose weight for myriad reasons, and many fall into the fad diet trap promising real results, only to end up in a never-ending yo-yo cycle of gaining weight and losing weight .
While there are certainly ways to accelerate your weight loss efforts, it’s important to understand that shedding pounds too quickly can actually backfire.
Like so many parts of life, safe, successful and sustainable weight loss is more about the journey and less about a scale-based destination and rapidly approaching deadline. Read on for expert advice on the best ways to lose weight—and keep it off.
1. Implement Long-Term Lifestyle and Behavior Changes
When trying to lose weight, ban the word “diet”. Dieting can be unpleasant and make you hungry, so you constantly think about food, which is exactly what you don’t want when trying to lose weight. Instead, she recommends thinking of weight loss as a part of getting healthier and concentrating on taking care of your body first.
Weight loss is complicated and you don’t have total control over the number on the scale, but you do have control over what you eat, how much you move and other factors that impact weight, such as stress and sleep. Set SMART—specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-sensitive—goals and rewarding yourself when you hit them.
2. Focus on the First 5% to 10%
Instead of saying, “I need to lose 25 pounds,” and overwhelming yourself with what seems like an impossible goal, look toward the health benefits that can come from even modest weight loss.
Set smaller, achievable targets. Losing only 5% to 10% of your total body weight (TBW) can greatly improve your health and lower your risk for illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer.
3. Reduce Your Intake of Ultra-Processed Carbs and Sweets
A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reveals what you eat is most important for weight loss. The pounds will come off more quickly if you improve the quality of the foods you ingest.
One of the healthiest ways to shed weight is to reduce your intake of sugar and rapidly metabolized carbohydrate. In particular, you want to cut out or drastically curtail your intake of high-glycemic-load foods, such as sugary snacks, processed carbs and soft drinks. When you avoid or cut back on French fries, chips, crackers and the like, you’ll speed up your weight loss.
4. Eat More Plants
Research shows a plant-based diet not only promotes weight loss, but is also easier to stick to than a low-calorie diet. Plus, it’s nutrient dense and has numerous health benefits.
Produce supports weight loss because it’s rich in fiber and water, which are both calorie-free yet take up space in your stomach so you feel full. In fact, a Brazilian study found a direct correlation between increased fruit and vegetable consumption and enhanced weight loss.
Aiming to consume five daily servings of produce to start and working up to seven to nine servings a day. Start your day with a green smoothie, have a salad or cut up vegetables with your lunch and eat fruit for snacks and dessert. For supper, have more stir frys, incorporate veggies into your pasta dishes and stir them into soups.
5. Pump Up Your Protein
Increasing your protein consumption can help reduce appetite and help prevent the loss of muscle mass.
Eating around 25 to 30 grams of protein—two scoops of protein powder or 4 ounces of chicken breast—per meal can improve appetite control and manage your body weight. The best way to do it is to make sure you have one serving of high-quality protein per meal.
Women older than 50 also need significantly more protein (1 to 1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight daily) than men and younger women (who require .8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily). Women need more protein after 50, especially as they approach menopause, because decreases in the hormone estrogen result in a loss of skeletal muscle mass, strength and regenerative capacity.
6. Drink More Water
Research shows drinking more water is associated with weight loss independent of diet and exercise. Ample water intake can help increase satiety and combat sugar cravings. Water is also necessary for lipolysis, the body’s process of burning fat for energy.
Follow the eight by eight rule—8 ounces of water eight times throughout the day—for a minimum water intake recommendation. People are usually surprised once they add this rule into their own routine by how much this simple thing can curb cravings and leave you more satiated throughout the day.
Another water trick? Try drinking two cups of water before each meal. Studies have shown this simple move can increase weight loss as well.
7. Eat a Well-Rounded Breakfast
Breakfast skippers, listen up. If you’re trying to lose weight, skimping on morning fuel is not the way to go. In fact, studies consistently show skipping breakfast is associated with overweight and obesity.
Additionally, a study in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society found people who don’t eat breakfast tend to have poorer quality diets overall, and they skimp on nutrients, such as vitamin D, calcium and iron.
But not just any breakfast will do. To think more clearly, perform more efficiently and be in better moods, you want a well-rounded, blood-sugar-balanced first meal of the day with ample protein, healthy fats and what I call quality carbs like fresh berries.`
8. Stand Up and Move More
One of the easiest ways to shed weight is to up your non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT)—the energy expended for everything you do outside of eating, sleeping or exercising. Little changes like carrying your groceries instead of pushing a cart, parking farther away from the entrance to the mall, taking the stairs instead of the elevator or even tapping your toe can lead to hundreds of extra calories burned.
Or try to stand more than you sit. Studies show that simply replacing sitting with standing leads to a greater daily energy expenditure, which directly translates into more calories burned and ultimately pounds shed.
For example, if you weigh 160 pounds and alternate sitting and standing, you can burn approximately 35 additional calories an hour—an extra 280 calories a day, 1,400 calories a week and about 70,000 calories a year.
Set a timer on your phone, Fitbit or computer to remind you to get up and move around every hour. You’ll burn more calories and may lower your blood sugar and risk of heart disease.
9. Hit the Weights
Muscle burns more calories than fat. So how do you build more muscle? Strength training.
Adding resistance training to your weight loss plan is a smart idea not only because of the calories you’ll burn while working out, but also because of the “afterburn effect.”
Known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, EPOC reflects how long oxygen uptake remains elevated after exercise in order to help muscles recover. This elevation boosts metabolism both during and after strength training sessions.
And the more muscle you add to your frame, the higher your resting metabolic rate (RMR). Your RMR determines how many calories your body needs to function at rest. The greater your RMR, the more you can eat and not gain weight.
While cardiovascular exercise is often emphasized, strength training is key for dropping pounds and maintaining weight loss, especially after age 50 because muscle mass—which burns calories—declines at a rate of 1% to 2% per year. Strength training can slow down muscle mass decline.