13 Science-Backed Tips for Weight Loss

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It’s just the way it is: Your brain knows that fad diets don’t work and Photoshopped influencers haven’t actually found some magic high-speed bullet train to weight loss that decades of research hasn’t already uncovered. But we live in a diet culture, and it’s hard to escape the idea that you need to be lose weight — and fast.

Editor’s note: Weight loss, health and body image are complex subjects — before deciding to go on a diet, we invite you to gain a broader perspective by reading our exploration into the hazards of diet culture.

The truth is, you don’t, and Good Housekeeping does not recommend rapid weight loss. “Losing weight quickly is not safe for most people because of the immense physical demand it puts on the body,” says Stefani Sassos, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N., NASM-CPT, the director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Nutrition Lab. There are serious risks associated with rapid weight loss, including developing gallstones, dehydration, malnutrition and even potentially life-threatening electrolyte imbalances, she says.

Plus, weight re-gain after a rapid loss is not only discouraging — it’s taxing. “Losing weight rapidly and then regaining it puts an enormous amount of pressure on the body and can stress your heart, blood vessels and other organs,” adds Sassos.

The fact is, keeping lost weight off is extremely difficult. But the good news is, bodyweight is not the end all be all of health and happiness, and you can be fit and healthy and feel really good, even if you’re not as thin as you’d like to be.

All that said, if losing weight is a priority for you, there are better ways to approach it than the severe restrictions, untested supplements or bizarre food combos you see on social media. Sassos advises getting nutritional support, especially if you’ve tried for years and haven’t had lasting success. “It’s important to work with a registered dietitian to help you set realistic goals for your lifestyle, body type and more,” she says. There could also be other factors at play, such as hormonal imbalances and thyroid issues that are making it hard for you to keep weight off.

Below, registered dietitians share their best advice for eating and exercising healthfully — rest assured that these tips are just plain good for you, even as they set you up for reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.

Safe Weight Loss Tips, According to Nutritionists

preview for 8 Practical Tips for Weight Loss

1. Up your fiber intake.

    Some 95% of us aren’t getting enough dietary fiber, says Sassos, which is a shame because not only does fiber help keep your digestive system humming (and your poops regular), it also can add to satiety, making you feel less hungry.

    High-fiber foods take longer to digest and also provide volume, so you’ll feel fuller on less calories,” says Sassos. “Fiber can help keep you regular, control blood sugar levels and even lower cholesterol.” Women will want to aim for 25 g of fiber a day (38 g if you’re a man) from high-fiber foods like oatmeal, beans and other pulses, as well as seeds and fruits. “Just ramp it up gradually to avoid gas and bloating,” says Sassos. “As you increase the fiber in your diet, make sure to also focus on hydration to help the fiber expand in your stomach and digest properly.”

    2. Start weight training.

    Building muscle is essential for your body for many reasons, but it also aids in achieving a healthy weight. In general, regular exercise can help you manage your weight, but “the more muscle mass you have, the higher your metabolic rate,” says Sassos, who is also a personal trainer.

    Strength training can be done with weights, resistance bands or using your own body weight in activities like yoga and Pilates. Don’t worry if you’re a weight-lifting beginner: Just know that because muscle is denser than fat, you might be losing body fat even if the number on the scale doesn’t reflect weight loss. “You can get a better glimpse at the benefits of strength training when looking specifically at your body composition including metrics such as body fat,” says Sassos.

    3. Eat more plants.

    Instead of restricting certain foods or food groups, focus on incorporating an abundance of nourishing foods into your diet to promote overall health and weight management. Case in point: Produce is naturally low in fat and calories, but it’s also nutrient-dense and filling, since the water and fiber adds volume to dishes.

    You can create lower-calorie versions of your favorite dishes by swapping out higher calorie ingredients for fruits and veggies. Think cauliflower rice in place of starchy white rice or doing a 50/50 blend. If you’re aiming to make any meal mostly veggies (at least 50% of whatever you’re having), you’re on the right track to better health.

    4. Build a better breakfast.

    A balanced breakfast that is stacked with fiber, protein, healthy fats will revolutionize your day. In fact, skipping breakfast may influence your hunger hormones later in the day, leading to you feeling “hangry” in the afternoon and making it harder to refrain from oversized portions or cravings for sugar and refined carbohydrates.

    The best breakfast recipes are ones that will fill you up, keep you satisfied and stave off cravings later in the day. Aim to eat anywhere between 350 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 butters) and fiber (veggies, fruit or 100% whole grains). Starting your day with a blood sugar-stabilizing blend of nutrients will help you slim down.

    5. Skip sugary beverages.

    Liquid calories simply don’t fill you up in quite the same way as real food. Skipping sugary beverages is often the easiest way to lose weight faster, and as a bonus, it’s good for heart health and diabetes prevention, too.

    So monitor your intake of juice, soda, sweetened coffee and tea and alcoholic beverages. If you consume one of 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 even suppress the metabolism of fat, making it tougher for you to burn those calories.)

    6. Get moving.

    Consider walking for weight loss and better overall health. Movement of any type can be a very useful weight management tool, but walking is a great, inexpensive option that doesn’t require any extra gym equipment except for a good pair of walking shoes. While any amount of walking is good for you, one study showed that people who walked 8,200 steps per day were less likely to become obese, suffer from major depressive disorder and other chronic health related conditions.

    two young woman walking through a sunny park

    Catherine Falls Commercial//Getty Images

    7. Eat mindfully.

    Slowing down to focus on things like the taste, texture, temperature and smell of what you’re eating can help with portion control. But mindful eating also means focusing on what you’re eating and when, which can help you identify unnecessary munching moments you may not realize you’re engaging in throughout the day.

    More importantly, try to avoid eating foods that you don’t choose for yourself. Mindful eating can help shift the focus of control from external authorities and cues to your body’s own inner wisdom. Noticing where your extra calories actually come from is another step to making better choices in the short and long term.

    8. Keep things spicy.

    Spicy foods can actually help you cut back on calories. That’s because capsaicin, a compound found in jalapeño and cayenne peppers, may (slightly) increase your body’s release of stress hormones such as adrenaline, which can speed up your ability to burn calories. What’s more, eating hot peppers may help you eat more slowly and avoid overeating. You’re more likely to stay more mindful of when you’re full. Some great choices besides hot peppers are ginger and turmeric.

    9. Get more sleep.

    According to research, getting less than 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 ZZZ’s, and you’ll be rewarded with an extra edge when it comes to overall health and losing weight. Start small by pushing up bedtime by 15 to 30 minutes — every minute counts!

    10. Keep a food journal.

    People who log everything they eat — especially those who log while they’re eating — are more likely to lose weight and keep it off for the long haul, studies consistently indicate. The habit also takes less than 15 minutes per day on average when you do it regularly, according to a study published in the journal Obesity.

    Start tracking on a calorie-counting app like MyFitnessPal or use a regular notebook. It’ll help you stay accountable for what you’ve eaten. Plus, you can easily identify areas that could use a little improvement when it’s written out in front of you.

    11. Resist the urge to skip a meal.

    Nutrition experts stress that skipping meals will not make you lose weight faster. If a hectic day makes a sit-down meal impossible, stash a piece of fruit and pack of nut butter in your car or purse and keep snacks in your desk drawer — anything that will keep you from going hungry!

    Going long periods of time without food does double-duty harm on our healthy eating efforts by both slowing down your metabolism and priming you for a binge later in the day. Make it your mission to eat three meals and two snacks every day, and don’t wait longer than three to four hours without eating. Set a “snack alarm” on your phone if needed.

    12. Munch on mineral-rich foods.

    Potassium, magnesium and calcium can help to serve as a counter-balance for bloat-inducing sodium. Foods that are rich in potassium include leafy greens, most “orange” foods (oranges, sweet potatoes, carrots, melon), bananas, tomatoes and cruciferous veggies — especially cauliflower. Low-fat dairy, plus nuts and seeds can also help give you a bloat-busting boost. They’ve also been linked to a whole host of additional health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, controlling blood sugar and reducing the risk of chronic disease overall.

    13. Prioritize stress management.

    Weight loss can be influenced by many factors, including stress. When you’re stressed, your body conserves energy which can lead to fewer calories burned and possible weight gain in the long run.

    Not only that, stress can trigger unhealthy coping behaviors like stress eating driven by cortisol, a stress hormone that increases appetite and cravings for high-calorie foods. Stress can also interfere with the brain’s ability to recognize fullness, leading to continuous eating. Practicing self-care activities can help combat stress and its impact on eating habits.

    Headshot of Jaclyn London, M.S., R.D., C.D.N.

    A registered dietitian with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Northwestern University and a Master of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University, Jaclyn “Jackie” London handled all of Good Housekeeping’s nutrition-related content, testing, and evaluation from 2014 to 2019. Prior to joining GH, she was a clinical dietitian at Mount Sinai Hospital. Jackie has also appeared as an expert guest on The Dr. Oz Show and The Today Show. She is also author of the book Dressing on the Side (and Other Diet Myths Debunked).

    Headshot of Amy Fischer M.S., R.D., C.D.N.

    Amy (she/her) is a registered dietitian with the Nutrition Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute, covering nutrition- and health-related content and product testing. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Miami University of Ohio and a master’s degree in clinical nutrition from NYU. Prior to Good Housekeeping, she worked at one of the largest teaching hospitals in New York City as a cardiac transplant dietitian. She has authored numerous chapters in clinical nutrition textbooks and has also worked in PR and marketing for food company start-ups.

    Headshot of Valerie Agyeman, R.D.

    Valerie Agyeman (she/her) is a women’s health dietitian and the host of the Flourish Heights podcast, where she produces science-driven content covering overlooked nutrition, wellness and women’s health topics. She has over 10 years of nutrition communications, corporate wellness and clinical nutrition experience. Valerie is a trusted expert and regularly appears on networks including ABC’s Good Morning Washington, and she is a contributing expert to publications like Women’s Health, The Thirty and Shape.

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