Maintaining a healthy body weight is important for health since being overweight or obese can lead to metabolic and heart diseases. Most people find it challenging to lose weight and then maintain it. Magical solutions were often searched first. The internet is full of popular diets promoting weight loss but are they effective? In this article, you'll learn weight loss methods that scientific research supports.
The vast majority of popular diets are not supported by scientific evidence.
Negative energy balance is a fundamental principle of weight loss. For example, starvation is not a good strategy for long-term healthy weight loss. A negative energy balance should be combined with a healthy nutrition plan and exercise.
Behavioral and lifestyle modifications help weight loss by increasing nutrition education, physical activity, and behavior awareness.
No nutrition plan works magically for all. Weight loss is sustainable when nutrition and lifestyle changes turn into habits.
Hypocaloric yet balanced nutrition
A healthy and balanced diet lower in calories than your caloric needs is the most established healthy and long-term weight loss method. Therefore, a healthy eating plan with optimal calorie deficiency is a goal of hypocaloric yet balanced nutrition. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020–2025, a healthy eating plan:
- Includes fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, milk, and milk products.
- Includes quality protein sources — lean meats, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
- Limits refined/added sugars, sodium, and unhealthy fats (saturated and trans fats).
Although calorie deficiency is needed for weight loss, do not over-cut calories unless your doctor recommends otherwise. Very low-calorie diets can do more harm than good. Fewer calories do not necessarily translate to greater weight loss. However, small gaps between your caloric intake and calorie needs should be enough to lose 1 to 2 lbs a week.
Very-low-calorie diets consist of 800 or fewer calories — when the average person needs 2000-2500 calories daily. Potential side effects of very-low-calorie diets include low energy levels, digestive problems, and dizziness.
Behavior and lifestyle modification
Habits are powerful. Behavior and lifestyle modifications aimed at adhering to practices that promote weight loss, including nutrition education, physical activity, and behavioral techniques such as self-monitoring.
Adapting physical activity
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity such as brisk walking, running, cycling, or swimming. WHO also emphasizes the importance of doing muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week. Physical activity helps promote lean body mass increasing your basal metabolic rate, which helps maintain a healthy weight long-term.
Benefits of physical activity help:
- Maintain a healthy weight range
- Increase and maintain lean body mass
- Improve heart, lung, and skeletal health
- Improve mood and self-esteem
- Improve healthy blood glucose and lipid ranges
Scheduling meals may help limit emotional eating — out of boredom, for example. However, the timing of your meals can influence your weight because your body clock has expectations. Your body's circadian rhythm affects your mood, health, and weight. That's why workers changing to shift work often gain weight.
Eating late disturbs physiology, including hormones and the body's resting energy use. Additionally, experts recommend distributing caloric intake throughout the day instead of eating large meals at night.
Tips for behavioral transformations
Here are some useful tactics you can practice to build healthier habits:
- Mindful eating. Not focusing on anything else while eating.
- Avoid shopping when hungry. People tend to buy more high-fat, high-sugar, processed foods on an empty stomach.
- Being aware of how environments change your eating habits. Environmental factors influence what you eat. It may change the availability of foods, your appetite, and food choices. For example, eating out promotes weight gain because restaurants generally serve larger portions, and dishes are often higher in fat and sugar. Brown-bagging home-cooked meals to work or school can help manage daily caloric intake better.
- Nutrition education. Even reading food labels can make significant differences. You may be eating high-calorie foods with loads of sodium, fat, and/or sugar without realizing it. Reading labels can heighten your awareness about high-calorie, unhealthy foods.
Behavioral changes combined with physical activity and balanced nutrition can increase your chances of losing weight and maintaining a healthy diet. However, if your goal is to lose weight without starving yourself or destroying your health, you should consult your doctor or dietitian, as they can guide you on adopting a weight-loss diet that matches your unique nutritional and caloric needs.