It’s hard to lose weight. A doctor shares 6 essential tips to make it easier. A Harvard doctor shares her best strategy for measuring progress — and it has nothing to do with the scale. Choosing unhealthy foods can also lead to weight gain. And it’s not as simple as just eating too many calories.
An unhealthy diet triggers changes in the way your brain, gut, and hormones work together. “An unhealthy diet will lead to more inflammation. That includes inflammation in the brain, and adverse effects on hormones that influence brain function,” Manson said.
Ever notice how you can burn right through an entire bag of potato chips or a sleeve of cookies? Highly processed foods, refined carbohydrates, and sugar don’t make you feel full. “In fact, they lead to a sort of rebound hunger where you’re eating many more calories than you would need if you had a high-quality diet,” Manson said.
Processed foodsoften have the nutrients and fiber stripped out of them. They are more likely to be absorbed into the bloodstream quickly, which leads to an insulin surge. That’s what makes you feel hungry and can lead to overeating and weight gain.
If your doctor recommends it, there are ways to lose weight safely. A steady weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds per week is recommended for the most effective long-term weight management. That said, many eating plans leave you feeling hungry or unsatisfied. These are major reasons why you might find it hard to stick to a healthier eating plan.
However, not all diets have this effect. Low carb diets and whole food, lower calorie diets are effective for weight loss and may be easier to stick to than other diets. Here are some ways to lose weight that employ healthy eating, potentially lower carbs, and that aim to:
- reduce your appetite
- cause fast weight loss
- improve your metabolic health at the same time
How to Lose Weight Fast in 3 Simple Steps
1. Cut back on refined carbs
One way to lose weight quickly is to cut back on sugars and starches, or carbohydrates. This could be with a low carb eating plan or by reducing refined carbs and replacing them with whole grains.
When you do that, your hunger levels go down, and you generally end up eating fewer calories (1Trusted Source).
With a low carb eating plan, you’ll utilize burning stored fat for energy instead of carbs.
If you choose to eat more complex carbs like whole grains along with a calorie deficit, you’ll benefit from higher fiber and digest them more slowly. This makes them more filling to keep you satisfied.
A 2020 study confirmed that a very low carbohydrate diet was beneficial for losing weight in older populations (2).
Research also suggests that a low carb diet can reduce appetite, which may lead to eating fewer calories without thinking about it or feeling hungry (3Trusted Source).
Note that the long-term effects of a low carb diet are still being researched. It can also be difficult to adhere to a low carb diet, which may lead to yo-yo dieting and less success in maintaining a healthy weight.
There are potential downsides to a low carb diet that may lead you to a different method. Reduced calorie diets can also lead to weight loss and be easier to maintain for longer periods of time.
If you opt for a diet focusing instead on whole grains over refined carbs, a 2019 study correlated high whole grain with lower body mass index (BMI) (4Trusted Source).
To determine the best way for you to lose weight, consult your doctor for recommendations.
2. Eat protein, fat, and vegetables
Each one of your meals should include:
- a protein source
- fat source
- a small portion of complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains
To see how you can assemble your meals, check out:
Eating a recommended amount of protein is essential to help preserve your health and muscle mass while losing weight (5Trusted Source).
Evidence suggests that eating adequate protein may improve cardiometabolic risk factors, appetite, and body weight, (6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source).
Here’s how to determine how much you need to eat without eating too much. Many factors determine your specific needs, but generally, an average person needs (9Trusted Source):
- 56–91 grams per day for the average male
- 46–75 grams per day for the average female
Diets with adequate protein can also help:
- reduce cravings and obsessive thoughts about food by 60%
- reduce the desire to snack late at night by half
- make you feel full
In one study, people on a higher protein diet ate 441 fewer calories per day (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).
Healthy protein sources include:
- meat: beef, chicken, pork, and lamb
- fish and seafood: salmon, trout, and shrimp
- eggs: whole eggs with the yolk
- plant-based proteins: beans, legumes, quinoa, tempeh, and tofu
Low carb and leafy green vegetables
Don’t be afraid to load your plate with leafy green vegetables. They’re packed with nutrients, and you can eat very large amounts without greatly increasing calories and carbs.
Vegetables to include for low carb or low calorie eating plans:
- Brussels sprouts
- Swiss chard
Don’t be afraid of eating fats.
Your body still requires healthy fats no matter what eating plan you choose. Olive oil and avocado oil are great choices for including in your eating plan.
Other fats such as butter and coconut oil should be used only in moderation due to their higher saturated fat content (12Trusted Source).
Exercise, while not required to lose weight, can help you lose weight more quickly. Lifting weights has particularly good benefits.
By lifting weights, you’ll burn lots of calories and prevent your metabolism from slowing down, which is a common side effect of losing weight (13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source).
Try going to the gym three to four times a week to lift weights. If you’re new to the gym, ask a trainer for some advice. Make sure your doctor is also aware of any new exercise plans.
If lifting weights is not an option for you, doing some cardio workouts such as walking, jogging, running, cycling, or swimming is very beneficial for weight loss and general health.
Both cardio and weightlifting can help with weight loss.
What about calories and portion control?
If you opt for a low carb eating plan, it’s not necessary to count calories as long as you keep your carb intake very low and stick to protein, fat, and low carb vegetables.
If you find yourself not losing weight, you may want to keep track of your calories to see if that’s a contributing factor.
If you’re sticking to a calorie deficit to lose weight, you can use a free online calculator like this one.
Enter your sex, weight, height, and activity levels. The calculator will tell you how many calories to eat per day to maintain your weight, lose weight, or lose weight fast.
You can also download free, easy-to-use calorie counters from websites and app stores. Here’s a list of 5 calorie counters to try.
Note that eating too few calories can be dangerous and less effective for losing weight. Aim to reduce your calories by a sustainable and healthy amount based on your doctor’s recommendation.
- smoked salmon with avocado and a side of asparagus
- lettuce wrap with grilled chicken, black beans, red pepper, and salsa
- kale and spinach salad with grilled tofu, chickpeas, and guacamole
- BLT wrap with celery sticks and peanut butter
- enchilada salad with chicken, peppers, mango, avocado, and spices
- ground turkey bake with mushrooms, onions, peppers, and cheese
- antipasto salad with white beans, asparagus, cucumbers, olive oil, and Parmesan
- roasted cauliflower with tempeh, Brussels sprouts, and pine nuts
- salmon baked with ginger, sesame oil, and roasted zucchini
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