evidence based weight loss tips
If you've read my What make a diet great? page, then you already know four weight loss tips. Eating a sustainable, healthy and satisfying diet will improve compliance and long term maintenance. And doing it with friends, or with a coach or guide that can help you, motivate you and push you towards success will improve the likelihood of getting the outcome you're searching for. Here are more tips to get you on track and keep you there!
Scientific research has shown that weighing in regularly, logging your food or keeping a journal are all ways to stay accountable and to self-monitor. Being accountable to yourself is a great way to improve the chances of success. Being accountable to others can also be of great assistance. Telling others about your journey, asking for help and encouragement, or sharing before and after photos with someone you trust have been shown to increase success. Weight loss programs offering group support, in person or online meetings, or online chats, emails, or simply words of encouragement, have been shown to increase the chances of succeeding.
This one might come as a no brainer, but people often rely on exercise to lose weight. Even though cardiovascular health is directly related to exercise, weight loss isn't so much. You can't outrun a bad diet. Hours of training and burning hundreds of calories can be outdone by one bad meal or cheat day. Even if exercising with a bad diet will probably never lead to long term weight loss by itself, long term exercise will increase muscle mass and metabolism and will assist in weight loss, in presence of adequate nutrition.
Whole plant foods achieve this easily! Calorie density is a measure of a food's calorie content per weight and mass. We still use the same mechanisms as our ancestors did millions of years ago to perceive satiety, or fullness after a meal. Stretch receptors in our stomach tell our brains when we are full and should stop eating. Our modern brains and stomachs didn't expect us to process foods to an extent where we concentrate sugar, salt, fat and calories into formats capable of hijacking fullness signals. We can gulp down 200 calories of soda in a few minutes, but it would take hours to chew and swallow 200 calories of carrots. Some foods are simply impossible to overeat. By choosing foods with low calorie densities, you'll feel fuller for longer on less calories but with more food! There's no reason to feel starved or hungry while enjoying healthy foods, and you can still easily manage a calorie deficit on a plant-based diet.
Focus on real food
By real food, I mean food that grows in the ground, or on a tree! Refined or processed foods have been manipulated in a way that removes important nutrients and fiber to make them more shelf stable and slow down spoilage. Most of these foods have also been manipulated to make them tastier, by adding sugar, salt, or unhealthy types of fats. Over-consumption of calories is directly associated with consumption of these foods, where the good things are removed, and bad things are put in. They leave you feeling undernourished and craving more food. It has been proven that most processed foods have a lower glycemic index, and cause increased calorie consumption and less satiety (feeling of fullness after a meal). The excess calorie intake they cause are a major contributor to the obesity pandemic. We evolved over millions of years with real food, and our innate satiety signals were designed to cope with these, not the processed junk that has appeared since the 1970s.
Increase your fiber intake
Fiber is the most important and ignored nutrient there is. Over 95% of the population is deficient, and no one seems to care. Why is that? We evolved on diets containing over 100 grams of fiber, but nowadays, most have trouble eating 15 grams per day. Fiber exists only in plants. Not in processed food, not in dairy, not in animal products, just plants. Why is fiber so important for weight loss? Because it's an indigestible carbohydrate that adds bulk to our food without additional calories. That's right, fiber will make you feel fuller, without calories. This also explains why processed food leaves you feeling hungry very quickly after eating. The fiber has been removed, and this makes it super easy for our digestive systems to release calories efficiently, thus leading to over-consumption. Fiber in our diet makes its way, almost untouched, to our colon. There, it will feed our gut bacteria, and in return they will reward us with special compounds, called SCFA (short chain fatty acids). These by-products will make their way in our bloodstreams, cross the blood-brain barrier, and send fullness signals to our brains. So fiber not only increases bulk and stomach stretching during the meal, but also sends fullness signals that lead to decreased appetite at the next meal! Fiber is nature's way of protecting us against excessive calorie intake, but the modern foods we eat have mostly been processed to remove it. Lucky for you fiber is relatively easy to find, since it exists in each and every edible plant!
Timing and frequency of meals
Have you ever heard of meal plans prescribing 6 meals a day, or constant nibbling as a means of weight loss? Did you know that 500 calories eaten at breakfast wasn't the same as 500 calories eaten at night? Knowledge is power, and here, I'll describe what the literature says about meal frequency and timing.
It's a common misconception that eating more frequently leads to better weight management and even weight loss. Studies have failed to show significant decreases in total calorie intake by spreading them out more evenly throughout the day. The only exception was when calories were given later at night. That's right, eating before bed causes more metabolic disturbance than the same caloric intake earlier the same day. Some have also hypothesized that skipping breakfast would slow metabolism and lead to weight gain, but that too has not been shown in studies. What studies do show is that calorie metabolism differs throughout the day, and calories eaten earlier in the day seem to be less fattening than those eaten later at night. This would be related to our circadian rhythm, which is the normal and cyclical fluctuations that our body and hormones go through each day. So try to load up on calories earlier in the day and limit those you consume after supper.
Have you ever been told that you eat too fast, just to then realize that you already overate? Just so happens that studies show eating pureed soup before a meal decreases total calorie intake, but smoothies don't. Weird how pureed soups are simply vegetable smoothies, but have different effects than fruit smoothies. The difference ends up being the spoon! Eating soup with a spoon simply gives your stomach plenty of time to send fullness signals to your brain, compared to fruit smoothies that are often gulped down in seconds. Eating slowly, leads to faster satiety (fullness) and leads to decreased total calorie intake. So chew slowly, put your fork down between bites, talk with your family, use a smaller spoon, and make smoothie bowls instead of drinkable versions! Small steps add up, and they all pitch in to create fullness with less calories. Simply put, eating slowly gives more time for your stomach to send fullness signals to your brain, and this has been shown in studies.
Get a good night's sleep and reduce your stress
Studies have shown that lack of sleep can lead to weight gain. Some don't sleep well because of medical conditions (secondary insomnia), like sleep apnea. Others have no special explanation and suffer from primary insomnia. Others sleep well, just not long enough. It's well known in the medical world that stress and insomnia both lead to many medical disorders, including hormonal issues that lead to unhealthy cravings and weight gain. Sleep hygiene and stress reduction tips and tricks are readily available online and very useful for those with weight issues. Talk to your doctor for additional information.