Forget what you've read about fad diets in magazines. The answer to weight loss is not to drink cabbage water for six weeks, nor is it to run 12 miles a day. Instead, it's all about making small, sustainable, and healthy changes.
1. Count Calories Honestly
Research shows that there is often a discrepancy between the number of calories people say they're eating and the number of calories they're actually eating.
Remember, to lose weight, you must be in a caloric deficit. This means that you need to burn more calories than you consume.
Where To Start
Begin by calculating the number of calories you need to consume to lose weight at a reasonable rate. Most studies recommend losing no more than 1lb a week.
Then, make sure you are sticking to this number. If you need help determining your ideal calorie intake, try using our calorie calculator.
Tracking calories can be time-consuming, but it's the easiest way for you to make sure you're eating in a deficit and setting yourself up for weight loss success.
Try to be as accurate as possible when tracking your calories, too. This means using measuring cups and a food scale whenever you can.
Don't just guess at portion sizes, especially when you're first getting started.
2. Eat Whole Foods
It's easier to stay in a caloric deficit when you're eating whole, unprocessed foods. Not only are they rich in nutrients and naturally satiating, but you're less likely to overeat them.
Fast food and food that comes in a package is designed to be overeaten. It's loaded with sugar and other additives that make them nearly impossible to put down.
Whenever possible, opt for whole foods. This means fresh fruit, organic vegetables, unprocessed meat, and healthy fats like avocados and olive oil. Even if you don't track calories, you'll have a harder time overeating these kinds of foods and will likely have an easier time losing weight.
3. Change Up Your Workouts
If you've been doing the same workout for months or even years, consider switching up your routine.
Your body can easily adapt to your workout of choice and become more efficient with the calories it burns while you do it. Even if you lost weight running or doing step aerobics before, you might not be able to lose weight with them now.
If you're someone who tends to do a lot of cardio, consider changing your routine and lifting weights instead.
In fact, weightlifting in one of the best things you can do if you want to lose weight. This is because it helps you increase your muscle mass. This, in turn, helps increase your metabolism so that you'll burn more calories as you go about your day.
4. Get Plenty of Sleep and Reduce Your Stress
The combination of poor sleep and high stress levels sets you up for a rapidly expanding waistline. Both of these situations can lead to an increase in cortisol.
High cortisol levels, in turn, slow down your metabolism and increase the chances that your body will hold on to fat, especially in your abdominal area.
People who are sleep deprived or chronically stressed are also more likely to overeat -- especially calorie-dense foods that aren't good for weight loss.
5. Don't Drink Your Calories
Are you in the habit of consuming a cream-and-sugar-laden coffee each morning, followed by a soda or two while you're at work? Do you turn to alcohol in the evenings?
These high-calorie beverages can easily wreck havoc your weight loss progress. Look for low-calorie alternatives to your favorite beverages.
For example, add almond milk and stevia to your coffee or drink vodka with club soda and lime juice instead of your usual sugary cocktail.
If, on occasion, you do consume the real thing, be sure to also include it in your daily calorie count.
6. Reduce Carbohydrate Consumption
Calorie intake matters most when it comes to weight loss. But, the source of your calories can make a big difference when it comes to satiety and your chances of overeating.
If your diet is high in carbohydrates (especially the refined carbohydrates found in foods like white bread, pasta, and crackers), you may have a harder time staying full and will be more inclined to overeat.
Try increasing your consumption of vegetables, healthy fats, and protein and decreasing your consumption of carbohydrates. Fat and protein are much more satiating. Eating more of them can make dieting a lot easier.
7. Consider Eating More
Yes, we're serious.
It's true that eating at a calorie deficit is necessary for losing body fat. But, if you eat at a deficit for too long, your body adapts to that calorie intake and will stop burning fat. This is how plateaus happen.
One way to avoid weight loss plateaus (and maintain your sanity while dieting) is to undulate your calories. This means you should reward yourself with a treat every 7 to 14 days.
You can spoil yourself with a few slices of pizza, that General Tao tofu from your favorite Chinese takeout, or an ice cream cookie sandwich. If you've been strict with your diet, not only do you deserve it, your body will thank you!
Eating this way helps prevent metabolic adaptation and will allow you to continue to see results.
8. Increase NEAT
Finally, look for ways that you can burn more calories when you're not exercising. Increasing your non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) will help you lose weight without spending hours in the gym each day.
The easiest way for you to increase NEAT is to walk more throughout the day. Shoot for at least 10,000 steps per day.
Not sure how you're going to fit these steps in? These tips can help:
- Park your car farther away from your office or the grocery store.
- Get off the bus a stop or two earlier.
- Take a lap around the store or mall before you begin your shopping.
- Take a five-minute walking break every couple of hours while you work.
These might not seem like much, but small changes can make a big difference to your overall calorie burn.
Hopefully, these simple tips are enough to help you take a step in the right direction. For more help in reaching your fitness goals, consider speaking with your doctor or a reputable dietician.
If you want more great tools to track your fitness, check out our other health calculators.