Dietitian Julie Upton, MS, RD, of Appetite For Health, knows a thing or two about what will really help you take the weight off. She shares tips from weight-loss experts on what you should be doing.
Sleep More to Lose More
No, you're not dreaming! Getting your zzz's is proving to be one of the most important behaviors to achieve — and maintain — a healthy weight. Studies show that adults who report sleeping less than five to six hours per night gain more weight over time, have larger waistlines, and are more likely to be obese compared to those who get sufficient sleep, says Andrea Spaeth, PhD, an assistant professor at Rutgers University. The reason: when you skimp on shut-eye, your hunger hormones become elevated, which drives you to eat more calories and lights up areas of your brain that make you crave junk food.
Dr. Spaeth recommends planning your sleep schedule a week at a time in order to ensure at least seven hours of slumber each night. She also suggests creating a healthy sleep environment by limiting light and setting the temperature to around 67 degrees, as well as establishing a nighttime ritual that includes powering down phones, computers, and TVs, along with these relaxing activities to help you get more sleep.
Front-Load Your Diet
When obesity researcher Courtney Peterson, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, wanted to shed 30 extra pounds and keep it off, she used time-restricted eating, one of her areas of research. Time-restricted feeding involves eating in a defined time period (say eight to 10 hours per day) followed by an extended fast of 14 to 16 hours. Several studies now show that time-restricted feeding reduces appetite, increases fat-burning, and aids weight loss.
Eating in a more time-restricted manner means that you'll eat more of your calories earlier in the day, when you're more likely to burn off those calories. In one study of 420 dieters, those who ate most of their calories before 3 p.m. lost significantly more weight (22 pounds) compared to participants who ate most of their calories later in the day (17 pounds), despite both groups following the same 1,400-calorie diet and exercise program. To start a time-restricted eating plan, try shifting eating in a 10-hour window, say 7 a.m. until 5 p.m., then fast overnight. If you want to get more aggressive, switch to an eight-hour eating window.
Weigh Yourself Frequently
Your bathroom scale may be the best tool to help you lose weight — and keep it off, explains Dori Steinberg, PhD, RD, an associate director at Duke Global Health Science centre in Durham, NC. After completing a series of studies, the Duke research team discovered that overweight and obese adults who stepped on the scale each day lost an average of 13.5 pounds (some volunteers dropped up to 20 pounds!) compared to those who stepped on the scale less frequently and lost an average of seven pounds.
The research didn't show any downsides of daily weigh-ins, like feeling depressed or displaying signs of disordered eating. She adds that weighing yourself daily provides immediate feedback about your typical behaviors, which explains why it has been shown to motivate individuals to adopt more healthy weight-loss behaviors, such as eating fewer sweets and getting optimal exercise. In other words, it provides additional accountability to help you stay on track. Follow these steps to weigh in successfully. If you're haunted by your bathroom scale, learn how to use it to your advantage.
Change Your Lifestyle
Anyone can lose weight, but if the resolve to stick with it isn't there, weight loss will be only temporary. Making the commitment to change your life for the long haul is the key when it comes to lasting weight loss, explains Lisa Zucker, MS, RD, a registered dietitian who worked with weight-loss clients for nearly a decade at the Anschutz Health and Wellness centre at the University of colourado. When people turn on that switch and come to a full understanding that their behaviors have to change forever, great things happen.
Working with participants of the National Weight Control Registry, a registry of more than 10,000 successful dieters who lost significant amounts of weight and are able to keep it off, Zucker says what set registry participants apart from less successful dieters was their resolve to never go back to their old habits, no matter what barriers they faced. Even when these dieters faced challenges and slipped, they quickly got back on track with their healthier habits.