10 Safe Tips to Help with Weight Loss

10 Safe Tips to Help with Weight Loss

It’s just the way it is: Your brain knows that fad diets don’t work and photoshopped influencers haven’t actually found some magic high-speed bullet train to weight loss that decades of research hasn’t already uncovered. But we live in a diet culture, and it’s hard to escape the idea that you need to be thinner — and fast.

Editor’s note: Weight loss, health and body image are complex subjects — before deciding to go on a diet, we invite you to gain a broader perspective by reading our exploration into the hazards of diet culture.

Well, you don’t, and Good Housekeeping does not recommend rapid weight loss. “Losing weight quickly is not safe for most people because of the immense physical demand it puts on the body,” says Stef Sassos, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N., NASM-CPT, Good Housekeeping’s Nutrition Lab director. Serious risks associated with rapid weight loss include developing gallstones, dehydration, malnutrition and even potentially life-threatening electrolyte imbalances, she says. And weight re-gain after a rapid loss is not only discouraging — it’s taxing. “Losing weight rapidly and then regaining it puts an enormous amount of pressure on the body and can stress your heart, blood vessels and other organs,” says Sassos.

The fact is, keeping lost weight off is extremely difficult. But the good news is, bodyweight is not the end all be all of health and happiness, and you can be fit and healthy and feel really good, even if you’re not as thin as you’d like to be.

All that said, if losing weight is a priority for you, there are better ways to approach it than the severe restrictions, untested supplements or bizarre food combos you see on social media. Sassos advises getting nutritional support, especially if you’ve tried for years and haven’t had lasting success. “It’s important to work with a registered dietitian to help you set realistic goals for your lifestyle, body type and more,” she says. “There could also be other factors at play, such as hormonal imbalances and thyroid issues” that are making it hard for you to keep weight off.

Below are 12 ways to eat and exercise healthfully that are just plain good for you, even as they set you up reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.

12 Tips for Safe Weight Loss, According to Experts

1.Up your fiber intake.

            Some 95% of us aren’t getting enough fiber, says Sassos, which is a shame because not only does fiber help keep your digestive system humming (and your poops regular), it also can add to satiety, making you feel less hungry. “High-fiber foods take longer to digest and also provide volume, so you’ll feel fuller on less calories,” says Sassos. “Fiber can help keep you regular, control blood sugar levels and even lower cholesterol.” You want to aim for 25 g of fiber (38 g if you’re a man) from high-fiber foods like oatmeal, beans and other pulses, and seeds and fruits. Just ramp it up gradually to avoid gas and bloating, says Sassos. “As you increase the fiber in your diet, make sure to also focus on hydration to help the fiber expand in your stomach and digest properly.”

            2. Start weight training.

            Building muscle is “essential” for your body on so many fronts, says Sassos, but it also aids in achieving a healthy weight. Exercise in general can help you manage your weight, says Sassos, who is also a personal trainer, but “the more muscle mass you have the higher your metabolic rate,” says Sassos. Strength training can be done with weights, resistance bands or using your own body weight in activities like yoga and pilates, and don’t worry if you’re a beginner. Just know that because muscle is denser than fat, you might be losing body fat even if the number on the scale doesn’t reflect weight loss. “You can get a better glimpse at the benefits of strength training when looking specifically at your body composition including metrics such as body fat,” says Sassos.

            3. Eat more veggies.

            Instead of restricting different foods and food groups, focus on incorporating an abundance of nourishing foods that you can add into your diet to promote overall health and weight management. The water and fiber in produce adds volume to dishes and are naturally low in fat and calories but nutrient-dense and filling. You can create lower-calorie versions of delicious dishes by swapping out higher calorie ingredients for fruits and veggies. Think cauliflower rice in place of starchy white rice or doing 50/50. If you think about making any meal mostly veggies (at least 50% of anything that you’re having), you’re on the right track to better health.

            4. Build a better breakfast.

            A balanced breakfast — one that is stacked with fiber, protein, healthy fats, coming together in a delicious dish — will revolutionize your day, especially if you are currently skipping it and still find yourself struggling to prioritize a healthy lifestyle. Skipping breakfast may influence your hunger hormones later in the day, leading to you feeling “hangry” in the afternoon which makes it harder to refrain from oversized portions or cravings for sugary and refined carbohydrate foods. The best, heartiest breakfasts are ones that will fill you up, keep you satisfied, and stave off cravings later in the day. Aim to eat anywhere between 350 and 500 calories for your morning meal, and make sure you’re including a source of lean protein plus filling fat (think eggs, unsweetened Greek yogurt, nuts, or nut butters) and fiber (veggies, fruit, or 100% whole grains). Starting your day with a blood sugar-stabilizing blend of nutrients will help you slim down.

            5. Skip sugary beverages.

            We just don’t feel full by liquid calories in quite the same way as we do real food. Drinking a juice or caramel coffee drink just isn’t as satisfying as eating a bowl of veggie- and protein-packed stir-fry. Skipping sugary beverages is often the easiest way to lose weight faster, and bonus, it’s good for things like heart health and diabetes prevention too. Monitor your intake of juice, soda, sweetened coffee and tea and alcoholic beverages. If you consume each of those beverages during the day, you’ll have taken in at least 800 extra calories by nighttime — and you’ll still be hungry. (Incidentally, alcohol may suppress the metabolism of fat, making it tougher for you to burn those calories.)

            6. Get moving.

            Movement of any type can be a very useful weight management tool. Walking is a great, inexpensive option that doesn’t require any extra gym equipment except for a good pair of kicks. One study showed that people who walked 8,200 steps per day were less likely to become obese, suffer from major depressive disorder and others chronic health related conditions, but any amount is good. Consider walking for weight loss and better overall health.

            two young woman walking through a sunny park

            Catherine Falls Commercial//Getty Images

            7. Eat mindfully.

            Slowing down to focus on things like the taste, textures, temperature and smells of what you’re eating can help with portion control. But mindful eating also means really focusing on what you’re eating and when—this can help you identify unnecessary munching moments you may not realize you’re engaging in throughout the day that may be tacking on extra calories. More importantly, try to avoid eating foods that you don’t choose for yourself. Mindful eating can help shift the focus of control from external authorities and cues to your body’s own inner wisdom. Noticing where your extra calories actually come from is another step to making better choices in the short and long term.

            8. Keep things spicy

            Spicy foods can actually help you cut back on calories. That’s because capsaicin, a compound found in jalapeño and cayenne peppers, may (slightly) increase your body’s release of stress hormones such as adrenaline, which can speed up your ability to burn calories. What’s more, eating hot peppers may help you eat more slowly and avoid overeating. You’re more likely to stay more mindful of when you’re full. Some great choices besides hot peppers are ginger and turmeric.

            9. Go to bed earlier.

            There’s a ton of research that demonstrates getting less than the desired amount — about seven hours — of sleep per night can slow down your metabolism. Chronic sleep deprivation may even alter hormones that control hunger, and some studies show that there is a connection between poor quality food choices and less sleep. Good sleep has a ton of other benefits too, like boosting alertness, improving mood and overall quality of life. So don’t skimp on your ZZZ’s, and you’ll be rewarded with an extra edge when it comes to overall health and losing weight. Start small with just pushing up bedtime by 15 to 30 minutes, every minute counts!

            10. Keep a food journal.

            People who log everything they eat — especially those who log while they’re eating — are more likely to lose weight and keep it off for the long haul, studies consistently indicate. The habit also takes less than 15 minutes per day on average when you do it regularly, according to a study published in the journal Obesity. Start tracking on an app like MyFitnessPal or use a regular notebook. It’ll help you stay accountable for what you’ve eaten. Plus, you can easily identify areas that could use a little improvement when it’s written out in front of you.

            11. Resist the urge to skip a meal.

            Our nutrition experts stress that skipping meals will not make you lose weight faster. If a hectic day makes a sit-down meal impossible, stash a piece of fruit and pack of nut butter in your car or purse and keep snacks in your desk drawer — anything that will keep you from going hungry! Going long periods of time without food does double-duty harm on our healthy eating efforts by both slowing down your metabolism, and priming you for a binge later in the day. Make it your mission to eat three meals and two snacks every day, and don’t wait longer than three to four hours without eating. Set a “snack alarm” on your phone if needed.

            12. Munch on mineral-rich foods.

            Potassium, magnesium and calcium can help to serve as a counter-balance for bloat-inducing sodium. Foods that are rich in potassium include leafy greens, most “orange” foods (oranges, sweet potatoes, carrots, melon), bananas, tomatoes, and cruciferous veggies — especially cauliflower. Low-fat dairy, plus nuts, and seeds can also help give you a bloat-busting boost. They’ve also been linked to a whole host of additional health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, controlling blood sugar, and reducing risk of chronic disease overall.

              Headshot of Jaclyn London, M.S., R.D., C.D.N.

              A registered dietitian with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Northwestern University and a Master of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University, Jaclyn “Jackie” London handled all of Good Housekeeping’s nutrition-related content, testing, and evaluation from 2014 to 2019. Prior to joining GH, she was a clinical dietitian at Mount Sinai Hospital. Jackie has also appeared as an expert guest on The Dr. Oz Show and The Today Show. She is also author of the book Dressing on the Side (and Other Diet Myths Debunked).

              Headshot of Amy Fischer M.S., R.D., C.D.N.

              Contributing Writer

              Amy (she/her) is a registered dietitian with the Nutrition Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute, covering nutrition- and health-related content and product testing. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Miami University of Ohio and a master’s degree in clinical nutrition from NYU. Prior to Good Housekeeping, she worked at one of the largest teaching hospitals in New York City as a cardiac transplant dietitian. She has authored numerous chapters in clinical nutrition textbooks and has also worked in PR and marketing for food company start-ups.

              Headshot of Melissa Prest, R.D., D.C.N.

              Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

              Melissa Prest, R.D., D.C.N. is a registered dietitian nutritionist and holds a Doctor of Clinical Nutrition degree from Rutgers University. Melissa owns Kidney Nutrition Specialists, a nutrition practice dedicated to helping individuals living with chronic kidney disease, and is the Foundation Dietitian for the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois where she focuses on disease prevention, health education, and nutrition consultation.