7 Weight Loss Strategies That Actually Work, Say Dietitians
The science of weight loss is simple: in order to effectively shed pounds your body needs to expend more caloric energy than it takes in. Of course, it never feels that simple, right? If it did, we wouldn’t have created a multi-billion dollar industry around supposed quick fixes, and various programs that seem to constantly contradict each other in terms of what macronutrients our bodies do or do not need to process energy efficiently.
According to Trish Gomez, RD and CPT at Vanderbilt Stallworth Rehabilitation Hospital, “most diet plans will lead to weight loss — generally due to a reduction in calories disguised as a new scientific breakthrough or metabolism hack.”
But fad diets that promise dramatic results often lead quickly to weight regain, as they do not help you develop strategies for long-term, healthy weight management. “Most diet plans fail because they require significant changes that don’t fit our preferences and lifestyle,” she says.
Kourtney Simmang, BS, CNC, FDNP, and founder of Kale Diagnostics, agrees. “In my clinical experience, I have seen greater outcomes from implementing certain holistic weight loss strategies compared to outdated and restrictive diet methods,” she says.
Simple weight loss strategies that you can employ on a daily basis are much more important for weight loss than elimination diets because they become good habits that stay with you regardless of whether you are actively trying to lose weight. This is key for longer-range success with healthy weight management.
“Making small, consistent changes that are manageable over a lifetime is the key to creating weight loss that lasts,” says Gomez. Here are a few weight loss strategies recommended by nutritionists that actually work if you’re looking to shed those pesky pounds for good.
1. Food logging
You don’t even necessarily have to change your eating habits to accommodate this easy weight loss strategy, but food logging forces you to be honest with yourself about those eating habits.
“Logging your food daily is a great tool to use,” says Gomez. “Most of us underestimate how much we eat, and overestimate the healthfulness of our diets.”
The accountability factor in food logging can lead, in incremental steps, to making subtly different choices. Gomez recommends Cronometer as a platform that is highly functional for providing insight into your own daily consumption. “A good logging platform can provide detailed information on all of the macro and micronutrients, fiber, and added sugars, helping you to plan out a nutritionally complete menu,” she says.
2. Eating slowly
One of the easiest ways to cut calories without actually feeling like you’re cutting calories is to simply slow down at meal times.
“You should aim to spend at least 20 minutes eating each meal,” says Megan Darlington, RDN at the University of California Health from Test Prep Insight, which may incorporate taking smaller bites, longer pauses between bites, and being present and mindful while you eat, rather than distracted and rushed. “This allows proper time for the messages sent by your gut hormones and the stretch receptors in your stomach to reach your brain before you overeat. As a result, you will consume fewer calories throughout the day, and avoid that feeling of being stuffed and tired post-meal.”
3. Prioritizing blood sugar management
You don’t need to have a diabetes diagnosis or invest in a glucose monitor in order to factor in your blood sugar on a regular basis. Blood sugar can affect our energy and mood, and if that weren’t enough, constant blood sugar spikes and crashes also have a big effect on how our bodies store fat. Fortunately, the key to keeping your blood sugar in a healthy range is a sound strategy that echoes throughout several other weight loss strategies.
“Incorporating fiber and adequate protein in meals is crucial for blood sugar stabilization, which is crucial for weight loss and maintenance,” says Simmang. “Consuming vinegar with meals can also improve glucose metabolism,” as well as incorporating healthy fats to balance out complex carbohydrates. Protein, fiber, and healthy fats also help you feel satiated, which helps avoid the kind of cravings that can result from unproductive, restrictive eating.
4. Strength training
Strength training is often overlooked as a weight loss strategy because cardio can feel easier to quantify when it comes to our bodies’ caloric input and output. Sometimes strength training can lead to short-term weight gain due to increased muscle mass, which can seem disheartening. But it’s one of the best strategies for long-term weight management.
“Regular strength training doesn’t just increase the calorie burn during weight loss, it promotes muscle development, fat loss, and your metabolic rate,” says Gomez. “A pound of muscle burns approximately two to three times the amount of calories than a pound of fat.”
In other words, it’s worth a couple of extra pounds of muscle gain in the short term, since it will help you lose more weight in the long run.
5. Getting sufficient vitamin D
Insufficient vitamin D intake is actually associated with weight loss resistance. Known as the “sunshine vitamin,” getting enough (appropriate) sunlight is especially important when trying to lose weight.
“Ensuring sufficient vitamin D intake through safe sun exposure, cod liver oil, and oyster mushrooms can aid in overcoming any potential weight loss resistance,” says Simmang.
While natural sources of vitamin D like the ones mentioned above are ideal, vitamin D supplements are considered one of the few supplements that actually can be absorbed effectively by the body, so this is one weight loss strategy that does sort of come in a pill form.
6. Maximizing your “NEAT” factor
According to Gomez, NEAT stands for “non-exercise activity thermogenesis,” referring to all the activity you do throughout the day that doesn’t qualify as physical exercise, but can add up to significant caloric output when you frequently make small choices to increase that physical activity.
“This includes things like walking to your car in the parking lot, climbing the stairs, mowing the lawn, or cooking dinner,” says Gomez. “Finding ways to increase your NEAT factor throughout the day is an easy way to increase the amount of calories you burn.”
Darlington also suggests upping this factor even further by adding a weighted vest to daily tasks like walking the dog or checking the mail. “You may feel you look funny, but wearing a weighted vest will help you burn more than two times the amount of calories that you otherwise would. It’s an incredible hack to help you burn extra calories each day.”
7. Managing stress
While “managing stress” sounds like something impossible to measure, the stress hormone, cortisol, can be both measured and regulated.
“Elevated cortisol can hinder weight loss due to its impact on fasting blood sugar levels,” says Simmang. “Implementing holistic interventions like pilates, reishi mushroom, and phosphoserine can help maintain healthy cortisol levels,” which improves the efficiency of weight loss.
What’s more, extreme calorie restriction and over-exercise, two strategies to avoid when approaching healthy weight loss, “may lead to elevated stress hormones,” says Simmang, as if trying to lose weight weren’t stressful enough.