If you’re like many Americans, there may not be many weight loss techniques you haven’t explored — supplements, new exercise regimens, or perhaps the latest diet trend — all in the hopes of shedding some extra pounds.
According to survey results published by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), about 1 in 6 adults over 20 years old were on a special diet between 2015–2018¹.
While there are ample “rapid weight-loss” regimens touted on the internet every day, not nearly as many weight loss approaches are backed by science or even proven successful.
If you’re looking for evidence-based tips, keep reading and learn about eight weight loss tactics that have been formally evaluated. See which of these sounds doable for you, and discuss with your doctor. These tactics are meant to complement a nutritious approach to eating and staying physically active.
Note: Once you decide to take action toward improving your health, it’s understandable if you’re in a hurry to lose weight. Keep in mind that the CDC recommends losing weight gradually, at a rate of about 1–2 lbs a week¹⁶ (maximum). So, as you continue reading, keep in mind that “fast” weight loss, in this context, is the most potential weight loss you can achieve, within that guideline.
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Tracking your progress after setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely) is a healthy way to keep yourself motivated to lose weight. When studied, tracking and goal-setting are tied to achieving better long-term weight loss results than people without a measurable plan attained.
In fact, in one study with 35,380 participants, those who set goals (more than 15,000 people) experienced greater long-term weight loss results than their counterparts².
A different study with 833 participants found that tracking progress and health parameters (typically by a smartphone app) can lead to weight loss and improve weight management³.
Keep in mind that getting stressed, or anxious about tracking your weight loss is not the desired outcome.
If you find yourself feeling obsessive about tracking your food intake, it’s wise to step away from and check in with your healthcare professional. Together you can continue to figure out a plan that supports your ideal routine.
Eating is a common reaction to stress. When people feel overwhelmed, they are more likely to make unhealthy food choices. By reducing and managing your stress, you increase your interest in physical activity and curb your appetite.
In fact, when people are under constant stress they release more cortisol into their bloodstream, which increases appetite⁴.
In 2018, researchers examined the effects of an 8-week stress management program on patients trying to lose weight. The researchers found that when patients were able to reduce their stress and depression, they were better able to adopt healthier diet choices and reach their goals⁵.
Some stress management techniques to explore might include yoga, walking, jogging, cooking nutritious food, journaling, meditation, art therapy, or reading.
It’s not uncommon to eat quickly and return to what you were doing or in front of a screen – but that’s pretty much the opposite of eating mindfully – aka, recognizing when you’re satisfied but not overly full.
According to a recent 2019 study, participants who ate slower experienced greater feelings of fullness, a better memory of their meal, and a 25% reduction in snacking later on⁶.
Additional research found that watching TV while eating leads to being overweight. For example, a cross-sectional study has found that people who watched TV at lunch and dinner had higher odds of becoming obese than those that did not. This is because they ate more than usual when distracted⁷.
It might take a few minor changes to your eating patterns to see quick weight loss results. One tactic that’s often successful is adding protein to your meals. Protein gives you energy, makes you feel satisfied, and can boost your resting metabolism.
According to one 2015 study, participants with higher-protein, calorie-restricted diets experience more remarkable weight and fat loss (plus lean muscle mass maintenance) compared to those who had lower-protein calorie-restricted diets⁸.
Also, increasing your protein intake at breakfast can facilitate faster weight loss. A 2010 study examined three groups: “breakfast-skippers,” average protein breakfast eaters, and protein-rich breakfast eaters. The report found that the protein-rich breakfast group had a greater reduction in appetite, more fullness, and fewer calories consumed at lunch⁹.
Refined carbohydrates include foods like bread, pasta, white rice, and many baked goods. Unrefined carbohydrates can include multigrain bread, beans, as well as many raw vegetables and fruit.
While you can still include carbs in your diet, limiting the ones that offer little or no nutritional value can lead to quicker weight loss and lower your risks of diabetes.
A 2004 study reported that the combination of increased carbohydrate intake and a lower fiber intake has led to a type 2 diabetes epidemic in the US¹⁰. The report also found that there was a consistent link between obesity and increased portions of refined carbs.
Consider switching out refined carb options with healthier unrefined whole grains, non-starchy vegetables, legumes, and nuts.
Fiber is an important nutrient for weight loss because it's strongly associated with fullness.
According to a 2019 study focused on the association between fiber intake and weight loss among adults, eating dietary fiber not only promotes weight loss but sticking to your diet long-term. The most influential predictor of weight loss in their study was fiber intake¹¹.
Some of the most fiber-rich foods to incorporate into your diet include pears, raspberries, green beans, broccoli, barley, quinoa, split peas, black beans, baked beans, chia seeds, and lentils.
Excessive added sugar in prepared or packaged food — especially beverages — raises the risk of obesity. Small snacks and beverages with high amounts of added sugar can take you well over the daily guideline in just a few bites or sips¹².
Oftentimes, people aren't even aware that they're taking in so much sugar, which is part of the reason that the US population consumes 300% more sugar than the recommended daily amount. Evidence suggests that sugar intake can lead to becoming overweight, an important consideration, especially if you have been focusing mainly on managing your fat intake¹³.
Sometimes people brag about getting less sleep and still getting through the day. Although this might give you more hours a day to work with, you limit your performance and brain function when you skip precious hours of sleep that are needed to repair your mind and body.
In fact, sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain, lack of energy, and a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.
According to research, better quality and quantity of sleep are connected to greater weight loss success. It’s speculated that a good night's sleep could contribute to weight loss by increasing appetite control (associated with leptin increases and ghrelin decreases)¹⁴.
To improve your quantity and quality of sleep, consider turning off all electronics before bed to reduce any stimuli that can keep you awake.
There are many people and companies promising fast weight loss, but not many have been proven successful in studies over the last decade. By focusing on sustained, healthy weight loss using scientifically-proven methods, you increase your odds of achieving your weight loss goal and attaining lasting results¹⁵.
Special diets among adults: United States, 2015–2018 (2020) | NCHS Data Brief
Chronic stress puts your health at risk | Mayo Clinic
12 tips to help you lose weight | National Health Services
Healthy weight, nutrition, and physical activity — Losing weight | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention