You may have heard some strange ways to lose weight, like eating “weight loss cookies” or drinking celery juice every day. Be cautious of such ideas, especially if they come from non-experts. But if you’re in the right mental space and want to lose weight as a personal goal, there are some reliable and expert-approved tips available.
One way to improve your diet is by eating less processed foods. A study looked at data from over 15,000 people and found that those who ate fewer processed foods had a lower risk of obesity, while those who ate more processed foods were at a higher risk.
Plant-based diets have also been studied for their weight loss benefits. In one study involving over 200 people, a low-fat plant-based diet led to significant weight loss compared to a control group.
Having strong social support can also help with weight loss. Whether it’s from loved ones, a coach, an app, or an online community, support can boost your motivation. Research has shown that participating in online support groups can be helpful, and it’s linked to better adherence to weight loss behaviors.
Your mindset is important when trying to lose weight. Successful weight loss maintainers see setbacks as temporary pauses, not failures, according to research.
Here are a few more tips from experts, backed by research, to help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
15 Tips for Losing Weight That Really Work
1. Get Enough Sleep
When you don’t get enough sleep, your body’s satisfaction hormone, leptin, decreases, and your hunger hormone, ghrelin, increases. This can lead to weight gain because you end up having stronger cravings for salty and sweet foods. Why does this happen? Well, when you’re really hungry, your body tends to crave foods that provide more energy or calories.
Lack of sleep also messes with our thinking and emotions, making it harder to make smart choices about many things, including food. So, it’s safe to say that our bodies work better when we’re well-rested.
This means we’d eat until we’re full and only when we’re truly hungry. And by giving our bodies the rest they need, our hormones can stay more balanced.
— Angela Lemond, a Texas-based private practice registered dietitian-nutritionist
2. Stay Hydrated
Research shows that people who had two glasses of water before their meals not only lost more weight but also managed to keep it off. This simple trick has a dual advantage. First, sometimes we mistake thirst for hunger, and drinking water before eating can help quench that thirst, preventing overeating. Second, water can make you feel fuller, leading to eating less during your meals.
— Megan Casper, RDN, a nutritionist who also serves as the company’s CEO and founder.
3. Limit High-Glycemic Carbohydrate Foods
The glycemic index (GI) of a food tells us how quickly our blood sugar levels rise after eating it. Foods like white potatoes and refined bread have a high GI, causing a quick spike in blood sugar followed by a rapid drop, especially when eaten on their own. This can leave you feeling hungry and craving more food. While more long-term research is needed, short-term studies suggest a connection between high-GI foods and increased appetite.
However, it’s important to note that high-GI foods are not off-limits entirely. When you work with a licensed dietitian-nutritionist, they can provide personalized strategies to help you balance your diet and minimize blood sugar spikes, which can help reduce your appetite.
Sue-Ellen Anderson Haynes, RDN, CDCES, a certified personal trainer and national media spokesperson of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics who is based in Boston
4. Get Into Meal Planning
One of my top tips for eating well and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is meal planning. I’m so passionate about it that I even wrote a book on the subject! Spending just 5 to 10 minutes planning your meals for the upcoming week over the weekend can save you time, money, and extra calories. No need to stress about tonight’s dinner menu – it’s already in your meal plan.
Meal planning not only keeps you organized but also helps you know what groceries to buy and what you already have on hand. And remember, it’s perfectly fine to take a break from cooking one night and either order takeout or prepare a freezer meal as part of your plan. Knowing this in advance prevents impulsive decisions when hunger strikes. Don’t forget to write down your plan because having it in front of you serves as a helpful reminder to stick to it.
— Westchester County, New York-based culinary nutritionist and communications dietitian Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN
5. Don’t Skip Meals
Keep in mind that our body’s primary goal is to stay alive. When we deprive our bodies of the calories they need for vital energy, they’ll take action to ensure survival. Our bodies recognize the meals with higher energy density, and we naturally crave them more. It’s important to respect your hunger and avoid making your body think it’s starving. This approach may differ from many diet strategies, but those strategies often don’t provide long-term benefits. In general, I recommend eating every four hours.
6. Enjoy the Food You Eat
We often receive guidance on what foods to consume, and when we don’t find those recommended foods enjoyable, it can be challenging to develop long-lasting healthy habits. Give fresh produce a try. Explore new cooking methods to prepare tasty and varied dishes. Experiment with herbs and spices to boost flavor. Alternatively, savor the richness of steamed fresh vegetables and the natural sweetness of fruits. Your connection with food can be a delightful one, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be.
7. Eat Slowly
“I guide my clients in choosing foods they genuinely like, savoring each bite mindfully before taking the next one, and chewing slowly. I advise them to chew their food thoroughly before swallowing and to continue this process. Recognizing when we’re satisfied requires patience. Eating at a leisurely pace enhances our sense of fullness and lets us fully relish our meals.”
— Janet Zinn, a psychotherapist and certified clinical social worker with a private practice in New York City.
8. Cut Calories, Not Flavor
“According to the author, opting for sharp cheddar instead of mild cheddar allows you to use less cheese while still enjoying plenty of flavor, all without feeling like you’re on a diet.”
9. Think Big — Not Small
“When aiming to shed pounds, focus on the key aspects that will yield the most significant results, often referred to as the ‘fundamental pillars’ of weight loss. Prioritize these pillars and let go of minor details that can lead to overwhelm. When planning your diet, pay attention to calories, protein, and fiber. In terms of exercise, prioritize strength training, daily physical activity, and recovery.”
10. Give Your Breakfast a Protein Boost
“For your morning meal, target 15 to 25 grams of protein. Protein’s slow digestion and appetite-suppressing effect make you feel satisfied, curbing hunger. A high-protein breakfast can also help stave off cravings later in the day. Combining protein sources with fiber and healthy fats, such as two eggs with whole-wheat toast and avocado or high-protein frozen waffles topped with almonds, berries, and a touch of maple syrup, can support weight loss and maintenance.”
11. Don’t Forget the Weights
“Make sure to engage in weightlifting sessions two to three times a week. Using moderate to heavy weights for three or four sets of 10 to 15 repetitions, using weights that challenge you, can help increase your muscle mass. As your body mass grows, the chances of the food you consume being utilized as energy rather than stored as fat also rise.”
12. Keep a Daily Gratitude Journal
“Sometimes, our eating habits are connected to our emotions, whether we realize it or not. Stress, for example, can lead us to seek comfort in food. I recommend to my clients who are looking to lose weight that they keep a daily gratitude journal or simply a journal to jot down their thoughts when they feel overwhelmed. This can help them manage stress more effectively by acknowledging it and using alternative coping strategies instead of resorting to food.”
— Lauren Manganiello, RD, CSSD, a private practice registered dietitian and board-certified sports nutritionist on Long Island, New York
13. Reorganize Your Plate
“Fill half of your plate with vegetables, one-quarter with whole grains, and the remaining quarter with lean protein. You’ll see a difference when you switch up the grains and vegetables on your plate. The only exception is that potatoes, corn, and peas, being starchy vegetables, should be considered part of the grains category.”
— Lainey Younkin, RD, a Boston-based nutritionist and consultant
14. Take Action in Your Current Situation
“Don’t feel like you need to overhaul your entire life overnight. First, assess your current situation, then set your sights on where you want to be in the future. If you’re someone who spends a lot of time sitting, a great starting point is to get a pedometer and measure your average daily steps. From there, set a step goal slightly higher than your average and work your way up to reaching 10,000 steps per day gradually.”
— Esther Avant, a San Diego-based online sports nutritionist with a focus on weight loss
15. Eat Breakfast Like a King, Lunch Like a Prince, and Dinner Like a Pauper
“While there are various interpretations of this saying, one common piece of advice is to consume more calories earlier in the day. In a study published in the journal Nutrients in November 2019, researchers found that individuals who had larger breakfasts and smaller dinners lost more weight compared to those who had smaller breakfasts and larger dinners. This suggests that eating smaller meals later in the day might be beneficial for weight management and overall health. Interestingly, the timing of dinner in this study was a key factor; eating the main meal (larger meal) after 3 p.m. seemed to make weight loss more challenging.
It’s important to note that this study doesn’t propose a universal 3 p.m. cutoff for eating. Individual needs, such as those of pregnant or nursing individuals, people with diabetes, or those on medication requiring specific food timing, may necessitate additional snacks and meals. In such cases, seeking guidance from a qualified dietitian nutritionist is essential.”