Looking to shed pounds in the New Year? Perhaps you’ve dieted and lost weight, only to regain it again. It can be frustrating, but the good news is that long-term weight loss is possible. While there’s no magic bullet, decades of research have yielded clear strategies for increasing your chances for success.
Here are 5 strategies proven to help you lose weight:
1. Keep a Food Journal
It may sound too good to be true, but there is one simple strategy that can help you double your weight loss: write down everything you eat and drink.
Studies indicate that writing down what you eat can help you lose weight and keep it off. In fact, one study showed that dieters who keep food journals lose, on average, twice as much weight as those who don’t track what they eat.
With apps like LoseIt and MyFitnessPal, it’s easier than ever to keep track of meals, snacks and beverages. And if you want to go low-tech, a simple notebook will do.
2. Get on the Scale
Afraid of stepping on the scale? You shouldn’t be. Regular weigh-ins are one of your best weapons in the battle of the bulge. According to a 2015 study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, researchers reported that people who weighed themselves daily lost about three times as much weight as those who were more lax about stepping on the scale. In fact daily weight checkers lost an average of 20 pounds, compared to an average of just seven pounds for those who weighed themselves only five days per week.
These findings support other studies indicating that more frequent weigh-ins lead to greater weight loss.
3. Eat at Home
Prepare more meals at home. I love this one because it will help both your waistline and your wallet. A recent study published by Public Health Nutrition found that people who eat at fast-food or full-service restaurants consume an extra 200 calories per day on average compared to those eating at home. Those calories added up to about 10% of their total daily intake. What’s more, the researchers found that people who ate out consumed more sugar, salt and saturated fat. Research findings consistently show that people who eat out frequently are more likely to be overweight or obese. Save money and your health by limiting meals out to no more than two per week.
4. Know Your Portions
You may not realize it, but we live in a ‘super-sized’ culture. Looking at data from national surveys involving more than 60,000 Americans, researchers found that serving sizes have gotten bigger over the past 20 years – not only at fast-food chains and other restaurants, but even in homes. How much bigger? The study found that hamburgers have increased by 23%; soft drinks are 52% larger; and snack foods like potato chips and pretzels are a whopping 60% bigger.
It’s no coincidence that as portions have grown, so have waistlines. In the 1960s, 45% of Americans were overweight or obese. Today that number is nearing 70%!
When we’re given larger portions, we eat and drink more. One way to fight back against supersizing is to use smaller plates, bowls and silverware. A recent review of 72 studies found that you can easily cut about 16% of your daily calories without feeling deprived.
When dining out, a simple rule to follow is to eat half of what is served. Have the server put the rest in a take-away bag and you’ll have a second meal for later.
5. Turn off the TV … and be careful what you watch!
Put down that remote and step away from the TV. The more time you spend watching television or staring at a computer screen, the less time you have for just about everything else, including physical activity.
What’s more, what you watch can influence how much you eat! Researchers at Hobart and William Smith Colleges found that viewing just 10 minutes of a food show may lead to cravings and overeating.
Tempted to watch TV? Limit viewing to just 2-3 hours a week and avoid watching food and cooking shows.
Read more in WebMD’s special report, “Mysteries of Weight Loss.”