Is cutting carbs the best way to lose weight? What about certain “fat fighting” foods? Will a “cheat” meal ruin my progress? I am asked these questions often. The reality is, there are certain behaviors linked to long-term, healthy weight management.
Often, people lose weight, only to gain it back. Recently, researchers looked at nearly 5,000 participants who had lost over 20% body weight and maintained it long-term (defined as at least 3 years) along with a control group.
The results reported that, those who maintained their weight loss, followed a weight management strategy that included the following behaviors:
- Keeping low-calorie, healthy foods accessible
- Measuring and recording daily intake of calories (self-monitoring)
- Thinking about past weight loss successes to stay motivated, including keeping a graph of their weight progress.
- Staying positive rather than feeling defeated when they gained weight.
- Willingness to ignore food cravings rather than give in to them.
These simple strategies resulted in “long-term weight loss success,” defined as those who kept the weight off for two years or more.
Why is it so hard to lose weight?
Weight loss is tough because it means changing how you behave, and the way you think (or feel) about food. Occasionally, issues such as thyroid function, or your gut microbiome, can contribute to weight gain and present challenges to losing those extra pounds. Sometimes your weakness is emotional eating. Additionally, certain medications and medical conditions can cause weight gain and fat accumulation.
While there are a host of diets out there: keto, paleo, alkaline… I am here to tell you one simple fact, for the most part, you can ignore these.
Weight loss success happens in two main ways:
- When you avoid unhealthy foods, this automatically limits your choices. This can be considered a calorie-restricted approach.
- When you make lifestyle changes, such as increasing physical activity, drinking more water, and limiting the time when you eat (such as intermittent fasting) you will automatically see a weight reduction.
Will I lose more weight by counting calories or carbs?
The best diet for losing weight, and keeping it off, is one that you can live with long-term. So, look for a weight loss program that offers plenty of good-tasting, healthy food choices and doesn’t require expensive supplements. If something sounds too good to be true, it is a scam.
Ketogenic diets have gotten their reputation for weight loss because the pounds will come off as soon as you stop eating carbs. However, this diet is not only impractical, but also unhealthy due to the high-fat requirements.
I personally promote the Mediterranean diet. This strategy shows strong evidence for a host of health benefits, such as heart health, brain health and overall longevity.
Can you lose weight without exercising?
Well, you could, but you shouldn’t. Non-exercise weight loss is possible, but you don’t want to lose muscle mass along with those pounds. Healthy weight loss includes maintaining your muscles with physical activity, be it moderate-intensity cardio work or strength training.
Besides keeping your muscular and skeletal systems in shape, physical activity is good for boosting your metabolism. This increases your energy expenditure and helps you achieve the calorie deficit you are aiming for.
What is the most scientifically proven way to lose weight?
Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet for weight loss, although many controlled trials have attempted to discover it. There are many ways to fight weight gain, and the best one for you might not be the best one for another.
The most important aspect is to be consistent and realistic. Pick a strategy of healthy eating habits that you can stick to and then do it. If you fall off the wagon, be kind to yourself and reframe your setback as a temporary slip on your journey. After all, it is your daily food choices and eating habits that matter, not a few “off” days.
Remember to incorporate physical activity. Not only is it good for your metabolic rate and physical health, but it also helps with your mental health. Staying upbeat and positive helps to keep your body weight goals on track.
Top 3 foods to avoid when losing weight
Ready to start your fat-burning journey? No matter what plan you choose, these foods are good ones to steer clear of:
- Foods with added sugar. It’s probably obvious that high-sugar foods like cupcakes, ice cream, and candy are not the best choices for weight loss. What may be less obvious is that almost every processed food is sugar-sweetened, even salty, and non-sweet foods like bread and pretzels.
- Processed meats. Even if you are following a high-fat keto diet, most nutritionists recommend against eating processed meats because of the salt and chemical preservatives found in them. Some even have hidden added sugar.
- Late-night snacks. Want to get off that weight-loss plateau? Indulging those late-night cravings isn’t the way to do it. Instead, drink some water or try eating a carrot or celery stick to curb your desire to snack late at night.
More weight loss tips
Want to enjoy the health benefits that losing weight can deliver? Try these strategies for healthy weight control that’s long-lasting:
- Have a plan. We’ve all heard the saying, “When you aim at nothing, you achieve it.” Set calorie and dietary goals before you begin. Some find meal planning for a week at a time to be helpful for avoiding unnecessary surprises and temptations.
- Track your progress. The aforementioned research presented strong evidence for the importance of monitoring and recording your calorie intake in maintaining long-term weight loss.
- Consider nutrients. Limiting your food intake could result in nutritional deficiencies. Make an effort to get a broad range of healthy foods onto your plate and consider adding nutrients that you might be lacking.
- Most important: stay positive. Don’t let occasional overindulgences derail your plans. Keep your goals in mind and focus on the physical and mental health benefits you have enjoyed as you shed those pounds.
Find this column and others from the November’s 2023 issue here!