People strive to lose weight for myriad reasons, and many fall into the fad diet trap promising real results fast. While there are certainly ways to accelerate your weight loss efforts, it’s important to understand that shedding pounds too quickly can backfire.
First, keep in mind that many experts say it’s best to lose weight gradually. It’s more likely to stay off. If you shed pounds too fast, you’ll lose muscle, bone, and water instead of fat says the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Like so many parts of life, safe, successful, and sustainable weight loss is more about the journey and less about a scale-based destination and rapidly approaching deadline. Read on for expert advice on the best ways to lose weight—and keep it off.
01 Up your veggie intake.
Instead of restricting different foods and food groups, focus on incorporating an abundance of nourishing foods that you can add to your diet to promote overall health and weight management. The water and fiber in produce add volume to dishes and are naturally low in fat and calories but nutrient-dense and filling. You can create lower-calorie versions of delicious dishes by swapping out higher-calorie ingredients for fruits and veggies. If you think about making any meal mostly veggies (at least 50% of anything that you’re having), you’re on the right track to better health.
02 Trying intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting (IF) is a pattern of eating that involves regular short-term fasts and consuming meals within a shorter period during the day.
Several studiesTrusted Source has indicated that short-term intermittent fasting, which is up to 24 weeks in duration, leads to weight loss in overweight individuals.
The most common intermittent fasting methods include the following:
- Alternate day-lasting trusted Source (ADF): Fast every other day and eat normally on non-fasting days. The modified version of trusted Source involves eating just 25–30 percent of the body’s energy needs on fasting days.
- The 5:2 Diet: Fast on 2 out of every 7 days. On fasting days eat 500–600 calories.
- The 16/8 method: Fast for 16 hours and eat only during an 8-hour window. For most people, the 8-hour window would be around noon to 8 p.m. A study on this method found that eating during a restricted period resulted in the participants consuming fewer calories and losing weight.
It is best to adopt a healthy eating pattern from trusted Sources on non-fasting days and to avoid over-eating.
03 Cut back on refined carbs
One way to help lose weight quickly is to cut back on sugars and starches, or carbohydrates. This could be with a low-carb eating plan or by reducing refined carbs and replacing them with whole grains.
When you do that, your hunger levels go down, and you generally end up eating fewer calories.
With a low-carb eating plan, you’ll utilize burning stored fat for energy instead of carbs.
If you choose to eat more complex carbs like whole grains along with a calorie deficit, you’ll benefit from higher fiber and digest them more slowly. This makes them more filling to keep you satisfied.
A 2020 study confirmed that a very low carbohydrate diet was beneficial for losing weight in older populations.
Research also suggests that a low-carb diet may reduce appetite, which can lead to naturally eating fewer calories without thinking about it or feeling hungry.
Note that the long-term effects of a low-carb diet are still being researched. It can also be difficult to adhere to a low-carb diet, which may lead to yo-yo dieting and less success in maintaining a healthy weight.
There are potential downsides to a low-carb diet that may lead you to a different method. Reduced calorie diets can also lead to weight loss and be easier to maintain for longer periods.
If you opt for a diet focusing instead on whole grains over refined carbs, a 2019 study correlated high whole grain intake with lower body mass index (BMI).
To determine the best way for you to lose weight, consult your doctor for recommendations.
04 Build a better breakfast.
A balanced breakfast — one that is stacked with fiber, protein, and healthy fats, coming together in a delicious dish — will revolutionize your day, especially if you are currently skipping it and still find yourself struggling to prioritize a healthy lifestyle. Skipping breakfast may influence your hunger hormones later in the day, leading to you feeling “hangry” in the afternoon which makes it harder to refrain from oversized portions or cravings for sugary and refined carbohydrate foods. The best, heartiest breakfasts are ones that will fill you up, keep you satisfied, and stave off cravings later in the day. Aim to eat anywhere between 400 and 500 calories for your morning meal, and make sure you’re including a source of lean protein plus filling fat (think eggs, unsweetened Greek yogurt, nuts, or nut butter) and fiber (veggies, fruit, or 100% whole grains). Starting your day with a blood sugar-stabilizing blend of nutrients will help you slim down.
05 Snack smart
Many popular snacks today aren’t nutrient-dense but are high in calories. Major culprits often come in the form of refined grains like cereals, chips, crackers, and cookies but also calorie-packed drinks like juice and soda. Try to keep snacks under 300 calories for weight loss and aim for healthy snacking choices with at least 4 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein to fill you up. Choose picks that are ideally low in added sugar and sodium too.
06 Move your body
Exercise, while not required to lose weight, can help you lose weight more quickly. Lifting weights has particularly good benefits.
By lifting weights, you’ll burn calories and help prevent your metabolism from slowing down, which is a common side effect of losing weight.
Try strength training three to four times a week. If you’re new to lifting weights, a trainer may be able to help you get started. Make sure your doctor is also aware of any new exercise plans.
If lifting weights is not an option for you, doing some cardio workouts such as walking, jogging, running, cycling, or swimming is very beneficial for weight loss and general health.
Both cardio and weightlifting may help with weight loss and offer lots of other health benefits.
07 Skip sugary beverages.
We just don’t feel full by liquid calories in quite the same way as we do real food. Drinking a juice or caramel coffee drink just isn’t as satisfying as eating a bowl of veggie- and protein-packed stir-fry. Skipping sugary beverages is often the easiest way to lose weight faster, and bonus, it’s good for things like heart health and diabetes prevention too. So monitor your intake of juice, soda, sweetened coffee and tea, and alcoholic beverages. If you consume each of those beverages during the day, you’ll have taken in at least 800 extra calories by nighttime — and you’ll still be hungry. (Incidentally, alcohol may suppress the metabolism of fat, making it tougher for you to burn those calories.)
08 Go to bed earlier.
There’s a ton of research that demonstrates getting less than the desired amount — about seven hours — of sleep per night can slow down your metabolism. Chronic sleep deprivation may even alter hormones that control hunger, and some studies show that there is a connection between poor quality food choices and less sleep. Good sleep has a ton of other benefits too, like boosting alertness, improving mood, and overall quality of life. So don’t skimp on your ZZZs, and you’ll be rewarded with an extra edge when it comes to overall health and losing weight. Start small by just pushing up bedtime by 15 to 30 minutes, every minute counts!
09 Find Out What Drives You to Eat
At the most basic level, food is fuel. It gives you the energy to do things. But very few people eat just for that reason. It’s at every social gathering. And it’s where a lot of us turn when we have a rough day.
You’ll need to know what makes you want to eat when you’re not hungry and have a plan for those moments.
The first step is finding out what your triggers are. Is it stress, anger, anxiety, or depression in a certain part of your life? Or is food your main reward when something good happens?
Next, try to notice when those feelings come up and have a plan ready to do something else instead of eating. Could you take a walk? Text a friend?
Lastly, reward yourself for making a different choice. Just don’t use food as a reward.
10 What about calories and portion control?
If you opt for a low-carb eating plan, it’s not necessary to count calories as long as you keep your carb intake low and eat mostly protein, fat, and low-carb vegetables.
If you find yourself not losing weight, you may want to keep track of your calories to see if that’s a contributing factor.
If you’re sticking to a calorie deficit to lose weight, you can use a free online calculator like this one to estimate your calorie needs.
You can also download free, easy-to-use calorie counters from websites and app stores. Here’s a list of 5 calorie counters to try.
Note that eating too few calories can be dangerous and less effective for losing weight. Aim to reduce your calories by a sustainable and healthy amount based on your doctor’s recommendation.
The bottom line
By reducing carbs or replacing refined carbs with complex carbs, you’ll likely experience reduced hunger levels. Feeling hungry is often why it’s difficult to maintain a weight loss plan, so it’s important to find a way of eating that leaves you feeling satisfied.
By incorporating a sustainable low-carb or lower-calorie eating plan, you can eat healthy food until you’re full and still lose weight.
Losing weight quickly may be your goal, but it’s important to think about the long run. While you may lose water weight quickly, fat loss takes longer, and developing sustainable weight loss may take longer than you’d like.