You’re trying to lose weight before summer and you know what you have to do. For breakfast, you eat two scrambled egg whites and a grapefruit. Lunch is a salad with low-fat dressing. And dinner is grilled salmon and broccoli. Your snack is two sugar-free, fat-free, gluten-free cookies.
You’re on the right track, you tell yourself. Because, at this rate, you’ll drop the weight in just over a month.
Not so fast.
Most medical experts will admit that we don’t yet know everything there is to know about the most effective way to lose weight. Some studies suggest low-carb is the way to go. Others show that adopting a Mediterranean diet is the best strategy. Still others point to a vegetarian diet as a weight-loss winner. Studies are always in the works that, hopefully, will provide a clear answer to this question.
But experts do agree on one point: Crash diets don’t work. They may work for two days, two months or two years, but they almost never lead to lasting weight loss.
So what does work? The consensus is that the following healthy weight loss tips can help you lose weight and keep it off.
Don’t think marathon. Don’t try to burn 800 calories a day. And don’t push yourself so hard that you get injured. Research shows that three 10-minute mini workouts are just as effective as one 30-minute workout. Go for a hike, play with your kids or take the dog for a walk.
Cut down on sugar and refined carbs.
These empty calories don’t provide lasting energy or any health benefits. What’s more, fructose (found in soft drinks and many processed baked goods) has been shown to increase belly fat, which is closely linked to insulin resistance and diabetes. But again, don’t be drastic. Slowly reduce your sugar consumption to give your taste buds time to adjust and increase your chance of making lasting changes. And remember that although fruit also contains fructose, it’s a lot less than what is found in processed foods and soft drinks—and fruit also contains fiber, vitamins and antioxidants.
Don’t just react to your cravings; think them through.
Many of us tend to lunge for that bag of chips for three reasons: We’re bored, tired or stressed. If you’re feeling bored, call a friend or head to the library instead. If you’re tired, a brisk walk around the block takes just 10 minutes and will energize you for far longer than those chips would. Stress is often the biggest stumbling block for emotional eaters. Eating carbs triggers a release of the feel-good chemical serotonin, which counteracts stress and makes you feel better. But, instead of five Oreos, have a complex-carbohydrate backup plan. Maybe a piece of whole-grain bread with peanut butter—or eat a banana or some fresh berries. It takes mindfulness to get in control of emotional eating, but it can be done.
Fill up with fruits, veggies and fiber.
High-fiber foods take longer to digest, making them filling—and great for weight loss. Even more importantly, they are nature’s medicine. Eat as many kinds as you can in as many colors as you can and you’ll be flooding your body with antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals.
Don’t avoid fat.
The American Heart Association says that it will take “billions of dollars and decades” to reach a definitive scientific conclusion on saturated fats. Some nutritionists advocate for coconut oil or even lard, while the medical establishment mostly stands by the long-recommended vegetable oil. What is known is that a little fat helps you feel full. Adding a bit of butter to a plate of vegetables, for example, can help you to eat more veggies. Studies also show that eating whole milk dairy is actually linked to less body fat and lower levels of obesity.
Track your progress.
For many people, tracking steps through a wearable device such as a Fitbit is a strong motivator to keep moving throughout the day. Smartphone apps that make it easy to record what you eat, or simply keeping a food journal, have proved to lead to twice as much weight loss.
If there were a mantra for how to lose weight the healthy way and keep it off, it would be this: Slow and steady wins the race. It might not be fast. And it might not be easy. But just remember that, every day, you’ll be feeling better, getting healthier and moving toward your goal.
Losing weight and living a healthy lifestyle can be challenging—and some people find it’s easier to accomplish this with help. Download our guide, Take Back Your Life: Lose Weight the Right Way to find out if a medically managed weight loss program can help change your life.