We recently analyzed 437 scientific studies related to fat loss.
To provide you with a list of tips that are proven to work and easy-to-use.
You can use the 17 tips that follow instantly, no matter if you have five pounds to lose or more than 100.
So, if you want to shed unwanted pounds, keep on reading because this article is for you.
Table of Contents
- Optimize Your Calorie Intake
- Track Your Macros
- Eat More of This Nutrient
- Sleep More to Lose More
- Employ a High Satiety Index Diet
- Practice Mindful Eating
- Up Your Intake of This Crunchy Nutrient
- Cut Out Sodas
- Optimize Your Environment
- Drink This Before Your Meals
- Don’t Over-Rely on Steady-State Cardio
- Focus on Resistance Training
- Get a Standing Desk
- Use Calorie Cycling
- Boost Your Male Hormone
- Rule Out Micronutrient Deficiencies
- Avoid Emotional Eating
- Bonus Tip: Set Proper Weight Loss Goals
- Bonus Tip: Start Big
- Bonus Tip: Weigh Yourself Daily
- Bonus Tip: Use Smaller Plates and Cutlery
1. Optimize Your Calorie Intake
Let’s start with the most important step to losing weight: you must be in a calorie deficit, which means consuming fewer calories than you burn.
- You’ll lose weight if you consume fewer calories than you burn
- You won’t lose weight if you don’t consume fewer calories than you burn.
And it doesn’t even matter whether you achieve that calorie deficit by cutting back on carbs, protein, fat, or a combination of those.
The latter was shown by a two-year study that tested four different calorie-restricted diets. (3)
All groups lost between 7.9 and 8.6 pounds (3.6 to 3.9 kgs), which is quite similar.
And the researchers also didn’t notice a difference in waist circumference across groups.
In other words, if you want to lose weight, your first and most important action step is to make sure you’re in a calorie deficit.
What follows is a three-step method for calculating your daily calorie needs based on your situation and goals.
If you have any issues with the math, there’s an easy-to-use calculator at the bottom of this page that does the calculations for you.
First, calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR). This stands for the number of calories you would burn over 24 hours if you did nothing but rest.
The most precise way to estimate BMR, especially for those who lift weights, is to apply the Cunningham equation (1991), although it does require that you know your fat-free mass (FFM).
Here’s how the formula works:
- BMR = 370 + 21.6 x FFM in kg
For example, if your FFM is 60 kilos, the calculation would run as follows:
- BMR = 370 + 21.6 x 60 = 1,666
Thus, you’d burn 1,666 calories per day if you did nothing but rest.
If you don’t know your FFM, the Harris-Benedict equation, which requires only your body weight, is an alternative for calculating your BMR.
This simple BMR calculator helps you use this equation.
Second, adjust your BMR to your activity level.
To do so, evaluate how active you are with the options outlined below.
Such an exaggeration produces an inaccurate outcome, leading to impaired weight loss results.
So, work with the number that equals your current situation, not what you think it should be.
- Sedentary (e.g., office job and no exercise)
- Somewhat active (e.g., you commute by bicycle or walk your dogs several times a day)
- Active (e.g., you are on your feet most of the day and exercise regularly)
- Highly active (e.g., you do manual labor and exercise regularly)
Once you’ve determined your activity level, apply the associated multiplier in the table below to your BMR.
For example, if your BMR is 2,300, and you’re a somewhat active male, the calculation would be 2,300 x 1.12 = 2,576.
Third, create the calorie deficit, which is what will cause you to lose weight.
It’s important to set your calorie deficit based on your current body fat percentage.
While obese and overweight people can diet aggressively and lose weight fast without risking muscle loss, that’s not the case for those with a low body fat percentage.
Therefore, study the table below, select the body fat percentage range that best represents your current situation, and apply the associated calorie deficit.
For example, if you fall into the “average” category, maintain a calorie deficit of 20% to 30% per day.
Let’s say your number from the earlier step was 2,576, and we stick with a 25% calorie deficit. Then, you would end up with 2,576 x 0.75 = 1,932.
The last figure (1,932) stands for the number of calories you would need per day to lose fat effectively while minimizing muscle loss.
(By combining proper exercise and a sufficient protein intake, you should be able to maintain your muscle mass while getting leaner, as we’ll discuss shortly.)
Please note that the calorie deficit guidelines presented above are a maximum.
It’s fine if you want to take a slower approach to dieting, such as if that makes it easier to adhere to your plan.
If you’ve had issues with the math outlined above, feel free to use the following calculator, which does the grinding of numbers for you.
Resources for Overachievers:
- How Many Calories Should I Eat? – Jeremy Ethier
2. Track Your Calories
By now, you know how many calories you should consume daily to lose weight.
The next step is to track your caloric intake so that you do hit that number.
Yes, it’s essential to track calories because research indicates we underestimate our caloric intake by up to 45%. (9)
In other words, if you don’t keep track, you’ll likely consume more calories than you think you do.
An added benefit of calorie tracking is that you’ll be more aware of your eating behavior, which helps you form good habits and thus lose more weight.
That’s why, according to one meta-analysis, weight loss programs that involve calorie tracking produce, on average, 7.3 pounds (3.3 kilos) more weight loss over one year than those that don’t. (10)
Plus, studies show calorie counting helps you avoid regaining the pounds lost. (11)
So, let’s make calorie counting a habit, shall we?
Please note that this doesn’t have to be a time-consuming process as there are many calorie trackers available.
All you have to do is enter the foods you eat in one of those apps, and the software will do the calculations for you.
The one we recommend is Cronometer. That’s because unlike most trackers, its food values are not based on user input but on lab-analyzed data, which is more accurate.
Now, when you track your calories, there are two important things to keep in mind.
First, weigh your food in uncooked form. That’s important because cooking can influence weight.
Second, use a kitchen scale instead of measuring cups to weigh ingredients, which gives you more precise results.
3. Eat More of This Nutrient
If you want an easy – and tasty – way to boost your fat loss efforts, increase your protein intake. That can be beneficial because protein is the most satiating macronutrient.
As a result, consuming enough of it helps keep cravings at bay, which makes it easier to maintain a calorie deficit and lose weight. (12)
Such alterations reduce hunger and increase satiety, which tends to pair with an automatic drop in total calorie intake. (17)
One study, for instance, looked at what would happen when subjects raised their daily protein consumption from 15% to 30% of their total energy intake.
The result was that they automatically consumed 441 fewer calories per day, which led to an average weight loss of 11 pounds in 12 weeks – just by eating more protein. (18)
But that’s not all.
Besides aiding weight loss, getting enough protein also prevents you from regaining the pounds shed.
One study found that raising the daily protein intake from 15% to 18% of total caloric consumption reduced weight regain over three months by 50%. (19)
This leaves us with the question: how much protein do you need to optimize fat loss?
The answer is the same as for muscle growth – at least 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight a day (0.73 g/lb). (20)
This amount offers you all the benefits of protein, but after that point, getting more of this nutrient won’t provide extra benefits.
One study, for instance, found no difference in body composition between people dieting on 1.27 g/lb (2.8 g/kg) and on 0.72 g/lb (1.6 g/kg) of protein per day for two weeks. (21)
And another study also discovered no difference in body composition with 1.09 g/lb (2.4 g/kg) and 0.72 g/lb (1.6 g/kg) after three weeks of dieting. (22)
Why don’t you need more protein on a weight loss diet than on a muscle-building on?
It’s because protein synthesis demands and the rate of protein breakdown determine protein requirements.
Since protein synthesis rates decrease in a calorie deficit while protein oxidation rates stay the same, protein needs don’t increase and may even be lower in a calorie deficit. (23)
Now, we did mention that protein is the most satiating macronutrient. So, from that perspective, upping your intake would aid fat loss, right?
Yes, but once again, only up to the point of around 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (0.73 g/lb/d).
Beyond that point, a calorie from protein isn’t more satiating than a calorie from carbs or fat.
So found a 2019 study that consuming 1.8 g/kg/d is just as satiating as taking in 2.9 g/kg/d (0.82 g/lb/d vs. 1.32 g/lb/d). (24)
This is because of the protein leverage hypotheses, which states protein is more satiating than carbs and fats only until you’ve hit your daily protein needs.
Bottom line? To lose weight while retaining muscle, get at least 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily.
Thus, if you weigh 80 kilos, you need at least 128 grams.
Resources for Overachievers:
4. Sleep More to Lose More
Sleep doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it should in the fitness world. That’s a shame because it is crucial for fat loss.
One meta-analysis involving 604,509 adults, for instance, found that poor sleepers are 55% more likely to become obese. (25)
As a result, you’ll feel hungrier and may consume more calories or find it harder to stay within your daily target in case you count calories.
That’s not all, though.
Besides increasing hunger, poor-quality sleep impedes fat burning and stimulates muscle wasting.
So, even if you lose weight despite sleeping poorly, more of the pounds shed will come from muscle, not fat.
Here are two cases in point:
- One weight loss study found that sleeping 40 fewer minutes per day from Monday to Friday shifted the ratio of lean to fat mass loss from 20% to 80%! (28)
- Another study revealed that sleeping 5.5 instead of 7.5 hours a day increased fat-free mass loss by 60% while raising the fraction of weight lost as fat by 55%. (29)
There are several reasons poor-quality sleep affects muscle mass and body fat.
For example, it impairs testosterone production, nutrition partitioning, and insulin sensitivity.
Fortunately, it also works the other way around.
You’ll burn more fat and less muscle if you get enough sleep, which helps you attain that lean, eye-catching figure.
In fact, one study found that when postmenopausal women improved their sleep quality over a year by taking melatonin, a sleep enhancer…
…they gained pounds of muscle and lost pounds of fat, even if they weren’t exercising or instructed to eat differently. (30)
Here are seven tips you can use to sleep better:
- Maintain a consistent sleeping schedule. Do so by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. (31)(32)
- Seek bright light in the morning, ideally in the form of sunlight. This improves your sleep by supporting your circadian rhythm (internal clock). (33)
- Reduce blue light exposure at night. You can do this by wearing blue-light blocking glasses or by installing an app like f.lux on your laptop and phone. (34)(35)
- Avoid caffeine after noon. This natural stimulant makes it harder to fall asleep, interrupts deep sleep, and makes you more likely to wake up at night. (36)
- Don’t drink fluids before bed because you’ll be more likely to wake up during the night to urinate, which interrupts sleep.
- Set your bedroom thermostat at 19°C (66.2 F), the optimal sleeping temperature. (37)
- Supplement with melatonin 30 to 60 minutes before you go to bed.
This “sleep hormone” makes it easier to fall asleep and enhances sleep quality without any significant side effects. (38)(39)(40)
5. Employ a High Satiety Index Diet
If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) has taken the health and fitness world by storm over the last few years.
Proponents of this eating style often claim that as long as you’re in a calorie deficit, you can lose weight regardless of the type of foods you eat.
And there is truth to that statement.
For instance, Professor Mark Haub from Kansas State University lost 27 pounds in two months while only consuming Oreos, Doritos, Twinkies, and protein shakes…
…simply due to being in a daily deficit of 800 calories. (41)
But that doesn’t mean such an approach is ideal.
Aside from being unhealthy, heavy junk food consumption makes it hard to control your calorie intake.
That’s because such foods are energy-dense but ineffective at satiating hunger.
As a result, they tend to increase calorie intake or, in the case of calorie counting, make it much harder to stay within the targets.
Just consider the following:
As part of a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers instructed 20 subjects to eat as much as they wanted for five days on two different diets. (42)
One was a high-energy diet consisting of calorie-dense foods like fatty meats and desserts.
The other contained low-calorie foods like fruit, vegetables, grains, and dried beans.
On the low-energy diet, the subjects felt satisfied after eating around 1,570 calories.
But to reach the same level of fullness on the high-energy diet, they needed 3,000 calories, which is almost double the amount!
In other words, controlling your calorie intake and losing weight is much easier if you consume satiating foods than if you eat junk food.
Just compare the following two diets.
The first diet, which consists of junk food, has 500 more calories, but it’s obvious that the low-energy diet is more satiating.
In fact, you could make the second diet even more satiating by replacing the walnuts and avocados with vegetables or tuna.
But that’s not the point.
The point is that if you want to lose weight and, more importantly, keep the pounds off, it pays to optimize your food selection.
Focus on foods high in protein, fiber, and water because those are the most satiating.
Examples are fruit, vegetables, and lean protein sources.
6. Practice Mindful Eating
If you eat your meals while you watch television, scroll through Instagram, or finish work, you sabotage your weight loss efforts.
That’s because eating while distracted increases food intake, as shown by a meta-analysis of 24 studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. (43)
The scientists found people consume, on average, 10% more throughout the day when they eat distracted.
And with evening and night meals, this number jumps to 25%!
So, try to eat without distractions.
Instead, pay attention to the sensation the meal provides.
Focus on the emotions and physical responses that eating provokes, such as smell, taste, satiety, and visual impact.
Doing this replaces the automatic act with more conscious reactions and thoughts.
7. Increase Your Intake of This Crunchy Nutrient
One of the easiest ways to achieve and maintain a calorie deficit is to eat more fiber.
That’s because this nutrient is highly satiating, making you ingest fewer calories automatically.
One review study, for instance, found that for every 14 grams of fiber people consume, total energy intake drops by an average of 10%. (46)
Fiber is so satiating because it:
- prolongs the time food stays in your stomach, which makes you feel full longer and suffer fewer cravings.
- is less energy-dense than other macronutrients as it provides, on average, just two calories per gram.
- has a tough and crunchy texture, which may enhance satiety by increasing the number of times you chew food. (47)
So, how much fiber should you get daily to optimize fat loss?
Men should aim for at least 38 grams of fiber per day, while the minimum for women is 25 grams.
Get that primarily from vegetables because, on a per-calorie basis, nothing beats this food group for controlling hunger.
While some people recommend fiber supplements, such products can’t yet rival whole foods in terms of satiating hunger.
That’s because the phytochemicals and other nutrients found in whole foods mediate the beneficial effects of fiber.
Therefore, focus on whole foods, especially vegetables.
8. Cut Out Sodas
The average American consumes 270 calories of added sugars each day, most of which by way of sodas.
The good news?
It also works the other way around. Ridding your diet of sugary sodas reduces calorie intake and promotes weight loss.
Ideally, you replace soda with healthy beverages like (sparkling) water, tea, or coffee.
But if you want to have some sweetness, it’s also fine to opt for diet soda.
One exception might be saccharin.
So, you may want to opt for a drink without saccharin.
9. Optimize Your Environment
Back in 2007, researchers from the Harvard Medical School published the results of a study that looked at body weight changes among 12,067 people over a 32-year period. (69)
According to their findings, you’re 57% more likely to become obese if one of your friends becomes obese, no matter if this friend lives next door or hundreds of miles away.
And this risk rises to 175% if a mutual friend becomes obese.
Why is that?
According to study co-leader Dr. Nicholas Christakis, it’s because…
You change your idea of what is an acceptable body type by looking at the people around you.
In other words, if you’re surrounded by overweight people, you’re more likely to view such a state as normal and acceptable.
That, in turn, can influence your food intake and activity level, making it more likely you will gain weight.
Now, this doesn’t mean you must cut out of your life all people who carry a few extra pounds if you aim to lose weight.
As the researchers noted…
Weight-loss interventions that provide peer support — that is, that modify the person’s social network — are more successful than those that do not.
Thus, it might be helpful to find someone with whom you can pursue your weight loss goals.
You could, for instance, ask your partner, a friend, or a family member to check daily or monthly how you’re adhering to your nutrition plan.
Or, you could find a gym partner, which, according to research published in Annals of Behavioral Medicine, can enhance exercise performance and motivation to train. (72)
Aside from having an accountability partner, it’s also beneficial to make sure you don’t have easy access to unhealthy edibles.
That’s because you’re much more likely to indulge in junk food once it has wormed its way into your cupboard.
Therefore, stock up on nutritious, low-calorie, and satiating foods like fruit, vegetables, fish, lean meat, and legumes, but avoid those that don’t align with your goals.
10. Drink This Before Your Meals
Downing one or two glasses of water before your meals is one of the easiest ways to support your fat loss results.
Doing so reduces appetite and energy consumption by filling your stomach.
One study, for instance, had participants drink half a liter of water before eating breakfast, which led to a 13% drop in calorie intake during that meal. (73)
And another study found drinking the same amount before each daily meal increased weight loss over 12 weeks by 4.4 pounds (2 kg) compared to not doing so. (74)
Now, it’s important to note these studies involved middle-age and older people who were overweight or obese.
It seems the effect is less pronounced in younger people and those with less weight to shed.
But still, drinking water before your meals may give you a little extra help in losing fat and keeping it off.
11. Don’t Over-Rely on Steady-State Cardio
Cardio training can have many benefits, such as improved heart health and endurance.
But it may not be the most effective approach for losing fat.
For instance, a meta-analysis of 14 studies involving 1,847 overweight and obese subjects evaluated if cardio benefits weight loss. (75)
The conclusion was that…
Isolated aerobic exercise is not an effective weight loss therapy in these patients.
What’s more, another meta-analysis, one that mostly examined cardio, also found that adding this exercise form to a diet plan did not promote weight loss more than a regimen excluding it.
The difference was 11 kilos of weight loss versus 10.7 kilos. (76)
This doesn’t mean that we’re against cardio.
As mentioned, it benefits health.
Plus, it causes you to burn calories, which, in theory, should aid fat loss by helping you obtain and maintain a calorie deficit.
The issue, however, is that cardio can cause ‘constrained energy expenditure.’
This means burning calories through cardio tends to lower the general activity level and energy expenditure, which often counteracts the calories burned through cardio. (77)
As a result, cardio often doesn’t actually help people obtain a calorie deficit.
That said, if you ensure that your general activity doesn’t go down upon adding cardio to your workout program…
And you don’t counterbalance those burned calories by increasing your food intake…
Then that won’t be an issue.
Now, there is another downside to cardio, which is that it may impair muscle growth.
A 2012 meta-analysis found adding cardio to a resistance training routine reduced muscle growth effect size by 39%. (78)
That’s why it may be better to focus on resistance training if you want to maintain – or even gain – muscle while losing fat…
Especially because research indicates you burn about the same number of calories when lifting weights as you do during cardio. (80)
Now, it’s important to note that those effects on muscle growth are in response to cardio done at a moderate intensity.
An example is running for 30 to 60 minutes at a challenging pace.
Low-intensity activities like walking and slow cycling are not detrimental, so you don’t have to avoid those.
Also, we’re not saying it’s bad to do steady-state cardio.
This form of exercise offers many benefits, such as improved heart health and endurance.
It’s just that when it comes to burning body fat, resistance training is a more effective solution.
That’s why we recommend that you make lifting weights the cornerstone of your exercise routine.
If you want to add some cardio to that, it’s fine to do so.
Although do keep in mind that moderate-intensity cardio may impair muscle mass, so it could be an idea to focus on low-intensity activities like walking instead.
And also make sure that you don’t counterbalance the additional calories burned by eating more or decreasing your general activity level.
12. Focus on Resistance Training
This form of exercise is superior to cardio for three main reasons.
Second, resistance training prevents muscle loss, so a larger share of the weight you lose will come from body fat.
Now, it’s beyond the scope of this article to provide an in-depth look at the best weight lifting practices.
But what follows are five essential tips for preventing muscle loss on a diet while aiding fat loss.
- Apply progressive overload. This means exposing your muscles to stimuli they aren’t accustomed to yet.
For example, aim to lift more weight over time or do an extra rep during each session.
- Focus on compound exercises. This is more time-efficient, burns more calories, and leads to a more favorable hormonal response. (85)(86)
- Train each muscle at least twice per week. This produces better results than training each muscle only once weekly. (87)(88)
- All rep ranges can work for muscle development if you train hard enough, so don’t fixate on one specific number. Instead, it’s best to use a wide set of rep ranges. (89)(90)(91)
- Train your muscles through a full range of motion. So, don’t do quarter squats but lower until your hips are at least parallel to the floor. That leads to better muscular progress. (92)(93)(94)
13. Get a Standing Desk
A recent analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found the average American adult sits 6½ hours a day. (95)
Spending so much time seated is not only bad for health but also for weight loss.
You just don’t burn that many calories when you sit.
Sure, you could take a brisk walk every 15 minutes, but it is unlikely your employer will welcome such an initiative.
So, what can you do?
One option is to get a standing desk.
Now, if you’re used to sitting a lot, your legs may feel tired the first few times you stand at work, but you will adapt quickly.
As an alternative to standing, you could consider getting a treadmill desk.
Those can increase your energy expenditure by between 100 and 150 calories per hour. (101)
That may make treadmill desks even better for weight loss than standing ones.
A year-long trial, for instance, found having a treadmill desk led to a 33% increase in activity levels among office workers, resulting in weight loss. (102)
14. Use Calorie Cycling
We’ve already covered several ways to do that, among them getting enough protein, fiber, and sleep.
But aside from those, it’s also beneficial to practice calorie cycling.
This means consuming more calories on some days and fewer on others.
Let’s say, for instance, that you should restrict energy intake to 16,000 calories per week to lose fat.
While you could eat 2,300 calories daily, you could also have two lower-calorie and five higher-calorie days each week.
An example would be to consume 1,400 calories on Monday and Thursday but 2,660 calories on the other days.
Now, to make calorie cycling work, you need to keep three important things in mind.
First, ensure that you hit your protein target every day of the week.
So, get at least 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily (0.73 g/lb/d.).
Second, schedule low-calorie days on rest days.
Protein synthesis (muscle growth) will be lower on these days anyway, especially if you’re an advanced trainee, so you won’t need that many calories.
Third, don’t drop your calorie intake on any day by more than 30% of your reference caloric intake.
Thus, if you should get 17,500 calories per week (which represents an average of 2,500 calories daily), don’t lower your intake below 1,750 calories a day.
15. Boost Your Male Hormone
It’s well-known that testosterone benefits muscle growth, but few people know that this hormone also affects fat loss.
The latter was shown by a randomized, double-blind study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. (107)
The scientists treated healthy young men with a GnRH agonist, which reduces testosterone levels.
And after 12 weeks, they checked how that reduction impacted body fat levels and muscle mass.
There was a dose-dependent relationship between testosterone and body fat levels.
The scientists noted decreasing testosterone from 600 ng/dL to 300 ng/dL – which is still in the normal range (250 – 1,200 ng/dL) – increased trunk fat by 21%.
The reverse also held true.
When testosterone levels rose, total body fat percentage and trunk fat dropped in a dose-response manner.
Thus, low testosterone promotes fat gain while high testosterone stimulates fat loss.
The problem is that over the last 20 years, the average testosterone level of men has dropped by 17%. (108)
That’s because of reasons like increased stress, less sleep, higher junk food intakes, exposure to estrogenic compounds, and obesity.
Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to optimize your testosterone levels, and that’s why we are creating an in-depth science-based guide on how to do that most efficiently.
It’s almost ready, and even though we are biased, we think you’ll find it interesting.
If you want to be among the first to get notified when the post is ready so that you can instantly view the content and boost your T levels…
16. Rule Out Micronutrient Deficiencies
Most vitamins and minerals affect your weight loss results in one way or another.
- Iodine is crucial for the synthesis of thyroid hormones, which impact metabolism. (109)
- Calcium may aid weight loss by affecting adipocyte metabolism. (110)(111)
- Zinc is essential for metabolism. According to one case study, a zinc-deficient woman could increase her resting metabolic rate by 527 calories a day just by fixing that deficiency. (112)
- Iron is vital for energy production, so getting enough of this mineral benefits workout performance.
- Conversely, being deficient in it reduces endurance capacity, resistance to fatigue, and strength. (113)(114)
- Vitamin D impacts appetite. Some researchers believe that not having enough of it contributes to obesity by promoting a higher food intake. (115)(116)(117)
In other words, if you want to optimize your weight loss results, cover your micronutrient bases.
The problem is that it can be hard to do so, which is why almost all of us are deficient in one or more key micronutrients.
A case in point: the following is the prevalence of micronutrient deficiencies among the US population, according to a 2014 study published in Journal of the American College of Nutrition: (118)
- Vitamin A: 35%
- Vitamin C: 31%
- Vitamin D: 74%
- Vitamin E: 67%
- Magnesium: 46%
- Calcium: 39%
- Choline: 92%
- Potassium: 100%
That’s even though more than 50% of US citizens take a multivitamin!
So, what should you do?
It’s ideal to meet your micronutrient needs through diet. (In the case of vitamin D, it would be through sunlight exposure.)
But due to factors like soil depletion, increased stress levels, and over-filtration of water, it’s tough to get enough of all vitamins and nutrients through food alone. (119)
Still, it’s important to eat nutritious fares like fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, eggs, nuts, dairy, and seeds.
But in addition, you may also want to test your nutritional status of various key micronutrients via bloodwork.
Based on your result, you can supplement with the vitamins and minerals you’re deficient in, which is preferable to taking a multivitamin.
Besides, most multivitamins lack the micronutrients many people are deficient in – like vitamin D, vitamin K, iodine, calcium, magnesium, and iron – but contain huge amounts of minerals that can be toxic.
That said, if you can’t get bloodwork done, an alternative could be to track your micronutrient intake with Cronometer.
When you log your foods into the app, it calculates your intake of several key vitamins and minerals, which helps you check if you under- or over-consume a particular micronutrient.
If it turns out you regularly do not get enough of one or more micronutrients, you could make dietary changes to fix that.
For example, in case you get too little of vitamin C, you could add foods high in this compound to your diet, such as oranges, kiwis, broccoli, or bell peppers.
17. Avoid Emotional Eating
There are two types of hunger: physical and emotional.
Physical hunger is a biological urge that tells you to restock on nutrients. Such hunger builds up gradually and manifests with a growling stomach, irritability, and fatigue. Eating makes it go away.
As its name implies, emotional hunger is driven by emotions. Many people eat to escape from or cope with frustration, stress, anxiety, sadness, fear, daily hassles, depression, fatigue, or boredom. (122)
Such hunger tends to make people reach for comfort foods, which usually score high in carbs, fat, and calories.
That’s why research links emotional eating to weight gain. (123)
The first thing you must be able to do is to distinguish emotional hunger from physical hunger. Here are the six main differences:
- Physical hunger builds up gradually, while emotional hunger appears suddenly, most often in response to a specific event.
- With physical hunger, almost any food will satisfy your needs, while emotional hunger is tied to specific comfort foods, such as chocolate, pizza, cheese, or brownies.
- Physical hunger cravings reside in your stomach, while emotional ones are in your head.
- Physical hunger is satisfied when you eat enough, while emotional hunger makes you want more, even when your stomach is full.
- Emotional hunger often triggers feelings of regret, guilt, and shame after a meal. This is less likely with physical hunger.
- Physical hunger often pairs with mindful eating, while emotional hunger leads to mindless eating. Before you realize it, you’ve devoured the whole bag of chips.
When cravings pop up, check what kind of hunger it is. If they’re emotion-driven, your first step is to find the trigger.
You can do that by asking yourself if a specific event or emotion is pushing your hunger button. In that case, it’s what we call context association.
The solution, then, is to adjust your lifestyle to prevent those triggers from appearing in the first place.
For example, if boredom usually occurs when you’re watching television at night, you could take up a hobby or prevent junk food from entering your house to get rid of the temptation.
In case you can’t avoid the trigger, find an alternative response. For instance, instead of reaching for chocolate, take a brisk walk.
Bonus Tip #1: Set Proper Weight Loss Goals
Do you have a clear weight loss goal in mind?
We aren’t talking about something vague like “losing some pounds” or “getting slim.”
This is about having a specific goal – one that establishes exactly what you want to accomplish and by when you want to get that done.
If you don’t have such a goal, let’s create one together because proper targets can boost your chances of achieving the desired outcome.
For example, one study discovered that writing a goal down – as opposed to keeping it only in your head – increases its achievement by 42%. (130)
That same study also found that when people translate their goals into action, commit them to a friend, and track their weekly progress, they’re 78% more likely to succeed!
Here are three steps to help you set proper goals.
Step 1: Be clear on what you want to achieve.
If there were no limits to your success, what health and fitness outcomes would you strive for?
Write down a short-term (< one month), medium-term (one to 12 months), and long-term (> one year) goal and be specific.
Don’t just write, “I want to lose weight.” Instead, go with something like, “I want to drop 30 pounds in six months.”
Step 2: Answer why you want to accomplish the goal mentioned above. What drives you to reach that goal? Be specific!
Step 3: Commit your goal to a friend or family member.
Ideally, this person is close to you, such as your partner.
Such a commitment makes it more likely to follow through on your goals.
Plus, that person can hold you accountable, which can be of immense value in case of a setback.
Bonus Tip #2: Start Big
Trainers and nutritionists often claim you should ease into a weight loss program.
They recommend you start with a small calorie deficit and reduce your energy intake gradually over time.
But that’s not the ideal course of action.
One reason for this is that seeing quick results improves motivation, self-efficacy, and faith in the process, which leads to better long-term results.
What’s more, most people perceive it as less uncomfortable to start big than to gradually reduce their food intake.
You can compare this to taking a cold shower.
If you start with warm water and gradually lower the temperature, you’ll likely already feel cold when the water is lukewarm.
And if you then continue until the temperature is all the way down, you’ll feel like you are freezing.
But if you would jump straight in a cold shower, it’ll be a less discomforting experience.
Sure, there will be a bit of a shock in the first few seconds, but you’ll adapt more quickly, and the overall experience will be more endurable.
The same applies to dieting.
Instead of gradually building up to a particular calorie deficit, aim for that number from the get-go.
This doesn’t mean you should diet as aggressively as possible, which also has its downsides, such as triggering muscle wasting.
If you’re overweight or obese, this muscle wasting doesn’t tend to be a problem because your body has enough energy stored and doesn’t have to burn muscle for energy.
On the other hand, if you’re already fairly lean, you are at a higher risk of muscle loss, and the faster you lose weight, the greater that risk becomes.
Therefore, we would recommend that you adopt the calorie deficit target that best fits your situation based on the following values:
Bonus Tip #3: Weigh Yourself Daily
Trainers and nutritionists often claim it’s bad for mental health to check your weight more than once a week because doing so creates an obsession with the number on the scale.
If you want to optimize fat loss, you’d want to weigh yourself daily, as indicated by a 2015 systematic literature review. (134)
The researchers concluded that…
regular self-weighing has been associated with weight loss and not with negative psychological outcomes.
What’s more, a 2008 systematic literature review found that stepping on the scale regularly makes you less likely to regain pounds lost. (135)
There are two main reasons it’s beneficial to use the scale often, ideally every day.
First, it aids diet adherence because the scale reminds you of your goals.
Second, you’ll better understand what your true body weight is.
The latter is because many factors can cause your body weight to vary from day to day and even hour to hour.
Examples are water retention, stool build-up in the colon, hormonal changes, and alterations in glycogen storage.
That’s why you can’t get an accurate representation of your situation if you step on the scale only once a week.
At the moment of weighing, you may, for instance, be retaining more or less water than last week.
As a result, the number on the scale may differ a lot from the last time even though your body fat mass may not have changed much, if at all.
For example, let’s say your scale showed 75 kilos last week, yesterday you had a stressful day at work, and because of that, you now retain a bit more water than usual.
If you step on the scale today, it’s likely that the number is still 75 or even higher, even though you may have lost fat.
Due to such variance, it’s best to weigh yourself daily, which gives you more precise data.
Step on the scale every day after you wake up and after going to the bathroom (if you have to, that is), but before you eat breakfast.
Write down the number on the display and, at the end of the week, add the numbers up.
Then, divide the total sum by seven to end up with a number that represents your average body weight in that week.
From there, instead of relying on a single weighing, use your average weekly body weight to evaluate if you’re losing weight at the desired rate.
Bonus Tip #4: Use Smaller Plates and Cutlery
Back in 2005, scientists did an experiment where they gave movie theater visitors either a medium or a large bucket of popcorn. (136)
What they found was that serving popcorn in a large instead of a medium-sized bucket increased food intake by 45.3%.
In other words, the way food is served has a significant impact on total consumption.
When presented in a bigger container, you’ll automatically eat more.
And the researchers found this applies even if you don’t like the food.
This container-size influence is so powerful that even when the popcorn was disliked, people still ate 33.6% more popcorn when eating from a large container than from a medium-size container.
Fortunately, you can use this information to your advantage. Here are five ways to do that:
- Place your food on a small plate. Your brain perceives your food intake to be greater, causing you to feel more satisfied with your meal. (137)(138)
This is the result of the Delboeuf illusion bias, as shown below. While the left meal appears smaller, both are of the same size.
- Use smaller cutlery. Like eating off a smaller plate reduces calorie intake, smaller cutlery ‘tricks’ your brain into thinking you’re eating more food, causing you to feel satisfied sooner. (139)
- Reduce portion sizes. Independent of food size, we eat, on average, 92% of the food served. So, don’t put more on your plate than you want to eat. (140)
- Avoid lots of variation per meal because appetite regulation is meal-specific. You do not become ‘full.’ Instead, you become demotivated to eat particular flavors. (141)(142)
- Place food in the center of your plate. Doing so causes your brain to perceive the meal as larger, according to a 2018 study from the journal Appetite. (143)
Here’s the Bottom Line
The odds are against you.
That’s because it’s estimated that 95% of diets fail.
The good news?
You can lose fat in an effective and sustainable way if you approach it properly.
And that’s exactly what you just learned to do.
You discovered 21 science-backed tips that can help you get the lean physique you’re after.
So, put the information into action, and please keep us updated on your progress in the comments below.
If you have any questions or thoughts to add, feel also free to leave a message.
We’ll get back to you ASAP.
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