According to the CDC, 73.6% of American adults are currently overweight or obese. Unfortunately, this has led to a record high incidence of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer in the US.
But the experts suggest that losing as little as 5% of your body weight can dramatically improve your health and reduce your risk of chronic conditions.
Yet, the problem most people face is not simply losing weight but also keeping it off in the long term.
So if you’ve experienced weight gain and now you struggle to maintain a healthier body mass, do not despair!
In this article, you will discover the most effective ways to lose weight according to science, why they work, and how to tweak these principles so that they work best for you.
Risks of an unhealthy body weight
Having too much body fat can increase your risk of over 60 chronic conditions. That is because body fat is not simply an energy reserve.
It also acts as part of the endocrine system that releases signaling molecules called adipokines, and the amount of body fat you have affects the production of these molecules (1).
If you have excess body fat, some protective adipokines such as adiponectin decrease while many proinflammatory molecules spike and remain elevated, which increases the risk of diseases (2).
For example, the excess of inflammatory cytokines in obesity can disrupt the sensitivity of your cells to insulin. Apart from the adipokines, more fatty tissues release more triglycerides in your bloodstream, further contributing to insulin resistance (3).
As a result, systemic inflammation and elevated triglycerides can lead to:
- fatty liver disease
- insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome
If insulin resistance worsens, it can lead to metabolic syndrome, which is the underlying factor for several chronic conditions such as (4):
- type 2 diabetes
- high blood sugar
- polycystic ovary syndrome
The elevated levels of proinflammatory molecules in obesity stimulate other inflammatory processes in the body, such as atherosclerosis (5).
The process is further aggravated by the presence of hypertension and elevated blood sugar (6). Atherosclerosis can lead to potentially life-threatening diseases such as:
- ischemic heart disease
- heart attack
- heart failure
- peripheral artery disease
- kidney disease
What is more, chronic inflammation increases the risk of DNA damage which is a mechanism for the occurrence of cancer (7). Interestingly, not all of your body fat has the same endocrine and metabolic activity.
Fatty tissue around the waist and internal organs tends to be more metabolically active and leads to higher inflammation (8). This type of adiposity is called visceral fat.
Thus, body fat percentage and waist circumference can also indicate an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, etc. (9).
Furthermore, excess body fat can pressure the respiratory system, leading to sleep apnea, further increasing the risk for the chronic conditions mentioned above (10).
Being overweight or obese also increases the stress on your joints, leading to joint problems like osteoarthritis (11).
Tried and tested ways to manage your weight
Scientists have established that the energy balance of your body is the primary predictor of a healthy weight. It is the balance between your calorie intake and expenditure.
The larger the deficit and the longer you maintain it, the greater will your weight loss be. But keep in mind that weight loss and fat loss are not the same things.
Extreme weight loss can lead to muscle loss and other undesirable effects that can do more harm than good for your health. To improve your health, you should focus on fat loss rather than weight loss alone.
On the other hand, even a small deficit can lead to a significant fat loss, but your weight may not change as much if you gain muscle at the same time.
Two main factors can help you get into a caloric deficit - consuming fewer calories in your diet and your physical activity. And as you probably already know, these two work even better for fat loss when combined.
Weight loss diets
A wide range of diets can put you in a caloric deficit and help you lose weight. Some diets achieve this by restricting certain foods such as low carb diets, veganism, etc.
Such diets often lead to a significant caloric deficit, and you lose weight without counting each calorie. Keep in mind that you will not lose weight if you consume too many calories from the foods you are allowed to eat.
Other regimes such as intermittent fasting work by restricting the timeframe in which you may consume calories. Once again, this leads to a reduced energy intake in most people without thinking about calorie intake.
Some diets require counting calories, such as “if it fits your macros” and flexible dieting. In these cases, there are no food restrictions as long as you stay within your calorie limit.
But as you can probably guess, it will be much easier to do so if you eat healthy foods rather than processed ones.
Last but not least are diets that focus on whole, unprocessed foods without enforcing specific restrictions, such as the Mediterranean Diet, the DASH diet, and others.
They can put you in a caloric deficit because you will be eating primarily low-calorie foods that are nutritionally dense and provide good satiation.
Ultimately it is essential to pick a diet that you are comfortable following in the long term and helps change your eating habits for the better. Remember that if you go back to your old eating habits, you will likely regain your weight as well.
Exercises for weight loss
While cutting your calorie intake is the main thing you should do to kickstart your weight loss, adding exercise is the key to your long-term success.
Unfortunately, many people misunderstand exercising - they think that the main goal or benefit is increasing your daily energy expenditure by burning more calories during the exercise session.
Yet, it is not that simple. The body often compensates for the few hours you spend jogging by making you more tired and hungry.
As a result, your daily energy expenditure may not be as high as you hoped. Thus, you can quickly negate the deficit with extra food, especially if you don’t monitor your caloric intake.
Instead, exercising aims to help you retain your muscles during weight loss and improve your body composition. Being physically active can help you eat more calories long-term while maintaining a healthy weight (16).
However, you will have to be patient and consistent in your exercise regime to reap its full benefits.
Any exercise is better than inactivity, but some types of physical activity are more effective than others in improving body composition. Resistance training can help you retain more muscle than most other sports and activities.
Extra muscle can help you lose fat and maintain a healthy weight while allowing a higher caloric intake. For many, eating more increases the long-term sustainability of their diet and leads to a higher success rate over time.
Remember that exercise also has health benefits independent of weight loss. Even if you are not planning on building muscle or losing fat, overall health significantly improves with regular physical exercise. (17).
Tips to boost weight loss
Although a diet and exercise plan is at the core of any successful weight loss intervention, staying on track can be pretty tricky at times. That’s why it’s helpful to be aware of a few valuable tips to help you ease the process.
Improve your sleep
Quality shut-eye is so important that in some cases, fixing your sleep is all you need to reduce your appetite and increase energy expenditure.
For instance, one study found that when postmenopausal women improved their sleep quality, they gained muscle and lost fat, even if they weren’t exercising or instructed to eat differently (18),
Studies consistently show that people who sleep more have better appetite control (19).
You may improve your sleep by going to bed at regular times, taking melatonin, avoiding eating close to bedtime, and reducing your exposure to blue light for the last few waking hours.
Stress can also hamper your weight loss efforts, especially if you are susceptible to emotional eating.
If you tend to binge when you are stressed, depressed, or bored, it may be a good idea to find another way to relieve these emotions.
You can try meditation, going for a walk, exercising, or doing sports instead.
Plan ahead of time
Pre-planning your meals helps you avoid skipping meals and picking last-minute options that are usually unhealthy and high in calories. For example, you can try preparing your meals from the previous night.
Having a plan to deal with setbacks is also vital for your diet’s long-term sustainability and success.
Nobody is strict on their diet and exercise regime 100% of the time. Be gentle with yourself. The important thing is to get back on track and remember that reaching a healthy body weight isn’t something that happens overnight. It’s a marathon, not a sprint!
Replace liquid calories with water
Avoiding beverages high in sugar and alcohol is a no-brainer. Sugary drinks can significantly increase your calorie intake while providing no nutrients or satiation.
Most people don’t realize that fresh fruit juice is high in sugar and a source of calories that we often don’t consider. Thus it is better to get your nutrients from eating whole fruit than just drinking its juice. It will be much more filling and provide you with healthy dietary fiber.
Instead, Make a point of drinking more water since drinking some before meals can help reduce your portion size. Drinking water can also help subdue cravings for high-calorie foods (22).
Replace processed foods with healthier options
Processed and junk foods pack a lot of calories in a relatively small size. Another factor that makes junk food and convenience meals so appealing but damaging to your diet is the hidden sugars, making you eat more than you should and adding additional empty calories.
As you can already guess, this is a recipe for binging and hampering your weight loss efforts (23).
On the other hand, whole and unprocessed foods usually make your body spend more energy digesting them. Thus you can eat more calories from healthy foods without risk for weight gain when compared to mainly eating processed ones.
Increase your fiber intake
Fiber is a type of non-digestible carbohydrate that you can find in some plant foods. It doesn't affect your calorie intake since it gets fermented by the gut microbiota and transformed into vitamins, short-chain fatty acids, and other valuable nutrients.
Apart from being healthy, fiber also helps increase the volume of your meals without adding to your calorie intake. Thus you can eat more and stay satiated for longer without compromising your caloric deficit.
Scientists have estimated that total energy intake drops by an average of 10% for every 14 grams of fiber people consume (24).
You can increase your dietary fiber intake by eating more whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Men should aim for at least 38 grams of fiber per day, while the minimum for women is 25 grams.
Make sure you are eating an adequate amount of protein
Protein is well known as the most satiating macronutrient. It is also vital for preserving your muscles during weight loss. That’s why you should aim to have protein in every meal.
However, more protein is not better. According to studies, there appears to be a limit, after which protein is no longer more satiating than other macronutrients.
This phenomenon is called protein leverage and occurs around 1.6 g of protein per kg of body weight (25).
Tried everything but still can’t lose weight?
Although you may feel that you have tried everything to lose weight and keep it off, you should not despair.
Instead, make sure to consult with a medical doctor who will make sure that you don’t have any conditions that can make it harder for you to get into or maintain a caloric deficit.
For example, lipedema and hypothyroidism are two conditions that can make it almost impossible to lose weight unless treated.
Many other diseases require you to take medications to make it harder to lose weight. These drugs include glucocorticoids, antidepressants, antidiabetics, and others.
If you have any of these conditions or are currently on medications, make sure to consult with your physician before embarking on diets.
In addition, patients with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes often have difficulty losing weight with diet alone. That’s likely because of the elevated insulin levels that significantly increase hunger (26).
In such cases, combining diet with physical activity can help improve insulin sensitivity even before you have lost any weight.
That’s because the insulin sensitivity of your body depends mainly on the sensitivity of your muscle cells. Performing an exercise raises the ability of your muscles to uptake glucose and lower your blood sugar immediately.
Make sure to perform exercises with a higher intensity as that stimulates higher glucose uptake (27).
Instead of just jogging and lifting light weights, you should attempt to increase your training intensity progressively. You can achieve this by doing high-intensity interval training and compound exercises with a more challenging weight.
Popular weight loss supplements
When it comes to weight loss, most people prefer to take a pill rather than follow a diet or exercise. Unfortunately, weight loss supplements can only aid your efforts and cannot replace them. You will still have to reduce your calorie intake.
With that being said, NutriRise offers many supplements to help you on your weight loss journey. Here are some of the most popular weight loss supplements and the benefits and cautions to each one.
Garcinia Cambogia is a popular weight-loss supplement extracted from the rind of the tropical fruit Garcinia gummi-gutta. The main active ingredient is found in the fruit’s skin, called hydroxycitric acid (HCA).
Laboratory experiments have shown that Garcinia Cambogia can raise levels of a chemical in your brain called serotonin (29).
Serotonin is one of the neurotransmitters involved in feelings of happiness, relaxation, and reward. Increasing it can stabilize your mood, and HCA's effect on increasing serotonin levels may help you fight off cravings for sugary and unhealthy foods. Helping you be more consistent with your diet (30).
Garcinia supplements are well-tolerated by most individuals. Due to the impact of Garcinia on serotonin levels, you should avoid it if you are already taking antidepressants, such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
Since ancient Greek times, Apple cider vinegar has been widely used for its specific taste and multiple health benefits.
It contains acetic acid (acetate), which gives the specific taste and smell of every vinegar. Furthermore, ACV includes antioxidants such as chlorogenic acid, gallic acid, and catechins (31).
The acetic acid helps reduce appetite and activates an enzyme called AMPK, which increases cellular uptake of glucose and fats for energy. (32).
Unfiltered, raw ACV still contains the fungi and bacteria required for the production of vinegar. Those microorganisms, known as "the mother," act as a probiotic by supporting your healthy gut microflora (33).
Yet, ACV is acid, and drinking it undiluted can damage your teeth and esophagus. Thus you should either dilute it in a full glass of water or take ACV capsules and gummies to avoid the taste and smell altogether.
Note: This article is for informational purposes only, and not intended for use as medical advice. Always consult your healthcare provider before starting any dietary supplement.