Around half of Americans have tried to lose weight in the past year, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control.
Weight loss can be difficult, which is why there is such a huge market for weight loss programs, books, and other products.
Losing weight requires reaching a calorie deficit, meaning you burn more calories than you consume. You can achieve a calorie deficit by eating fewer calories, being more active, or a combination of both.
Healthy weight loss should be sustainable and well-balanced, though. Read on for some ideas for ways to lose weight in a healthy way.
7 healthy ways to lose weight
1. Cut back on your sugar intake
Added sugar contributes a significant amount of additional calories to your diet. Added sugar is any type of sugar that isn’t naturally present in a food or drink.
Sugary beverages like soda, sweetened coffee, and many other drinks are the leading source of added sugar in the typical Western diet. Added sugar can also be hidden in foods that seem healthy, like whole-wheat bread, yogurt, and many types of cereal.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting your added sugar intake to fewer than 36 grams of added sugar per day. For a frame of reference, one 12-ounce can of standard Cola contains 39 grams of added sugar, which is already over 100% of the recommendation.
To spot added sugar, you’ll need to look at the nutrition facts and ingredients labels on packaged foods you buy. The good news is that whole, unprocessed foods don’t have added sugar, so you don’t have to worry about added sugar with fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, legumes, and plain dairy products, to name a few examples.
2. Fit physical activity into your day
Physical activity plays a significant role in losing weight. However, most people fall short of the recommendation to get 150 minutes of physical activity per week. Physical inactivity can lead to weight gain and health problems like heart disease.
To achieve sustainable weight loss, it’s best to find something you enjoy. You don’t have to spend hours of your day at a gym or hire a personal trainer to benefit from exercise.
If you have a busy schedule, aim to get your physical activity in three ten-minute segments. A ten-minute walk in the morning before work, a ten-minute walk during your lunch break, and a ten-minute walk after dinner will easily satisfy the 30 minutes per day goal.
3. Set small, sustainable goals
When it comes to setting a weight loss goal, it’s easy to overshoot and set high expectations and make unsustainable promises to yourself. Goals like “I’m going to exercise for two hours every day” and “I’m not going to eat any sugar” aren’t very sustainable and will likely end up frustrating you.
Try using the acronym “SMART” to set goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Based.
For instance, a SMART goal could be to go for a 30-minute walk on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays after work for the next two weeks.
SMART goals tend to be more effective than setting vague goals like “I’m going to exercise more.”
4. Find your “why”
Losing weight can be difficult because it requires making habit changes. It’s usually easier to stay the same, which is why many people fall back into their old habits and abandon their weight loss goals.
If you want to lose weight, ask yourself what your primary motivator is. Health, family, and being able to do things you love are all examples of good motivations to lose weight.
If you set off to lose weight simply because your doctor told you to, that might not be enough of a motivator to keep you going.
All behavior change stems from motivation. Making a list of your motivators and reminding yourself of them when you feel discouraged can help keep you moving forward.
5. Fill up on fiber
Dietary fiber, also known as roughage or bulk, comes from parts of plant foods your body can’t digest and absorb. Fiber helps make you feel full since it takes longer for your stomach to digest than some lower-fiber foods. Including fiber in your meals and snacks is one method to lose weight in a healthy way.
Fiber is only found in plant foods, but can also be added to non-plant foods to increase their fiber content. Animal products don’t contain fiber, such as meat and dairy products.
Plant-based foods vary in fiber content based on their type and how much they’ve been processed. For instance, a whole apple has more fiber than applesauce because the fruit isn’t broken down from its original state and maintains the skin.
Fiber is also found in wheat products, but its amount is dependent on the type of product. 100% whole grain products maintain most of their fiber content because the bran and germ are maintained instead of being removed like they are in refined grain products.
Some examples of high-fiber foods include:
- Green peas
- Turnip greens
- Brussels sprouts
- Bran flakes
- Oat bran
- Air-popped popcorn
- Brown rice
- Whole wheat bread
- Split peas
- Black beans
- Chia seeds
- Sunflower kernels
Not only can fiber help you achieve healthy weight loss, but it’s good for your digestive and heart health as well.
6. Avoid fad diets
Several fad diets have made their debut over the past several decades, each claiming that it will result in long-lasting weight loss or other health benefits. However, strict diets aren’t sustainable long-term.
A review of 29 long-term weight loss studies found that “more than half of the lost weight was regained within two years, and by five years more than 80% of lost weight was regained”.
Restrictive diets can also increase the prevalence of disordered eating such as anorexia and bulimia.
If a diet cuts out whole food groups, have you counting and limiting calories, or requires you to buy expensive meals, it’s likely considered a fad diet.
While these diets may promise quick weight loss, it more than likely won’t be sustainable weight loss. Therefore, you should look for ways to lose weight in a healthy way that you will be able to maintain.
7. Get screened for underlying health issues.
Some health problems that cause weight gain don’t have symptoms. Insulin resistance can cause weight gain by making your body store more calories as body fat.
Ask your healthcare provider for a hemoglobin A1c test at your next check-up, so you know if previously undiagnosed health problems are making it harder to lose weight.
Healthy weight loss should consist of realistic and sustainable lifestyle changes. Studies show that restrictive diets don’t work long-term, so try to start on the right foot by following some of the tips for healthy, successful weight loss highlighted in this article.