Try These 10 Weight Loss Tips

More than 60% of adults say they've had undesired weight changes since the start of the pandemic.

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When the COVID-19 pandemic started in March 2020, it affected Americans in many ways, one of the effects being weight gain. According to a poll from the American Psychological Association (APA), over 40% of participants gained weight from March 2020 to February 2021; of this group, the average weight gain was 29 pounds.

If you have experienced weight gain, here's my plea: Please don't adopt a drastic diet or engage in negative self-talk. Chances are you've been down that road before. And if you're like my clients, you've probably found that an overly restrictive approach can leave you feeling miserable. Most likely, the diet will quickly fizzle out, which results in gaining back all (or more) of the weight loss.

Losing weight in a safe, sustainable way doesn't require an extreme overhaul. It's important to embrace weight loss methods that simultaneously support your health. Each of the ten strategies below can lead to weight loss and improved wellness. More importantly, they're manageable habits that can become a part of your lifestyle.

Take It One Step at a Time

Begin by selecting one or two of these recommendations to focus on at a time. Once each change feels like a natural part of your routine, take on another, then another. This step-by-step approach is designed to help ease you into pre-pandemic habits or foster an even healthier lifestyle.

Add More Veggies to Your Plate

Vegetables contain vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and other protective bioactive compounds. They're also filling and low in calories. Yet data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that just 9% of Americans eat the minimum recommended two to three cups of veggies daily.

Simply incorporating more veggies into each meal may displace other higher-calorie foods. The fiber and fluid in veggies are filling, so you stay fuller longer. That's especially true compared to refined carbs foods, which might make you feel good at first but worse later.

Another approach is to purposefully replace part of your carb portion with veggies—not eliminate them but reduce excess. For example, instead of one cup of cooked brown rice, have a half cup mixed with one cup of chopped greens or riced cauliflower. And rather than one cup of cooked oatmeal, have a half cup combined with a generous scoop of shredded raw zucchini. Your food volume goes up while calories and carbs go down.

Remember, the goal isn't to eliminate carbs—doing that can zap your energy—but to create more balance.

Eat on a Regular Schedule

If you've been eating at erratic times or you tend to graze all day, establishing a regular eating routine can provide several benefits. One advantage is appetite regulation. Choose specific meal times spaced evenly apart. That may look like breakfast at 8 a.m., lunch at noon, a snack around 3 p.m., and dinner at 6 p.m. If needed, set your cell phone alarms as reminders. After about a week, your body adjusts to the pattern, which typically results in becoming hungry at expected meal times.

This may help you better tune in to actual hunger cues and improve your ability to distinguish between true hunger and the desire to eat. The latter may be triggered by boredom, habit, or stress. This single change can lead to eating considerably less without going on a diet. A consistent eating pattern also results in better blood sugar and insulin control; steady, even energy throughout the day (versus spikes and crashes); and improved digestive health.

Swap Refined Grains for Whole Grains

You may be aware that whole grains are more nutritious than refined grains. Whole grains contain nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. They also have less sugar, saturated fat, and sodium. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that at least 50% of your grains should be whole grains. Try to systematically swap refined grains foods for whole grains with these alternatives:

  • A bagel or muffin for oats topped with fruit and nuts
  • A sandwich or wrap for a whole-grain bowl
  • Spaghetti with spaghetti squash
  • Chips or cookies with fresh veggies and hummus
  • Fruit with nuts or nut butter

Up Your Fiber Intake

Naturally, fiber-rich foods are filling. They also support good digestive health and feed beneficial gut bacteria tied to immune function and anti-inflammation. But eating more fiber also has proven weight loss benefits. One study found that dietary fiber intake—independent of macronutrient and caloric intake—promotes weight loss in adults who are overweight or obese and who consume a calorie-limited diet.

Just 5% of Americans hit the recommended daily target for fiber. In addition to veggies and fruits, top sources include:

  • Pulses (the umbrella term for beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas)
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

Aim for a few fiber-rich foods in each meal, and drink plenty of water to help your digestive system adjust to a higher fiber intake.

Eat More Plant-based Meals

By all accounts, we're eating more plant-based foods now than ever. According to a report released by the Plant Based Foods Association, sales of plant-based foods spiked by 90% during the pandemic. That's good news for the environment, but eating more vegan meals may also be a savvy weight loss tactic.

One study compared five diets: vegan, vegetarian, omnivore, semi-vegetarian, and pescatarian. At the six-month mark, the vegan eaters lost significantly more weight than those following the other diets.

No need to go fully vegan if you're not interested. Just be sure to choose whole, plant-based foods rather than foods like processed vegan pepperoni pizza or vegan faux fried chicken and French fries. Great options include:

  • Smoothies made with veggies, fruit, plant protein, and nut butter
  • Grain bowls made with greens and veggies, topped with lentils, quinoa, and tahini
  • Southwest platters loaded with veggies, and salsa, paired with black beans, roasted corn, and avocado

Drink More Water

You've probably heard this one before, but it's tried and true: Drinking water has many health benefits. Water is beneficial in preventing hydration, aiding digestion, and absorbing nutrients. Making water a priority can also squeeze out less healthy drinks, including those with sugar or artificial sweeteners.

Drinking water before meals has also been shown to reduce meal portions, which may help prevent overeating naturally.

According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), women need 2.7 liters of total fluid per day (over 11 cups), and men need 3.7 liters (over 15 cups). About 20% of your fluids come from food, but that still leaves 8-12 cups, based on the IOM's guidelines, not including additional needs due to exercise.

As a minimum, I recommend eight cups a day. Think of your day in four blocks:

  1. From the time you wake up to mid-morning
  2. Mid-morning to lunchtime
  3. Lunchtime to mid-afternoon
  4. Mid-afternoon to dinner time

Aim for two cups (16 ounces) of water during each of these blocks. And if you're not a fan of plain water, spruce it up with healthful add-ins, like lemon, lime, fresh mint, sliced cucumber, fresh ginger, or slightly mashed bits of seasonal fruit.

Curb Alcohol Consumption

Alcoholic drinks can have a high calorie count. But on top of that, alcohol stimulates appetite, so you may wind up overeating or eating foods you wouldn't touch sober. Drinking alcohol can also lead to an increased desire for foods that are high in fat. If you've been drinking wine with dinner most nights during the pandemic or participating in more Zoom happy hours, cutting back can immediately slash your calorie intake and curb your appetite. In my practice, I've seen this change alone result in a five-pound weight loss within a few weeks.

Commit to a specific strategy if you're not interested in going cold turkey. For example, nix alcohol Monday-Friday or Sunday-Thursday. Or cut back to one drink max per day. Choosing lower-calorie alcoholic beverages may also help. Think spiked seltzer; dry wines, such as Cabernet; ultra low-carb beer; and distilled spirits mixed with sparkling water, garnished with citrus and herbs, in place of mixer, soda, or juice.

Eat More Mindfully

Eating more mindfully can help you tune in to your body's hunger and fullness cues, boost the enjoyment of eating and eat fewer calories without trying. A meta-analysis and systematic review found that mindful eating reduces body mass index and waist measurements similarly to common diet programs. Being more mindful of food can carry over into other areas of your day to help reduce stress and improve relationships.

If you're new to the concept, here are a few tips:

  • Try to eat at least one meal a day without multitasking—so no phone, computer, etc. Eating without doing anything else may feel odd, but this practice can significantly change the eating experience, including slowing you down.
  • Take just five minutes a day to listen to a guided meditation, preferably before you eat.
  • Download a free app or search YouTube for a mindfulness meditation that works for you.

Mindfulness can transform what, how often, and how much you eat and help you feel revived, not deprived.

Increase Your Activity

Weight loss results typically involve an aspect of physical activity. The two go hand-in-hand for several reasons. In addition to helping to manage your weight, being active can help:

  • Improves your mental health and mood
  • Strengthens your bones and muscles
  • Reduces your risk of disease (cancer, heart disease, etc.)
  • Improves sleep

Choose workouts you look forward to and that feel fun, and ask friends to join you. Exercise that feels like work can wreak havoc with mental health, and you may start finding reasons to avoid it.

A Quick Review

If you are on a weight loss or management journey, some healthy patterns that can help you to lose weight include: Eating more vegetables, practicing mindful eating, drinking more water, exercising, and adding more fiber into your diet.

Be sure to take your time and be kind to yourself as you enter your weight loss journey.

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  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Only 1 in 10 adults get enough fruits or vegetables.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy eating tips.

  4. National Library of Medicine. Carbohydrates.

  5. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dietary guidelines for Americans 2020–2025.

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  7. Quagliani D, Felt-Gunderson P. Closing America’s fiber intake gap. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2016;11(1):80-85.

  8. Plant Based Foods Association. New Data Shows Plant-Based Food Outpacing Total Food Sales During COVID-19.

  9. Comparative effectiveness of plant-based diets for weight loss: A randomized controlled trial of five different diets. Nutrition. 2015;31(2):350-358.

  10. National Academies Press. Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and SUlfate.

  11. Kase CA, Piers AD, Schaumberg K, Forman EM, Butryn ML. The relationship of alcohol use to weight loss in the context of behavioral weight loss treatment. Appetite. 2016;99:105-111.

  12. Fuentes Artiles R, Staub K, Aldakak L, Eppenberger P, Rühli F, Bender N. Mindful eating and common diet programs lower body weight similarly: Systematic review and meta‐analysis. Obesity Reviews. 2019;20(11):1619-1627.

  13. Nelson JB. Mindful eating: the art of presence while you eat. Diabetes Spectr. 2017;30(3):171-174.

  14. National Institute of Medicine. Benefits of exercise.

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