Figuring out how to lose weight can be challenging.
After all, there is so much misinformation out there and all these fad diets that simply don’t work.
In many cases, losing weight isn’t about making huge changes to your life or your diet. Instead, it’s about making little changes that you can maintain in the long term.
Here are 57 tips for weight loss in our modern world – without torturing yourself in the process.
Practices and Habits
1. Find Approaches That Work for You
We are all different and we all have different needs.When you are looking for weight loss solutions, it’s important to find ways that suit your own needs and who you are.
For example, some people like the strict nature of diets that tell them what foods they can and cannot eat (like Paleo), while other people look for diets that offer flexibility with food (like intermittent fasting). You may also find some foods easier to cut out than others
If a diet or a lifestyle change is a constant struggle, then you won’t be able to keep with it long-term. In contrast, one that fits your needs can be easier and you are more likely to maintain it.
2. Watch Out for ‘Health Halos’
When people try to lose weight, they often fall into a health halo trap. This means that people tend to underestimate the number of calories in products that claim to be healthy (1).
This is particularly problematic when it comes to processed foods and fast food, because the health claims of these types of products are often misleading.
3. Avoid Compensation
Another practice to watch out for is compensation. When people engage in a healthy behavior, there is a temptation to reward this behavior with something less healthy.
When you are trying to lose weight, be aware of this pattern. Doing so can help you to avoid it.
4. Focus on Long-Term, Sustainable Changes
Dieting is popular, but people frequently cannot adhere to diets (4). This often leads to a pattern of on-again/off-again dieting, with little long-term success.
To lose weight in the long-term, you need to focus on changes to your lifestyle that you can continue with indefinitely.
This might involve practices like cutting out fast food and soda, and dropping down the amount of processed food you eat.
- In fact, moving towards whole foods (i.e. largely unprocessed) and meals that you cook gives you much greater control over what you eat.
- This also helps you to avoid the added sugar and hidden calories that all contribute to weight gain.
- In many cases, this type of diet also ends up being more filling and easier to adhere to.
In fact, many individuals and families find that after trying this approach for a while, fast food and processed food is unappealing and can even make them sick.
5. Don’t Get Down on Yourself
People frequently stop trying to lose weight because they don’t think they are getting there fast enough (5). There will be times when your weight loss doesn’t go as planned – and that’s okay.
Maybe you have a day where you binge, maybe you have weight that is being stubborn or maybe you just think it is going too slow.
There are a million different reasons for giving up – but this doesn’t mean that you should. More than anything else, successful weight loss involves ongoing effort, even if you get it wrong occasionally.
After a few weeks of weight loss, a good average is between 0.5 pounds and 2 pounds each week (6). This level of weight loss might seem slow, but it tends to be sustainable – and sustainability is one of the most important parts of successfully losing weight.
6. Get Professional Advice
If possible, get professional advice about how to lose weight safely.
This is especially important if you have chronic health conditions or if you are on medication.
Ideally, you want to talk to a registered dietitian who will be able to illustrate good approaches that you can take and things that you should avoid (7).
Nutrition and Nutritional Labels
7. Always Read Nutritional Labels
The nutritional labels on products offer important information about what they contain and how this relates to the amount you are supposed to consume in a day.
Taking the time to read the labels can go a long way towards understanding what you are eating and making better choices. In particular, nutritional labels show you how much fat, sugar and calories are in your food. Use this information to pick foods that will help you lose weight.
8. Watch Out for Portion Sizes on Nutritional Labels
Portion sizes on nutrition labels are often misleading. Products often list serving sizes that are much smaller than people would have in a sitting and in many cases they are completely unrealistic (8).
For example, there tend to be four servings in a pint of ice cream, many candy bars have two servings and there are two servings in most cans of soup.
Make sure you keep an eye on the serving size whenever you look at a product.
9. Don’t Believe Zero Fat and Zero Calorie Labels
Some products have labels that suggest they contain no fat or no calories when this isn’t really true. For example, a product can be labeled zero fat if it has less than 0.5 g of fat for its serving size.
However, serving sizes on products tend to be unrealistic, so people often have at least twice the recommended serving (9).
This means that calories from so-called zero fat and zero calorie products can add up fast, especially if you are using them multiple times in a day.
10. Watch Out for Hidden Sugar
Sugar turns up in a lot of foods that it really shouldn’t. Dressings, bread, ketchup, hamburger buns and many other foods are surprising sources of sugar.
All of this can majorly sabotage weight loss. In fact, it might be one reason that so many people have problems working out how to lose weight.
When you are shopping, keep an eye on the nutritional label of the product. If sugar is one of the first four or five ingredients of a sauce or dressing, put it back.
Remember, sugar might not always show up as sugar. Some alternatives are:
- Corn syrup
- Rice syrup
- High fructose corn syrup
- Maltose (and most things ending in -ose)
11. Be Aware of Misleading Advertising
Consumers are becoming more and more interested in healthy and natural products.
Unfortunately, companies have been catching onto this trend, and using it as a way to increase sales. Often you will see products that sound like they are healthy, when they are not at all.
- Veggie patties might sound healthy, but they tend to contain mostly fillers and relatively few actual vegetables.
- Likewise, energy bars are promoted as healthy, yet they can contain more calories and sugar than candy bars.
- The site D'Marge offers a list of foods that sound healthy but actually aren't.
Words like natural (and all-natural), superfoods, energy boosting, fresh, whole, healthy and many others are all marketing buzz words and they are largely meaningless. Instead, focus on the nutritional labels and look for products that are less processed.
When and Where to Eat
12. Have a High Protein Breakfast
Having a high protein breakfast, especially one that contains eggs can help to enhance weight loss (10). It’s also a great way to start the day in general, because you start out full with lots of energy – which is always desirable first thing in the morning.
13. Or Skip Breakfast Entirely
We're often told that breakfast is essential, especially for weight loss. But, as plenty of people have found, that's not true. Skipping breakfast can often be effective for weight loss, as long as you don't eat more food at other meals.
Many people on the 16:8 version of intermittent fasting choose to skip breakfast. It's an easy way to follow the diet and can help you lose weight. Other versions of intermittent fasting are good for weight loss too.
14. Be Careful about What You Eat before Bed
Regardless of whether eating before bed has a direct influence on weight gain, it certainly has an indirect one.
- For example, people who eat after 8 pm tend to be more likely to binge snack and have higher calorie snacks (for example, think of chips, popcorn or ice cream, and TV) (14).
Eating before bed can have huge impacts on sleep quality (and poor sleep promotes weight gain (15). This is especially true if you are eating heavy meals or high-sugar/high-fat foods. If you need to eat near bed time, focus on healthier options for snacking and small portion sizes.
15. Don’t Eat If You're Not Hungry
Snacking can be a good approach to tide you over until the next meal when you are hungry.
Because of this, snacking when you aren’t hungry can directly contribute to weight gain – and you are eating when your body doesn’t actually need anything.
16. Watch Snacking in Front of Television
Snacking in front of the TV is very easy and we often end up eating more than we intend to.
Skipping food in front of the TV altogether is ideal, but if you don’t want that, make sure you portion control your snacks (ideally healthy ones). Most importantly, make sure the rest of the box or bag isn’t in the same room.
That way you have to actually get up and go to another room to get more snacks. Most of the time you will find that you simply don’t bother.
What to Eat (and What Not to Eat)
17. Reduce Carbohydrate Intake
Carbohydrates are a key macronutrient, but they can contribute to weight gain too.
Common weight loss advice in the United States has been to reduce fat as much as possible.
This approach means that people end up significantly increasing the number of carbs they are consuming. Not all carbs are bad, just like any food type. However, choosing to decrease carbs as a key energy source can be an important way to lose weight.
As I have discussed in-depth elsewhere, if you can focus on a diet that is low carb, rather than low fat, it ends up being much more effective for weight loss and for health overall.
18. Ditch the Fast Food
This one is probably obvious. Fast food consumption is strongly linked to higher levels of obesity (17), especially as many fast food products are high in calories and aren’t particularly filling.
At the same time, relying on food like this often becomes a bad habit and people end up consuming fewer nutrients than they need as a result.
If you don’t want to cut fast food out completely, moderate your intake and try to pick the healthier menu items. After all, a key factor in how to lose weight is making good decisions about what you eat.
You don’t have to be perfect all of the time, but you do need to make sure that you aren’t taking in too many calories.
19. Be Very Careful with Sugar
Sugar is everywhere in modern food, but it is a major problem for weight loss and for health overall (18).
It’s very easy to underestimate how much sugar is in foods, but this is something that you need to pay close attention to when you are trying to lose weight.
20. Have Fruit Regularly
Fruit is also a source of sugar, but this doesn’t mean that you should avoid it.
Overall, fruit is a relatively minor source of sugar. Additionally, it contains a large number of phytonutrients that offer significant health benefits (25).
Also, the fiber in whole fruit goes a long way towards offsetting the sugar (26). Fruit can also help you to feel full because it often has large amounts of water. Nevertheless, do be aware of the calories and try not to overdo it.
21. Don’t Make Assumptions
It’s very easy to make assumptions when it comes to food – especially if you are eating out or buying pre-packaged food.
This is a very risky pattern, because a lot of food is very different nutritionally than it appears.
- For example, salads sound healthy, but many salads come with high-calorie dressings and might contain things like bacon or cheese that add to the calorie count.
Paying attention to ingredients and nutritional labels can go a long way towards helping you avoid foods that are bad for you. Making your own food helps you avoid the problem entirely.
22. Pick High Protein Snacks
High protein snacks are particularly relevant for weight loss, because they make you feel fuller for longer. Additionally, people who eat high protein snacks often end up eating less food in the next meal (27,28).
In fact, despite common belief, nuts are a good high protein snack and they decrease the chance of weight gain (29). Even though nuts are relatively high in calories, their ability to satiate helps people to eat less.
After all, it’s pretty easy to eat a large amount of high-sugar or high-fat snacks, but harder to eat many high protein snacks (you get full too fast).
23. Use Protein Powders and Shakes (but not exclusively)
Protein powders and shakes have long been promoted as a good weight loss tool and they can be effective. Typically, these contain a wide range of nutrients, including ones that people do not get enough of.
- Protein plays a key role in muscle development (30) and whey protein tends to be absorbed quickly (31), which is beneficial.
- Protein shakes also tend to be filling and protein can significantly cut cravings, making it easier to lose weight (32).
- If you are choosing whey protein specifically, it also offers a range of other health benefits (33,34,35).
Many people choose to replace one meal a day with a protein shake (sometimes more). How much you use is up to you, but actual food is important too.
24. Don’t Avoid Treats
For many people, the process of losing weight is torture and involves cutting out anything that might contribute to weight gain.
This might help you lose weight a little faster, but for most of us it is unsustainable. Instead, you should plan for treats within your weight loss plan and find ways to make them work.
- For example, this might involve portioning out chocolate so you only have a little at a time.
25. Skip on the Frozen Dinners
Frozen dinners are a major source of calories, even though many of them look healthy.
You’ll also find that a surprising number of frozen meals are marked at two (or more) servings, even though most of us eat the entire thing in one sitting.
However, these aren’t particularly good either, because they tend to be very small (they are often classified as entrees, but designed as small dinners).
While these meals might be okay in terms of calories, you’ll be hungry soon afterward.
- If you need the convenience you can look for meals that are fast and easy to prepare, and much friendlier on the waistline.
- Alternatively, you can prepare food for multiple meals at once (MyBodyMyKitchen is a great resource).
26. Tweak Recipes to Reduce Calories
In general, cooking your own food is healthier than buying anything processed or prepackaged – but this isn’t always true.
You still need to be careful when cooking your own food and there are a range of substitutions you can make, such as roasting instead of frying foods.
This also means that you should be very aware of what goes into recipes that you make. It’s far too easy to assume that any home cooked meal is going to be healthy when this isn’t actually the case.
27. Bulk out Meals with Vegetables
Vegetables can be a fantastic source of fiber and offer significant nutritional benefits of their own. They are also a great way of bulking out a meal and making it more filling.
This is particularly relevant for weight loss as vegetables tend to be low in calories.
28. Eat Resistant Starch
Resistant starch has become a hot topic recently, and it has important implications for weight loss. The term refers to starch that passes through our digestive tract and is largely unchanged.
This type of starch has been associated with a range of health benefits. The most significant factor for this discussion is that resistant starch can make you feel more full (36), which can be key for weight loss.
Many of the roles of resistant starch are similar to that of fiber (37), making it an important diet addition. Some key foods containing resistant starch include cashews, raw oats, and potatoes that have been cooked then cooled (you can find a full list here).
29. Have Dark Chocolate instead of Milk Chocolate
Dark chocolate offers a range of health benefits and can be a good way to satisfy chocolate cravings.
While dark chocolate and milk chocolate tend to have roughly the same calories, dark chocolate has a more intense taste. This means that you might only have a square or two of dark chocolate as a snack, while it is tempting to have a lot more milk chocolate.
Some brands of dark chocolate also have less sugar, which is another advantage.
30. Pick Full-Fat Dairy
Despite popular belief, full- fat dairy is actually associated with a decrease in the risk of obesity, while low-fat isn’t (38).
This may be connected to the fact that low-fat dairy tends to be high in sugar. Yogurt is a particularly good choice for weight loss, and one specific type is Greek yogurt.
This tends to contain higher levels of filling protein than normal yogurt and contains probiotics that are great for stomach bacteria.
31. Don’t Avoid Eggs
Eggs have been demonized in modern culture, and people often associate them with high cholesterol and increased chance of heart attacks.
Additionally, eggs are very high in nutrients and they can even help you feel fuller. Because of this, eggs actually make a great breakfast for people trying to lose weight and this type of breakfast can actually increase weight loss (41,42).
32. Eat Meat
Lean meat actually supports weight loss, because it is high in protein. High protein diets have the benefit of making you feel full faster and they can increase thermogenesis, which contributes to weight loss (45).
Because a high protein diet tends to leave you hungry less often, including meat in your diet can also make a diet easier to follow in the long-term. For that matter, even fatty cuts of meat can help with weight loss, especially for anybody following a low-carb lifestyle approach.
33. Include Quinoa
Quinoa is one of those foods that some people swear by and others have never heard of.
It is a seed that can be eaten in the same way as grains, and can be used as a substitute for many grains in the diet.
Replacing some of your grains with quinoa can be an important weight loss tool, as quinoa has a more complete protein profile, more minerals, is high in protein (46) and offers 5 g of fiber per cup (47).
34. Try Apple Cider Vinegar
Another more unusual recommendation is apple cider vinegar.
This is a popular choice for people interested in natural food – and you can use it in a range of condiments (some people even drink it diluted).
Apple cider vinegar has a number of health benefits, and can also help people to feel fuller faster and to decrease the amount of food they consume in subsequent meals (51).
In doing so, apple cider vinegar can lead to weight loss (52).
35. Cut Down Serving Sizes
Serving sizes play a key role in how much food we eat. Large portions can strongly contribute to higher energy intake and to obesity (53), while small portions can help you lose weight.
A good way to do this is to dish up less food than you think you need. You can always go back for more if you are still hungry, but you probably won’t be
36. Use Smaller Plates
Smaller plates are a great way to have smaller portions – because you can’t fit as much food on them.
Smaller plates also play a trick on your mind. You can see this in the image below. The portion sizes are the same in both cases, but the plate on the right looks like it has more food because the plate is smaller.
This means that you feel more satisfied eating a portion off a small plate compared to a large one. The pattern is called the Delboeuf Illusion and it can be very powerful (54).
In fact, simply switching from large to small plates can decrease your portion size and energy intake, without having any noticeable impact on satisfaction or satiation (55). This is an amazingly simple trick for how to lose weight and it makes a surprising difference.
37. Eat Slower
In our busy worlds, many of us eat too fast and barely pay attention to what we eat. This can contribute to weight gain, because it takes time for your brain to receive signals of fullness.
If you are eating too fast, you tend to consume more calories that you would otherwise (56) .
38. Put Extra Food Away Immediately
It is often tempting to go back for seconds (or thirds) during dinner or dessert, especially if you had a small portion the first time around.
After you have served your potion, put the rest away, preferably out of sight.
Food tends to be a lot more tempting when it is in front of you and hiding the extra food will make you less likely to eat it.
39. Don’t Have Serving Bowls in Front of You
Many families serve meals with serving bowls on the table or the counter. This makes serving up easy, especially for big families, but it makes it easy to eat too much food.
If people fill their plates in a separate room, they have to get up and go get more food. Often just doing this is enough to get people to think about whether they actually need a second serving or not.
On the other hand, you might want to place salad or fruit in the middle of the table if you are trying to get yourself to eat more healthy food.
40. Avoid Bulk Buying (or plan carefully)
Bulk buying can be a good way to decrease the cost of shopping, but it isn’t so good for the waistline. People often find that when they buy more food, they simply end up eating more. This is particularly bad if you are buying unhealthy foods in bulk.
- If bulk buying is essential, repackage the food into smaller servings as soon as you can.
- Alternatively, you could store the food somewhere that is more challenging to get to (like a spare bedroom or far cupboard).
If possible, it tends to be best to buy in small portions (such as the tiny Pepsi cans if you want soda occasionally). However, this doesn’t work for everyone and can be expensive.
41. Portion Size Snacks Immediately
Putting your snacks into portion sizes immediately can be a good way of reducing how much you eat.
- For example, you might use small bags or plastic containers to portion out nuts, candy or other types of snacks. This is particularly helpful for snacks you want to eat in moderation.
By doing this, you can get one portion size when you want a snack, not try to portion control when you are hungry or craving food.
42. Stay Hydrated
Water may even help to increase the rate that people burn calories at (61). The downside of drinking more water is that you will need to go to the bathroom more often. Just think of this as a chance for a little bit extra exercise.
43. Drink Lemon Water
Despite the importance of water, the majority of the population doesn’t get enough on a daily basis. Plus, many people get their water from drinks like soda and fruit juice (62), which don’t do you any favors when it comes to weight loss.
Lemons can be a fantastic way to add flavor to water without significantly increasing the number of calories you are consuming.
It is particularly effective because lemon has such a strong taste, so you don’t need a lot of it to change the taste of water.
Lemon water is a particularly important approach for how to lose weight in people who struggle with drinking plain water. The approach is enough to make water appealing to many people.
You can also take the idea one step further and make infused water. There are many water bottles and even water pitchers out there that can be used to achieve this outcome, along with amazing flavor combinations that you can try.
44. Keep a Water Bottle on Your Desk
If you work at a desk, keep a water bottle with you at all times and sip at it whenever you are thirsty. Having water close at hand like this is important for making sure you drink it.
When you run out of water, get up and refill it. This helps you get in a little more exercise as well.
45. Replace Sugared Drinks with Water
Sugary drinks are a major source of calories for many people and those calories don’t do anything for you at all. Replacing sugary drinks with water can significantly decrease how much energy you take in per day, contributing to weight loss (63).
If you find that you can’t cut them out altogether, try smaller portion sizes (like the small Pepsi cans) or diluting 100% juice substantially with water.
While not ideal, both of these approaches decrease your calorie intake in a manageable way.
Movement and Exercise
46. Find Small Ways to Increase Exercise
Exercise is an important part of weight loss, but it can often be hard to fit into busy schedules.
In fact, there is growing concern that long periods of sitting may be contributing to poor health (64,65). Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to add little bits of exercise into your life. Some examples include:
- Walking faster
- Taking the stairs
- Dance to music whenever you get the chance
- Stand up when talking on the phone
- Have a short walk after lunch
- Park on the edge of the parking lot
There are lots of other examples, but even just using a few approaches can dramatically increase how much movement you get in each week.
47. Move More
An interesting approach for weight loss is simply to move more. I’m not talking about exercise here, but about increasing the amount of little movements that you do during the day.
This is referred to as NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) and there are many different examples (66). Some examples of NEAT movements include fidgeting, foot tapping and pacing.
This type of movement can be easy to add into your day, especially as you don’t have to stop what you are doing. For example, moving more might be as simple as bopping along to music when you are sitting or doing something with your hands when you are watching television (and I don’t mean snacking).
48. Make Exercise Fun
Many people trying to lose weight struggle with exercise (67), but it’s an important part of losing weight.
One way to make exercising a bit easier is to find ways of making it fun.
Exercise classes are good for this, as are intensely physical hobbies, like rock climbing or martial arts. Making exercise fun also helps with motivation, and it can even decrease your desire to snack afterward (68).
49. Build Muscle
This is particularly important, because typical approaches to weight loss, including dieting and cardio activities, result in the loss of both muscle and fat. In contrast, practices like weight training can help to decrease fat while increasing muscle mass.
Even at this conservative level, building muscle is a key approach for losing weight, especially as you tend to be losing fat at the same time.
Additionally, having more muscle can mean that it takes more energy for your muscles to recover following a workout. This results in an increase in calories burned following exercise.
The Importance of Sleep
50. Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep plays a key role in weight loss.
- Some reasons for this pattern may be that not getting enough sleep influences levels of circulating leptin (74), changes in other chemicals (75) and impacts the regulation of energy (76).
- Likewise, short sleep can lead to increased levels of hunger and appetite (77), which can contribute to weight gain.
51. Avoid Screens near Bedtime
Not all light is equal. Screens, including tablets, television sets and computers emit blue wavelengths of light. This light tricks the brain into thinking that it is daytime (78).
Ideally you should avoid all screens within a few hours of bed to make sure the light does not have an effect on your ability to sleep.
If you can’t do this, there are programs you can get (like F.lux) that adjust the light your computer gives out to help counter some of this impact. There are also apps for tablets and phones that have a similar function.
Trends and Patterns
52. Don’t Believe the Hype
Losing weight is hard. No matter what you do, it is going to take time and effort. Unfortunately, there is a lot of hype out there that suggests the opposite and some of it can be very convincing.
Supplements, shakes, liquids, herbs, pills and special diets are all promoted as ways for how to lose weight fast. They rarely work and they never work as well as they claim.
Any approach that tries to trick or manipulate your body into losing weight is not going to be a long-term solution, and it may have some serious health consequences that aren’t obvious (81).
Likewise, any product or diet that claims to help you lose abdominal fat first or fast, is probably lying. Your body decides where it is going to put fat and where it is going to take it from – and your genetics play a large role in this.
Few diets will be able to change this, and abdominal fat tends to be particularly difficult to shift.
53. Avoid Fad Diets
In general, fad diets are not to be trusted. In many cases these types of diets simply don’t work or the long-term health impacts haven’t been tested.
Additionally, these types of diet are often strict and very particular about what you can and cannot eat and/or about how much you can eat.
This makes them hard to follow and they can get frustrating relatively fast.
Because of this, it tends to be difficult to follow a fad diet and many of these diets may strain your body in the long term (82).
54. Make the Good Visible
Throughout your house, including the fridge, move the food you want to eat more of into plain view, while making other foods less prominent.
This can play a key role in helping to reduce your cravings for unhealthy food and you may find yourself grabbing healthy snacks and meals much more often.
In fact, the more you can hide snacks and treats, the better.
Ideally, you want them not to be visible on first glance in the pantry or the fridge, as we tend to make food decisions based on what is in front of us.
55. Don’t Shop Hungry
We tend to make bad decisions when we are hungry and this can majorly undermine diets.
Research has shown what most of us already know, if you shop when you are hungry you make different decisions.
In particular, people shopping hungry tend to buy more high-calorie foods compared to those who aren’t hungry when they shop (83).
If you can’t have a meal before you shop, make sure you have some type of snack to take the edge of any hunger you might feel. This will help you make good food decisions.
56. Tackle Cravings with Tetris – No, Really
Cravings can be one of the most challenging parts of losing weight and sometimes you can’t seem to get them out of your head.
This suggests that doing something strongly visual may help in managing cravings. It also stands to reason that an activity that takes your attention may help in cravings management.
57. Take Pleasure in Your Food
Last, but not least.
Take the time to enjoy food and to take pleasure in it. In general, Americans have a pretty poor relationship with food and we have so many hangups about food (86).
Slowing down to enjoy what we are eating and making food an enjoyable experience can be an important part of weight loss.
Want to Lose Weight and Keep it Off?
Weight loss is a huge industry, with no shortage of hype. But, long-term weight loss doesn't come from a crash diet or a popular fad.
Instead, you need sustainable habits and healthy foods.
Check out my recommended weight loss products to see where you can get started
So, did I miss any good ways to lose weight? Let me know in the comments below.