Dropping some pounds isn’t easy, especially when we are surrounded with so much misleading information online. For the best results, it’s essential to use a science-based approach. Learn our five tips for natural weight loss so you can tackle your 2023 resolutions with confidence.
Individuals looking to lose weight naturally should understand that it takes healthy measures of both mind and body to create an overall healthy lifestyle.
While these tips are backed by science, everyone is created differently and results can vary based on age, sex, height, weight, and other health conditions.
It’s important to know that these changes are not a quick fix and are part of a lifestyle change.
1. Intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting (IF) has become wildly popular in the last several years, focusing on cycling between periods of fasting (no food) and periods of unrestricted eating. When you implement IF and run out of these calories from the food you have consumed, your body then focuses on burning fat. While glucose from carbs is typically our primary fuel source, you will burn fat for energy when you run out. Perhaps the most popular form is the 16:8 fasting: 16 hours of fasting and 8 hours of eating.
Over 12 weeks, researchers worked with 23 obese participants with an average body mass index (BMI) of 35. Using the 16:8 fasting rule, they found that participants consumed fewer calories, resulting in weight loss, and had decreased blood pressure levels. Without counting calories, they also unintentionally decreased their intake by approximately 300 calories and lost an average of 3% of their body weight.
While intermittent fasting isn’t for everyone, it can undoubtedly be a life-changing experience for some individuals. If you have any concerns about the fasting regimen, it's best to discuss this with your physician to ensure it’s a good fit.
2. Get a good night's sleep
Sleep is the time for your body to rest and rejuvenate, but when it’s constantly interrupted, it can seriously affect your mental and physical health. This is because the hours of sleep you get and the quality of sleep in that time highly affect the hormones that control hunger and fullness (ghrelin and leptin). Ghrelin stimulates the appetite and controls when you are hungry, and leptin is responsible for sending signals to the brain when you’re full. When you get a good night of sleep, these hormones balance for a healthy diet, but when you get poor sleep, ghrelin levels increase and leptin levels decrease.
A study researched the difference between participants who slept 5.5 hours or 8.5 hours per night for 14 days. Their results concluded that the group who slept 8.5 hours had a total energy loss of 1039 calories per day, compared to 573 calories per day for the 5.5-hour group. The 5.5-hour group lost 55% less body fat and 60% more fat-free mass than the 8.5-hour group.
3. Track your food intake
While it’s important to remember not to get caught up in obsessing over every calorie, tracking your food intake and eating habits can be extremely helpful in your weight loss journey. Not only will this help track your calories and other nutrients, but it will make you aware of what you’re eating, how much you’re eating, and how often (including the times you typically eat). Once you have enough information to form a pattern, it can help you determine the changes you need to make to achieve your goals. Research shows that consistent tracking of food intake can result in significant weight loss, but you have to be consistent with it. If you’re new to tracking your diet, these tips can help get you started:
- Log your foods and beverages immediately after consuming them, so you don’t forget any details.
- Write down the times you eat to watch for late-night snacking or other habits.
- Don’t forget to log your water intake — it’s just as important.
- Try to be as accurate as possible, even if you’re unsure about little details.
Over time, you will start to build new habits and automatically know what your body needs each day without having to track it.
4. Manage stress levels
Stress can be an extremely dangerous strain on the body. Not only can it keep you from sleeping, but it can make you avoid your daily workout, turn to junk food as comfort, and, as a result, gain weight. In addition, stress-related hormones, such as cortisol, also play a role by affecting the appetite and metabolism. Luckily, there are several solutions to minimize (if not eliminate) stress levels, including:
- Use a stress-management program (research shows these programs can significantly reduce BMI).
- Exercise regularly.
- Meditate or practice deep breathing techniques.
- Unplug from all electronics.
- Spend some time with yourself doing yoga, reading, or taking a bath.
5. Eat more protein
Oftentimes, those looking to lose weight shy away from added calories, including extra protein. In reality, packing on protein can help you lose more weight. Clinical trials have concluded that consuming more protein than the recommended dietary allowance reduces body weight and enhances body composition by decreasing fat mass while preserving fat-free mass in low and standard-calorie diets. High-protein diets not only help with weight loss but can also prevent you from regaining the weight after it’s lost. Over time, high protein increases satiety, keeping you fuller longer and decreasing your food intake. For a weight loss goal, a registered Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE, recommends these high-protein foods: (lean) meat, eggs, soy products, fish, legumes, greek yogurt, shellfish, and protein powder.
The best way to approach the beginning of a weight transformation goal is to start with a balanced, nutritious diet. Know that there are no quick fixes, and it will take time and effort, but the results will come eventually. And last but not least, enjoy the little things along the way (including indulgences).