A calorie isn’t always a calorie. Eating 100 calories of high fructose corn syrup, for example, can have a different effect on your body than eating 100 calories of broccoli. The trick for sustained weight loss is to ditch the foods that are packed with calories but don’t make you feel full (like candy) and replace them with foods that fill you up without being loaded with calories (like vegetables).
Basically, the effect of exercise on our weight is vastly overrated. That’s why it’s only number 15 on this list. There are other things you need to take care of first. It’s not a good idea to eat bad food, drink sugar water (so-called “sports drinks”) or be on medications which force you to exercise for hours daily just to compensate. Metaphorically that’s like digging a hole, into which you put your ladder, on which you stand and paint the basement-level windows of your house.
Cutting out food groups is not the healthiest weight loss solution. “When you eliminate either fats or carbohydrates, you’re probably eating way too much of what’s left over,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, manager of wellness nutrition services at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. For example, if you cut out fat, you could overdo it on carbohydrates or vice versa. Instead, Kirkpatrick recommends balancing your meals and having one whole grain carbohydrate at each meal and opting for low-fat dairy products and lean meats. Here is the worst diet advice nutritionists have ever heard.
There are many ways to do intermittent fasting — ranging from fasting for a number of hours each day up to an entire 24-hour fasting period one or two times a week. “If you're trying to kick a habit like eating late into the night, then stopping eating earlier in the evening and fasting overnight could be beneficial for you,” says Hultin. “There are many types of intermittent fasting, so ensuring you pick one that works for you and your lifestyle is important.”
Opt for smaller bowls instead of large dinner plates, suggests Rachel Goldman, PhD, FTOS, a senior bariatric psychologist at the Bellevue Center for Obesity & Weight Management. Similarly, a study in the journal Appetite found that people ate more candy when the bowl of sweets was closer to their desk. Try plating dinner away from the table instead of serving family-style to combat overeating or mindless grazing. Don’t miss these tips for getting over a weight loss plateau.
Glassman suggests starting with a calorie baseline: If you're trying to lose weight, she recommends a meal plan that contains (roughly) 1,500 calories, with 40 percent coming from whole, fiber-rich carbs, 30 percent from protein, and 30 percent from healthy fats. That balance is ideal for keeping energy levels up and helping you build lean muscle while squashing hunger and the cravings that come with it, she says.
Calories are an important part of your weight-loss journey, but so are the foods you choose to spend those calories on. It may not come as any surprise, but a 2011 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people who fill their diets with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and yogurt tend to be thinner than those who eat more junk such as soda, potato chips and processed meat. Eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains may help you eat fewer overall calories, which helps with weight loss. These high-fiber foods slow digestion, holding off hunger. As for yogurt, the researchers theorize that the friendly bacteria in the fermented food may change the bacteria in your gut, which may help prevent weight gain.
Becky Duffett is a contributing nutrition editor for Fitbit and a lifestyle writer with a passion for eating well. A former Williams-Sonoma cookbook editor and graduate of San Francisco Cooking School, she’s edited dozens of cookbooks and countless recipes. City living has turned her into a spin addict—but she’d still rather be riding a horse. She lives in the cutest neighborhood in San Francisco, spending weekends at the farmers’ market, trying to read at the bakery, and roasting big dinners for friends.