1. FILL UP ON FIBER
Fiber is found in healthy foods including vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains. Some studies have shown that simply eating more fiber-rich foods may help you lose weight and keep it off (1, 2). Increasing your intake is as easy as adding beans to your salad, eating oats for breakfast or snacking on fiber-rich nuts and seeds.
2. DITCH ADDED SUGAR
Added sugar, especially from sugary drinks, is a major reason for unhealthy weight gain and health problems like diabetes and heart disease (3, 4). Plus, foods like candy, soda and baked goods that contain lots of added sugars tend to be very low in the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. Cutting out foods high in added sugars is a great way to lose excess weight. It’s important to note that even foods promoted as “healthy” or “organic” can be very high in sugar. Therefore, reading nutrition labels is a must.
3. MAKE ROOM FOR HEALTHY FAT
While fat is often the first thing that gets cut when you’re trying to slim down, healthy fats can actually help you reach your weight loss goals. In fact, following a high-fat diet that’s rich in foods like olive oil, avocados and nuts has been shown to maximize weight loss in several studies (5, 6). What’s more, fats help you stay fuller for longer, decreasing cravings and helping you stay on track
4. MINIMIZE DISTRACTIONS
While consuming meals in front of your TV or computer may not seem like diet sabotage, eating while distracted may cause you to consume more calories and gain weight (7). Eating at the dinner table, away from potential distractions, is not only a good way to keep your weight down — it also allows you time to reconnect with loved ones.
Smartphones are another device you should set aside while you’re eating. Scrolling through emails or your Instagram or Facebook feed is just as distracting as a TV or computer.
5. WALK YOUR WAY TO HEALTH
Many people believe they must adopt a rigorous exercise routine to jumpstart weight loss. While different types of activity are important when you’re attempting to get in shape, walking is an excellent and easy way to burn calories. In fact, just 30 minutes of walking per day has been shown to aid in weight loss (8).
Plus, it’s an enjoyable activity that you can do both indoors and outside at any time of day.
6. BRING OUT YOUR INNER CHEF
Cooking more meals at home has been shown to promote weight loss and healthy eating (9, 10). Although eating meals at restaurants is enjoyable and can fit into a healthy diet plan, focusing on cooking more meals at home is a great way to keep your weight in check. What’s more, preparing meals at home allows you to experiment with new, healthy ingredients while saving you money at the same time.
7. HAVE A PROTEIN-RICH BREAKFAST
Including protein-rich foods like eggs in your breakfast has been shown to benefit weight loss (11). Simply swapping your daily bowl of cereal for a protein-packed scramble made with eggs and sauteed veggies can help you shed pounds. Increasing protein intake in the morning may also help you avoid unhealthy snacking and improve appetite control throughout the day (12).
8. DON’T DRINK YOUR CALORIES
While most people know they should avoid sodas and milkshakes, many people don’t realize that even drinks advertised to boost athletic performance or improve health can be loaded with unwanted ingredients. Sports drinks, coffee beverages and flavored waters tend to be very high in calories, artificial colorings and added sugar.
Even juice, which is often promoted as a healthy beverage, can lead to weight gain if you consume too much. Focus on hydrating with water to minimize the number of calories you drink throughout the day.
9. SHOP SMART
Creating a shopping list and sticking to it is a great way to avoid buying unhealthy foods impulsively. Plus, making a shopping list has been shown to lead to healthier eating and promote weight loss (13, 14). Another way to limit unhealthy purchases at the grocery store is to have a healthy meal or snack before you go shopping. Studies have shown that hungry shoppers tend to reach for higher-calorie, unhealthy foods (15).
10. STAY HYDRATED
Drinking enough water throughout the day is good for overall health and can even help you maintain a healthy weight. One study of over 9,500 people found that those who were not adequately hydrated had higher body mass indexes (BMIs) and were more likely to be obese than those who were properly hydrated (16).
What’s more, people who drink water before meals have been shown to eat fewer calories (17).
11. PRACTICE MINDFUL EATING
Rushing through meals or eating on the go may lead you to consume too much, too quickly. Instead, be mindful of your food, focusing on how each bite tastes. It may lead you to be more aware of when you are full, decreasing your chances of overeating (18).
Focusing on eating slowly and enjoying your meal, even if you have limited time, is a great way to reduce overeating.
12. CUT BACK ON REFINED CARBS
Refined carbs include sugars and grains that have had their fiber and other nutrients removed. Examples include white flour, pasta and bread. These types of foods are low in fiber, are digested quickly and only keep you full for a short period of time (19). Instead, choose sources of complex carbohydrates like oats, ancient grains like quinoa and barley, or veggies like carrots and potatoes. They’ll help keep you fuller for longer and contain many more nutrients than refined sources of carbohydrates.
13. LIFT HEAVIER TO GET LIGHTER
Although aerobic exercise like brisk walking, running and biking is excellent for weight loss, many people tend to focus solely on cardio and don’t add strength training to their routines. Adding weight lifting to your gym routine can help you build more muscle and tone your entire body. Studies have also shown that weight lifting gives your metabolism a small boost, helping you burn more calories throughout the day, even when you are at rest (20).
14. SET MEANINGFUL GOALS
Fitting into jeans from high school or looking better in a swimsuit are popular reasons why people want to lose weight. However, it’s much more meaningful to truly understand why you want to lose weight and the ways that weight loss may positively affect your life. Having these goals in mind may help you stick to your plan. Being able to play tag with your children or having the stamina to dance all night at a loved one’s wedding are examples of goals that can keep you committed to a positive change.
15. AVOID FAD DIETS
Fad diets are promoted for their ability to help people lose weight fast. However, these diets tend to be very restrictive and not easy to maintain. This leads to yo-yo dieting, where people lose pounds, only to gain them back. While this cycle is common in those trying to shape up quickly, yo-yo dieting has been linked to a greater increase in body weight over time (21, 22).
Additionally, studies have shown that yo-yo dieting can increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome (23). These diets may be tempting, but finding a sustainable, healthy eating plan that nourishes your body instead of depriving it is a much better choice.
16. EAT WHOLE FOODS
Keeping track of exactly what is going into your body is a great way to get healthy. Eating whole foods that don’t come with an ingredient list ensures that you are nourishing your body with natural, nutrient-dense foods. When purchasing foods with ingredient lists, less is more. If a product has lots of ingredients that you are unfamiliar with, chances are it is not the healthiest option.
17. BUDDY UP
If you are having trouble sticking to a workout routine or healthy eating plan, invite a friend to join you and help you stay on track. Studies show that people who slim down with a friend are more likely to stick with weight loss and exercise programs. They also tend to lose more weight than those who go it alone (24, 25, 26). Plus, having a friend or family member with the same health and wellness goals can help you stay motivated while having fun at the same time.
18. DON’T DEPRIVE YOURSELF
Telling yourself that you will never have your favorite foods again is not only unrealistic, but it may also set you up for failure. Depriving yourself will only make you want the forbidden food more and may cause you to binge when you finally cave in. Making room for appropriate indulgences here and there will teach you self-control and keep you from feeling resentful of your new, healthy lifestyle. Being able to enjoy a small portion of a homemade dessert or indulging in a favorite holiday dish is part of having a healthy relationship with food.
19. BE REALISTIC
Comparing yourself to models in magazines or celebrities on TV is not only unrealistic — it can also be unhealthy. While having a healthy role model can be a great way to stay motivated, being overly critical of yourself can set you back and may lead to unhealthy behaviors. Try focusing on how you feel rather than concentrating on how you look. Your main motivations should be to get happier, fitter and healthier.
20. VEG OUT
Vegetables are loaded with fiber and the nutrients your body craves. Increasing your vegetable intake can also help you lose weight. In fact, studies show that simply eating a salad before a meal can help you feel full, causing you to eat less (27). Additionally, filling up on veggies throughout the day can help you maintain a healthy weight and may decrease your risk of developing chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes (28, 29, 30).
21. SNACK SMART
Snacking on unhealthy foods can cause weight gain. An easy way to help shed pounds or maintain a healthy weight is to make an effort to have healthy snacks available at home, in your car and at your place of work. For example, stashing pre-portioned servings of mixed nuts in your car or having cut-up veggies and hummus ready in your fridge can help you stay on track when a craving strikes.
22. FILL THE VOID
Boredom may lead you to reach for unhealthy foods. Studies have shown that being bored contributes to an increase in overall calorie consumption because it influences people to eat more food, healthy and unhealthy (31). Finding new activities or hobbies that you enjoy is an excellent way to avoid overeating caused by boredom. Simply going for a walk and enjoying nature can help get you in a better mindset to stay motivated and stick to your wellness goals.
23. MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF
Creating a healthier lifestyle means finding the time to put yourself first, even if you don’t think it’s possible.Life often gets in the way of weight loss and fitness goals, so it is important to create a plan that includes personal time, and stick to it. Responsibilities like work and parenting are some of the most important things in life, but your health should be one of your top priorities.
Whether that means preparing a healthy lunch to bring to work, going for a run or attending a fitness class, setting aside time to take care of yourself can do wonders for both your physical and mental health.
24. FIND WORKOUTS YOU ACTUALLY ENJOY
The great thing about choosing a workout routine is that there are endless possibilities. While sweating through a spin class might not be your cup of tea, mountain biking in a park might be more up your alley. Certain activities burn more calories than others. However, you shouldn’t choose a workout based solely on the results you think you’ll get from it. It’s important to find activities that you look forward to doing and that make you happy. That way you are more likely to stick with them.
25. SUPPORT IS EVERYTHING
Having a group of friends or family members that supports you in your weight and wellness goals is critical for successful weight loss. Surrounding yourself with positive people who make you feel good about creating a healthy lifestyle will help you stay motivated and on track. In fact, studies have shown that attending support groups and having a strong social network helps people lose weight and keep it off (32).
Sharing your goals with trustworthy and encouraging friends and family can help you stay accountable and set you up for success. If you don’t have a supportive family or group of friends, try joining a support group. There are a large number of groups that meet in person or online.
THE BOTTOM LINE
While there are many ways to lose weight, finding a healthy eating and exercise plan that you can follow for life is the best way to ensure successful, long-term weight loss.
Although fad diets may offer a quick fix, they are often unhealthy and deprive the body of the nutrients and calories it needs, leading most people to return to unhealthy habits after they hit their weight loss goal.
Being more active, focusing on whole foods, cutting back on added sugar and making time for yourself are just a few ways to get healthier and happier.
Remember, weight loss is not one-size-fits-all. To be successful, it is important to find a plan that works for you and fits well with your lifestyle.
It’s not an all-or-nothing process, either. If you can’t commit to all the suggestions in this article, try starting with just a few that you think will work for you. They’ll help you reach your health and wellness goals in a safe and sustainable way.
Written by Jillian Kubala, MS, RD