Here's expert advice for what really works when it comes to shedding unwanted pounds.
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. (Read: Proceed with caution.)
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.
One such tip: 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.
Other good advice: Choose nuts over heavily processed snacks. An article published in December 2019 in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health found that upping how many nuts you eat by half a serving (for example from ½ ounce to 1 ounce) each day is linked with less weight gain and lower odds of obesity.
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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 lower their blood sugar levels. A win-win! What doesn’t work? Endless dieting. Taking a two-week diet break may aid weight loss, according to a small study involving obese men. Researchers published the findings in August 2017 in the International Journal of Obesity.
Follow those sorts of tips, and you just might find yourself shedding pounds and feeling more energized and confident. What’s not to like about that?
And we know, losing weight may be daunting — but doing it is still worth it, especially when it comes to your health.
For example, weight loss may help lower your breast cancer risk. A large study published in December 2019 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that overweight women who shed pounds after turning 50 years old had lower odds of developing breast cancer than those whose weight stayed about the same.
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Also, losing weight has the potential to put type 2 diabetes into remission. A study published in September 2019 in Diabetic Medicine found that among people with type 2 diabetes, losing 10 percent or more of their body weight within the first five years of a diagnosis was associated with better odds of the disease going into remission. According to the American Heart Association, carrying extra weight can also up your odds of heart disease and stroke.
Discover these effective ways to shed pounds — whether you have a little or a lot to lose — straight from in-the-know experts.
“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 allows us to not only enjoy our food more, but gives us better cues of satiety.” — Janet Zinn, a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist in private practice in New York City
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“That’s my rule, and numerous studies have shown the effectiveness of food journaling for weight loss. One of my clients went out of town for one week. She stopped journaling and gained 13 pounds. I promise that keeping a food journal helps!” — Christine King, the founder and CEO of the health and wellness company YourBestFit in Boynton Beach, Florida
“That’s my mantra — and I started this after I broke my back and was paralyzed from the waist down. Do it in bed, while seated, standing, or walking. Just move. People have a misconception that five minutes doesn’t make a difference, but every minute makes a difference.” (And research published in January 2014 in the journal Progress in Cardiovascular Diseasesshowed that physical activity is critical when it comes to actually keeping lost weight off.) — King
“Our eating habits are usually connected to our emotions — whether we realize it or not. When we're stressed, we tend to reach for sweets. I tell clients that by keeping a daily journal of things you're grateful for, you’re better able to cope with the stress by acknowledging it rather than reaching for dessert.” — Lauren Manganiello, RD, a nutrition counselor and fitness coach in New York City
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“Every Sunday I batch cook enough chicken for the week. I cut off the fat, bake it with seasoning, measure 3.5 ounces (oz), 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 ¼ cup of rolled oats, 1 tablespoon (tbsp) natural peanut butter, 1 tbsp ground flax, and a pinch each of protein powder and cinnamon to sweeten in individual containers. So when I’m a zombie in the morning, all I need to do is add water and microwave!” — Kyra Williams, a personal trainer in Boston
“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.” — Angela Lemond, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist in private practice in Texas
“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.” — Lemond
“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.” — Megan Casper, RDN, a nutrition counselor and the founder and CEO of Nourished Bite
“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.” — Casper
“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.” — Lainey Younkin, RD, a nutrition counselor and consultant in Boston
“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.” — Younkin
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“Eat until you feel just 80 percent full. Pack any extra food away instead of feeling like you have to be part of the ‘clean plate club.’” — Helene Byrne, the founder of BeFit-Mom in Oakland, California
“There’s a strong relationship between sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain in adults. If you regularly have a sip of something sweet, consider this: Research has shown that reducing intake of sugar-sweetened beverages can result in meaningful weight loss, even if it's the only change you make. Replacing a 20-ounce soda with sparkling water every day would save more than 20,000 calories over a few months, which could translate into more than five pounds of weight loss!” — Brittany Markides, RDN, the founder of Choose Food in Austin, Texas
“The foods we eat away from home tend to be higher in calories and lower in nutrients than the ones we make at home. A study published in April 2016 in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dieteticsfound that the average restaurant entrée contains more than 1,000 calories, and an entire day’s worth of sodium and fat. To save calories, split your entrée or ask the server to substitute extra green veggies or a salad for potato or rice.” — Markides
“When in doubt, eat a vegetable. They’re low-calorie, high-fiber, and full of nutrition. Snack on kale, lettuce, carrots, or green beans. And finally: Skip the butter and oil, but do add herbs or garlic for a great taste.” — Jamie Logie, a personal trainer, nutritionist, health coach, and wellness blogger in London, Ontario
RELATED: 14 Healthy Salad Greens Ranked From Best to Worst
“Next time you make pasta, make a very small portion of the pasta itself and toss the dish with roasted broccoli, shrimp, garlic, and lemon zest. You’ll feel less deprived and you’ll be able to still eat your favorite satisfying foods.” — Kate Martino, a physician’s assistant and weight loss coach in private practice in Fair Lawn, New Jersey
“It’s pretty simple: If you don’t have it, you can’t eat it. Instead of chips and cookies, keep convenient and easy-to-prepare items at close reach. Such items include nuts and seeds, precut fruit and vegetables, string cheese, edamame, eggs, salmon, and yogurt. This doesn't mean you can't have treats. Just buy yourself one serving to enjoy at a time.” — Rachel Goodman, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist in private practice in Brooklyn, New York
“We eat with our eyes first and we like to see a full plate. Using smaller plates, bowls, and cups will reduce the amount of food you can serve yourself, while at the same time allow you to fill your dish up and keep you from feeling deprived. For example, an observational study showed that people who used a 9-inch plate versus a 10- or 12-inch plate ate up to 22 percent less!” — Goodman
RELATED: 10 Essential Facts About Metabolism and Weight Loss
“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.” — Esther Avant, an ACE-certified personal trainer in Kapolei, Hawaii
“When you need a salty fix, reach for popcorn, not chips. According to one study, those who munch on a cup of the air-popped treat are significantly more satisfied than their chip-loving friends. Popcorn is a whole grain, fiber-filled snack. A single serving of potato chips (for a typical 1-oz small bag) is a dense 149 calories, while the same amount of popcorn (air-popped) is only 108, meaning you can feel full and slim down with every delicious bite.” — Rene Ficek, RD, CDE, with Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating
“To combat the urge to overindulge in the evening, make sure to eat a protein- and fiber-filled breakfast in the morning. Healthy choices for protein include eggs, yogurt, and nuts or nut butters. Pair protein with a high-fiber food like a high-fiber cereal or fruit.” — Ficek
Additional reporting by Leslie Barrie.
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