With all the commercial diet plans and conflicting weight loss advice that is available, it can be challenging to formulate a plan for achieving lasting weight loss.
Fortunately, researchers have conducted countless studies to determine what works and what doesn’t when it comes to diet and exercise, and the results of these studies have pointed us in the right direction.
With these scientifically-proven strategies, you can lose weight and maintain your weight loss for years to come.
1) Cut the Carbs
If you have been following the low-fat diet in hopes that it would help you to slim down, the chances are that you have been doing it all wrong.
A 2008 study in the New England Journal of Medicine compared the effects of three diets on weight loss (1):
- a low-fat diet,
- a low-carbohydrate diet,
- and the Mediterranean diet.
Individuals who were following the low-fat and the Mediterranean diet restricted their calorie intake, whereas those supporting the low-carbohydrate diet did not.
The study authors found that individuals who adhered to the low-carbohydrate diet lost significantly more weight than those in the other two groups did.
Tossing the low-fat snacks and replacing them with higher-fat, low-carbohydrate foods such as cheese sticks or nuts could make your weight loss efforts considerably more successful.
Once you have lost the weight, a low-carbohydrate diet can help you to maintain your weight loss.
In 2012, researchers for the Journal of the American Medical Association analyzed the impact of three diets on people who had lost 10 to 15 percent of their body weight.(2)
One group of participants consumed a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet; another group consumed a moderate amount of carbohydrates, and the third group went on a very low-carbohydrate diet, consisting of only 10 percent calories from carbohydrates and 60 percent from fats.
Study results found that individuals consuming the low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet experienced the least decline in resting metabolic rate out of the three groups.
Weight loss typically induces a decrease in metabolic rate, because the body requires fewer calories to maintain a lower weight; however, eating a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet can attenuate this effect and make it easier for you to manage your weight loss.
2) Include Exercise in Your Routine
You probably know that exercise is vital for maintaining good health, but it can also be the difference between keeping weight off and regaining it.
In 2009, researchers for Obesity Reviews analyzed the results of 18 different studies.(3)
They found that people who dieted and exercised lost more weight than people who only dieted and did not engage in any physical activity.
Some of the studies in the review lasted two years or more, and in these studies, weight loss also was significantly higher among people who exercised, suggesting that exercise plays an important role in long-term weight loss.
The impact of physical activity on calorie burn could explain the lasting weight loss seen among those who exercise.
In 2015, researchers for Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise conducted a study with people who had lost weight, and they found that compared to those who didn’t exercise, those who did work out burned more calories over the course of the day.(4)
This fact is especially important because, as discussed previously, the body burns fewer calories after weight loss.
Find a type of activity that you enjoy and can stick to achieve long-term weight loss.
3) Make a Lifestyle Change
If you want to lose weight and keep it off, it is essential to make healthy lifestyle changes and stick to them, because if you revert to old habits after losing weight, it will likely find its way back to you.
It is therefore beneficial to make lifestyle changes you can sustain; if you choose extreme weight loss strategies, you might initially lose weight, but you will not be able to stay committed to these extreme methods.
The research supports the notion that lifestyle changes are essential for lasting weight loss..
A 2001 study in the Annual Review of Nutrition found that people who successfully maintained weight loss for 5.5 years frequently weighed themselves and monitored their food consumption, and they were more likely to engage in physical activity.(5)
These sorts of behaviors are common when trying to lose weight, and being able to maintain them after weight loss plays a critical role in long-term success.
Additional research has found a relationship between lifestyle changes and long-term weight loss.
In 2017, a study in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine found that people who lost weight and kept it off tended to keep healthy food at home, consume more vegetables, and regularly eat breakfast.(6)
People who maintained weight also reported strategies such as;
- exercising more often,
- eating smaller portions,
- setting specific goals,
- and weighing themselves.
These behaviors do not appear to be extreme, and they are reflective of healthy lifestyle changes that dieters can sustain over time.
Committing healthy lifestyle changes such as controlling portion sizes and keeping healthy food on hand is perhaps the most crucial part of losing weight and keeping it off over the long-run.
Other strategies, such as adding exercise to your routine and choosing a low-carb instead of a low-fat diet are scientifically-proven ways to achieve lasting weight loss successfully.
Keep these strategies in mind when developing your weight loss plan, and your health and fitness goals will be within reach.
(1) Weight Loss with a Low-Carbohydrate, Mediterranean, or Low-Fat Diet
Author: Iris Shai, Dan Schwarzfuchs, Yaakov Henkin, et al
Publication: The New England Journal of Medicine
N Engl J Med 2008; 359:229-241
(2) Ebbeling CB, Swain JF, Feldman HA, Wong WW, Hachey DL, Garcia-Lago E, Ludwig DS. Effects of Dietary Composition on Energy Expenditure During Weight-Loss Maintenance. JAMA. 2012;307(24):2627–2634. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.6607
(3) Wu, T., Gao, X., Chen, M. and Van Dam, R. M. (2009), Long-term effectiveness of diet-plus-exercise interventions vs. diet-only interventions for weight loss: a meta-analysis. Obesity Reviews, 10: 313–323. doi:10.1111/j.1467-789X.2008.00547.x
(4) Exercise Training and Energy Expenditure following Weight Loss.
Gary R. Hunter, Gordon Fisher, William H. Neumeier, Stephen J. Carter, Eric P. Plaisance
Published in final edited form as: Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2015 Sep; 47(9): 1950–1957. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000622 PMCID:PMC4508245
(5) R Wing, Rena & Hill, James. (2001). Successful Weight Loss Maintenance. Annual review of nutrition. 21. 323-41. 10.1146/annurev.nutr.21.1.323.
(6) The association between previous success with weight loss through dietary change and success in a lifestyle modification program
Kerrigan, S.G., Clark, M., Convertino, A. et al. J Behav Med (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-017-9883-6