We’re drowning in opinions about how to slim down. Your cousin thinks he’s a weight loss expert, your co-worker insists she’s a weight loss expert, perhaps even your spouse has started chiming in. With all these opinions swarming about, you’re probably aching for strategies actually backed by science.
If you’re looking for shortcuts that might actually work, here are 8 weight loss strategies backed by science.
1. Check your weight daily
When you’re trying to lose weight, it can be discouraging to step on the scale. You want to see a lower number, and you know it won’t happen overnight. Still, research says weighing yourself regularly could help you slim down. In one study, researchers from the University of Minnesota and Cornell University found that participants “who were weighing themselves daily lost significantly more weight than those who were not.”
2. Write down your weight loss goal
Dr. Gail Matthews at Dominican University found that people who wrote their goals down were 42% more likely to achieve them. This research study wasn’t specific to weight loss, but it certainly applies. If you need help setting a weight loss goal, this article will give you a framework.
3. Limit liquid calories
Several research studies link liquid calories to weight gain and even cultural obesity. One study suggests this is partially because the calories in soda don’t fill you up like the calories in food, removing the natural instinct to stop.
If you decide to cut down your liquid calories, you can quench you thirst with our next strategy.
4. Drink more water before meals
A study published in the journal Obesity found that participants who drank 16 ounces of water before meals lost more weight than participants who did not. This is presumably because drinking the water helped them feel more full so they ate less during meals.
If you need a break from all this science, you might also enjoy learning that Khloe Kardashian says drinking more water was key to her weight loss.
5. Start “crowding out” unhealthy foods by beginning your meals with healthy foods
This isn’t an actual research study, but New York Times bestselling author Kathy Freston has a fascinating article about what she calls “crowding out.” Basically, this involves eating healthy foods first in your meals so you’ll be less hungry for the other stuff. The beauty of this strategy is it lets your stomach tell you when to stop eating instead of putting that burden on your brain. Freston recommends eating more foods that naturally contain fiber to crowd out other foods, saying, “the one dietary component most associated with weight loss is fiber consumption.” Click here for a great big list of high fiber foods.
Speaking of fiber…
6. Consider eating more beans
“A 2013 study conducted by researchers at Loma Linda University found that ‘a high-fibre bean-rich diet was as effective as a low-carbohydrate diet for weight loss.’ Another study revealed that ‘bean eaters weighed, on average, 7 pounds less and had slimmer waists than their bean-avoiding counterparts.’” That quote comes from the Lifehack.org article “10 Delicious Bean Recipes to Help You Lose Weight,” which is a great place to start if beans aren’t a regular part of your diet.
7. Sleep 7-9 hours every night
We all know we should get more sleep. We hear it so much the advice almost puts us to sleep. But do you realize just how much research shows getting enough sleep is important for weight loss?
An article by Amy Paturel at WebMD drives the point home (bullets added for clarity):
- “A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that when people were starved of sleep, late-night snacking increased, and they were more likely to choose high-carb snacks.”
- “A second study found that sleeping too little prompts people to eat bigger portions of all foods, increasing weight gain.”
- “And in a review of 18 studies, researchers found that a lack of sleep led to increased cravings for energy-dense, high-carbohydrate foods.”
By my count, that’s twenty studies that appear to encourage sleep for weight loss. Maybe we should all take the advice a bit more seriously.
8. Form healthy habits using the “Implementation Intention” strategy
Implementation intention might sound a bit obtuse, but just think of it as a handy way to form new habits. It revolves around setting goals using an “if/then” structure.
For example, if you want to start eating better, instead of just saying “I’m going to eat more beans,” you could say, “If I eat at a restaurant, I’ll order beans as my side dish” (Modified from Chapter 8, pages 137-138 of Then a miracle occurs: Focusing on behavior in social psychological theory and research).
Can you see how an if/then goal is more powerful than just saying, “I want to start eating better”? This strategy helps you form habits by forcing you to set specific goals that have built-in triggers to remind you to take action. A meta-analysis of ninety-four research studies revealed that implementation intention can “improve the capacity of individuals to initiate and maintain behaviors that fulfill their goals in many domains.” Examples cited include eating healthy foods and exercising.
Which strategy will you try?
Hopefully this post has provided some peace of mind by reminding you there are still science-backed ways to slim down. Pick the strategy that speaks to you and give it a try. And please share this post with friends who might find it helpful.
Featured photo credit: Lose weight now/ Alan Cleaver via flickr.com