What's the Best Way to Lose Weight?
Any weight loss plan worth its salt will prioritize diet over exercise. Research shows that making dietary changes is a more effective way to lose fat than relying on exercise alone. The calories you burn in an hourlong spin class are practically undone if you follow up with a 600-calorie frappuccino.
There’s no shortage of diets on the market for you to choose from — there’s truly something for every taste and budget.
Then why are so many people still trying to lose weight?
Because diets work… until they don’t. But that doesn’t mean you have to throw in your fork and give up.
Making a Plan
Scott Kahan, M.D., director of the National Center for Weight & Wellness in Washington, D.C., and spokesperson for the Obesity Society has looked at hundreds of diets, and shares this fact: “There is no scientific evidence to support the belief that one diet is better than any other.”
The diet that works is the one you will stick with, Kahan stresses. If it is overly strict and unrealistic, then it’s not sustainable. Your diet should include a variety of foods that you enjoy and satisfy you, as well as leave room for eating less or more at times.
Think about it: how long can you slurp up that 45-calorie serving of cabbage soup for breakfast, lunch, and dinner before giving up?
Simply put, some diets make more sense than others. There are healthier and more filling choices that will satisfy you, rather than make you feel cranky and hungry.
In addition to what you’re eating, you also need to pay attention to what you are doing. Make sure your weight loss plan includes these three key elements:
1. Physical Activity
Obesity expert Donna Ryan, M.D. — professor and associate executive director for clinical research at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center — points to data that show those who exercise one hour per day experience the most success.
The best workouts for weight loss
Any form of exercise is great, but certain types of workouts have a distinct edge when it comes to weight loss.
Never underestimate the power of muscle: it is essential for keeping your metabolism humming along.
“Muscle is metabolically more active than fat,” fitness pro Joan Pagano says, “revving up your resting metabolic rate to burn more calories throughout the day.”
And the best way to build muscle? Good old fashioned strength training.
2. Dial-In Your Diet
The National Institutes of Health advocates keeping track of total daily calories. Every effective diet is based on consistently maintaining a mild caloric deficit over time. You can do that by reducing fat or carbohydrate intake, cutting junk food or simple sugar, or any combination of these strategies–some of which are included in the diet strategies listed below. As with exercise, consistency is the key.
But are all calories created equal when it comes to dieting? No. Certain foods and ways of eating can be more advantageous than others. Some recommend balancing macronutrients — carbohydrates, protein and fat —as a more sound weight loss strategy instead of simply cutting calories.
What should I eat to lose weight?
“What we eat is as important as how much we eat,” Dr. Kahan states. “It’s that balance that is the essential factor in weight change and long-term weight regulation.”
A few approaches people have found effective are:
- Zone Diet – a flexible plan that is also also known as the 40/30/30 diet (40% carbs/30% protein/30% fat)
- Keto – a low-carb, high-fat, adequate protein diet.
- Paleo – a low-carb eating plan that focuses on consuming meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
- Whole 30 – a plan that eliminates added sugar, alcohol, dairy, gluten, grains, and legumes for 30 days.
- Atkins – a diet that recommended replacing carbs with virtually any high-fat, high-protein foods when it came onto the scene in the early ’70s.
So, pay attention to what you eat, monitor your portions and the types of foods you eat. Several studies found that making conscious food choices, and knowing when you’re hungry and when you’re full, are helpful weight-loss strategies.
Choosing the right foods
Protein is a good place to start when selecting foods for a weight loss plan, especially one that includes exercise. Try to consume .7-1.0 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
What’s the best protein? Eggs whites are one of the purest natural protein sources available. Fish is another good source. Salmon, anchovies and sardines are also loaded with essential omega-3 fatty acids.
Does the thought of eating carbs make you cringe because you think they contribute to weight gain?
The Mediterranean diet, which has been shown to help people lose weight, consists of several carbohydrates from healthier sources. These include fruit, vegetables, and beans.
How do you find a healthy carbohydrate source? Look for carbs that are high in fiber (i.e., oranges, broccoli, chickpeas, and quinoa), as these will fill you up with relatively few calories. Plus, research shows that increasing fiber intake may be an effective weight-loss strategy on its own.
Don’t be afraid of fats, either, as they are part of a balanced diet. The data is clear that not all fats are bad. There are healthy fats, which, in moderate amounts, can be factored into a weight loss plan, and can even have health-protective benefits, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. These include omega-3 fats and monounsaturated fats, found in sources such as fatty fish (salmon), walnuts, avocados, and even peanut butter.
Meal planning for weight loss
It may seem like overkill, but planning out your weekly meals in advance may help you make smarter decisions later.
Having healthy, balanced meals planned and prepped helps keep you from the drive-thru or takeout counter when you’re busy and stressed.
Meal planning also takes the guesswork out of eating, so there’s one less thing to worry about during the week.
3. Move More Throughout The Day
There are simple changes you can make to succeed at weight loss, and you probably know some of them already:
- Ditch the elevator and take the stairs
- Hoof it to work if you can, or get off the bus or subway a few stops short of your destination, then walk the rest of the way
- Park your car in the most distant part of the parking lot
How to Maintain Your Goal Weight
Regardless of how you lose the weight, losing significant mass can lead to a slower metabolism, says Kahan, who adds, “that slowing can be combatted with basic behaviors, like physical activity — especially strength training — and continued attention to healthful dietary changes.”
To maintain a dramatic weight loss for the long term demands a lifestyle overhaul. But, “if [that overhaul] is overly-strict and unrealistic and you’re eating as little as possible, it won’t work in the long run,” he says.