Losing weight and keeping it off is an aspiration of many people today. With the emerging trends on social media platforms promising quick fixes, many are falling into the trap of fad diets that promise rapid weight loss but often fail to deliver or backfire.
Approaching weight loss as a long-term healthy lifestyle and behaviour change journey is proven to be the safest, most successful and most sustainable method, with life-long benefits beyond the mere numbers on the weighing scale.
Here, I've put together nine tips, based on evidence and expert guidance, on how to safely and successfully lose weight and keep it off.
1. Focus on long-term lifestyle and behaviour changes.
Looking at weight loss as a healthy living long-term strategy helps you define attainable and sustainable goals. Make healthy behaviour a habit instead of focusing on the number on the weighing scale. Focus on making good food choices, exercising regularly, and getting adequate sleep. Develop your goals to reflect healthy decisions instead of the number you want to see on the weighing scale.
For instance, instead of focusing on losing 2 kilograms in a week, you could focus on eating more whole grain meals, walking for 20 minutes each day, eating more protein, and sleeping more. These holistic lifestyle and behaviour changes will enable you to live healthily, essential for sustainable weight loss.
2. Embrace a regular exercise routine that includes cardio and strength training.
Pairing cardio and strength training is very important for weight loss. Strength training helps build muscle mass, which is essential in accelerating your metabolism, enabling you to burn more calories, even at rest. One can achieve strength training through free weights, machines, body weights such as push-ups and squats, and resistance bands. Experts recommend strength training at least twice weekly, targeting major muscle groups such as glutes, quads, back, and shoulders.
3. Move as much as possible throughout the day.
The American Centers for Disease Control recommends that to lose as little as 5 percent of one's weight; one needs to move for at least 300 minutes a week, which one can achieve through walking, jogging, and taking the stair, among other things.
4. Prioritise eating good quality foods.
The quality of food you eat, especially carbohydrates, is central to your weight loss goal and maintaining a good weight. High-glycemic or overly processed carbohydrates such as refined grains and sugar-sweetened beverages contribute significantly to weight gain compared to meals with whole grains, leafy vegetables, nuts, whole fruits, and legumes— which have fewer calories and better nutritional value.
Replace sugar-laden drinks like juice and soda, with water. Replace high-fat processed foods with whole-grain alternatives. Replace processed carbohydrates such as white bread and muffins with high protein/high fiber foods like eggs and Greek Yogurt— these will help you stay fuller for longer, helping you manage your hunger. Do not skip meals; you may end up snacking on unhealthy foods because you feel hungry.
5. Include more protein in your diet.
Proteins make one feel fuller and help prevent overeating. They also help build muscle mass, essential for accelerating metabolism— helping burn more calories, even at rest. Experts recommend eating 25 to 30 grams of protein per meal to control appetite and manage body weight. Be sure to check with your nutritionist for the recommended protein quantities based on one's body weight.
6. Eat more home-cooked meals.
Studies show that people who prepare their meals avoid consuming processed foods linked to weight gain. A 2017 study found that people who ate home-cooked food more than five times a week consumed a higher-quality diet and maintained a lower body fat percentage.
7. Track your food intake to help you understand your eating habits.
Keep a food diary where you enter what you eat daily, the portions, and the time of day. This tracking will help you have an overall picture of your eating habits, helping you to adjust and reduce your calorie intake, reduce the amounts, adjust the time when you eat, and generally eat more mindfully.
8. Drink a lot of water.
Studies show that drinking more water may help with weight loss as water may help suppress your appetite and minimise cravings. Drinking water has also been found to stimulate your metabolism and help reduce one's overall liquid calorie intake— juice and soda. Water is also essential for lipolysis, the body's burning of fat for energy. Experts recommend drinking at least 250 millilitres of water eight times a day. Studies show this routine can curb cravings and leave one satiated throughout the day.
9. Get adequate sleep of at least 7-9 hours.
Studies have associated poor sleep with weight gain and the likelihood of obesity among adults and children. Sleep-deprived people were found to consume an additional 385 calories per day, while another study showed that sleep deprivation led to increased hunger and craving for food.
Sleep deprivation affects the production of appetite-regulating hormones ghrelin and leptin, making one feel hungrier throughout the day. Sleep deprivation may also lead to increased cortisol, the stress hormone, which can lead to one gaining a harder-to-lose body and belly fat. Getting enough sleep may moderate your appetite and power you for the next day to exercise and move more.
Remember to focus on losing weight the healthy way. Experts recommend losing about one kilogram a week.