Easy weight loss? Yea, right. As someone who spend several years working on losing 20 pounds, I can tell you – there’s nothing easy about it. Until you really make the decision to do it. And if you want weight loss that lasts, it doesn’t require a heroic effort. It actually simply requires a few simple lifestyle changes can result in weight loss over time. And by the way, I’m not a big fan of the hyped up books and articles that promise huge results in short periods of time. People acquire habits over years, so it stands to reason that changing habits can take a long time.
At the core of any habit change, there’s a decision. Think of him what you may, but I really like what Tony Robbins says on this subject: it ultimately boils down to decision.
So the beginning of real, sustainable weight loss involves making a decision – an absolute decision – to lose weight. That decision will ultimately result in adopting a slightly new lifestyle of healthy living, which must be a lifelong commitment. As you see and enjoy the benefits, it becomes sustainable for the long-term.
If you’re expecting a “magic bullet,” please accept my apologies, because I’m not offering one here. There is no one perfect “diet” for everyone. Instead, there are behaviors and skills relevant to any approach to weight loss—as long as you’re enjoying the approach and see it as sustainable for the long-term, then it will work.
And as long as we’re talking about enjoying weight loss, and before we examine weight loss strategies that work, let’s talk about 10 weight loss strategies that don’t work.
Hunger. Any diet plan that leaves you hungry won’t be sustainable.
Sacrifice. Diet plans that forbid certain foods forever will fail for the vast majority of people. Why? Denying yourself of something you enjoy permanently will make any diet fail. The point is, to adopt a healthy lifestyle. It’s what we do MOST of the time that counts.
Radical change. For most people, radical change isn’t sustainable. It’s more effective to cut back a few hundred calories each day. Most people can accomplish that by eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, and less carbohydrates. Eat smaller portions and ask for a to-go container.
Immediate results. Everyone wants immediate results, but the reality is that the reason the vast majority of weight loss strategies fail is that they advocate massive change that isn’t sustainable.
Exercise. Working out is good for your health and can help you maintain your weight, but for most people, exercise alone isn’t very effective in shedding pounds. To lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories.
Expecting Perfection. Once you decide to lose weight, you will most likely experience setbacks. Don’t let it get you down. Stay with it.
Giving Up. It seems almost too obvious to discuss, but giving up doesn’t work. People will say “I’ll never get down to a normal weight, so why even try?” If you are overweight or obese, losing 10 percent of your body weight will improve your appearance and have significant health benefits. Be realistic, think long term, staged approach. Set realistic (small) goals, sustain those goals, set more…
Self Deception. This happens when people delude themselves into believing that they are following a diet better than they actually are. This typically manifests in people eating “diet-friendly” foods, but too much, and at the wrong times.
Just a taste. This is when you give yourself permission to have just a bit of something you know you shouldn’t. Fact is, what happens is that it throws on extra calories, and leads to failure.
“I deserve it.” Also know as success leads to failure. This is happens all the time, when people have experienced some success, and decide that they’ve worked hard, and deserve a treat. Which leads to another treat. And another…
Enough of that. So what diet strategies do work?
Long term, lifestyle commitments. You didn’t gain the weight you want to lose overnight, so why would you realistically expect it to come off overnight? Effective, sustainable weight loss involves a long-term commitment. There’s an amazing number of books and articles that promise the next “fad diet,” but the truth is that only the adoption of long term lifestyle adjustments leads to sustainable weight loss. And for most people, that means making adjustments that result in losing somewhere between a half pound to 2 pounds per week. Goals in that area are realistic, healthy, achievable, and sustainable.
The simplest thing you can do is to make sure you get all your nutrition from fresh whole foods, including meats, fish, shellfish, vegetables, and fruits. Reduce to a minimum or eliminate processed foods. Cut your carb intake to a minimum. In our house, our dinners usually consist of a small portion of a protein source, say 6-8 ounces of steak, and salad or vegetables.
Cut Back on Sugars and Carbohydrates. The most important single thing you can do is to cut back on sugars and carbs (starches). Foods containing sugars and carbs stimulate the secretion of insulin, which is the main fat storage hormone in the body. When insulin goes down, fat has an easier time getting out of stored fat, so your body starts burning fats instead of carbs. Beyond that, when you lower your insulin, sodium and water comes out of your body, reducing bloat and unnecessary water weight (1).
When you reduce your intake of carbohydrates, your insulin lowers, so you start to eat less calories without hunger. Simply put, lowering your insulin makes your body lose fat on autopilot.
Eat Protein, Fat and Vegetables. If you plan your meals so each one includes protein, fat and low-carb vegetables, you will automatically set your carb intake into the recommended range of 20-50 grams per day.
Eating a high protein diet boosts metabolism by 80 to 100 calories per day, while helping you feel full, so you eat up to 441 fewer calories per day (2, 3, 4). One study demonstrated that when you get 25% of your calories from protein, it can reduce food cravings by as much as 60%, and cut the desire for late night snacking in half (5). Simply adding protein to your diet (without restricting anything) is one of the easiest, most effective and most delicious ways to lose weight.
This is the single most important tip in the article. When it comes to losing weight, protein is the king of nutrients.
Don’t be afraid to load your plate with low-carb vegetables. You can eat lots of them without going over 20-50 net carbs per day. A diet based on meat and vegetables contains all the fiber, vitamins and minerals you need to be healthy. There is no physiological need – no minimum “recommended daily allowance” for grains in the diet.
Eat 2-3 meals per day. If you find yourself hungry in the afternoon, add a 4th meal. Don’t be afraid of eating fat. In my experience, when I’ve tried to do both low-carb low-fat at the same time, it was unsustainable.
As far as fats or oils go, the best cooking fat to use is coconut oil. It is rich in fats called Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs), which are more fulfilling than others and can boost metabolism slightly. Eggs fried in coconut oil also taste great!
Drink lots of water – especially before meals. A recent study published in the journal Obesity demonstrated that drinking water before eating helps shed pounds. The researchers monitored test subject’s weight at the start, middle and end of the experiment. They also noted that the amount of physical activity of the subjects didn’t change.
The group that loaded up on water lost about three more pounds than the group that didn’t increase water intake. And the more they drank, the better the results: people who drank 16 ounces before meals lost about 9 pounds over the course of the experiment. Drinking water is effective because it fills you up. So drink a couple glasses of water 30 minutes before your meals. You’ll feel fuller, and eat less.
Increase your intake of fiber. Fiber helps you feel satisfied longer. This one simple step can make a difference, as high fiber diets not only encourage weight control, “higher fiber diets can also help to prevent type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. But, he cautioned, it’s best to get fiber from food, not from supplements.
Be patient. Don’t expect overnight miracles. Losing weight and keeping it off generally gets easier over time. That’s the result of a study published in Obesity Research, where researchers found that for people who had lost at least 30 pounds — and kept it off for at least two years — maintaining that weight loss required less effort as time went on.