If you’re planning on doing battle with a bulging waistline, you really have two options: you can either listen to the Insta scientists and social media charlatans out there or, alternatively, you can let real science guide your weight loss aspirations. Since you’ve clicked on this article, we know that you’ve already made the correct choice.
So that you don’t have to, we’ve trawled through the latest scientific research to find the best ways to lose weight. Some of these are obvious – less alcohol means fewer calories – bit others are less so, like who knew that turning the heating down in your home could help you shed pounds?
Below are 12 scientifically approved ways to lose weight, minus the scientific jargon and also minus any pseudo-science, guesswork and advice from Insta nutritionists who preface their name with delicious or plant-based. Let the science guide you.
1) Abstaining from Alcohol
OK, so we’ll start with the obvious one. Consume fewer empty calories from alcohol and you’ll be off to a good start on your weight loss journey. But if you’re thinking it’s enough to have two gin and tonics instead of three, we’re here to tell you that’s probably not going to cut it. A four-year study of nearly 5000 overweight people discovered that people who abstained from drinking alcohol completely lost more weight than those who drank any amount during the intervention.
While giving up alcohol to any degree will help, if you’re really serious about weight loss you may need to consider giving up alcohol altogether.
2) Exercise Will Help You Maintain Weight Loss
Another weight loss tip you can file under no shit – the more you exercise the more weight you’re likely to lose. However, while that fact is pretty obvious, perhaps you didn’t know just how important exercise is for maintaining weight loss.
A study published in the journal Obesity reported that people who successfully maintained weight loss consumed a similar number of calories each day as individuals classified as overweight and obese but were able to avoid putting on weight by engaging in “high levels of physical activity”.
There’s obviously more to losing weight than just calories in, calories out, but this study shows that as long as you’re expending more energy than you’re putting in, you have a good chance of maintaining weight loss.
3) Weight Training Beats Cardio
You now know you need to exercise to lose weight, but what kind of exercise should you do? Or, put another way, is cardio or weight training your best option for losing weight? According to a study by Wake Forest University, restricting calories combined with resistance training meant people were able to keep their muscle and still lose significant amounts of fat, when compared to adults who combined weight loss with walking or who simply tried to just lose weight by dieting. If you’re looking to lose weight then, pumping iron is the way to go.
4) Keep a Weight-loss Diary
You may think that the only way to document your weight loss journey is by taking before and after photos, but you may want to consider keeping a food diary as well. Research published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine revealed that keeping a food diary can double a person’s weight loss, while another study by Duke University found that tracking daily food consumption lead to people losing “clinically significant amounts of weight”.
Better yet, a food diary doesn’t have to be some super-formal thing, just scribbling down what you eat on a post-it note, or sending yourself an e-mail or text message after each meal will suffice. That’s because it’s the process of reflecting on what you eat that will help you to become aware of your eating habits, and hopefully change your behaviour.
5) Turn off the Heating
Nobody’s going to complain about being inside a warm and comfortable office during the winter months, but while this may be a good thing for our demeanour, it’s not so good for our waistlines. A study by researchers from Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands found that regular exposure to mild cold may be a healthy and sustainable way to help people lose weight.
“Since most of us are exposed to indoor conditions 90 per cent of the time, it is worth exploring health aspects of ambient temperatures,” said the study’s first author Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt. “What would it mean if we let our bodies work again to control body temperature? We hypothesise that the thermal environment affects human health and more specifically that frequent mild cold exposure can significantly affect our energy expenditure over sustained time periods.”
Put simply, the colder you are the more energy you expend trying to keep yourself warm, so if you want to lose weight maybe keep your central heating switched off.
6) The Best Diet Is One You Can Stick To
To lose weight you’ll want to restrict the number of calories you consume, but as there are so many diets around it can be hard to know which one is best for you. Is keto best? Should I try paleo? What ever happened to the Atkins diet? A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association tried to decide once and for all which weight loss programme was best by comparing a number of different diet plans. The researchers came to the conclusion that the best diet was one that people could stick to, so it really doesn’t matter which diet you choose as long as it’s sustainable. Although, maybe give the ice-cream diet a miss.
7) Deal with the Real Problem
Choosing a diet and an exercise plan are of course important, but if you don’t deal with the underlying problem that caused you weight gain you may find all your hard work is undermined. A study by Orlando Health found that while 31 per cent of people identified lack of exercise as a barrier to weight loss and another 26 per cent said poor diet was a massive contributor, just one in ten respondents thought psychological well-being was a cause. But from a very young age we’re taught to be emotionally attached to food. As children we’re often given treats, whether they’re to console us when we’re upset or to reward us when we’ve been good, while most celebrations, like Easter, Christmas and Valentine’s Day are food-focused, and even birthdays are spent sharing cake.
It’s time to evaluate your emotional connection to food. Following these three tips should begin to help you understand why you eat what you eat:
- Keep a daily diary logging your food and your mood and look for unhealthy patterns.
- Identify foods that make you feel good and write down why you eat them. Do they evoke a memory or are you craving those foods out of stress?
- Before you have any snack or meal ask yourself: Am I eating this because I’m hungry? If the answer is no, look for the root of your motive.
8) Try to Achieve Short-term Goals
It can be quite demoralising if the guy staring back at you in the mirror doesn’t change appearance overnight, but it doesn’t mean you’re not achieving your goals. One technique to stop you from getting downbeat if you don’t see immediate changes is breaking your overall goal down into smaller, more attainable challenges. A study by the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that celebrating smaller achievements meant that people lost weight gradually and were more successful at keeping weight off in the long run.
9) Join a Weight-loss Community
According to a new study published in the journal Obesity during a 12-week, team-based weight loss competition, people whose teammates encouraged them increased their odds of achieving a clinically significant weight loss by 20 per cent.
“In our study, weight loss clearly clustered within teams, which suggests that teammates influenced each other, perhaps by providing accountability, setting expectations of weight loss and providing encouragement and support.”
10) Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Not getting your 8-hours sleep each night can be really bad for your demeanour, but it can be even worse for your weight loss goals. A study presented at the European Congress of Endocrinology revealed that not getting enough sleep shifts the hormonal balance from hormones that promote fullness, such as GLP-1, to those that promote hunger, such as ghrelin. Sleep restriction also increased levels of endocannabinoids, which is known to make people feel hungrier.
Want to avoid not sleeping your way to obesity? Remember, a good weight-loss plan begins with a good night’s sleep.
11) If Calorie Counting Doesn’t Work, Try Intermittent Fasting
Research published in the journal Nutrition and Healthy Aging reported that dieters who only ate between the hours of 10am and 6pm consumed about 350 fewer calories and lost about 3 per cent of their body weight over a 12-week period.
12) Take a Break from Dieting
Trying to lose weight can consume your entire existence, with every spare second given over to thinking about calories, plans and cutting, but research by the University of Tasmania has revealed that taking occasional breaks from losing weight may be a more effective strategy. The research found that people who broke from their diet every two weeks and aimed to just keep their weight stable during this time lost more weight and gained less back when their diets had finished.
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