Question: Which way towards a goal gives you the highest probability of success?
Easy answer: The simplest and easiest way.
It sounds obvious, but it’s worth saying, because I’m continually amazed at how people make weight loss way, way more complicated than it needs to be. The honest truth is that weight loss can be really simple and really easy — all you need to do is focus on making small changes in the areas that have big influence on the weight loss equation.
I’m going to help you do just that with 10 easy and very effective tips for weight loss.
1. Stop Snacking
Snacking is the number one saboteur of weight loss. Period. Why? Because people just end up eating way too many calories when they’re constantly popping snacks into their mouths. The other problem is that most “snacks” are based on refined sugar — very calorie dense and not very satisfying. When’s the last time you felt full after eating that fun sized bag of candy? Mindless snacking is absolutely pointless and totally destructive to weight loss. Don’t do it.
2. Don’t Drink Liquid Calories
If snacking is the number one weight loss saboteur, then liquid calories are a close second. They pose the exact same problem: It’s just too easy to consume way too many calories when you’re guzzling down sugary drinks that don’t satiate you at all.
This includes sports drinks. Gatorade isn’t inherently bad, but the fact is that the vast majority of people do not need sports drinks. Unless you’re actually depleting your glycogen stores with more than 60 consecutive minutes of hard training, sports drinks of any kind are just not necessary.
3. Limit Yourself to 3 Meals a Day Max
This relates to tip number 1. If you eat 3 meals per day or less, it’s much harder to accidentally overeat. There’s a popular myth that one needs to eat every two hours to keep the metabolism roaring at full speed. Understand: That is completely false and unsubstantiated by science.
4. Eat Slowly and Stop When You’re Approximately 80% Full
Most people simply need to eat less food to lose weight, and that means not stuffing your gullet to the brim. Slow down, and stop eating when you’re 80% full, or satisfied. I firmly believe if everyone in America took just these 4 initial tips to heart, the vast majority of overweight people could lose what they need to.
5. Eat More Protein
For the most part, what you eat matters very little if calories are controlled for. The one exception is protein. Protein does three key things that can help with weight loss:
- It keeps you fuller for longer;
- It’s metabolized less efficiently than either carbs or fat, meaning you can get away with eating more of it;
- It helps preserve lean muscle mass, thus helping a greater portion of weight loss come from body fat stores.
Science shows that these benefits cap out at around .8g protein per lb of body weight per day. I recommend trying to hit that daily mark as often as you can.
6. Eat More High Volume Foods
There’s something that’s unavoidable: Hunger always wins. It doesn’t matter if your dietary strategy is perfect on paper — if hunger becomes too ravenous, everyone will eventually cave to it. The solution? Focus on foods that are higher volume and keep you fuller for longer. High volume foods are usually healthier choices in general, too:
- fibrous green vegetables
- lean protein
- low fat dairy
- low sugar fruit
- potatoes, and other roots and tubers
7. Reduce Refined Sugar Intake
Eating refined sugar to excess is literally doing the opposite of tip number 6, and will likely lead to eating too many calories. The reason carbs make us fat is because they are awesome and thus easy to overeat. Most people would benefit immensely by reducing refined sugar intake. A little here and there is permissible, but not too much.
8. Lift Weights
Lets get real: People don’t really care about actually losing weight, they are about looking like they’ve lost weight. One of the best ways to look leaner than you actually are is to put on some muscle. Besides, initial strength training positively correlates with virtually every health marker in existence. Initial strength training doesn’t take much time either, maybe two or three 30-45 minute sessions a week. Starting Strength or something similar is a good basic program to start with.
9. Use Caffeine
It’s the developed world’s drug of choice, and is also one of the few supplements that isn’t snake oil. Caffeine won’t raise your metabolic output to any notable degree, except within it’s initial week or so of use, but what it can do is suppress appetite. It also can increase your physiological and mental capacity.
Caffeine use is a mixed bag and is not for everyone, but it can help. See examine.com’s research summary of caffeine for a full breakdown of what the available scientific research says about regular caffeine use.
10. Have a Preset Cheat Meal Plan
Do not fool yourself into thinking you’re going to become a monk when you start dieting, and you certainly don’t need to be one in order to succeed. Restaurant meals, family dinners, and occasional parties can absolutely fit into an effective weight loss plan. The real danger is not having a plan in advance for how you’ll approach these events, which is what leads to people giving up entirely and binging.
It doesn’t really matter what your cheat plan is, as long as you’re consistent with it. That way, if your weight loss stalls, you can make a meaningful adjustment to your strategy. I recommend the following to start with:
- One cheat day/meal per week.
- Relax, but be sensible: Eat mostly the same kinds of foods you normally eat, swap out beer and mixed drinks for spirits, etc.
- Eat until your nice and full, but not absolutely stuffed.
One sensible cheat day/meal per week is not going to overpower 6 other days worth of diligent dieting, so don’t self impose unrealistic and unsustainable restriction. The important thing for occasional cheat days/meals is to have a plan going into it. That way, you know ahead of time what’s OK or not OK and you’re not worrying about it on the fly.
If your weight loss stalls? No big deal at all, you just need to tighten up the strictness a bit and continue on as usual.
Bonus Tip: Stop Worrying About Things That Don’t Matter!
Remember what I said in the beginning? People over think and over-complicate weight loss way too much. Part of that stems from worrying about way too many things that make little to no actual difference towards weight loss. Don’t fall into that trap! If it’s not on the list, then you probably don’t have to worry about it.