Many people are unsure how to lose weight safely and naturally. It does not help that many websites and advertisements, particularly those belonging to companies that sell diet drugs or other weight-loss products, promote misinformation about losing weight.
According to 2014 research, most people who search for tips on how to lose weight will come across false or misleading information on weight loss.
"Fad" diets and exercise regimens can sometimes be dangerous as they can prevent people from meeting their nutritional needs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the safest amount of weight to lose per week is between 1 and 2 pounds. Those who lose much more per week or try fad diets or programs are much more likely to regain weight later on.
A variety of research-backed methods exists to help a person achieve a healthy weight safely. These methods include:
People often opt to eat foods that are convenient, so it is best to avoid keeping prepackaged snacks and candies on hand.
One study found that people who kept unhealthful food at home found it more difficult to maintain or lose weight.
Keeping healthful snacks at home and work can help a person meet their nutritional needs and avoid excess sugar and salt. Good snack options include:
- nuts with no added salt or sugar
- prechopped vegetables
- low-fat yogurts
- dried seaweed
Processed foods are high in sodium, fat, calories, and sugar. They often contain fewer nutrients than whole foods.
According to a preliminary research study, processed foods are much more likely than other foods to lead to addictive eating behaviors, which tend to result in people overeating.
Collectively, the data showed that higher-protein diets of 25–30 grams of protein per meal provided improvements in appetite, body weight management, cardiometabolic risk factors, or all of these health outcomes.
A person should eat more eggs, chicken, fish, lean meats, and beans. These foods are all high in protein and relatively low in fat. Lean proteins include:
- beans, peas, and lentils
- white poultry
- low-fat cottage cheese
Sugar is not always easy to avoid, but eliminating processed foods is a positive first step to take.
According to the National Cancer Institute, men aged 19 years and older consume an average of over 19 teaspoons of added sugar a day. Women in the same age group consume more than 14 teaspoons of added sugar a day.
Much of the sugar that people consume comes from fructose, which the liver breaks down and turns into fat. After the liver turns the sugar into fat, it releases these fat cells into the blood, which can lead to weight gain.
Coffee may have some positive health effects if a person refrains from adding sugar and fat. The authors of a review article noted that coffee improved the body's metabolism of carbohydrates and fats.
The same review highlighted an association between coffee consumption and a lower risk of diabetes and liver disease.
Water is the best fluid that a person can drink throughout the day. It contains no calories and provides a wealth of health benefits.
When a person drinks water throughout the day, the water helps increase their metabolism. Drinking water before a meal can also help reduce the amount that they eat.
Finally, if people replace sugary beverages with water, this will help reduce the total number of calories that they consume throughout the day.
Sodas, fruit juices, and sports and energy drinks often contain excess sugar, which can lead to weight gain and make it more difficult for a person to lose weight.
Other high-calorie drinks include alcohol and specialty coffees, such as lattes, which contain milk and sugar.
People can try replacing at least one of these beverages each day with water, sparkling water with lemon, or an herbal tea.
Evidence in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that refined carbohydrates may be more damaging to the body's metabolism than saturated fats.
In response to the influx of sugar from refined carbohydrates, the liver will create and release fat into the bloodstream.
To reduce weight and keep it off, a person can eat whole grains instead.
Refined or simple carbohydrates include the following foods:
- white rice
- white bread
- white flour
- many types of cereal
- added sugars
- many kinds of pasta
Rice, bread, and pasta are all available in whole-grain varieties, which can aid weight loss and help protect the body from disease.
Fasting for short cycles may help a person lose weight. According to a 2015 study, intermittent fasting or alternate day fasting can help a person lose weight and maintain their weight loss.
However, not everyone should fast. Fasting can be dangerous for children, developing teenagers, pregnant women, older people, and people with underlying health conditions.
Counting calories can be an effective way to avoid overeating. By counting calories, a person will be aware of exactly how much they are consuming. This awareness can help them cut out unnecessary calories and make better dietary choices.
A food journal can help a person think about what and how much they are consuming every day. By doing this, they can also ensure that they are getting enough of each healthful food group, such as vegetables and proteins.
In addition to improving dental hygiene, brushing the teeth can help reduce the temptation to snack between meals.
If a person who frequently snacks at night brushes their teeth earlier in the evening, they may feel less tempted to eat unnecessary snacks.
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help a person lose weight and maintain their weight loss.
The authors of a systematic review support this claim, stating that promoting an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption is unlikely to cause any weight gain, even without advising people to reduce their consumption of other foods.
Diets low in simple carbohydrates can help a person reduce their weight by limiting the amount of extra sugar that they eat.
Healthful low-carbohydrate diets focus on consuming whole carbohydrates, good fats, fiber, and lean proteins. Instead of limiting all carbohydrates for a short period, this should be a sustainable, long-term dietary adjustment.
Fiber offers several potential benefits to a person looking to lose weight. Research in Nutrition Reviews states that an increase in fiber consumption can help a person feel fuller more quickly.
Additionally, fiber aids weight loss by promoting digestion and balancing the bacteria in the gut.
Many people do not exercise regularly and may also have sedentary jobs. It is important to include both cardiovascular (cardio) exercise, such as running or walking, and resistance training in a regular exercise program.
Cardio helps the body burn calories quickly while resistance training builds lean muscle mass. Muscle mass can help people burn more calories at rest.
Additionally, research has found that people who participate in high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can lose more weight and see greater improvements in their cardiovascular health than people who are using other popular methods of weight loss.
People who use whey protein may increase their lean muscle mass while reducing body fat, which can help with weight loss.
Research from 2014 found that whey protein, in combination with exercise or a weight loss diet, may help reduce body weight and body fat.
Eating slowly can help a person reduce the total number of calories that they consume in one sitting. The reason for this is that it can take the brain some time to realize that the stomach is full.
One study indicated that eating quickly correlates with obesity. While the study could not recommend interventions to help a person eat more slowly, the results do suggest that eating food at a slower pace can help reduce calorie intake.
Chewing food thoroughly and eating at a table with others may help a person slow down while eating.
Adding spice to foods may help a person lose weight. Capsaicin is a chemical that is commonly present in spices, such as chili powder, and may have positive effects.
For example, research indicates that capsaicin can help burn fat and increase metabolism, albeit at very low rates.
There is a link between obesity and a lack of quality sleep. Research suggests that getting sufficient sleep can contribute to weight loss.
The researchers found that women who described their sleep quality as poor or fair were less likely to successfully lose weight than those who reported their sleep quality as being very good.
Using smaller plates could have a positive psychological effect. People tend to fill their plate, so reducing the size of the plate may help reduce the amount of food that a person eats in one sitting.
A 2015 systematic review concluded that reducing plate size could have an impact on portion control and energy consumption, but it was unclear whether this was applicable across the full range of portion sizes.
It is also worth noting that many of the studies included in the review were authored by an academic, Brian Wansink, who has since had a lot of research withdrawn from journals due to errors and misreporting.
People looking to lose weight safely and naturally should focus on making permanent lifestyle changes rather than adopting temporary measures.
It is vital for people to focus on making changes that they can maintain. In some cases, a person may prefer to implement changes gradually or try introducing one at a time.
Anyone who finds it challenging to lose weight may benefit from speaking to a doctor or dietitian to find a plan that works for them.