20 Weight Loss Tips That Actually Work

weight loss tips that work based on research evidence

How can you know if weight loss advice you read or hear will actually work?  Any weight loss suggestions should be backed by science, and the more research the better.  Scientists are still working on narrowing down nutrition advice to tailored individualized recommendations based on someone’s genetics and medical history.

In the meantime, for best weight loss results stick with following tips like these that are beneficial for your overall health, can be maintained long term and are backed by science.

#1 Eat more food earlier in the day and less at night.

what to eat for breakfast

Besides quantity and quality of calories you are eating, research studies are suggesting timing of calories can be another important factor for weight balance.

A 2013 study from Obesity (1) put obese research participants into 2 groups that received equal calories.

The only difference was one group ate 700 calories for breakfast, 500 for lunch and 200 for dinner.  The other group ate 200 calories for breakfast, 500 calories for lunch and 700 calories for dinner.

Researchers found after 12 weeks, the group eating the larger breakfast had significantly more weight loss compared to the larger dinner group.

These research results suggest shifting your food intake to eating more calories earlier in the day instead of later in the day could help with weight loss.

#2 Spread out your protein intake.

protein weight loss

Protein has been in the spotlight for helping promote weight loss.  One reason is protein increases satiety which can help regulate appetite through the day.

A review of research on protein intake from University of Missouri-Columbia (2) found spreading out your protein intake throughout the day can also be beneficial for weight loss.

It is common to for many people to load up on protein rich foods for dinner but eat lighter amounts of protein for breakfast and lunch.  Instead, spreading out protein intake equally at each meal can be helpful for weight loss.

Researchers suggest getting around 30 grams of protein at each meal.  This can be doable without using protein powders and even from using vegetarian sources.

You can even shift foods you normally eat for dinner and start eating them for breakfast!

#3 Eat a handful of nuts per day.

benefits of eating nuts every day

Eating a handful of any kind of nuts can may actually help you with weight loss and to prevent weight gain according to some research studies.

Nuts are high in calories, so it may seem intuitive to not eat them if you are trying to lose weight.  However, eating about one ounce every or most days has not been shown to increase risk for weight gain.

A 2003 review (3) and 2016 study (4) both suggest eating nuts can help with weight regulation.

In fact, the 2016 study which included data from over 7,000 people, concluded long term nut consumption decreased risk for obesity.

#4 Cut out liquid sugar.

One of the first steps for weight loss, no matter what program you are following, is to cut out liquid sugar from your diet.

Sugary drinks like soda, sweetened tea or sweet coffee drinks can spike blood sugar levels which can increase risk for weight gain.

These drinks are also considered empty calories because they don’t provide any nutritional value.

Think juice is a better choice? 

It turns out juice can still spike blood sugar, even 100% juice.  Cutting out any sweetened beverage can help with long term weight balance.

Many research studies suggest there is a link between sugary drinks and weight gain.

For example, a 2004 study (5) with data from over 90,000 women from 1991 to 1999 found those with a higher consumption of sweetened beverages had a significantly higher risk for weight gain and risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

#5 Eat off of plates, not out of containers.

Research from Cornell Food & Brand Lab (6) suggests the mind has a harder time registering how much food we eat when we don’t see it portioned out.

For example, it’s easier to eat more chips when eating straight out of the bag instead of eating the chips off a plate.

Help yourself out by eating food off a plate, bowl or even napkin instead of reaching into a container with your hand.

Your brain will register how much you’re eating better, and you’ll be able to visualize your portion size you’re eating.

#6 Eat off smaller plates.

Simply eating off a smaller plate may actually help you eat less food.

Research from Cornell University (7) found when students had larger bowls, they ate 56% more food than those who had smaller bowls.

Eating from a larger size plate or bowl can signal you it’s “ok” to eat a larger serving of food.  Altering this environmental cue could help you naturally lower your portion size at meals.

#7 Get more fiber.

One thing you can try to get more of, not less, when trying to lose weight is fiber.  Most Americans already don’t get enough fiber, and getting more fiber will not only benefit heart and digestive health, it could also help with weight loss.

A 2005 review (8) suggests there is a strong link from research that a high fiber intake can help prevent obesity.

Eating more fibrous foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains could help you shed extra pounds.

According to Harvard Health (9) research from the University of Massachusetts Medical School suggests just changing your fiber intake can help you lose weight.

Women should aim to get at least 25 grams of fiber per day and men 38 grams per day.

#8 Slow down when you eat.

Eating too fast doesn’t give your body enough time to signal the brain when its full.  Instead, you get the signal to stop eating when you feel stuffed, not satisfied.

This pattern can promote excessive food intake.  Slowing down when you eat can help you stop when you’re full and can help lower food intake.

A 2008 study (10) found when research participants ate slowly, their food intake decreased and satiety increased.

Instead of mindlessly eating as fast as you can, slow down when you’re eating.  Take breaks in between bites, chew your food thoroughly and enjoy what you’re eating.

#9 Eat more fruit instead of juice.

Even though fruit juice counts as a serving of fruit according to the USDA, the effect fruit juice has on the body is different compared to whole fruit.

Whole fruit has fiber which can help slow the digestion and absorption of sugar into the bloodstream.

According to Harvard Health (11) eating whole fruit is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

However, drinking fruit juice was associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

#10 Get more water through the day.

drink more water

You may feel like munching on something just because your body is trying to get more fluids.  The signal in the body to get more fluids can be misinterpreted in the brain to eat something.

Drinking enough water through the day could help lower the urge to eat something.  Plus, getting enough water through the day is important for many other health reasons.

If you want a snack, drink a glass of water and wait.  If you’re still hungry, reach for a healthy snack.  Drinking a glass of water before a meal could also help you eat less at a meal.

#11 Make half your plate filled with fruits and veggies.

As mentioned in #7, getting more fiber in the diet can help with weight loss.

How can you easily bump up your fiber intake? 

Make half your plate filled with fruits and veggies at all meal times.  This will not only bump up your fiber intake, but it will also fill you up without a lot of calories.

Eating a diet high in volume but low in calories, like the principle of the Volumetrics diet (12), can be a satisfying, nutritious approach to weight loss.

#12 Eat a piece of fruit before a meal.

Like drinking a glass of water, research suggests eating a piece of fruit before a meal may also help you eat less and help with weight loss.

A 2003 study (13) put overweight participants into one of three categories to eat three times a day: apple, pear or an oatmeal cookie.

After 12 weeks, both fruit groups lost weight, but the oatmeal cookie group did not.  Researchers concluded the fruit intake probably helped contribute to weight loss.

Fruit and vegetables are low in calories, but they are high in fiber which means they can help keep you feeling full.

#13 Vary your workout intensity.

workout six pack abs

Surprisingly, the link between exercise and weight loss is not that strong.  It may take more exercise than expected to help you lose weight effectively.

So, no matter what your fitness level, bumping up your movement can help with weight loss.

What can also help is to vary your exercise intensity.

Moderate exercise is an effective calorie burning exercise, but doing some higher intensity intervals as part of your workout plan could give you an added benefit of calorie burn after exercise and even affecting your appetite after exercise.

A 2014 study found desire to eat was lower in study participants after doing high intensity intervals compared to after moderate exercise.

Participants also desired higher fat foods more after moderate exercise compared to higher intensity exercise.

#14 Focus on your food when you’re eating.

Could eating undistracted actually help you eat less? 

According to a 2013 review (14) of 24 studies, eating when distracted can increase food intake.

What does this mean? Just eating instead of multi-tasking could help you consume fewer calories.

#15 Get protein in the morning (especially from eggs).

The importance of spreading out your protein intake through the day can be a key tip for weight loss.

How can you get protein in the morning

One way is by eating eggs, and according to a 2008 study (15), eating eggs in the morning could help with weight loss.

This study found, compared to equal calorie breakfast of bagels, the egg group lost significantly more weight at the end of 8 weeks while following a low calorie diet.

#16 Keep your plate color a different color than your food.

Don’t color coordinate your food and your plates.  That’s the basic message from a study (16) from Cornell Food & Brand Lab which found people served themselves more food when the color of the food was the same as the plate.

On the other hand, when colors contrasted, people served themselves less food.  On average, serving food on different colored plates lowered the food that was served by 10%,

#17 Follow a Mediterranean diet.

mediterranean diet food pyramid

The Mediterranean diet has been associated with many health benefits from research including a lowered risk for cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases.

Could following a Mediterranean diet also help with weight loss?  According to an 2016 study (17) it appears weight loss can be added to health benefits of Mediterranean diet.

This may be somewhat surprising because the Mediterranean diet allows for a higher fat intake compared to other eating plans.

However, it is also very high in high fiber plant foods, low in red meat and sweets which may also play a role in weight loss benefit.

#18 Limit intake of artificial sweeteners.

Limiting added sugar intake is recommended for overall health and for weight loss efforts.

Turning to artificial sweeteners instead can seem like a healthy swap, but as some research studies suggest, these artificial sweeteners may have other potential harmful effects on the body.

A 2007 review (18) some research suggests intensely sweet flavors may increase desire for sweets, over eating and weight gain.

Some other research studies have suggested artificial sweeteners may have a negative effect on gut bacteria health.

#19 Eat a combination of protein, fiber and fat at meals.

Avoiding blood glucose and insulin spikes after meals can inhibit fat accumulation.

A strong release of insulin from high blood sugar levels will work to normalize blood sugar levels, but it can also promote fat storage.

Eating balanced meals with protein, fiber and healthy fats can help slowly release glucose into the blood stream.

Eating a meal with only carbohydrates can be more likely to cause a strong glucose and insulin release.

#20 Look at pictures of healthy foods.

Preliminary research out of the University of South Carolina (19) suggests the food you see can impact what you eat.

Researchers found when study participants looked at high calorie foods, appetite and reward centers in the brain were stimulated.

This suggests what we see can play a strong role in what we reach for to eat.

While putting pictures of healthy food on your refrigerator might help you reach for healthy food in the kitchen, another way to think about this concept is just making healthy food accessible in your kitchen so it’s what you see first.

Put the junk food in the back of a cupboard, behind healthier options in the frig.  This may help you naturally choose healthier foods as a first choice.

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