The very notion of going “on” or “off” a diet is self-sabotaging. The key to sustainable weight loss is creating habits that you can (happily) live with pretty much forever, registered dietitian Georgie Fear, R.D., C.S.S.D., author of Lean Habits for Lifelong Weight Loss, tells SELF. And in a previous review from the University of Toronto, after examining 59 scientific weight-loss articles, including 48 randomized control trials, researchers concluded that how easy a diet is for you to stick with may actually be a much better predictor of your weight-loss success than the actual diet you choose.
The faster food gets from the farm to your plate, the higher its nutritional value, so, no matter the season, stay healthy by heading out to your neighborhood farmer’s market and stock up on fresh fruits and veggies. The walk around the market is a great way to elevate your heart rate a bit, and the beneficial finds can’t be beat. To make the most of your nutritionally-minded outing, keep an eye out for what’s in peak season whenever you go.
Since it was established in 1994, The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) in the United States, has tracked over 10,000 individuals who have lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off for long periods of time. The study has found that participants who’ve been successful in maintaining their weight loss share some common strategies. Whatever diet you use to lose weight in the first place, adopting these habits may help you to keep it off:
In addition to watching what you eat, you should also take note of the hours you spend watching television. Not only is sitting in front of a screen for too long detrimental to eye health, it can also wreak havoc on your newly-trim waistline. Members of the National Weight Control Registry, who were able to lose weight and keep it off, nixed their binge-watching habit: 62 percent report watching less than 10 hours of TV per week. And it seems like the majority of the NWCR members also found a new, more productive pastime—just take a look at our next savvy hack.
Even if you’re trying to reduce your eating window, you shouldn’t go to sleep starved. In fact, going to bed with a rumbling stomach can make it more difficult to fall asleep and subsequently leave you feeling ravenous the next day. And get this: Eating the right type of bedtime snack can actually boost your metabolism and aid weight loss, registered dietitian Cassie Bjork explained. “The right snack can help keep blood sugar stable so the fat-burning hormone glucagon can do its job. I suggest pairing a natural carb with a healthy fat. Apple slices and almond butter, berries with heavy cream and carrots with guacamole all fit the bill.”
Make sure that everything you're eating is whole — as in nothing processed or packaged. Since salt is a preservative, these are the foods that are highest in sodium — something to keep in mind when planning your meals. Plan on making sure that all items you choose are fresh. That means filling up on fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean protein.
“Tahini is an oft-forgotten option for nut and seed butters, but it sits front and center in my fridge because it delivers major creaminess to sauces and smoothies and packs a powerful flavor punch,” says Willow Jarosh MS, RD co-owner of C&J Nutrition. “Although some advise against eating the spread because of its high omega 3:6 ratio, the super high intake of omega-6s in the average American’s diet isn’t due to things like tahini—it’s mostly from not eating a variety of fats or consuming the majority of fats from fried foods and packaged snacks. As long as you’re also eating foods rich in omega-3s, your end-of-day ratio should be nothing to worry about. Plus, tahini is loaded with tons of healthy nutrients like copper, which helps maintain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant responses in the body. It also provides six percent of the day’s calcium in just one tablespoon.”
To help combat the negative impact of artificial light, try working close to a window. Researchers have discovered that those who sit near a window tend to be healthier than those who don’t. Per a study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, workers near a window got 46 more minutes of sleep a night on average, which is beneficial to weight loss, while workers who weren’t near a window had more sleep disturbances. Additional research has shown that those exposed to natural light during the workweek tended to be more inspired to get outside and exercise.
Kick the diet beverages and vitamin-enhanced sugar-water, and reach for good old H2O instead. Drinking water helps people feel full, and as a result, consume fewer calories. Drinking water also significantly elevates resting energy expenditure (basically the number of calories we’d burn if we sat around all day) and lower water intake is associated with obesity.
On the physiological side of things, it’s important to realize that the vast majority of your daily caloric burn comes down to just basic functions like breathing and keeping your heart beating, Moore says. Called your basal metabolic rate (BMR), your muscle does play a role in setting it, but extra muscle isn’t going to turn you into a supercharged calorie-torching machine. And even though exercise does burn calories, that total is often significantly less than what we expect and would need to create a large daily caloric deficit, he says.
The American Heart Association recommends that the amount of added sugar consumed in a day shouldn’t exceed 25 grams for women and 37.5 grams for men, but since the sweet stuff is in everything from bread to tomato sauce, most Americans aren’t adhering to those guidelines and they’re fatter for it. In a review of 68 clinical trials and studies, New Zealand researchers reported in the British Medical Journal that increasing sugar intake meant increasing body weight while reducing sugar meant reducing body weight. Additional research has shown that cutting back on the granular stuff is one of the fastest ways to lose weight.
As far as spices go, saffron is one of the most expensive ones around, but it’s also a substance that preliminary research suggests can contribute to weight loss. According to a study published in the journal Antioxidants saffron extract may inhibit weight gain in a number of ways similar to how antioxidants function. The research suggests the colorful spice could decrease calorie intake by blocking dietary fat digestion, act as an antioxidant and suppress inflammation, suppress food intake by increasing satiety, and enhance glucose and lipid metabolism. Though scientists aren’t totally sure what makes saffron so weight loss friendly, they suspect it has something to do with crocetin and crocin—two antioxidant-rich compounds found in saffron that give it its distinct color.
You may think hand sanitizer will zap germs and prevent you from getting sick, but it could also be making you fat. The germ-killing substance contains triclosan, which researchers have found to be an “obesogen,” meaning it could cause weight gain by disrupting your body’s hormones. A study published in the journal PLOS One found that people who had detectable levels of triclosan in their bodies were associated with a 0.9-point increase in their BMIs. Word to the wise for germaphobes looking to lose weight: Rely on good ol’ soap and water instead.
Fun fact: National Weight Control Registry members, who have all lost 30 pounds or more and kept it off for at least a year, eat 2.5 meals per week at a restaurant—and only 0.74 meals per week at fast food joints like Burger King and McDonalds. And we have to say, it’s a smart move. Limiting the number of times you dine away from home is an easy way to keep excess calories, salt, sugar and fat off of your plate without a second of thought. Dine out no more than three times per week—and stick to these 25 Restaurant Meals Under 500 Calories—to keep your waistline trim and lean!
It might sound like slashing calories is the easiest way to ensure you will keep weight off. However, this isn’t always the case. In fact, cutting too many calories from your diet, or working out too much, may do the opposite. “Hormonal mechanisms will actually increase your appetite and slow down your metabolism to compensate for the large calorie deficit,” says Dr. Adams. Counting fiber instead of calories may be your key to keep the weight off. “Foods high in fiber are very filling. [They are] often time-consuming to eat and have fewer calories per bite than most other foods,” he says. Try incorporating high-fiber foods, such as the skins of apples, pears, and plums; as well as non-starchy vegetables like peas, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, into your diet. You will feel more satisfied while consuming less food overall.
Just wanted to say Great Article! I love reading all your articles. Even when it may be about things that I already know from reading previous articles. It just helps keep me encouraged that I’m doing things the right way. I love how you explain everything so well, yet simplify what needs to be done. It really helps me to not stress out when I hear about a new diet and wonder if that’s what I should be doing. I already know what the best way is, thanks to all the info you’ve given. I’ve lost 24lbs in 15 weeks! I still have about 85 more to go, but I’ve got a great start and the confindence to reach my goal. Thanks for all you do!!