Diet fads are not only confusing but can be dangerous, especially if you are constantly switching from one to another. According to Psychology Today, weight loss is a 60-billion-dollar industry!
Unfortunately, over two-thirds of all dieters regain their lost
weight. So how do you lose weight and keep it off? These tried-and-true
methods are backed by both researchers and doctors — and they also
helped me lose 40 lbs and maintain that weight loss for over two years!
Here’s what the research has to say:
Focus on your diet
idea that you can eat pretty much whatever you want as long as you
exercise is false. While you can lose weight by exercising, you will
lose more weight more quickly if you also reduce your daily caloric
According to Samuel Klein, M.D. of Washington University’s School of
Medicine, “Decreasing food intake is much more effective than increasing
physical activity to achieve weight loss. If you want to achieve a 300
kcal energy deficit, you can run in the park for 3 miles or not eat 2
ounces of potato chips.”
The Obesity Society in Maryland conducted a study on overweight and
obese postmenopausal women to see whether diet, exercise or a
combination would be most conducive to weight loss. They found that diet
trumps exercise when trying to reduce body weight. Not surprisingly,
participants had the best results when diet and exercise were combined.
According to Dr. Klein, the reason is that exercise promotes hunger
shortly after your workout. If you, like many, decide to compensate for
the calories burned by eating more or eating a higher-calorie meal, then
you will negate the calories lost from your exercise.
Dr. Klein also explained in his interview with Forbes that if you
overdo your exercise, you can become exhausted and are more likely to be
sedentary for the remainder of your day, which would cancel out the
benefits of your workout. It is better, therefore, to exercise some,
focus on your calories, and remain active throughout the day.
Eat more during the day
A study by the National Institutes of Health observed over 2,300
girls for ten years, beginning in 1985, and found that the adolescent
girls who ate fewer meals had a higher body mass index than those who
ate more frequently throughout the day
Not only does the amount of food you eat contribute to weight loss,
but also the time of day. A study conducted on over 3,600 Swedish men
and women concluded that obesity was most prevalent in those who ate the
most toward the end of the day. I suppose the saying “Breakfast like a
king, lunch like a prince, sup like a pauper” might have some merit
Reduce your calorie intake
One of the most effective ways to lose weight is to reduce your intake
of calories. According to Marion Nestle, PhD, of New York University,
you can gain weight eating healthily as well as by eating unhealthily if
you overeat. A calorie is a calorie regardless of where you got it.
To prove this point, Mark Haub, a nutrition professor at Kansas State
University consumed only junk food for every meal, including snack
cakes, Doritos chips, Oreo cookies and sugary cereals.
He also reduced his calorie intake by only eating one snack cake for a
meal, for instance. He wanted to demonstrate to his students that
nutritional value doesn’t cause weight loss, but the amount of calories
you eat each day does.
Within only two months, Mark lost 27 lbs. Marion Nestle, in an
interview with Forbes, explained, “From the standpoint of health, it’s
better to eat your veggies. It’s just a lot easier to overeat calories
from junk food than healthy food, but it can be done.”
Boost your metabolism with exercise
Although exercise is not as important as calorie restriction for
weight loss, James Hill, a professor at the University of Colorado,
recommends exercising to repair a slow metabolism. A 2009 study
published by the American Journal of Physiology also suggests that
exercising regularly can help boost your metabolism.
A 2012 study published in the same journal revealed that exercising
for only 30 minutes can be just as effective, and more efficient, than
working out for an hour each day with regards to fat loss.
Tasneem Bhatia, M.D. recommends moving every day regardless of the
level of exercise you pursue. She says this one habit can help you lose
more weight because it will encourage you to make healthier food choices
and will promote more restful sleep.
Stop emotional eating
When people are stressed, they tend to overeat. Stress eating can
undermine any diet and exercise regimen, which can cause you to become
even more stressed, thus continuing the vicious cycle. If you do it
often enough, your brain can become wired to associate food with
alleviating emotional pain and stress.
According to Dr. Bhatia, not only does stress make food appear more
enticing than normal, but it also affects where fat is stored. Stress
causes your body to store fat in the abdominal region, an area where
excess fat can increase your risk of heart disease and diabetes.
To encourage yourself to stop emotional eating, try taking a few deep
breaths, repeat positive affirmations, write down your feelings, or
exercise to release endorphins. Learning how to better handle stressful
situations and learning to cope with loss or heartache can help you lose
weight by not leaning on your bad eating habits.
Eat more mindfully
Rushing through large meals and still feel hungry? Take your time and
savor each bite. When you eat slowly, you become more aware of your
body and signs of fullness. This is a double-whammy because eating at a
leisurely pace can also help you eat less when you do cave into
If you focus on the texture and flavor of each bite, you will enjoy
your food more and will require less food to achieve the same level of
The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior released a study in
2012 where women were separated into two groups. One received guidance
on eating behavior modification and mindfulness meditations, while the
other did not. The results showed that the group practicing mindfulness
while eating lost significantly more weight and consumed fewer calories
and fat than the control group.
Rewire your brain with good habits
Although we all slip up on our diets from time to time, repeated bad
habits can actually alter the way our brain interprets hunger and
satiety. By repeating poor eating patterns, you lay the neural framework
to continue those bad habits. In fact, the way you eat can eventually
cause brain tissue damage.
Research by the Obesity Society has discovered a reduction in white
matter in the brain of otherwise healthy adults who are obese.
Neuroimage, a neuroscience professional journal, released a study in
2006 that suggests becoming overweight can cause damage to several
tissues and even increase the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, such
as Alzheimer’s disease.
The good news is, you can rewire the way your brain perceives food
and reduce your risk of brain tissue damage. It’s called
“neuroplasticity,” which means that your brain can physically change by
encountering new experiences. What needs to be done? Reinforce good
behaviors and be consistent.
Your neural network is full of neurons and receptors. When you become
addicted to food or eat emotionally, your receptors receive information
that associates those feelings to the urge to eat. When you change your
diet, your brain rewires itself, allowing you to make healthy choices
more easily. The same is true with sleeping habits and exercise. Once
you get into a routine, your brain will adapt.
Pick a diet and stick with it
Speaking of consistency, it doesn’t matter what diet you choose, as
long as you continue it. Diets should really be considered lifestyle
changes if you want to keep the weight off.
According to Jensen, M.D. at the Mayo Clinic, “The big myth out there
is that there’s a magical combination of foods — be it protein,
vegetarian, and what have you — that’s going to be unique because of its
unique interaction with your metabolism.” He says, “There’s no magic
diet. The truth is that all diets will work if you follow them.”
According to a 2011 publication by the Journal of the American
College of Nutrition, Israeli researchers took the Atkins diet,
Mediterranean diet, low-fat, and high-carb diets and broke them into
twelve food categories to find the common factor in weight loss. They
determined that the greatest factor of weight loss in these diets was
the increased consumption of vegetables, which are high in fiber and low
in calories, and the decreased consumption of sweets and cakes.
Dr. Melina Jampolis says that she insists her patients look at menus
ahead of time before eating out for an occasion to help them stay on
track. By planning ahead, she says, you can make smarter decisions and
feel less pressured upon arrival at your social gathering.
You are also less likely to eat and drink mindlessly when socializing
if you plan ahead. Melina also recommends coming up with a plan B in
case you are too busy to prepare what you had set aside for the day.
Creating options will prevent you from falling off the wagon or
giving in to temptation. She notes that it is good to be flexible and
come up with healthy options for both diet and exercise in the event of
changes, as the real world can be full of surprises.
Don’t give up
Although exercise can help boost your metabolism, if you have been
struggling with your weight for a long time, you may have to try harder
than others to lose weight. Not only is your metabolism slower, but you
may also have years of damage to repair.
According to James Hill, PhD at the University of Colorado, your body
may not return to its exact previous dimensions. Although building
muscle kick-starts the metabolism, people who were previously overweight
have to work harder aerobically in the long run, when compared with
those who were never overweight.
How I used these tips to lose 40 lbs and keep it off
In 2011, I was the heaviest I have ever been. With my small frame of 5
ft 0 in, I clocked in at 143 lbs. I thought I ate relatively healthy
food. I told myself I didn’t have time to make meals, so I bought
“healthy” fast food, which consisted of smoothies, salads, chicken
wraps, yogurt parfaits and oatmeal.
was in a job I hated and was stressed to the point that my doctor
recommended I quit my job due to health concerns. I did, and began to
and mindfulness. I also began cooking, and although my cooking wasn’t
healthy, it was certainly more natural. I lost my first 5 lbs through
mindfulness, reducing stress and impulsive eating, and learning how to
I had been reading about plant-based lifestyles and felt drawn to it
for personal reasons. As a result, I began eating more vegetables and
naturally reducing the amount of trans fats and saturated fats in my
I became vegetarian, then vegan and eventually adopted a whole food
diet. I also began adding light cardio and toning to my lifestyle,
exercising three days a week. I lost 30 additional pounds from these
changes: choosing a diet and sticking with it, exercising to boost my
metabolism, and eating more vegetables.
The last few pounds I lost were due to dietary changes I made because
of bodily inflammation. You see, initially, as I shifted to more
vegetarian options, I ate more dairy and bread products to feel more
full and to satisfy my emotional food attachments. However, once I
realized this was causing inflammation, I changed my diet overnight. I didn’t look back, and as a result I became more consistent in all of my dietary changes.
I now exercise every weekday for at least thirty minutes and burn
some calories over the weekend with house chores. My exercises are more
intense and I can finally notice distinct muscular definition, which
will help me keep the weight off. I have remained at around 100 lbs. for
over two years now and feel amazing. Despite being medically overweight
for years, I did it and you can too!
My weight loss is due to a culmination of all the lifestyle changes I
have made, and the consistency and determination that followed. I eat
fruits and vegetables in every single meal, and I workout regularly but
focus on my diet.
I restrict calories and stick with it, and I have options for life’s
unexpected moments. I look at menus before going out to eat, and I treat
my diet and exercise regimen as a permanent lifestyle choice, not a
temporary quick fix.
I am one of many for whom these tips have worked. Diet fads come and
go, but these tips are tried and true. Out of all these tips, the most
important ones are consistency and determination to never give up.
Everyone’s body is different and there is no quick fix. If you are truly
committed to your health goals, you will eventually see results. Never
give up on yourself. You are worth the effort.