67 Science-Backed Ways to Lose Weight
By Nicole McDermott
Healthy habits can quickly go out the window when we’ve got a tight deadline, no time for the gym, and few options but takeout food. Losing weight is no easy task, and doing it the healthy way can be even harder. We’re advocates for making small changes each day, rather than making drastic changes all at once. But it’s important to remember that just because a weight-loss strategy works for some (even if it’s backed by scientific studies) it may not work for everyone. From drinking more water to eating from blue plates, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite weight-loss tips to add to your daily routine.
Tips for Eating
1. Get the Blues
“I got the blues” may conjure up memories of those macaroni and cheese commercials from the ‘90s, but we’re talking about blue dishware. The color blue can act as an appetite suppressant because it has the least appealing contrast to most food. Research says to avoid plates that match the food served on them (like white plates and fettuccini Alfredo), because there is less of a contrast, which may prompt us to eat more. A small but potentially useful trick!
2. Eat Snacks!
Skipping out on snack time won’t necessarily lead to weight loss, since low calorie consumption can actually slow metabolism . Eating less than three times a day may benefit those who are obese, but research shows skipping meals throughout the day and eating one large meal at night can lead to some undesirable outcomes (like delayed insulin response) which may increase the risk of diabetes . Instead of forgoing breakfast or lunch, stick to a few meals a daywith healthy snacks in between.
3. Peruse the Perimeter
Next time you need groceries, circle the perimeter of the store before going in. This isn’t a way to stalk out your prey, but actually a tactic to load up on the healthy stuff first. The edges of grocery stores generally house fresh produce, meat, and fish, while the inner aisles hold more pre-packaged, processed foods. Browsing the perimeter can help control how many unwanted additives are in the grocery basket.
4. Stock the Fridge
Make an effort to fill the fridge with healthy produce and proteins (from perusing the perimeter!). Keep lots of fresh fruit and veggies on hand. And for when the fruit basket goes barren, make sure the freezer is stocked with frozen veggiemixes or berries (grab the bags full of just veggies, not the ones with butter-laden sauces). You may be less apt to order out when you’ve got the makings of a healthy dinner right at home. And the good news is, healthy food doesn’t always have to be pricey.
5. Eat in the A.M.
Skipping breakfast in order to “save your appetite” for dinner probably isn’t a safety shield for late-night noshing . While there’s still debate on how important breakfast really is, not eating until the afternoon may lead to binging later on (ie. four servings of mashed potatoes) . Make sure to stick a reasonably sized breakfast with plenty of protein; we tend to eat the same sized lunch and dinner regardless of how many calories we eat in the morning .
6. Get Busy in the Kitchen
We promise cooking doesn’t take long! Restaurants often use larger plates than the ones we have at home, andstudies show that increased portion sizes result in increased energy intake, even if there’s a doggy bag involved . Why not start by making these healthy meals in just 12 minutes or less (quesadillas, stir-fry, and burgers, oh my!).
7. Prioritize the Pantry
Take a little time out to toss the junk. If you’ve got some favorite not-so-great items you’d like to save as a treat, tuck them in the back of the pantry with healthier items, like whole grain pasta, rice, beans, and nuts up front. We know that just because the cans of tuna and a bag of lentils are right in front doesn’t mean you’ll forget the brownie mix altogether, but it’ll help keep the brownie mix out of sight, out of mind. Just seeing or smelling food can stimulate cravings, and increase hunger (especially true for junk food) .
8. Serve “Restaurant” Style
Instead of lining up the breadbasket, entire casserole, and salad bowl, right on the table, leave food on the kitchen counter (away from reach). When you’ve cleaned your plate, take a breather then decide if you really want those seconds. Changing up the environment, like by leaving food by the stove, can help reduce food intake .
9. Use Smaller Plates
History shows plate sizes have increased over the past millennium . When it’s time to sit down for dinner, choose a size-appropriate plate or bowl. Using a smaller plate (8-10 inches) instead of a tray-like plate (12 inches or more) can make us feel fuller with the same amount of food. How does this magic trick work? The brain may associate the white space with less food, plus smaller plates generally lead to smaller portions .
10. Chew Slowly
Eating slowly may not fit into a busy workday, but it pays to pace your chewing: the quicker we eat, the less time the body has to register fullness . So slow down, and take a second to savor.
11. Deep Freeze
Once meal prep is over, serve yourself a reasonable portion, then package up the rest and stash it in the fridge or freezer for a later date. When the food is out of sight, studies show you’ll be less likely to reach for a second helping .
12. Wait Before Grabbing Seconds
The quicker we shovel down a meal, the less time we give our bodies to register fullness . Since it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to get the message that dinner’s been served, it’s best to go for a walk or play cards before dishing up seconds or tackling the dessert table.
13. Snack Before Dining
Grabbing an apple or a small cup of yogurt before meeting friends for dinner can help ensure you’ll eat a reasonable amount of that enormous entrée (rather than overdo it). And be sure to reach for the protein—research shows that an afternoon snack of Greek yogurt can lead to reduced hunger, increased fullness, and less eating come dinner time .
14. Sneak in the Veggies
Bumping up vegetable consumption has long been recognized as a way to protect against obesity . Add veggies to an omelet to cut down on cheese, use them in baked goods, and pasta dishes (Bonus: Try zucchini ribbons, or spaghetti squash instead). Pump pureed veggies, like pumpkin, into oatmeal or casseroles. Adding a little vegetable action into a meal or snack will increase fiber levels, which helps make us fuller, faster .
15. Turn Off the Tube
Eating while watching television is linked to poor food choices and overeating . Getting sucked into the latest episode of Snooki and JWoww can bring on mindless eating and it can be easy to lose track of just how many chips we’ve just thrown down the hatch. It’s not just the mindlessness of watching televsion that’ll get us. Commercials for unhealthy foods and drinks may increase our desire for low-nutrient junk, fast food, and sugary beverages.
16. Turn Your Back on Temptation
The closer we’re situated to a food that’s in our line of vision, chances are the more we’ll actually eat of it . If we face away from food that might tempt us when we’re not all that hungry (like an office candy bowl), we may be more likely to listen to cues from our gut rather than our eyes.
17. Hands Off
When snack time hits, our brains can be pretty unreliable. It’s tempting to reach for a bag of chips, but instead, grab a handful (or measure out the serving size) then seal the bag up and put it away. Odds are, you’ll be more mindful of how much you’re polishing off when you see it right in front of you. And next time there’s a between-meal tummy rumble, try one of these healthy, satisfying 100-calorie snacks.
18. Pack the Protein
Protein can help promote a healthy weight because high protein diets are associated with greater satiety, plus it’s important for healthy muscle growth . Animal sources aren’t the only option—try alternativeslike quinoa, tempeh, andlentils.
19. Fill Up on Fiber
Eating more vegetables and other high-fiber items like legumes can help keep us fuller, longer . Look for at least five grams or more of the stuff per serving. Snack on some of our favorite high-fiber picks like stuffed baked apples or jazzed up oats.
20. Make Room for (Healthy) Fats
Cutting butter and oil can slash calories, and it’s easy to swap in foods like applesauce, avocado, banana, or flax for baking. But, it’s important to remember that we still need fat in our diets as a source of energyand to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Plus it helps us feel full. Get healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats from avocadoes, olive oil, nuts, coconuts, seeds, and fish . Bonus tip: Combining fat with fiber has been shown to increase fat’s power to make us feel full .
21. Steer Clear of Simple Carbs
Simple carbs are the white stuff—white bread, most pastries, refined sugars (like in soda). What makes it so simple? These foods provide energy, but lack the same nutrients (vitamins, minerals, and fiber) ascomplex carbohydrates . The body also breaks simple carbs down quickly, spikes blood sugar (insulin), and leaves your tummy might rumbling sooner than you imagined . Choose whole grains instead, which may reduce potentially dangerous excess abdominal fat buildup (which can lead to diabetes) . Switch towhole-wheat pasta or whole grain bread, or try grains like brown rice, quinoa, or millet.
22. Ditch Added Sugar
A spoonful of sugar allegedly helps the medicine go down, but adding it to food may increase the risk for cardiovascular disease and obesity . Stick to sugar that comes in its natural form (in fruits, veggies, and whole grains) and scrap that morning-coffee-spoonful .
23. Make Subs
No, we don’t mean the sandwich. We mean easy recipe substitutions. Simple swaps—like Greek yogurt for sour cream, prunes for butter, or an Americano for a latte—can cut calories and sugar. Even a grilled cheese can get a healthy revamp by making a few smart subs.
24. Cook Smart
Even healthy food can become not so great when it’s been dropped into a fryer. Instead, pan fry or pop a dish in the oven. Use non-stick spray to sauté foods, or rub oil onto a pan with a paper towel for a light coating. You can even whip up a batch of healthier chips.
25. Heat It Up With Cayenne
Cayenne pepper, the bright red spice, can not only boost metabolism, but can also cut cravings for fatty, sweet, or salty foods . Some studies even suggest that the hot stuff can increase fat oxidation, meaning the body can better use fat as fuel . Sprinkle some on scrambled eggs, or spice up a stir-fry with a little hot sauce.
26. Chew Gum
Popping a piece of sugar free gum won’t necessarily curb your appetite. But, chewing a 5-calorie stickcan keep the mouth busy when cooking up a meal, or socializing amongst a sea of hor d’ouevres at a party. While the long term effects of gum chewing on weight loss are minimal, studies show it can lower cravings for sweet and salty snacks, and decrease hunger between meals .
27. Go Straw-less
… with fruit, that is. Juices (which are often far from 100 percent fruit) provide some vitamins, but without the samefiber and phytonutrients as a real piece of fruit. Let’s take an apple for instance. An 8-oz. glass of apple juice has double the sugar and less than one-tenth the fiber of a medium apple.
28. Cave in to Cravings
We love this tip. Cravings are OK! Acknowledge those cravings instead of pushing them away completely (which may lead to blowing it later). Caving into a craving, as long as it’s in moderation (try on of thesehealthier ways to satisfy a sweet tooth) can actually help curb desire. Forbidding a food may only make it more attractive. Still want more of that chocolate cake after a couple of bites? Try thinking of your favorite activity—dancing in the rain, getting a massage, playing with a puppy. Research shows that engaging in imagery can reduce the intensity of food cravings .
29. Bag It Up
Sometimes we’d rather not admit it, but let’s face it—restaurant meal portions are generally heftier than what we cook at home . Make a conscious decision to bag up half of the meal before taking the first bite. The added benefit? You’ve got a doggie-bag lunch for tomorrow!
Tips for Drinking
30. Sip Green Tea
Drinking green tea is one of the most common tips for shedding a few pounds, and for good reason—green tea is known for its ability to metabolize fat . And in combination with resistance training, green tea increases the potential for fat loss . Add a squeeze of lemon for a little flavor and to amp up antioxidant affects .
31. Gulp H2O
Kick the diet beverages and vitamin enhanced money traps to the curb and reach for good ‘ole H2O instead. Drinking water helps people feel full, and as a result, consume fewer calories . Drinking water also significantly elevatesresting energy expenditure (basically the number of calories we’d burn if we sat around all day) and lower water intake is associated with obesity .
32. Sip Before Noshing
Pregaming a meal with a glass of water has been linked with more weight loss than cutting calories alone. Take some mid-set breaks and guzzle a little water between bites too to give the brain time to register fullness .
33. Cut Back on Liquid Cals
Milk and cookies, orange juice and French toast, wine and cheese—some foods seemingly require a liquid counterpart. But, it’s easy to pour on the pounds by chugging soda, juice, alcohol, and even milk on the reg . Sugar sweetened beverages are associated with increased body fat and blood pressure .
34. Water it Down
When you’ve simply got to have a swig of juice with that morning bowl of oatmeal, try watering it down. While it may sound entirely unappealing, gradually adding more water to less juice will keep some of the flavor without all the sugar and calories. Added incentive: Increasing water intake in place of sugar-sweetened beverages or fruit juices is associated with lower long-term weight gain .
35. Choose Tall and Thin
So we know we said to cut back on the juice and soda, but when you’ve got a hankering from some morning orange juice, reach for a tall thin glass, not a short squatty one. While it may sound like you’re discriminating against your glasses, research shows that people pour less liquid into tall narrow glasses than into their vertically challenged counterparts, meaning we’ll ultimately (probably) drink less in one sitting. This is especially helpful when drinking alcohol .
36. Banish the Booze
We probably don’t have to tell you that partying like an undergrad may pack on a few pounds. And you’ve likely heard the phrase “drink in moderation.” The point is, alcohol houses a lot of sneaky caloriesand it has the ability to inhibit eating decisions (mmm, greasy pizza) later on in the night. Even after you’ve sobered up, alcohol can have negative impacts on strength and may leave you lagging in the weight room days later .
Tips for Being Mindful
37. Brush Those Pearly Whites
After dinner, go ahead and brush your teeth. Getting minty fresh breath not only has the obvious oral health benefits, but can also keep you from mindlessly snacking while watching a pre-bed TV show. Not a bad idea to hit up the floss, too. Once both deeds are done, we may be more inclined to keep our mouths clean before bed.
38. Set Realistic Goals
It’s easy, especially come New Year’s resolution season, to set some pretty unrealistic goals about weight loss (fit into skinny jeans in three days!) . Since impractical goals can slow down long-term weight-loss, it’s important to address those goals before making any health and fitness changes .
39. Portion Patrol
Practicing portion control is one of the easiest, most reliable ways to lose weight, but it’s not an easy task . Portion distortion is ever present, but it may help to use portion visuals, for instance — a serving of chicken (3 ounces) is roughly the size of a deck of cards .
40. Stay Positive
Many of us demonize certain foods, and even punish ourselves for certain indulgences. Instead, positive messageslike “I can control my eating” or “I’m proud that I ate responsibly today” can reframe our relationship with food. Research shows that positive expectations are also associated with weight loss .
41. Think on It
How satiated we feel a few hours after we eat depends not on how much we actually scarfed down but on how much we think we ate. It pays to pay attention to what we eat… it’s actually okay to eat with our eyes .
Emotional eating—essentially eating to make ourselves feel better (often when we’re sad or anxious)—can interfere with weight loss goals . But meditation—using techniques like muscle relaxation and achieving self focus—can help binge eaters become aware of how they turn to food to deal with emotions . Check out these 10 ways to meditate.
43. Reel off Mantras
Sometimes we just need a little fire under our tushies to get motivated. If you’d rather forgo the literal bonfire, try out some motivational mantras. Hang up an inspirational poster, write it on a sticky note at work, or scribble it on your roommate’s forehead when she’s sleeping as a reminder of your health and fitness goals. Added plus: Mantras don’t cost a thing!
A lot of stress can trigger increased eating and cravings, especially for sugary carbohydrates . If pressure at work or a family burden has got you feeling overwhelmed, try out one of these ways toreduce stress before pawing at that donut.
45. Add, Don’t Subtract
Instead of fixating on cutting out cookies, cake, pizza, and all that heavy cream in your morning coffee, focus instead on adding healthy foods to your menu. Ditching all the “bad” stuff can be a daunting task, one that’s easier to stick to by focusing on one habit at a time (science says it takes anywhere from 18-254 days to form a habit). Add in as many healthy habits as you’d like—drink more water, stock up on fresh fruits and veggies—and slowly wean off of the not-so-good-for-you goodies.
46. Envision the Goal
Time spent visualizing what you would look and feel like with a few less pounds, can help acknowledge the health and fitness changes necessary for successful weight loss. Research suggests that imagining achieving an exercise goal—like running a 5k, or increasing weights for your next workout—can actually enhance performance .
47. One Habit at a Time
There’s an idea that focusing on less helps us achieve more. Changing a habit is tough, but trying to tackle a whole handful may seem impossible. Instead, concentrate on changing one behavior at a time. Start small and make clear guidelines for a set habit. For example, if you’d like to increase veggie intake, decide to eat three different vegetables each day, or 1 cup with each meal. And remember, small changes can lead to gradual weight loss .
48. Think Big Picture
So you’ve “banned” chocolate cake, but decided to go for just a small taste. Instead you polished off a full slice. It’s so easy to go totally overboard on an old habit. Instead of blowing it if you’ve slipped up on a new goal, think of the big picture. Focus on the change rather than what’s being eliminated (either a “bad” food, or a bad habit). Live in the moment to successfully make new healthy habits.
49. Sleep Smart
Sleep can not only reduce stress, help us heal faster, and prevent depression, it can also help shave off some pounds because sleep loss is linked to changes in appetite and the metabolism of glucose (sugar in the blood) . Moral of the story: Sleep is associated with less weight gain . Take a look at our guide to sleep positions to optimize those hours spent tucked under the sheets. And try other solutions for extra Zzs like turning off electronics in the bedroom and avoiding large meals late at night .
50. Get Social
Check out online communities (like on Facebook, Twitter, or other forums) that provide support and encouragement. One study showed that overweight adults who listened to weight-loss podcasts and used twitter in tandem with a diet and physical activity monitoring app lost more weight than those who did not go social . Sharing progress and setbacks on social media platforms can help users feel accountable for their goals.
Tips to Track
51. Jot it Down
If using fancy apps seems too daunting, research suggests there’s still merit to the old pen and paper. Monitoring our food intake with a food diary can help to lose and maintain weight . In fact people who stick to food diaries are more likely to lose weight than those who don’t . Recording each bite helps us be aware of not only the foods we eat, but when, and how much we eat them .
52. Get Trackin’
Writing stuff down may be helpful, but it’s tough to accurately gauge how much we move every day (and not just on the treadmill). Invest in an on-body device like the BodyMedia trackers or the Nike+ FuelBandto monitor energy burn. Or invest in a pedometer to track daily steps. Studies show that individuals who walk more tend to be thinner than those who walk less, and pedometer-based walking programs result in weight loss .
53. Use an App a Day
A new study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that using a mobile device was more effective in helping people lose weight than tracking diets on paper . Apps like Fitocracy, MyFitnessPal, and StrongLIfts help users track daily activity, food intake, and gamify weight loss by awarding points for workouts. Tracking with the help of apps may help us regulate our behavior and be mindful of our health and fitness choices.
54. Point and Shoot
We can write down what we eat, but when we look back a week later we may have a tough time visualizing exactly what a meal looked like. A quicker, and perhaps more telling, alternative is to take photos of each meal. A small study showed that photographic food diaries could alter attitudes and behaviors associated with food choices more likely than written diaries . Grab a camera and get snapping!
Tips for Exercising
55. Pump Up the Jams
Pack your playlist with upbeat tunes. Research shows music that has 180 beats per minute—like, say, “Hey Ya” by OutKast—will naturally prompt a quicker pace . Plus, music serves as a distraction, which can help take attention off a grueling gym sesh.
56. Avoid Injuries
Right when you’re all gung-ho about hitting the gym and getting fit, there’s nothing worse than a pulled hammy or pesky shin splints. Read up on how to avoid the most common yoga injuries (often from over-stretching and misalignment), and running injuries (like stress fractures, pulled muscles, and blisters) to make sure you’re in tip-top shape to get in shape. Make sure to get in a good warm-up, too. Studies show we perform our best and better avoid injury after warming up .
57. Choose Free Weights
We’ve already praised strength training, but it gets even better when you set yourself free. And by that, we mean step off the leg-press and start squatting with a pair of dumbbells. Working out with free weights can activate muscles more effectively, and as we’ve learned, muscle can torch calories .
58. Get Functional
Functional exercise has been shown to increase strength and balance and reduce risk of injury all while working multiple muscle groups at the same time . All that movement promotes muscle gain, which can increase metabolism, which can over time help shed fat . Added bonus: Functional exercises can help make real life tasks, like hauling groceries up the stairs, a lot easier.
59. Swig Some Caffeine
Getting a morning jolt from java may be a part of your daily routine, but sipping some coffee before a workout can actually boost endurance during exercise . How’s it work? Caffeine slows glycogen depletion (the starch our bodies turn to for energy during exercise) by encouraging the body to use fat for fuel first .
60. Let Go of Limitations
Getting a good workout in isn’t limited to a gym or track, use your bodyweight or build a home gym to get that sweat on.
61. Partner Up
A new study suggests we perform better on aerobic tasks like running and cycling when exercising with a partner . Hitting the gym with a friend, coworker, or family member can also increase accountability, so grab a buddy and try out some of our favorite partner exercises like medicine ball lunge-to-chest passes, and reach-and-touch planks.
62. Don’t Rely on the Monitor
Gym machine monitors (like on a treadmill or elliptical) may not be so reliable. They sometimes display higher calorie burn, and we may overcompensate and eat too much.
63. Strength Train
Pumping iron not only gives us sexy muscles, but can boost resting metabolism (that means burning more calories outside the gym) plus improve mood and confidence . Lifting a little weight can also help us sleep, another factor in effective weight loss . If we haven’t convinced you to take to the dumbbells quite yet, there’s also this: Strength training takes just a couple weeks to see results and reep the benefits!
64. HIIT It
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) combines periods of intense effort with periods of moderate-to-low effort. What’s so great about it? Interval training burns more calories and boosts metabolism significantly longer than a steady workout of even longer length . Added bonus: Interval training gets more done in less time.
65. Get Hot in Bed
Working up a sweat in bed can burn more than 144 calories in just a half an hour. Having sex also reduces blood pressure and overall stress levels (and stress can lead to weight gain) . Need we say more?
66. Stand Up
It may sound ludacris to peel your tush from a desk chair at work, but sitting all day has been linked to obesity, poor posture, and chromic pain . Try a sit-stand workstation to switch things up and burn some more calories.
67. Step on It
A simple phrase for losing weight is to move more and eat less. The secret here is that moving doesn’t just mean hitting the track or going to the gym. Make the conscious decision to get more steps into the day by taking the stairs, having a walking meeting, or parking the car far away from the grocery store entrance.