According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, more than seventy percent of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese. (1)
Carrying too much weight in itself is hazardous to our health, contributing to illness and disease. It happens as the result of several factors, many of which are within our control. We’ve found some tips for losing weight that may help to painlessly shed excess weight.
Maintaining a proper weight is important for feeling your best and prolonging good health. Getting to your ideal weight is best achieved using a committed multi-faceted approach without stressing about it too much.
Losing weight is a simple matter of burning more energy than you consume. Changing what you eat plus increasing or maintaining activity levels work in tandem to make the pounds melt away.
Why Lose Weight?
Obesity is a contributing factor for life-threatening illnesses, such as:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Liver disease
- Neurological dysfunction
- Respiratory problems
Obesity also correlates to other conditions that affect your quality of life, like:
When faced with knowing we are overweight, the idea of dieting will cause even the most passionate to shiver. Following are some tricks for losing weight to make the task less daunting. Painless, even. A few simple changes can make a tremendous difference.
17 Steps to Losing Weight
Losing weight is a big lifestyle commitment, so the more you know, the better it’ll be. Read on to find out how to melt fat and feed your body what it needs.
1. Consider a Low-Carb Diet
Complex carbohydrates are broken down into simpler sugars that feed your cells. What isn’t used for energy is stored as fat.
To achieve and maintain weight loss, limiting carbohydrates reduces the amount of sugar that can be stored in your fat cells. Eating more proteins and healthy fats to replace excess carbohydrates are more filling and take longer to digest, which can help keep blood sugar stable and prevent you from over-eating. This is the easiest healthy, efficient, and sustainable way to start losing weight and keep it off.
In a study of resting energy expenditure, it was found eating that a low-carb diet speeds your resting metabolism. Therefore, you use energy more efficiently and evenly. (2) Weight control by changing what you eat rather than focusing on caloric intake is more effective than fretting about how many calories you ingested at lunch. Most people following a low-carb diet fill their plate with fresh produce instead of grains, bread, and pasta.
Here’s a breakdown of their guidelines (3):
- 40 grams of net carbs a day
- 6-8 servings of vegetables daily (totaling 15g net carbs)
- 3 servings of protein (4-6oz per serving)
- 3 servings of added fats (1 tbsp each)
- 3-5 servings of other carbohydrates (5 net carbs per serving/ totaling 25g of net carbs)
2. Go Keto
If you’re considering going low-carb try a ketogenic diet: the idea is to eat plenty of high-quality fats and protein instead of carbs. Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Russel Wilder developed the diet in 1924 (4). His golden ratio is 3 to 4 grams of fat for every 1 gram of carbohydrate and protein (5).
By reducing your carbohydrate intake, you’re essential starving your cells of glucose, their primary source of energy. Instead, your body breaks down stored fat and goes into ketosis. This improves weight loss, type 2 diabetes cancer, Alzheimer’s, and mental health.
Here’s the simplified version:
- Processed foods
- Processed fats
- Starch and grains
- Roots and starchy vegetables (potatoes, carrots,..) to one serving a day
- Fruits to one serving a day
- Dairy products
- Natural fats (hemp oil, olive oil, nuts, avocados…)
Stick to a diet of 65-75% fats, 20-30% protein, and 5% or less of carbohydrates (no more than 25g net carbs). While a ketogenic diet is safe for most people, pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as diabetics, should avoid the diet unless closely monitored by a medical professional.
3. Eat when Hungry
Hunger is the way your body tells you it needs nourishment. If you wait too long between meals, you may eat too fast, too much, and make unwise food choices. Snacking between meals is A-OK as long as it’s a healthy: unsalted nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, herbal tea, organic stovetop popcorn.
Eat slowly and eat enough: if you don’t feel satisfied after eating, you’re more likely to reach for something quick and less than optimal to top you off. Eat small amounts as many times as you feel hungry until you’re full. Also, remember to keep track of the time: eating within 2 hours of bed won’t help you lose weight.
Your body uses primarily carbohydrates and fats for fuel. If you’ve cut down on carbohydrates, you have to replace it with something to keep going.
Natural, healthy fats include:
- Grass-fed or organic butter
- Full-fat dairy
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Meats and fish
A low-carb Mediterranean diet is known to nourish the body while promoting general health. There’s no shying away from fats, as these are necessary for your brain health, digestion, and cell metabolism on every level. Fats were erroneously demonized a few decades ago and nutrition experts promoted low-fat diets. We now know that this is not only a detrimental approach to eating, it is opposite to healthy ways to lose weight.
4. Eat Real Food
Processed foods are full of sugar, salt, and chemicals. All of these contribute significantly to weight gain. One of the most important tips for weight loss we can offer is to stay away from them at all cost. Not only does real food taste better, it’s more satisfying in the long run because it’s more nutritious. We have to eat for the nutrition, not the convenience.
Diet foods and beverages are a no-no. If it says “diet” on the label, put it back. In order to attain the feel and taste of real food, diet foods replace natural nutrients with other ingredients., Also pay attention to the ingredients of foods labeled “low-carb”; a simple check of the ingredients will tell you they’re anything but that.
Starch (potato, corn, tapioca) is a carbohydrate. Grains are carbohydrates. Alcohols are carbohydrates. Sugar by any name is a carbohydrate. Food manufacturers are given a great deal of leeway in their labeling; they can be intentionally misleading.
Additionally, processed foods’ flavorings are formulated to be addictive so you’ll eat well past the hunger stage and want more later.
Eat as much of whatever healthy food you want whenever you’re hungry. Satisfaction in what you eat is key to avoiding the pitfalls of losing weight. Dole out a portion for yourself rather than taking a whole bag/box/bowl of something to keep from eating the whole thing if your hunger is gone before you hit the bottom.
Home-baked goodies are generally better for you than store-bought; even if made with almond flour, however, cookies, muffins, etc. still contain carbohydrates and their delicious flavor may induce unnecessary snacking or overeating.
5. Eat Only when Hungry
As important as it is to eat when you’re hungry, here’s a quick weight-loss tip: don’t eat when you’re not hungry—your body doesn’t need it.
Your brain may pay attention to the clock on the wall but your body doesn’t.
Sometimes we don’t feel hungry at meal time but we sit and eat anyway because everyone else is. Other times we feel a craving for something but aren’t really hungry or we might keep eating even after we feel full. Making a conscious decision on how to manage these situations is a critical weight loss trick.
If your family is sitting down to dinner but you’re not hungry yet, drink a cup of herbal tea at the table to benefit from the togetherness and interaction and wait for hunger to arise. It’s hard to not eat when someone else is; if you have something to sip on while others eat and your hands are occupied, you’ll get the aroma of food and the tea you’re drinking while hydrating and deriving the benefits of the herbs. A small snack later when you are hungry is better than forcing yourself to eat a full meal when you’re not.
Eat slowly so that when your stomach is full, you know it. Stop eating before you feel stuffed.
6. Measure your Progress Wisely
Calorie counting isn’t especially helpful. Neither is stepping on a scale every day. Muscle weighs more than fat so body weight isn’t necessarily the only metric to monitor fat loss. Similarly, the body mass index can serve as a guide but is not an effective way to measure the success of your diet changes. You’ll know you’re losing weight by how you feel and how your clothes fit.
A good way to measure weight loss is to keep track of your waist circumference. Both women and men tend to store excess weight around the middle.
Here’s how to do it:
- Put a measuring tape around your waist, slightly above your belly button (to be exact: at the midpoint between your lowest rib and the top of your hip bone, at your side).
- Exhale and relax (don’t suck in your stomach).
- Make sure the measuring tape is horizontal and fits snugly, without compressing your skin.
- Compare your result to these recommendations from the CDC: men should have a waist circumference of no more than 40 inches. On the other hand, a non-pregnant woman should have a waist circumference of no more than 35 inches (6).
If you don’t have a measuring tape, you can use any string and cut it to fit around your middle before making any dietary changes. Use this string to measure the circumference against your starting point as time goes along. Note your waist circumference and measure again once a week before meals and see how well you’re doing!
Alternatively, other health factors will reflect your progress:
- Blood pressure – high blood pressure is often associated with carrying too much weight. A decrease in pressure means things are clearing up around your circulatory system.
- Blood sugar – high blood sugar often results from eating unhealthy foods and indicates the body’s efficiency in the metabolism of food. If your glucose is high, cutting carbs should lower it pretty quickly. Occasionally checking levels will tell you if the reduction in carbs is translating to better sugar metabolism.
- Cholesterol profile – high LDL (low-density lipoprotein) along with low HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels correlates with too much body fat and risk for cardiovascular and other diseases. Ideally, you want a better balance between the two. The optimal range for LDL is 65-80; for total cholesterol, it’s 125-165.
7. Be Persistent and Patient
You didn’t gain weight overnight and you can’t lose it that way. Sage advice for how to lose weight and keep it off: be reasonable in your expectations. As a guide:
As a guide:
- It’s common to lose 2-6 pounds (1-3 kg) within the first week on a strict low-carb diet, then (on average) about one pound (0.5 kg) per week as long as you have a lot of weight remaining to lose. This translates into about 50 pounds (23 kilos) per year.
- Every 5 pounds of fat loss roughly equals 1 inch lost around the waist (1 kilo = 1 cm).
Some demographics have a tendency to lose weight faster than others. Children and young men will lose weight faster than post-menopausal women, for example. Noticeable progress is more important than the numbers. You may start out losing weight faster and level off until your body feels it’s reached a comfortable weight. Increased physical activity will burn more fat faster. Don’t be discouraged at the inevitable weight loss plateaus you’ll hit along the way: it’s your body’s way of re-adjusting to changes in metabolism.
Maintaining a healthy weight requires permanent eating changes. If you lose weight and then go back to old eating habits, you’ll gain it back. Starting your weight loss journey is difficult but maintenance will be challenging too.
8. Don’t Overdo the Fruit
Here’s a specific weight loss tip for women: limit the amount of fresh fruit you eat. It may seem counter-intuitive because fruit is so exceptionally nutritious. The downside of fruit is that it contains a lot of natural sugar. Limiting sugar (even naturally-occurring) is important for losing weight. It’s not a black-and-white issue, however. The natural sweetness of fruit can help curb cravings for refined sugar. Moderation is the more common sense approach. For initial weight loss, replace a couple of your daily servings of fruit with lower-sugar vegetables to get your vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Once you’ve reached your weight goal, feel free to add back another piece or two of fruit to your regular daily diet.
9. Avoid Beer
Beer includes all 3 categories of carbohydrates: sugar, fiber, and starch. While there is some nutritional value to the drink, beer should be avoided to achieve weight loss. If you would like to indulge in alcohol, your best bet is distilled spirits: vodka, gin, whiskey, rum, and tequila contain zero sugar per ounce. Dry wine (red or white) has less sugar than sweet wine and is a better alcohol option if drunk in small amounts.
Beer contains 10-20+ grams of carbohydrates per 12-ounce glass. Dry red wine contains about 2 grams of carbs in a 6-ounce glass and dry white wine about 1 gram. Wine and spirits, however, have higher alcohol contents than beer. As far as calories per gram go, beer has fewer. All-in-all, wine is a better choice on a low-carb diet. (7)
10. Avoid Artificial Sweeteners
This tip is wise even if you’re not trying to lose weight. Artificial sweeteners are marketed as better alternatives to sugar, especially for weight loss. That couldn;t be further from the truth. Even if a sweetener contains no calories, the chemicals in it are not only detrimental, they can cause weight gain.
Natural sugars satisfy neurological signaling but artificial sweeteners do not, prolonging sugar cravings. (8) Additionally, artificial sweeteners can stimulate insulin production as the body anticipates having to break down sugars signaled by the taste center in the brain. Worse yet, increased insulin production over time can lead to diabetes.
Sugar addiction is a very real problem and is a major contributing factor to the global obesity epidemic. You can wean yourself from the craving for sugar with these tips. Cutting out added sweeteners of all kinds is a tip on losing weight with which all health experts can agree.
11. Eat Fermented Foods
Probiotics are healthy bacteria and yeasts that are essential to digestive health, among other things, they help move food along your gut and help fight off pathogens (8).
Probiotics also benefit:
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Infectious diarrhea (caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites)
- Antibiotic-related diarrhea
- Skin conditions, like eczema
- Urinary and vaginal health
- Preventing allergies and colds
- Oral health
- Mental health
Probiotics occur naturally in fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and more. “Probiotics can impact just about everything in the body,” says Meagan McCusker, a dermatologist at the University of Connecticut. “They really can’t and shouldn’t be overlooked when it comes to overall health maintenance.” (9)
Probiotics produce several important nutrients, including vitamin K and certain B-vitamins and help break down fiber. This improves digestion and helps control body weight. In fact, healthy individuals have different gut bacteria thna overweight and obese people (10, 11, 12).
12. Stress Less, Sleep More
Constant stress increases the amount of cortisol that the body produces. This stress hormone can stimulate hunger leading to weight gain and slows the metabolism, telling the body to hold on to the weight that’s there. Managing stress in productive ways will help keep hormones in balance and allow you to more easily lose weight.
Sleep deprivation also stimulates cortisol and contributes to feelings of stress. These two life conditions feed upon each other and make it difficult to lose weight.
Below are 6 tips for getting enough sleep and, consequently, tips for weight loss:
- Stick to the same bedtime every evening. In the long run, this will help your body prepare for sleep at that time.
- No coffee after 2 p.m. Just don’t–and remember that it takes time for caffeine to leave your body.
- Limit your alcohol intake to no less than three hours before bedtime. While booze might make you woozy, it worsens sleep quality.
- Limit exercise in the four hours before bedtime. Physical activity can make you wound up and make it difficult to go to sleep for several hours afterward.
- Get 15 minutes of sunlight every day. This is good for your circadian rhythm (your “body clock”).
- Finally, make sure that your bedroom is dark enough and stays on the cool side.
13. Eat Less Dairy and Limit Nuts
A diet for weight loss should restrict dairy, which contains lactose (milk sugar). In addition, the protein in animal milk is difficult for humans to digest. Whey protein also stimulates insulin production, which increases sugar absorption in cells, promoting weight gain. (13) Fermented dairy like kefir or cultured dairy like plain yogurt contain probiotics that aid digestion (essential for weight loss) but other than that, cut down the dairy.
Nuts are a great source of protein and healthy fats. Some also contain lots of carbohydrates. “Net Carb” is a number of carbohydrates in each type of nut or seed, excluding fiber (fiber isn’t digested and absorbed by the body). Select your nuts carefully to avoid too many carbs.
|Nuts and Seeds, dry roasted without salt, 1-ounce||Calories||Carb grams||Fiber grams||Net Carb||Protein grams|
|Coconut, dried and unsweetened||185||6.6||4.6||2||2|
|Peanuts (actually a legume)||166||6.1||2.3||3.8||6.7|
|Sacha Inchi Seeds (Inca peanut)||190||2.8||.6||2.2||9.4|
14. Look into Vitamins and Minerals
One of the main mistakes people make when losing weight is not eating enough fresh produce. By skipping out on the nutrient-rich foods, you’re very likely to experience a nutrient deficiency.
Make sure to make wise food choice with plenty of quality calories and nutrient-rich foods during your weight loss efforts and consult a naturopath and dietician to get some extra support. If needed, supplement your diet with quality supplements.
Vitamin D is particularly important since most North Americans are deficient in the important vitamin. Multiples studies have determined the importance of vitamin D in weight loss support in women and men alike (14,15).
15. Practice Intermittent Fasting
If you think about it, ancient humans didn’t eat regular meals, they never really knew when their next meal would come. In fact, many people still live with food insecurity around the world.
For the privileged few who never have to worry about their next meal, limiting your meal window can meal support weight loss. Intermittent fasting isn’t a complicated diet my any means. While you should avoid processed foods anyways, there are no rules to what you can and can’t eat.
A 2007 review by University of California, Berkeley, concluded that fasting every second day (16):
- Decreases cardiovascular disease risk
- Decreases cancer risk
- Lowers diabetes risk
- Improves cognitive function
- Protects against some effects of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases
Since only eating only every other day doesn’t work for most people living a modern schedule, there is another way to benefit from intermittent fasting: the 16/8 method. The concept is simple: fast for 14-16 hours and limit your eating period between 8-10 hours a day. For example, you can limit your eating period between 10-6pm or 9-7pm, depending on your work schedule.
Children, pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, diabetics and people with digestive disorders or serious illnesses should avoid intermittent fasting and consult their healthcare professional.
Exercise is key to healthy weight loss and weight management down the line. Not only does exercise burn stored fat, it also ensures that you’re spending more energy than you’re taking in through your diet.
Exercise also improves the medical factors that contribute to weight gain, such as stress, poor sleep, and hormone imbalance. While making healthy choices like going on walks and taking the stairs is a step in the right direction, significant weight loss requires regular cardio and weight training: the more muscle mass you accumulate, the greater the number of calories your body burns during rest since your muscles need energy for proper maintenance and recovery after exercise (17).
17. Check your Hormones
Hormonal issues can be the underlying cause of excessive weight gain, particularly if you have a thyroid problem.
In fact, weight gain is a key symptom of hypothyroidism, a condition that occurs when your thyroid can’t produce enough thyroid hormones to keep up your proper metabolism (18).
Other symptoms include:
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Dry skin
- Puffy face
- Muscle weakness
- Elevated blood cholesterol level
- Muscle aches, tenderness, and stiffness
- Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
- Heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods
- Thinning hair
- Slowed heart rate
- Impaired memory
Hypothyroidism can be remedied through proper diet (including adequate levels of iodine), exercise, and lower stress levels.
Sex hormone imbalance, caused by menopause, andropause (in men) and polycystic ovary syndrome all lower muscle density and lead to weight gain. Excess stress hormones also lead to weight gain by increasing your appetite and lowering sleep quality. As with thyroid hormones, sex and stress hormones (19,20,21)
“Diet” isn’t a nasty word, it simply means “what you eat”. The negative connotation associated with the word makes us feel bad. It’s more helpful and supportive to think of changing food choices rather than “dieting”. Losing weight isn’t only about lifestyle choices, it’s about your perception and attitude. Taking charge of your health is the ultimate goal, isn’t it?