Hey, internet human, why don’t you turn to someone who achieved exactly what you want to achieve? Why don’t you copy the behavior of someone else who successfully lost weight?
This is the essence of modeling in psychology, a powerful concept that successful people use.
Now, I’m not saying you should embark on two-month mind-numbing torture called keto diet just because your co-worker Jenny got shredded to the bone following it.
There’s no specific diet that has emerged as the savior of humanity. Instead, patterns of behavior and habits are the indicators of sustainable weight loss. They will have a bigger impact on your ability to lose fat than any diet approach.
Ok, so behavior and habits are important. Cool. But how can you know which ones to adopt? Gee, I thought you would never ask.
A recently-published systematic review1 (‘a study of the studies’) by Paixão C et al investigated exactly that:
Researchers looked at 52 papers of published results of all existing weight control registries worldwide. They identified 51 strategies that successful weight losers employ to lose weight and keep it off.
The following 8 were the most frequently reported:
1. Having Healthy Meals Available At Home
Look, if it ain’t there, you can’t eat it. If your kitchen is stuffed with hyper-palatable, calorie-dense foods there’s a big friggin’ chance you’re going to eat yourself silly and then pass out from the food coma.
An environment encouraging excess caloric intake is No Bueno. It’s all sorts of not smart. Everything in your environment has relevance to getting your goal. So you might as well create such surroundings that make a reduction in energy intake easier.
If your refrigerator and shelves are filled with junk food and you need a GPS to steer your way through all that crap, you have to sort that shit out.
Start a clean sweep. Rearrange your kitchen and office environment to stop mindless eating. Create an environment where making better food decisions is easier.
Go read this article where I teach about specific ways to change your food environment. Don’t leave now! Geez… Finish reading this first.
2. Regular Breakfast Intake
Contrary to widely espoused views breakfast seems to have no discernable effect on weight loss2.
But if you do eat breakfast, make calorie intake regular. If you had 400 calories for breakfast today, don’t wolf down 800-calorie breakfast the next morning. Likely, you will not account for that later in the day and end up with higher calorie intake.
As I tell my clients, pick 3-4 breakfast options you like the most and make them more or less of the same calorie content.
3. Increasing Vegetable Consumption
Yes, spinach tastes like an ashtray and kale taste like diabetes but don’t bury all vegetables under a pile of tax returns. It’s good for ya, you know.
Veggies have low-calorie, high water & fiber content, and high food volume. That’s exactly what you want to control hunger when in a calorie deficit – high food volume and low-calorie content.
A recent meta-analysis (‘meta-analysis’ means freakn’ legit) by Aune et al.3 showed that every 200 g (~2.5 servings) of combined fruit and vegetable consumption resulted in a 10% risk reduction for coronary heart disease, stroke, and total mortality. Cancer risk was lowest at an intake of 550–600 g/day (7-7.5 servings/day).
So eat your 200-600 g of veggies & fruits per day. Just don’t eat kale. And spinach. No kale and spinach for you.
4. Decreasing Sugary And Fatty Foods
I’m talking about hyper-palatable foods that make your taste buds explode like fireworks. Here’s what David Kessler in The End Of Overeating book writes about it:
Usually, the most palatable foods contain some combination of sugar, fat, and salt. The sensory properties of palatable foods-the cold, creamy pleasure of a milkshake, the aroma of chocolate cake, the texture of crispy chicken wings sweetened with a honey-mustard dipping sauce-all stimulate the appetite. And it’s that stimulation, or the anticipation of that stimulation, rather than genuine hunger, that makes us put food into our mouths long after our caloric needs are satisfied.
Kessler is correct about that but he takes it a bit too far suggesting to eliminate hyper-palatable foods from your diet completely. Such thinking gives junk food power over you by making it a forbidden fruit.
Hyper-palatable food doesn’t have to be a detested enemy but rather an occasional friend.
You can have sugary and fatty foods on special occasions to treat yourself. We all deserve occasional decadence. Make doughnuts, cheesecakes, and pizzas special. Make it rare. But don’t swear off them completely because you crave what you can’t have.
That’s why I dedicated the whole lesson to the importance of moderation in the 8 Week Nutrition Education Program that you should definitely sign up to.
5. Limiting Certain Foods
“Limiting” is the word. Not “eliminating.”
Whether you want to lose weight or just have a balanced diet, there’s no need to put any food on a banned list except ones barring allergies. Or if you have runaway cravings where you can’t stop eating once you’ve started on certain food.
If you can’t stop eating blueberry pie once you take a bite, don’t have it in your house, m’kay? That’s your trigger food.
Only eat it with your friends or family were eating the whole pie isn’t an option because, well, that would be weird. The whole pie in front of your closest friends? When none of your friends do it? I don’t think so.
6. Reducing Fat In Meals
This might be the biggest “well, duh!” in the known universe but still, a gram of fat contains 9 calories whereas a gram of protein and carbohydrate contains 4 calories each.
Cottage cheese? Opt for low-fat.
Chicken? Eat skinless.
Meat? Go with lean.
Sour cream in mashed potatoes? Switch to Greek yogurt and milk.
Nuts for a snack? Switch to fruits.
Always drinking coffee drinks with all sorts of creams? Switch to black coffee.
A spoon of oil or heaped tablespoon of peanut butter here and there add up over time. Be very mindful of fat content in your meals.
7. Increasing Consumption Of Protein-Rich Foods
I’ve spoken about this ad nauseam and it seems I have to repeat myself. Again.
So the word “protein” comes from the Greek proteos which means “of the first importance.” Which makes sense because…
Halton LT and Frank BH in a systematic review state4:
So if you want to suppress your appetite, maintain/increase lean muscle mass, boost metabolism (not by much though), think of lean protein first when preparing a meal.
Shoot for 1.6-2.2 g of protein per kilogram of body weight (0.73-1 g/lb) or 30-40 grams with each meal if you eat 3 or more meals per day.
And don’t fret, your body is more than capable to digest more than 30 grams of protein per meal5.
8. Increasing Physical Activity Levels
You would think it’s common sense to exercise but I get a question like “can I lose weight without exercise?” every freakn’ day. Where to start with stupidity?
Sure, you can lose weight without exercise as long as you are in a calorie deficit but is that optimal? Hell no. Instead of choosing a diet or exercise, the optimal approach is to choose both.
Imagine you are a 140-pound female and your weight maintenance is ~1,900 calories per day. You could cut 500 calories from your diet but that would leave you to live off 1,400 calories. That’s unsustainable. Sooner or later you will putter out.
Now if you add exercise, you are looking at 1,700-1,800 calories per day. Much more manageable. Not a cakewalk but sustainable.
Controlling calorie intake is important, but cutting calories from diet alone is far from optimal. To lose the maximum amount of fat, boost metabolism, build muscle, and have something to show once that fat is gone you need to exercise.
Resistance training preferably.
Got get a workout plan that I designed myself or read this article and design your own.
These 8 strategies are used most frequently by successful weight losers. What about the least frequently reported strategies? Here is what you don’t want to do:
- Meal replacements.
- Weight loss supplements.
- Drastic restriction of food groups (limiting food intake to only 1 or 2 types of food).
- Following a special or fad diet (fuck keto, low-carb, paleo, carnivore, vegan, whole30. What have I missed? Fuck all of them).
Some of these behaviors and habits might do wonders for you while others might not. Try all of them and see what works for you. There’s no universally superior, “one size fits all” approach for weight loss.
Always remember that methods, habits, and behaviors you use to lose weight have to be sustainable and lead to consistent application. The methods that allow you to be the most consistent are the best for you.
But this is just my advice and I’m not your dad–so do whatever the heck you want. If you don’t know what to do, hire me to coach you maybe?