Fad diets come and go, but there are a few tried and true methods to losing weight that actually work—and don’t involve unhealthy habits like not eating enough or working out too much. Adrienne Youdim, MD, FACP, an internist who specializes in medical weight loss and nutrition and author of the #1 Amazon bestseller Hungry for More: Stories and Science to Inspire Weight Loss from the Inside Out, offers 15 evidence-based weight loss tips to Eat This, Not That! that can help you achieve your weight loss goals the right way.
Sleep is crucial for weight loss, Dr. Youdim explains. “Sleep deprivation has been shown to increase hunger hormones as well as cravings for highly palatable (i.e. high fat, high sugar) foods,” she says. She suggests shooting for 7-8 hours of sleep per night.
Alcohol is a “double whammy” in terms of weight gain. “Alcohol is not only empty calories but also affects leptin —a hormone that signals fullness to the brain, and also has negative effects on sleep quantity and quality,” she says.
Studies show that processed versions of whole foods don’t suppress hunger hormones as well as the real deal, Dr. Youdim reveals. “For example, processed chicken (like the kind you get in frozen meals or fast food patties), will suppress hunger hormones less than a real piece of chicken breast.”
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Amp up protein intake if you want to lose weight. “Higher protein intake helps preserve muscle mass (and therefore your metabolism) while losing weight so that you lose fat mass not muscle,” says Dr. Youdim. She recommends 1-1.2 grams per kg body weight.
Dr. Youdim suggests eating a protein packed breakfast. “There is a lot of controversy around ‘to breakfast or not,’ but studies show that a high-protein breakfast (ie 20 grams) will suppress hunger hormones all day,” she reveals.
Having a good attitude and practicing self love is key to reaching your goals. “Often we bully ourselves into losing weight. This leads to sabotage, while self-compassion has been shown to be more effective in habit change,” Dr. Youdim says.
Finding ways to de-stress can be key to losing weight. “Stress literally hijacks our hunger hormones, tricking us to feeling hungry when we are not,” Dr. Youdim explains. She suggests managing stress with exercise, journaling, and mindfulness—not food.
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Getting your zen on can be helpful on your weight loss journey. Practicing mindful meditation “has been shown to facilitate habit change.”
A positive mindset around and your habits is associated with greater weight loss and has metabolic benefits as well, according to Dr. Youdin. “In one study of hotel staff, those who were told that their labor was a form of exercise lost visceral fat and reduced blood pressure as compared to those who did not receive this guidance,” she says.
Building muscle will help mitigate the natural loss of muscle that occurs with aging, says Dr. Youdin. “More muscle means better metabolism and equals more calories burned.”
Dr. Youdin maintains that restrictive mindsets around food backfire and can lead to binging. “Reframe restriction to a mindset of abundance,” she suggests. “Eat so much of what serves you so you have less room for what does not. No one gained weight from too much chicken.”
Pay attention to your mental state before you reach for food. “We eat for so many reasons other than hunger, like sadness, frustration, anxiety, and boredom. Often, we are unaware of the trigger,” Dr. Youdin points out. “Notice your patterns/triggers and find alternatives to food such as sunshine, nature, and heartfelt connection.”
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If you live alone, Dr. Youdin suggests getting a pet. “Loneliness, whether due to social distancing or relationship disputes caused by the endless political drama and current events, has affected everyone this year,” she says. “Connection with animals is a dopamine booster and an antidote to the dopamine we chase after with chocolate.”
Consuming caffeine can help you lose weight. “This has appetite suppressant effects and can rev up metabolism,” she reveals. “Just be careful but not to over-do it!”
“Those who manage dietary set-backs or weight regain with kindness were more likely to get back to their routines as compared to people who catastrophize weight gain,” Dr. Youdin reveals. “The latter group were less likely to resume healthy eating patterns and physical activity.” And now that you’ve got a great foundation, don’t miss these additional 19 Weight Loss Foods That Really Work, Say Experts.